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16,706 barangays ‘cleared’, 17,175 more to be assessed for illegal drugs: PDEA

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The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Thursday said it is over halfway its target of clearing the drug-affected barangays (villages) in the country by 2022.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino bared that 16,706 barangays have been listed as “drug-cleared” while 17,175 identified villages have yet to be cleared of illegal drugs from July 2016 to November 2019 under the Duterte administration’s continuing anti-illegal drugs campaign.

“I guess we are over halfway on our target to clear ang barangay (the villages) by 2022. We’re still crossing our fingers by 2022 we can accomplish to clear all barangays of drugs,” Aquino said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Aquino said it was “doable” to achieve its targets, but admitted that the challenges remain “so high”.

“The remaining barangays are the most notorious barangays in terms of drug affectations,” Aquino said.

There are three basic parameters in determining barangay drug-affectation: slightly affected, moderately affected, and seriously affected.

Barangays are considered slightly affected if there is a reported presence of drug user/s; moderately affected if there is a reported presence of drug pusher/s and/or user/s; and seriously affected if there is a reported presence of any of the following: clandestine drug laboratory, warehouse, marijuana plantation, drug den/tiangge, drug trafficking or smuggling activities, and drug personalities such as users, pushers, financiers, protectors, cultivators, manufacturers and others.

At present, PDEA continues to implement harm-reduction efforts to prevent or end drug dependency such as: “Balay Silangan”, a community-based reformation program for surrendering drug offenders; Project: “Sagip Batang Solvent”, to rescue street children, particularly those hooked on solvent-sniffing; drug test of public transport drivers nationwide, to ensure road safety; and, “Drug-Free Workplace Program”, which aims to promote a working environment free from the influence of dangerous drugs in business establishments.

PDEA spokesman Derrick Arnold Carreon bared that a total of 433 dens and clandestine laboratories have been dismantled by law enforcement authorities from July 2016 to November 2019.

A total of PHP40.39 billion worth of illegal drugs were seized in the same period.

Meanwhile, Aquino, also chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), admitted that sacked ICAD co-chair, Vice President Leni Robredo made no significant contributions to these numbers.

“Our Vice President was not really involved in terms of law enforcement. She did not in any way supervise our people down there in the fields,” Aquino said.

On Oct. 31, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Robredo as anti-drug czar to help Aquino co-chair the ICAD.

Duterte, however, fired the Vice President on Nov. 24 after she committed “missteps” such as talking to foreign individuals and groups which he claimed already “prejudged” the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Robredo earlier claimed she is set to release her findings and observations on the anti-narcotics campaign on Monday (Dec. 16) despite no longer being part of the ICAD.

Aquino said her recommendations were welcome as long as they were found to be “beneficial” to the committee. (PNA)

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