BICOL policemen are making significant gains in the ongoing Philippine National Police’s campaign against illegal drug trafficking and abuse as proven by a significant reduction in crimes in the region, earning them commendation from Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa.
While Gen. dela Rosa has told his commanders to replicate the best practices of some regional offices to effectively address the drug problem in the country, the Police Regional Office 5 headed by Chief Superintendent Melvin Ramon ‘Omar’ G. Buenafe, his classmate from Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986, is silently but effectively addressing the menace thru a ‘whole of government approach.’
From July 1 to last week, the PRO5’s implementation of the PNP’s Oplan: Tokhang has already led in the voluntary surrender of 42,221 drug personalities composed of 2,378 confessed drug dealers and 39,843 users including some public officials and businessmen.
Buenafe said that during the same period, they have already conducted 282 operations which led in the arrest of 338 drug personalities during the service of search warrants, raids, checkpoints and other law enforcement operations and the killing of 33 armed drug traffickers including two ex-policemen and an active Army soldier during gunbattles with the local police.
Buenafe said those operations have led in the seizure of more than 1,000 heat-sealed plastic sachets containing shabu, 60 plastic packets of dried marijuana leaves, P306,587.25 in drug money, 55 assorted firearms and 23 motor vehicles believed being used in the conduct of illegal drug trade in the region.
The PRO5 is also investigating 33 cases of suspected drug personalities who were killed by still unidentified suspects.
At present, the PRO5 has four Best Practices which can also be replicated nationwide.
First is its ‘Katok sa Puso’t Isipan ng Mamamayan” in Naga City program in which the local police goes around the urban business centers and establishments and takes every opportunity to “knock” on the people’s hearts and minds through a community relations strengthening approach that appeals to people from all walks of life.
Buenafe said the Naga City police also go on the streets, knocking on jeepneys at stop lights, at terminals of jeepneys and buses, inside restaurants and fastfoods, at nightspots, etc. They bring along megaphones announcing the PNP Oplan: Tokhang to promote better public awareness and at the same time appeal for their support by not getting involved in illegal drugs, protecting their family against illegal drugs, reporting incidence of illegal drugs and crime, and monitoring those who surrendered in their community.
“We don’t only knock on doors of suspected drug personalities but on every heart and mind of the people we meet,” the Bicol police director said.
Then there is the “KASUROG Kontra Droga” which is a Bicol-wide endeavor that seeks to establish partnerships or alliances with all groups or organizations, from all walks of life and ages, such as Tricycle Drivers Associations, Parents-Teachers Associations, Chamber of Commerce & Industry, media organizations, public transport groups and market vendors’ association.
The PRO5 has also established the Regional Anti-illegal Drugs Monitoring Center at the Regional Headquarters in Camp Simeon Ola in Legaspi City with transparent glass wall that shows the tabulated data of daily accomplishments and cumulative results of the units’ Project Double Barrel anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The official also said that in Sorsogon province which is the most affected by insurgency, the Sorsogon Police Provincial Office thru a Sanggunian Resolution was granted authority to supervise all law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in the area.
The official said the New People’s Army-affected Bicol region is less prone to the presence of secret drug laboratories but remains as a consumption area of illegal drugs coming from Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region.
Hence, he said the most affected area in the region as per report from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is Camarines Norte whose 12 towns and 38 percent of the barangays province-wide are affected.
Region-wide, he said that only 25.15 percent of its total 3,471 barangays are affected per latest PDEA report. Other areas have lesser prevalence or drug affectation, the least of which is Sorsogon (only 22.94 percent of the 541 barangays are affected), it being the most affected by insurgency and farthest from Manila and Calabarzon.
“We have almost accounted for all the 8,079 previously drug watch listed personalities in the area where a total of 42,221 users and pushers voluntarily surrendered, while 371 got arrested or killed in police operations,” he said.
“We are better off compared to many other regions, but we will not relax and remain resolute in our endeavor to eliminate the drug problem and sustain the anti-illegal drugs endeavor in Bicol where I have a personal commitment to clean-up, being a Bicolano myself. I am taking the negative perceptions and comments that came out positively, and use them as catalyst that will propel us more in PRO5 towards greater heights of success and accomplishments in the anti-drug campaign. We will achieve our objective of eliminating the drug problem here within the given 3-6 months period,” he declared.