SAGAY CITY -- The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is keeping an eye on the village chiefs, including those Negros Occidental, as the agency steps up its drug clearing campaign in the barangay level.

Undersecretary for Local Government Austere Panadero, who was the guest of honor at the opening of the 21st Sinigayan Festival in the city Wednesday, underscored the critical role of the barangays in the forefront of the government’s fight against illegal drugs.

Panadero said that as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) with the Army as support force re-engage in anti-illegal drug operations, barangays also have to level up.

“Being at the frontline, barangays should be aware of its drug affectation,” he said, adding that “as to how the zero drug target can be achieved, it should be planned by the head of every barangay.”

The DILG has directed barangays to conduct assemblies starting March 25. The agency, which will monitor the activity, targets to hold the gatherings in all barangays nationwide in a week.

Panadero said that through this gathering, barangays have to seriously discuss their current situation on the illegal drug problem.

He added that barangays also have to plan their strategies on how drug users and pushers in their area can be stopped, and how non-users and non-pushers remain not engaged in the illegal activity.

“Barangay chairmen who fail to conduct the assembly will be held liable,” Panadero said, as he reminded village chiefs of their obligation to maintain their respective Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Badac) activated.

It is also a neglect of duty on the part of the barangay heads if they cannot maintain their drug clearing campaigns as provided under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and the Local Government Code, he added.

Panadero, who hails from Sagay, also called on members of various sectors in the province like the church and civic society organizations to volunteer and take active participation in the anti-drug campaign.

“This is a critical step towards protecting the welfare of the youth, addressing criminality, and sustaining peace and order in the country,” the DILG official stressed.

Panadero said that DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno has already directed the Regional Peace and Order Councils (RPOCs) to inform those included in the “thick list” of barangay chairmen linked to drugs, and give them certain advice and guidance.

Asked if the list includes those from Negros Occidental, he said: “I have yet to see the list because I might sound conjecturing.”