Sec. Abalos vows a ‘Constitution-based’ fight
PALO, Leyte– Governors and mayors in the region have pledged their commitment to support the campaign of the government against illegal drugs.
The officials made their commitment during the visit of Interior Sec. Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos who led in the regional launching of the anti-drug campaign of the government dubbed as ‘Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan’ held at the convention center in this town on Wednesday (Feb. 8).
Among those who pledged their support were Governors Jericho ‘Icot’ Petilla of Leyte; Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar; Sharee Ann Tan of Samar; and Damian Mercado of Southern Leyte.
City Mayors Mayor Lucy Torres Gomez, who is the current regional chair of the Regional Development Council, Naccional Mercado of Maasin; and Raymund Uy of Calbayog also pledged their support in the campaign to stamp out the illegal drugs at their respective areas.
Former Leyte vice governor and now board member Carlo Loreto together with other mayors from different parts of the region also joined in committing themselves to help stamp out illegal drugs at their own localities.
Samar Gov. Tan said that she launched the ‘Sirak Kabataan’ program wherein several activities like sports events are conducted to keep the youths away from engaging the illegal drug.
Gov. Evardone also said that he provides cash incentives to barangays that are drug-cleared while Gov. Mercado assures that he does not play favorites, even though some of his own relatives were arrested for drug using and possession.
Evardone said that only a few villages in Arteche, Dolores, and Borongan City need to be cleared from the illegal drug menace.
He said that their ‘trajectory’ is to make the entire province as drug-free.
Calbayog City Mayor Uy said that his anti-drug campaign is aligned with the Sirak Kabataan of the provincial government, adding that 36 out of the 156 city’s barangays are now considered as drug-cleared or drug-free.
Meantime, Mayor Gomez said that they intend to ensure that Ormoc City will not backslide from its previously known as the ‘illegal drug capital’ of the region.
“Winning the war on illegal drugs is always a moving target. It could seem like an endless war, but not one that is impossible to overcome. If we all work hand in hand, and rally together to address the problem at its core, then victory is within sight,” she said in a speech.
The holding of the regional roll-out of the anti-drug campaign of the government came just over a week after the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency seized P69 million worth of shabu at a checkpoint in Allen town, Northern Samar.
Meantime, Sec. Abalos said the campaign against illegal drugs will still be continued relentlessly under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. adding that they will carry it in ‘accordance’ with the Constitution.
Abalos was asked if the illegal drugs campaign of the Marcos administration will be affected with the continued probe of the UN rapporteur on the illegal drugs campaign of the previous administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.
“Kami, wala kaming problema sa Marcos administration. We will implement the campaign in accordance with the oath (and) on the basis of the Constitution,” Abalos said, underscoring that the rights of the suspects or those arrested due to the campaign will be respected.
Human rights advocates had slammed the anti-illegal drug campaign of the Duterte administration claiming it resulted in the deaths of more than 27,000 people, a number contested by the Philippine National Police which said that only 6,000 people were killed in the course of the campaign.
Abalos said that he is happy that officials in the region are giving their full support to the campaign of the government stressing that it needs a ‘whole-of-nation approach’ and not just a police matter.
The DILG Secretary lead in giving awards to several local government units deemed to be ‘drug-cleared.’
These include the provinces of Leyte and Southern Leyte, and the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc, both in Leyte; and several municipalities of the region.
JOEY A. GABIETA/LIZBETH ANN A. ABELLA