THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police yesterday raised massive alarm over the involvement of many barangay officials in the country who are directly or indirectly involved in illegal drug trafficking and abuse in their communities and thus, have become the major stumbling block to the Duterte government’s program to crush the drug menace.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Chief Superintendent Oscar D. Albayalde even expressed belief that amid findings that 94 percent of Metro Manila’s 1,706 barangays are ‘drug-affected,’ many barangay captains have really done nothing to stop the drug scourge and have given them ‘screened’ list of known drug personalities in their communities excluding the names of their relatives or friends and zeroed in on their rivals and their supporters.
Albayalde said that in Manila alone which has more than 13 million population, the previous drug list they got contained 11,940 names of known drug pushers and users. He said that they have neutralized majority of the suspects but have come up with a new list of 41,000 targets which are now being monitored as part of their enforcement of Oplan: Tokhang and Project: High Value Target ordered by Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa.
Last Friday, seven suspected drug personalities led by a barangay captain in Quiapo, Manila were killed in firefights with the Manila Police District which launched a massive anti-illegal drug raid in the sprawling compound which has gained the notoriety of being a drug haven, said MPD director, Senior Supt. Joel Napoleon M. Coronel.
PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña also bewailed the fact that more and more barangay officials are now considered ‘high-value’ drug targets. He said that their records showed that in 2015 alone, 65 barangay officials composed of six barangay chairmen and 59 barangay ‘kagawad’ or councilmen were arrested for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Last Thursday, four barangay officials included in the PNP drug watch list voluntarily surrendered to officers of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in La Union and Pangasinan, said PNP-CIDG director, Chief Supt. Roel B. Obusan.
The official identified the four as Randy Abuan, a ‘kagawad’ of Bgy. Parian in Bauang, La Union and Genaro Camorongan and Leopoldo and Randy Ocampo, all ‘kagawad’ of Bgy. Beleng in Bayambang, Pangasinan. A policeman identified as Senior Police Officer 2 Marlon Panitan of the San Fernando City Police Station also yielded to the CIDG Region 1 after he was linked to illegal drug activities in the area.
Lapeña said the growing number of barangay officials being arrested for drugs is an eye-opener to the public and the government. “This (2015 record) is 18.18 percent higher than Calendar Year 2014 where 55 village officials (10 barangay chairmen and 45 barangay kagawads) were arrested for violating the anti-drug law and the highest since 2013 wherein 11 barangay captains and 29 barangay councilmen or 40 barangay officials were taken into custody,” the PDEA chief said.
The official said that the numbers have been increasing significantly each succeeding year.
From January to October 2 this year, he said that 11 barangay chairmen and 40 barangay ‘kagawad’ or 51 barangay officials were already arrested for violation of RA 9165.
“Out of the arrested 51 barangay officials, six barangay chairmen and 14 barangay kagawad, were nabbed during the intensified anti-drug campaign of the government of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Lapeña said.
In the past two weeks, the official said that his men, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies have arrested two barangay captains in Zamboanga del Norte and Camarines Norte and four barangay councilmen in Lanao del Sur, Romblon, Butuan City and Oriental Mindoro.
He said that Lamberto Villa, a barangay chairman cum drug group leader was neutralized after he shoot it out with lawmen in his house being utilized as a drug den in San Carlos City, Pangasinan last September 21.
“It is alarming that an increasing number of barangay officials are getting involved in illegal drug activities. It is a shame that they are the highest elected officials in their communities but they are the ones pushing illegal drugs, instead of taking care of the welfare of their constituents,” the PDEA chief said.