ILOCOS SUR – Over 1,800 drug suspects surrendered in Ilocos Sur Thursday, but police said some of those who came forward had long abandoned the bad habit.
Coming from various municipalities and cities in the province, the suspects gathered at the capitol quadrangle where a short program was held.
The drug suspects pledged to stop using and selling illegal drugs.
“It was mixed emotions. Masaya tayo na 1,800 ang nag-surrender pero iniisip ko ganito na pala karami ang drug dependents dito. Ibig sabihin lang nito, may kapabayaan sa kampanya kontra illegal na droga nitong nakaraan kaya ngayon kailangan na mas paigtingin na ang kampanya natin,” Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson said.
Chief Inspector Greg Guerrero of the police community relations in this province explained that most of those who surrendered were drug users.
“Kaunti lang naman ang nasa drug watchlist dito sa Ilocos Sur, may mga sumuko na din na listed drug personalities pero yung ib kinakausap pa natin para sumuko na rin. Karamihan sa mga sumusuko ay mga drug users. Ang ilan matagal na rin na huminto sa paggamit kaya lang natatakot na baka madamay kaya nais nilang linisin ang kanilang pangalan,” Guerrero said.
With the help of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government agencies, the drug suspects will be given training and livelihood assistance.
A rehabilitation program and spiritual counseling also await those seriously affected by illegal drugs.
Singson challenged the provincial police to intensify its campaign against illegal drugs.
''Kailangan na ma-penetrate natin kung saan nanggagaling ang ilegal na droga na pumapasok dito. Iyan naman ang hinihiling natin sa mga sumuko na makipagtulungan para matunton ng ating mga pulis kung sino ang mga nagpapasok, kung saan nanggagaling at papaano naipapasok,” Singson added.
Singson also admitted that a number of marijuana plantations have been discovered in some upland municipalities in the province for the past years, particularly in the tri-boundaries of Ilocos Sur, La Union and Benguet.
He asked residents to stop planting marijuana and invited cultivators to have a dialogue to discuss possible alternative means of livelihood. But if this will not succeed, the governor said he will order the decontamination of soil in the plantations to prevent marijuana growth.
President Rodrigo Duterte, even before he assumed office, said that he is open to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, something the provincial government of Ilocos Sur is also looking into.
SURPRISE DRUG TEST
On Wednesday, during a meeting with over 1,200 provincial employees, Singson announced that all employees will undergo drug test. Those who will be found positive for drug use will be automatically removed from office.
Singson and some elected officials led the drug test.
Earlier this week, a report from PNP in the province cleared all cops in Ilocos Sur for drug use.
Thousands of suspected drug pushers and users have surfaced around the country, as Duterte launched a massive campaign to rid the country of illegal drugs.
But Duterte's war on drugs has not been without blood.
The PNP said 103 people have died in police operations to combat illegal drugs between May 10 and July 3, 2016.
However, the number of drug-related fatalities in police operations during the same period was about fifty percent higher in a separate tally by ABS-CBN's Investigative and Research Group, culled from PNP regional websites and news reports of various agencies.
In all, ABS-CBN monitored 339 drug-related fatalities between May 10 and July 12, 2016.