Sep 18, 2018

Quite an achievement for the community officers and residents of Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa is the newly-issued certification declaring it a “drug-cleared barangay” after only three months of “drug clearing operations.”

This development makes Barangay Ayala Alabang (BAA), in its own words, the first to receive such a distinction among Muntinlupa’s nine communities and second only to Barangay Poblacion to be acknowledged as a “Drug Free Workplace.”

The wealthy enclave said in a social media post that since the formal launch of its drug clearing operations on May 31, the neighborhood “has been working closely with local and national partner agencies to present evidence that the village (met) a number of parameters” listed by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

Among the submissions were requirements proving “non-availability of drug supply,” “absence of drug den, pusher, user,” “absence of clandestine drug laboratory,” “active involvement of barangay officials in anti-drug activities,” “existence of drug awareness, preventive education and information” and “existence of voluntary and compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation processing desk.”

The post did not provide details about how the requirements were met. The BAA noted however, that “necessary documentation” was “submitted and validated” prior to the certification.

The BAA mentioned Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, city chief of police Senior Supt. Gerardo Umayao, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) regional director Ismael Fajardo Jr. among signatories.

BAA made sure everyone knew that “high-ranking officials” from DDB, PDEA, the Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government and assorted Muntinlupa City-based councils were present when the community unveiled billboards declaring the village “drug-free” and “drug-cleared” on Sept. 7.

BAA has good reason to announce the declaration. For the past several years, residents have endured the humiliation of news reports of drug raids and police encounters in the neighborhood.

Most dramatic was the so-called “Alabang Boys” case that occurred 10 years ago. The arrest of three men allegedly for possession of 60 tablets of ecstasy in the village led to the unraveling of an octopus-like network of drug dealers, distributors and paid-off officials working in the police, the justice department, and its attached agencies. The network stretched as far as Baguio City.

Despite evidence that P50 million changed hands for the release of the suspects, no one was convicted.

Another celebrated case was the drug raid in 2012 at 504 Acacia St., a one-hectare estate owned by a Madrigal family-controlled company.

PDEA agents arrested five Chinese nationals who converted the residence into a “medium-scale” shabu laboratory where 10 kilos of shabu worth P50 million was also seized.

The scandal forced Ayala Alabang security officers to re-examine their protocol, especially after then Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro complained the men were uncooperative when police officers request “unhampered access” to serve warrants to suspects inside the village.

A follow-up raid on the suspects’ drug associates operating on Kanlaon St. yielded three more kilograms of shabu worth P15 million.

The latest episode happened only last June, while BAA officials were “working closely” with authorities to declare the village drug-free.

Two persons in the PNP drug watch list were allegedly caught with cocaine and shabu worth P1 million during a sting operation. The agents followed a tip from a drug pusher who was also caught earlier selling inside the village.

No one could blame skeptics for raising their brows over the drug-free certification now proudly announced on social media. After all, it’s not easy to erase from memory the constant mention of the village over the years as a venue for drug transactions.

The formulaic elements are there. Money, exclusivity, and the willingness of paid staff, whether employed by the village or the household, to maintain secrecy.

We do not say the village intentionally harbored illegal drugs. However, the icy reception it has given to investigators—outsiders with the power to report and arrest—made the job more difficult and clearly aggravated the situation for years.

This new development however, has the promise of turning things around. BAA officials and rank-and-file staff took the first step by subjecting themselves to “mandatory” drug-testing and attending “various fora” with anti-drug abuse themes.

The BAA also expressed willingness to have the neighborhood “subject to periodic monitoring” by City Hall-based authorities.

As with all good intentions, we sincerely wish the BAA the best in sustaining this achievement. The effort will need the honesty, bravery and cooperation of all stakeholders. One thing going for BAA is that it has more resources and access to means to fight illegal drugs than less wealthy communities that also want to achieve the same.

We’d rather this be a time for good faith, hope and optimism. May BAA be an example that a drug-free environment can be achieved without resorting to violence and death.

Header image courtesy of Marianne Bermudez/Inquirer

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TAGS: alabang boys Ayala Alabang ayala alabang drug-cleared drug war drugs PDEA PNP tokhang War on Drugs