THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 will be investigating officials of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City on their house-to-house anti-drug campaign yesterday.
Barangay Ermita Chief Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta posted tarpaulins containing the words “This House is Drug-Free” in households in his village yesterday.
But Leo Villarino, CHR 7 chief investigator, told SunStar Cebu that Rupinta’s act is similar to what officials of Barangay Pajo in Lapu-Lapu City did to drug users in their village, but only in reverse.
Villarino asked what would happen to houses that don’t have the tarpaulins.
“It will create a perception that some households have family members who are drug users. Thus, what he (Rupinta) is doing has the same effect as what was done in Pajo,” Villarino said.
Villarino also challenged Rupinta and his fellow barangay officials to not put the tarpaulins in their houses.
“Dili unta sila mamilit ana sa ilang balay dayun tan-awn nato kung dili ba sila i-discriminate (We’ll see if they don’t be discriminated if they don’t put that on their houses),” Villarino said.
Rupinta started a positive campaign against illegal drugs yesterday morning in Sitios Bato and Catsilaan by posting the messageon tarpaulin.
Rupinta said it was Association of Barangay Council (ABC) President Philip Zafra’s idea, which he decided to implement in Ermita, one of the most drug-infested villages in the city.
“We dont want to shame them. This is about positivity,” he said.
He also denied that the campaign is a political stunt “This isn’t about politics. My purpose here is to eliminate the use of drugs in Ermita. I was suspended for six months because I was accused of being a drug protector. This is my way of showing PDEA and City Hall that I’m serious about what I’m doing,” he said in Cebuano.
There are around 2,000 houses in Ermita, and Rupinta estimates that around 15 to 20 percent are affected by illegal drugs.
Among the 2,017 houses, 400 are being strictly monitored, said Rupinta.
Rupinta said that in Sitio Bato alone, half of the houses are affected by illegal drugs. “More or less half of these houses won’t have tarps on their doors. Bato is one of the top drug-infested areas in Ermita. Until now, it still isn’t clear, so through this, I will meet with the homeowners that don’t have tarps on their houses and explain why it’s that way,” he said.
Rupinta also said they have been working on the campaign since August and have identified the drug-free houses after evaluating information gathered by barangay tanods, lupon members, barangay councilors and Carbon police station personnel.
One of the homeowners, Belen Boste, 52, said she is happy that Rupinta personally attached a drug-free tarpaulin on her front door. “This is good because people can see that no one in this house is involved with drugs and this is also a way to clean out the barangay. Even my son’s house doesn’t have a tarp because I know that he does drugs,” she said.
Another house’s drug-free tarpaulin was removed after Rupinta received a tip yesterday that one person in that house was a drug user.
Jonny Estancia is among the homeowners whose house was not marked as a drug-free house. “As the father of this house, there isn’t anyone involved with drugs here to my knowledge. We will go meet with Kap as to why our house wasn’t included,” he said.
Rupinta warned that if anyone from the houses that were marked drug-free would get involved in illegal drug activities, the tarpaulin would be removed immediately and the house would be monitored regularly. “We will wait to see the effects of this campaign and hope that it decreases the drug usage in this Barangay,” he said.
In City Hall, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the campaign is a step in the right direction, but he still doubts that Rupinta is not involved in illegal drug activities.
Zafra, for his part, said he hopes all barangays would implement the positive campaign against illegal drugs.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) said that the drug-free stickers placed in some houses don’t guarantee that there will no validation by the police.
CCPO Director Joel Doria said as long as there are no violations being committed on the side of barangay officials, they can place the stickers.
“If they are indeed not dealing with any illegal drugs, then the sticker is fine. But if our operatives discover that people living there are involved, then we will do the appropriate police operation,” Doria said.
Chief Insp. Jacinto Mandal, head of the Police Station 5, said that they provided police presence during the activity.
“It was a barangay-initiated effort so we support it but we will continue to validate,” he said. (JOB, JKV, Cherizar Maxine Magat, USJR Intern)