ILOCOS SUR - Over 200 drug suspects have surrendered in the town of Santiago in Ilocos Sur since Wednesday, police said.
"Nag-conduct kami ng visitation sa mga barangays. Kinuha namin ang list ng mga drug personalities sa mga barangay captain then na-validate ng intelligence officer namin. After validation, nag bahay-bahay na kami, kinatok namin sila, kung pwede nilang tigilan na ang ginagawa nila," Senior Inspector James Patrick Calibuso said.
Since police operatives conducted Oplan Katok on Wednesday, a total of 213 drug users and pushers have given themselves up:
- Barangay Sabangan: 91
- Olo-olo Norte: 37
- Ambucao: 32
- Baybayabas: 16
- Dan-ar: 13
- Olo-olo Sur: 6
- Mambug: 5
- Nalasin: 4
- San Roque: 4
- Caburao: 2
- Salincub: 2
- Ubbog: 1
Santiago town had the highest number of drug suspects who surrendered among all towns and cities in the province.
"Nagulat talaga ako kasi maigting naman ang programa sa barangay namin kontra sa droga," said Barangay Ambucao Chairman Ruben Agosto.
For 29-year-old "Bonbon," he turned himself in to clear his name, saying he only used marijuana once two years ago allegedly out of curiosity.
"Nakakagulat talaga, kaya nagpunta na ako dito para linisin ang pangalan ko. Gayundin ang iba ko pang mga kasama na sinasabi din na gumagamit pero hindi naman," he said.
The suspects were released after interrogation, but they will be monitored to make sure that none of them will return to using or selling illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Greg Guerrero, chief of the Police Community Relations of Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office, said they have started meeting with residents of some of the upland municipalities where marijuana plantations have been discovered in the past years.
"Sa mga pulong-pulong ng ating mga kasama, sinasabi nila na huwag na silang magtanim dahil mas istrikto na ngayon pagdating sa ilegal na droga. Hinihikayat natin sila na magtanim na lang mga root crops o kaya naman kape kahit mas mura pa," Guerrero said.
Almost every year, high-value marijuana plantations in upland municipalities are destroyed by authorities, but residents still continue to cultivate marijuana because its price is much higher than traditional crops.
The provincial government of Ilocos Sur is studying possible alternative livelihood programs for the residents.