THE Department of Interior and Local Government warned it would suspend and sue before the Ombudsman barangay officials who have not activated their Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (Badacs) for “dereliction of duty” despite appeals by the agency last year to activate the body to address the drug problem.
DILG Assistant Secretary Ricojudge Janvier Echiverri said they are just waiting for instruction from DILG officer-in-charge Eduardo Año, who is set to issue a memorandum this month against officials of barangays with non-functioning Badacs.
The barangay officials are given 30 days to comply after receipt of the memorandum, he said.
Echiverri said at least 30 percent of the country’s 42,029 barangays are classified as severely affected and some of the officials of the non-compliant barangays are in the list.
“The Badac should be funded and implemented. It’s not just about the law enforcement alone but the local government should see to it that Badac is in place,” he added.
Catalino Cuy, chairperson of the Dangerous Drugs Board, said Badac is important to the anti-illegal drug campaign, in particular the monitoring and identification of suspects and the conduct of community-based rehabilitation program for mild and moderate drug users.
A DILG head before he was appointed to DDB last month, Cuy said the number of compliant barangays with functioning Badacs has increased to 70 percent from less than 50 percent at the start of the Duterte administration.
He said the Badac conducts awareness programs for non-users to prevent them from going into illegal drug use.
He said authorities are not only addressing the country’s drug problem through supply reduction but also demand reduction.
Demand reduction efforts include rehabilitation and reintegration programs for the drug dependents, he said.
Cuy cited that barangays have refused to activate Badacs until now because their officials are either involved in illegal drug activities or are afraid to identify constituents who are into drugs.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino said a barangay with a non-functioning Badac worsens the drug problem and makes it difficult for authorities to conduct clearing operations.
He said most of the non-functioning barangays are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He said authorities can obtain a more accurate information about new drug suspects once Badac is activated. Otherwise, he said, they would have difficulty verifying.
Citing a report from the World Health Organization and UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Health Undersecretary Roger Tong An pointed out the Badac must be strengthened because 95 percent of the admissions of drug users happen in the community-based centers.
He said their nurses, psychologists, and physicians together with barangay health workers will screen the patients to know if they are mild, moderate or severe users.
Mild and moderate users will undergo community-based programs while the severe cases will be accommodated at the rehabilitation centers for six months, he said.
Cuy said drug dependents should have alternative livelihoods at the end of the program to make them productive citizens and prevent them from going back to using drugs. (antonio colina iv of mindanews)