DILG's 'dialogue on Abra recovery' turns into discussion on drugs and jails

DILG's 'dialogue on Abra recovery' turns into discussion on drugs and jails
This photo shows then-MMDA chair Benhur Abalos, current interior chief.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos' visit to the quake-hit province of Abra saw more talk on continuing the Duterte administration's “war on drugs” taking up more airtime than the earthquake that just hit the area weeks prior.

At a briefing in Abra that was billed as a dialogue "to address issues and concerns and give updates on the recovery of the province," Abalos instead took the opportunity to drill down his plans on the “war on drugs” and jail congestion.

"Sa ating mga kapulisiyahan, ha? No let up in drugs. Manghuhuli tayo," Abalos said in closing. "We will launch this in the entire country."

Abalos went on to point out that the government should address the root cause of drug use by working with churches, schools, and barangays to discourage drugs at the community level.

"We can keep arresting the pushers, which we should, but there will always be someone to take their place," Abalos said in mixed Filipino and English.

He also reminded local officials of his plans to conduct random drug tests in jails nationwide.

"Sa jail, umiikot ako, pinapaihi ko mismo yung mga prisoners, mga nakakulong," he said.

(In jails, I go around and I make random drug tests to persons deprived of liberty.)

After drugs and jails, Abalos touted the national government's accomplishments in dealing with the communist insurgency, saying hundreds of former rebels had returned to the fold of law through the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

"I'm mentioning these because this is what will happen in the coming days," Abalos said.

It was the Office of Civil Defense that touched on updates on the area's recovery post-earthquake, saying a technical working group has already been formed to document the initial damage to be presented at budget hearings for the General Appropriations Act. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development's funds for the emergency cash transfer for damaged houses are also ready for downloading, OCD-Cordillera chief Frankie Cortez said.

Cortez said ten deaths from the earthquake are confirmed in the province of Abra, while 574 were reportedly injured.

Citing figures from the Department of Public Works and Highways, Cortez said that the final estimate of damages on national roads was at P557 million in Abra alone.



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