The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has launched an investigation into the alleged paddling of drug surrenderers by officials of Barangay Balas in Lamitan, Basilan.
A fact-finding team was sent by CHR Region 9 to Barangay Balas on Monday to gather information from Balas Barangay chairperson Ibrahim Ballaho and parents of drug surrenderers.
Although Ballaho admitted the punishment, he said the drug surrenderers' parents had agreed to it, and they even signed an agreement dated September 2017.
He said the parents understood that paddling was just a form of discipline, and there was no intention to seriously hurt or kill their children who have allegedly been into drugs for years.
"Anabel," a mother, said her 34-year-old son was among the drug surrenderers who went through paddling.
She said she agreed to the idea and was even very grateful to Ballaho as his son has been clean of drugs for the past six months, after the paddling happened last September 2017.
Anabel said they had tried everything to stop his son’s addiction, but it was only Ballaho who was able to convince his son to stop using illegal drugs.
Anabel’s son now works as a fish vendor and provides the daily needs of his family.
Abou Mohammad Asmawil, the provincial director of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Basilan, said Ballaho’s act did not conform with due process of law.
He said Ballaho should have instead turned the drug surrenderers over to the local police for profiling, and implemented community-based rehabilitation such as encouraging them to participate in sports programs, religious activities, among others.
Asmawil said there are certain customs and traditions in their province that should be considered in dealing with this case.
Ballaho said he was trying to avoid escalating family feud among his constituents, should there be casualties in the anti-illegal drugs operation of local authorities in Barangay Balas.
Lamitan Vice-Mayor Roderick Furigay said the local government does not tolerate such acts done by Ballaho.
He said he would encourage barangay officials to have drug surrenderers undergo community-based rehabilitation through sports and livelihood programs instead.
Out of the 45 villages in Lamitan, only 3 barangays have been declared drug-free.
At least 20 other barangays have been evaluated by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency since last year.
If there are no complainants against Ballaho, the CHR will just recommend to DILG-Basilan and to the local government of Lamitan possible administrative sanctions.