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Gov. Suarez doubts PDEA’s capacity to fight illegal drugs in Quezon


By JOHN A. BELLO

LUCENA CITY, QUEZON – Quezon Gov. David ‘Jayjay’ Suarez has expressed grave reservation about Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to remove the campaign against illegal drugs from the Phil. National Police (PNP) and its transfer to the Phil. Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“We are talking of a billion-peso illegal drug industry that has long plagued the entire country and now we are placing it in the hands of the severely undermanned PDEA. Nanghihinayang ako sa progress natin sa war on drugs lalo na dito sa atin sa Quezon,” said Suarez on Monday after the joint meeting of the Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council, Peace and Order Council and Provincial Development Council at the Kalilayan Hall here.

Suarez told the local media practitioners in an ambush interview after the 5-hour long meeting attended by several municipal mayors, provincial government officials and representatives of various nongovernment groups that he is fully supportive of Duterte’s War on Drug.

“We have been in an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs and then in the midst of our campaign at the local level all of a sudden here comes the decision of the president stopping the PNP operations and handing it to PDEA. Pero sinusuportahan ko si Pangulong Duterte sa kanyang desisyon however if makita ko sa ating lalawigan na di gumagalaw ang ating kampanya una akong pupunta sa ating pangulo at makikiusap sa kanya na ibalik sa PNP ang war on drugs” the governor said after asking Quezon provincial police head, Senior Supt. Roderick Armamento to talk with the new PDEA head in Quezon for a new stance against illegal drugs.

Suarez, seated beside provincial administrator Rommel Edano, his provincial chief of staff Webster Letargo, executive assistant Juanito Diaz, provincial board members Ferdinand Talabong and Vincent Dominic Reyes, was utterly dismayed upon learning that PDEA in Quezon has only 4 personnel to undertake the campaign against illegal drugs in the whole province.

“How can we sustain our momentum in our war against illegal drugs if the PDEA in the whole province of Quezon is staffed only with four committed manpower?” Suarez asked and immediately ordered Armamento to talk with the PDEA to come up with a plan before the end of the month on how to sustain the anti-illegal campaign and operations so that all the 39 municipal mayors and 2 city mayors in Quezon will be guided accordingly.

Suarez said that he worries that the illegal drug situation will worsen in the province with the campaign against drugs now in the hands of the PDEA with only 4 personnel to undertake anti-drug operations.

“We don’t want to give the impression that we, as public officials, are getting lax against illegal drugs in this new set-up, or worse, drug coddlers or drug protectors in Quezon if the drug proliferates anew in our province, so we want to be clarified. What’s the role of the local chief executives?” the governor told the participants.

San Antonio mayor Eric Wagan said the new directive of Pres. Duterte on drugs is a big challenge to local authorities.

“Dapat sa ngayon ay may police visibility pa rin at ang level of fight against illegal drugs ay narun pa rin kahit nasa PDEA na ang anti-illegal drug operations,” Wagan said.

For his part, Armamento said that with Pres. Duterte’s new directive last Oct. 12 the PNP can still provide back-up support to PDEA in all its anti-drug operations, can assist with intelligence information against drug suspects, and can still arrest drug users and pushers who are seen doing illegal drug activities.

He proposed to strengthen the Barangay Against Drug Abuse Councils in the whole province stressing that these councils would know the real drug situation in the barangay even as he urged everyone to be pro-active in the fight against illegal drugs at the barangay level.

Armamento earlier made a slide presentation showing the ‘drug situation’ in the province from July 2016 to Sept. 2017.

According to the Quezon Police Provincial Office (QPPO) a total of 25,097 drug users and pushers have surrendered to the police who have neutralized 28 suspects during their operations, arrested 2,543 drug suspects and confiscated 5.67 kilos of shabu with an estimated value of P7,875,591.50 from July last year to Sept. this year.

The police have conducted 1,841 police operations, visited 14,748 homes under project ‘Tokhang’ and cleared 477 barangays of the 627 drug-affected out of a total 1,242 bgys. in the whole province.

The QPPO has set up the parameter in declaring a barangay drug-free: non-availabilityof drug supply, absence of drug transit or transhipment activity, absence of drug laboratory, drug warehouse, marijuana cultivation site, drug den, drug pusher, drug user; active involvement of local officials in anti-drug activities, existence of preventive education and information program and existence of a barangay-based nongovernment organizations to help monitor the drug-liberated status of the barangay.

Armamento disclosed the 5 drug-cleared municipalities in the province: Plaridel, Pitogo, Macalelon, Gen. Luna, and Quezon adding that 17 other municipalities are awaiting certification from PDEA: Agdangan, Alabat, Burdeos, Catanauan, Dolores, Gumaca, Jomalig, Lopez, Lucban, Mulanay, Padre Burgos, Patnanungan, Perez, Sampaloc, San Antonio, Tagkawayan and Unisan.

Of the 25,097 drug surrenderers in Quezon, 12,708 have participated in Simula ng Pag-Asa program which aims to rehabilitate drug dependents with the help of religious leaders and 1,118 have undergone rehabilitation and reformation thru the Yakap Bayan program of the DILG, DSWD and PNP.

Meanwhile, the governor was also visibly dismayed over the very low rate drug conviction in the province as he learned that there are only 3 convicted drug suspects in the entire province, while 121 drug cases have been dismissed, 2,901 cases are still pending out of a total of 3,022 drug cases filed in various courts since 2015 up to present.

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