WAR ON DRUGS IN CEBU
The war on drugs in Cebu province is far from over despite the numerous arrests and deaths of drug suspects that happened a year after the campaign was implemented by the government under President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.
It was the reminder the Cebu provincial government wanted to get across after President Duterte tagged Cebu as a hot spot for illegal drugs during his speech at the 26th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Manila last Wednesday.
Gov. Hilario Davide III told reporters yesterday that the conclusion reached by the President was undeniable, considering that among those who have been recently arrested were policemen or local elected officials.
For this reason, Davide urged every sector in Cebu to cooperate in the intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
“We cannot deny that it is true. Tinuud gyud na … mga pwersa sa pulis nangadakpan and naay involved nga mga government officials. Dili gyud nato na ma-deny (That is true. There were members of the police force who have been arrested, and some government officials are involved. We cannot deny that),” Davide said in a press briefing at the Capitol yesterday.
In just a year, or from the time President Duterte assumed office in July 2016, the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and the regional Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-7) have seized more than P400 million worth of illegal drugs.
The PRO-7’s and PDEA-7’s combined arrested records showed that at least 9,000 drug suspects have been arrested during the same period, which included the recent arrests of four government officials in the southern towns of Badian and San Fernando.
The campaign against illegal drugs in the region has resulted in the death of 400 people, either during police operations or slain by still-unknown killers, leading human rights advocates to label these unresolved deaths as victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK).
But for drug enforcement authorities, which was raised by the President, of bigger concern was the continued involvement of local officials in the drug trade despite the no-nonsense war against drugs waged by the government.
Among the recent arrests involved the barangay captain of Malabago in Badian town, Epifania Alvizo, who was arrested last July 4 during a buy-bust operation. Operatives confiscated at least P1.5 million worth of drugs from her possession.
Three days later, two municipal councilors and the president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in San Fernando town fell into the hands of policemen after they were accused as drug protectors.
For the governor of Cebu, these arrests should also serve as a challenge to everyone to exert more efforts in reducing the supply of illegal drugs in the province.
“Our aim here is to reduce the supply of illegal drugs — if eliminating them will pose as an impossible task. But we will continue our drive against illegal drugs. We will try our best to reduce the circulation of drugs in the province because what our President said cannot be denied,” Davide said.
He said that the proliferation of illegal drugs within the province is still rampant because — according to the information the provincial government has been getting — new players in the illegal drug trade have emerged.
“Old players were caught and detained, but there are new ones. New players in the field. (We are aware of the presence of) the successors of the late prominent drug lords Jaguar (Jeffrey Diaz) and Yawa (Rowen Secretaria),” said Davide.
However, Davide stressed that law enforcers, who are at the front line in the all-out war against illegal drugs, should be recognized for their accomplishments and successes in netting numerous drug suspects, especially high-profile ones such as those who hold positions in the government.
“Our province also has something to share in regards to the campaign against illegal drugs, and it’s the successful operations led by our policemen which resulted to the arrest of several drug personalities,” he added.
As a side note, the governor noted that Cebu is not the only province where the illegal drug trade is still prevalent.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (CPADAO) backed the call of Davide.
CPADAO legal officer, lawyer George John Cane, told Cebu Daily News through a phone interview that it is high time for every sector in Cebu — the government, the industry and the community — to realize the importance of collaborative efforts on aiming for a drug-free Cebu.
“(The comment by Duterte) shows that illegal drugs are still proliferating in Cebu. It is still true. And this should be a concern of everyone. It’s a shared responsibility,” he stated.
Since Mr. Duterte made this observation in the wake of the recent arrests of local government officials in Cebu, the CPADAO officer said there is now reason to intensify the drug-clearing operations in the entire province.
“We have to double our efforts on making sure that Cebu will not be labeled as a drug hot spot in the near future. On the part of CPADAO, we have been doing everything we can to not only to clean our communities free from illegal drugs but we are also encouraging them on the benefits of being completely drug-free,” said Cane.
It has been a year since the national government launched an all-out campaign against illegal drugs.
On the other hand, the CPADAO is still hopeful that they can reach their goal of having a drug-free Cebu anytime soon especially that the Oversight Committee on Illegal Drugs in Cebu has endorsed 160 out of the 1,066 barangays in Cebu as “drug-free.”
“Of course, we are happy that there are now barangays which are free from the proliferation of illegal drugs, but this is not the end for them. They have to maintain it, and that’s their new challenge,” said Cane.
There will be a ceremony to officially declare these barangays as “drug-free,” which is set this Monday, July 17, at the Capitol.
But not one barangay from Cebu City was included in the list.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), in earlier reports, revealed that almost 90 percent of the total number of barangays in Cebu remain affected by the illegal drug menace.
The Oversight Committee on Illegal Drugs is chaired by PDEA-7 Chairman Yogi Filemon Ruiz. Its members include Davide, the CPADAO, the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH–7), and the region’s Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-7).
Davide has the sole authority to officially declare which barangays are drug-free.
In President Duterte’s speech, he pointed out that the Visayas is being “poisoned by the existing illegal drug trade.”
He referred to Iloilo as the transshipment point of the drug supply, and named the island of Cebu as the hot spot for the illegal drug activities.
This prompted Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak to urge police authorities in Cebu City and province to strengthen security measures particularly in wharfs or piers.
“It is possible nga agianan sila sa illegal nga drugas (that they serve as entry routes to deliver illegal drugs),” Tumulak said.
Tumulak, the city’s deputy mayor on police matters, said he was glad that the President made the statement. With the statement, other agencies will help the city resolve the problem, he said.
“Daghan nga agencies ang mutabang. Pun-an ta og intel funds. Apan bisan og gamay ra ang resources, daghan ang nakompiskar ug daghan ang nangapriso (More agencies will help. We will be providing more intel funds. Even though resources are only limited, there were a lot of drugs confiscated and a lot of drug suspects jailed),” he said./with CORRESPONDENT INNA GIAN MEJIA