by Jane B. Cadalig
The Association of Barangay Councils in Baguio is asking the help of the city government and concerned agencies to help them in dealing with drug offenders who have submitted themselves in line with the national government’s war on drugs.
Councilor Michael Lawana asked the city government, through the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Office and other concerned agencies, to assist the barangays, which are now left with no recourse but to deal with the people who have admitted they are users and peddlers of illegal drugs.
Lawana said barangays could hardly finance the drug tests, which were required of those who gave themselves in to the police.
“A drug test costs P300. Imagine the cost it will require for a barangay that has 40 to 50 surrenderees. The barangays does not have enough funds for that,” Lawana said.
The barangays are also in a dilemma on how to help the users and pushers go into rehabilitation and how to provide alternative livelihood for them.
“We are tasked to monitor them, but we cannot just keep them in their houses. We have to do something. For the users, we have to send them to rehabilitation but we don’t have a drug rehabilitation center. For the pushers, we want to provide them with livelihood but what sort of livelihood will we give and how will we pay them?”
Lawana said the barangays are contemplating on coming up with temporary rehabilitation centers, using the barangay halls with wide spaces.
“We are willing to help provide for temporary rehabilitation centers and we are positive the city government and concerned agencies will also help us deal with the problems we are now facing,” he said.
Lawana also defended the barangay drug abuse councils from the impression that they have been ineffective in safeguarding the communities from drugs.
He said while all the barangays in the city have activated their respective Badacs, budget limitations prevent them from fully carrying out their roles.
“The Badacs can only do as much in dealing with the drug menace because of financial constraints.”
Out of the 128 barangays, Lawana said only around 40 have allocations, ranging from P3,000 to P10,000 for their Badacs this year.
Among the barangays with approved budget for their Badac are West Quirino Hill, Lower Quirino Hill, Irisan, and Camp 7.
“The budget for the Badac is not a permanent item, unlike health and sports that are given regular allocations. Some barangays allot a budget from their maintenance and operating expenses. If they have extra funds, then they are lucky,” Lawana said.
He however said despite these limitations, the Badacs have been instrumental in the arrest of drug users and peddlers even before the government launched its intensified campaign against drugs.
“Lahat naman ng nahuli noon pa man, nangyari dahil sa pakikipagtulungan ng mga barangay,” he said, although adding some barangay officials are fearful in reporting the presence of drug offenders in their area.
“Most barangay officials I have talked to said they fear for their safety. Even if the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency assures us that the reports we are submitting are treated with confidentiality, most are still afraid because we know that drug-related activities are syndicated,” he said.
Lawana said the barangays are willing to undergo trainings on how they can better equip their Badacs in safeguarding communities from drugs.
“It is easy to organize trainings, but the problem, again, is who will provide funds?” he said.