The number of drug-affected barangays in the Bicol Region spiked 357 percent in just seven months this year, according to the latest tally of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
PDEA classified 2,634 of Bicol’s 3,471 barangays, or 75.89 percent, as drug-affected in August, up from the 576 barangays, or 16.59 percent, it listed as such in January.
The latest data was released a month after President Rodrigo Duterte tagged Naga City, which is in Bicol, “the hotbed of shabu in the past years” in a speech where he criticized anew the leadership ability of Vice President Leni Robredo. Naga is Robredo’s bailiwick.
Bicol ranked 16th out of 17 regions in terms of the highest number of drug-affected barangays in January (See VERA Files Fact Sheet: What PDEA data say about the PH drug situation over the years). In PDEA’s latest tally, it ranked third, behind the National Capital Region (95.2 percent drug-affectation), and Central Luzon (79.59 percent).
The Zamboanga Peninsula, which topped the list in January at 96.17 percent, dropped to fifth place, now at 72.22 percent.
The Dangerous Drugs Board considers a barangay drug-affected if there is a drug pusher, drug personality, manufacturer, drug den or clandestine laboratory in the area.
Apart from Bicol, two regions saw a big increase in the number of drug-affected barangays from January to August: the Cordillera Administrative Region, 838 percent and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 28.61 percent.
The latest data, however, is still limited. It did not include the regional breakdown for February to July 2018, making it impossible to pinpoint when the surge actually happened, more so how.
PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon said his agency cannot provide anything beyond what it has given as the report was the “result of the (agency’s) Intelligence and Investigation Service’s latest effort.” VERA Files’ previous FOI request for an updated provincial breakdown on drug-affectation was declined due to what Carreon said was an “ongoing validation.”
There were a few inconsistencies in PDEA’s latest data compared to previous records. PDEA’s August count for the total number of barangays in Ilocos Region, NCR, CAR and Mimaropa slightly exceeded the January figures.
And unlike the past tallies, the August data included unaffected and cleared barangays aside from the drug-affected ones.
PDEA has yet to respond to VERA Files’ request for comment on the findings as of writing.
Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Rodrigo Duterte, Speech during the launch of Go Negosyo’s Pilipinas Angat Lahat program, Aug. 14, 2018.