POLICE are now trying different tactics to fight the age-old tradition of marijuana farming in the vast cold mountains of Cordillera, including turning confessed drug dealers and users into tree lovers and forest conservationists, Cordillera region’s top police official said yesterday.
According to Cordillera Police Regional Office director Chief Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona, the ‘best practice’ is now being implemented by the Mt. Province Police Provincial Office in line with their enforcement of the Philippine National Police’s Oplan: Tokhang.
Last August 25, Sarona said at least 20 confessed drug users in the province who surrendered as a result of Oplan: Tokhang planted 300 acacia trees in Balitian and Mount Amancho in Bontoc Ili, Bontoc, as part of their effort to protect the denuding forest.
“My men are coordinating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the needed seedlings which will be planted during the next activity. This is part of our environmental protection program which has been jibed with the ongoing anti-drug campaign,” Sarona said.
In Lubuagan town, police, in partnership with the Mountain View Lighthouse Baptist Church, are conducting regular spiritual programs to Oplan: Tok-hang surenderers.
“My officials are telling me that known drug dealers in the area have started going to regular mass and are showing some positive changes in their day-to-day activities,” he said.
Police are also able to monitor daily those who have surrendered as they have been required to conduct community service and act as ‘lecturers’ on the ill-effect of drugs.
In Kalinga province, police in Rizal town have initiated a program called ‘Home Care Service’ which involves a series of activities for Oplan: Tokhang surrenderers. Every Thursday, the confessed drug dealers and dependents report in front of the Rizal Municipal Police Station where police-doctors subject them to physical examination before they are allowed to join a ‘zumba’ session.
After the ‘zumba’ session, the group ends their activity with a moral and spiritual enrichment.
Since July, over P2 billion worth of fully-grown marijuana plants and seedlings have been uprooted and destroyed by combined agents of the Cordillera police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Kalinga.