By Shirley Pizarro
BALANGA CITY — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), along with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), has declared the provinces of Bataan and Aurora drug-free zones.
In ceremonies held recently at the Bataan People’s Center and attended by local government and police officials, drug reformists and their families, Bataan Governor Albert Garcia and Aurora Acting Governor Christian Noveras accepted their respective plaques and certificates from PDEA director Lyndon P. Aspacio of Region 3.
An area is declared drug free when all reported cases of drug use have been addressed, all suspected personalities duly identified, tagged and tapped for rehabilitation treatment or community service as deemed appropriate by the authorities.
DILG Undersecretary Martin Dino was the event’s guest of honor.
He specifically cited the commitment of Garcia and the entire province of Bataan by saying: “I wish that the drug campaign efforts exerted by the province of Bataan will spread all over the country like how the Corona virus is spreading. This way, the entire Philippines will be declared drug-free in no time.” His comment elicited nervous laughter from the crowd.
Newly-appointed director of the Philippine National Police Region 3, Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, cited the efforts of Bataan’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Convenors, led by Pilar town Mayor Charlie Pizarro, and outgoing police director Col. Villamor Tuliao. The drug council is at the forefront of the fight.
Under their watch, drug surrenders are taken to Bahay Pagbabago for an intensive one-month rehabilitation program.
To date, a total of 6,144 surrenders have graduated from Bahay Pagbabago and are now reunited with their respective families. Statistics also showed a steady decline in the number of incidence of (drug-related) crimes from a high of 1,406 cases in 2014 to a remarkably low 395 in 2019.
Garcia, who was also celebrating his birthday, said that his wish was not for himself, but “for real positive change to happen in the lives of our reformists.”
“I want their future to be bright,” he said.
The event was also attended by barangay officials from the 12 towns Bataan, as well as Hermosa Mayor Antonio Joseph R. Inton and Orani Mayor Efren Pascual Jr. and Dr. Elizabeth Serrrano, director of Treatment and Rehabilitation Center Bataan.