Duterte’s ‘narco list’ includes elected Bicol officials

LEGAZPI CITY — While the Bicol region was not spared among the areas included in the narco list that President Rodrigo Duterte had been brandishing all along, it sent quivers to local officials as well as police officers and members of the judiciary, a top official of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) said Sunday.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, also the RPOC chairman, admitted there were indeed local officials, police officers, prosecutors and judges, whose names were included in the narco list referred to by the President.

Rosal, who was installed RPOC chair by the President early this month, however, said he could not yet reveal the names of the local officials as the data would still need further verification and case build-up.

When pressed to at least give the number of local elected and appointed officials included in the list, he refused to give a categorical answer but instead said “basta mayroon” (there are.)

Rosal said President Duterte has emphasized during his recent dialogue with local town and city mayors in Malacanang that the drug problem in the country is serious, saying “I urge you to work closely with the local Philippine National Police (PNP) in identifying and arresting drug pushers and users in your respective areas”.

“The President has expressed concern about the ‘narco-industry’ growing in the country where about 4 million people are considered as ‘addicts,'” added Rosal.

He said the narco list includes 5,000 names of elected local officials, judges and police officials across the country who are reportedly coddlers of big-time drug traders.

Meanwhile, as the government’s war against illegal drugs went on high gear in Bicol, the campaign found problems on the aspect of rehabilitation and treatment of thousands of drug personalities who surrendered or were arrested during police anti-narcotics operations, Rosal said.

The campaign in Bicol took off in July last year but has been saddled with hitches, such as the proper handling of drug dependents, especially with respect to their treatment and rehabilitation as only a few drug rehabilitation centers are operational in Bicol.

Rosal said he has directed the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Health (DOH), Justice (DOJ), PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to work out solutions to address the problems confronting the administration’s centerpiece program.

As this developed, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara, in an interview, said the province is ready to put up a drug rehabilitation center in Barangay Tula-Tula in Ligao City.

He said at least 10 40-foot aluminum containers donated by friends and supporters are ready to be set up at the one-hectare rehabilitation site.

Bichara, however, questioned the procedures as to how many of those who surrendered could be considered as severe, moderate and light cases.

“As a standard practice the rehabilitation centers could only accommodate patients with severe drug problems,” he said.

Bichara said the categories of drug dependents should be determined first as these would be the basis of how many drug rehabilitation centers should be put up.

“Without the numbers and the categorization of drug patients we would not be able to provide the much needed intervention,” said Bichara.

The PNP in Bicol reported that 86,428 drug personalities have either surrendered or arrested. Of this figure 5,935 were pushers while 80,493 were drug users. PNA-northboundasia.com