Barrio officials fear safety in drugs war

The intensified crackdown on illegal drugs may also endanger the lives of several barangay officials who were directed to report drug personalities in their jurisdiction. In fact, some of the barangay officials reportedly threatening messages from those affected.

The barangay officials deplored the announcement that they provided the PNP with the list of drug personalities when it was supposed to be confidential.

In the first provincial anti-drugs summit, Tuesday, some 517 barangay captains, mayors and vice-mayors, including 134 police officials discussed means on how to boost the anti-drugs drive. Negros Oriental has 557 barangays in 25 cities and municipalities.

It is no longer a secret that the Philippine National Police is collecting various lists from the barangays of suspected illegal drugs users, pushers, protectors and repeated offenders or recidivists to serve as their reference in calibrating its massive anti-crime drive that started in earnest a few weeks before the assumption of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The PNP is validating the lists and use them to come knocking at the doors of the suspects’ homes tagged by the Barangay Captains and Kagawads to warn them to stop their illegal activities.

However, several barangay officials either refused or failed to provide a list saying that they don’t have personal knowledge of any persons within their jurisdiction who are engaged in the illegal drugs trade.

Negros Oriental Police Provincial Director Sr. Supt. Harris Fama emphasized the principal responsibilities of barangay officials to support the overall government efforts to address peace and order, particularly in curbing illegal drugs and other substances.

Some local officials are also worried that the names may find its way to a “hit list” especially since some police personnel warned that if the suspects will not reform the next step would be to “neutralize” them.

Other local officials simply could not provide the names especially if they are related to the drugs personalities in their jurisdiction or expressed fear that they could be subject to reprisals of which they have little or no means of protection unlike the police and military.

Nevertheless, Fama said that they may give the benefit of the doubt to barangay officials who declare zero knowledge of any illegal drugs operation in their areas but if the contrary is established, the report will be forwarded to the regional and national PNP for appropriate action and the officials is on the risk of being tagged as “drug protectors” themselves. (By Dems Demecillo)

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