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ILOILO CITY DRUG PROBLEM HIGHLIGHTED IN DUTERTE VISIT

ILOILO CITY -- Taxi drivers, civic leaders and even local politicians in Iloilo province believe that a strong leader like Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte is what the country needs to address the growing drugs problem.


Drugs has been identified as the most serious problem in Iloilo City with at least two suspected big-time drug dealers known to almost every Ilonggo.

"Almost every city resident knows who these drug dealers are. It seems the only ones who do not know them are the anti-drugs officials," said radio broadcaster Joeceel BaƱas of Aksyon Radyo, a media outlet which has been in the forefront of the campaign against drugs in the city.

Local officials who refused to be identified said the suspected drug dealers have lately been seen in the company of known political personalities fanning the fear that narco-politics is taking a foothold in the area.

During his one day visit to Iloilo which included a forum on Federalism in Janiuay, Iloilo and in the West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, Mayor Duterte was confronted with questions on how he handled the drugs problem in his city, now considered as one of the Safest Cities in the World with a crime rate lower than all the other major cities in the country.

"I don't like people involved in drugs. I don't care if they are soldiers or policemen. I tell them that drug dealers and criminals in my city have only two destinations - the jail or the funeral parlors," said Duterte, whose tough campaign against drugs and criminality has made him a "person of interest" by human rights groups.

Addressing students in the WVSU Federalism Forum, the Davao City Mayor said six months of drugs use, especially "shabu," will cause irreparable brain damage.

"There is no such thing as a successful rehabilitation (for a drug addict). Once you lose a child to drugs, you lose him forever,' Duterte warned both students and their parents.

"What we need is a leader like Duterte," said an Iloilo town mayor who asked not to be identified.

There are several town mayors in Iloilo, however, who have taken a strong position against drugs, among them Alimodian Mayor Geefre Alonsabe.

Alonsabe, who has publicly admitted that he is gay, is largely admired by anti-drugs advocates in the province for his bold and open campaign against drugs.

The 69-year-old Duterte, Mayor of Davao for 22 years, is visiting key areas all over the country in an advocacy for Federalism.

His visits, however, also turn into an experience sharing session for many people and local leaders who have heard of the legendary accomplishments of Duterte in the campaign against drugs and criminality. JERRY DUREZA
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