Win­ning the drug war with zero ca­su­al­ties

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ador Vin­cent S. Mayol SE­NIOR RE­PORTER

Raised by par­ents who taught him that hu­man life is sa­cred, a po­lice of­fi­cer as­signed in north­ern Cebu has shunned quick an­ti­dotes to the coun­try’s il­le­gal drug prob­lem at a time when killings abound, left, right and cen­ter.

Rather, Bogo City’s 39high­lighted the value of year-old po­lice chief Supt. hu­man life. By­ron Al­latog be­lieves in “Hu­man life is im­por­giv­ing drug push­ers and tant. Some peo­ple say ad­dicts a chance to live ‘That is a drug ad­dict. He and change their ways. is noth­ing but trash.’ But

While the num­ber of do these peo­ple even con­drug-re­lated deaths pile sider the fact that these up in other lo­cal­i­ties, Bo­drug ad­dicts have famigo City has not recorded lies? I want peo­ple to even a sin­gle killing since know that killing is not the the po­lice­man as­sumed fi­nal so­lu­tion to solve the his post nearly a year ago, prob­lem of il­le­gal drugs,” in De­cem­ber 2016. Al­latog said, his voice

But de­spite the ab­sence calm but con­vinc­ing. of blood­bath dur­ing poAl­latog, who un­der­lice op­er­a­tions, Bogo City, went train­ing at the US lo­cated 97.8 kilo­me­ters Fed­eral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­away from Cebu City, be­ga­tion (FBI), was once ad­came the first city in Cen­judged as the Philip­pines’ tral Visayas and the sec­most Out­stand­ing Po­lice ond na­tion­wide to be deOf­fi­cer in Ser­vice by the clared by the Philip­pine Metrobank Foun­da­tion Drug En­force­ment Agency and Philip­pine Na­tional (PDEA) as drug-cleared. Po­lice (PNP) in the year

For Al­latog, ev­ery­one, 2014. even the worst crim­i­nal, A grad­u­ate of the de­serves a sec­ond chance. Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice

“I am born a Catholic, Acad­emy (PNPA) Class of raised a Catholic even as I 2001, he also served as con­verted to Is­lam when I part of the coun­try’s con­got mar­ried. I am not retin­gent to the United Nali­gious, but I re­spect hutions Peace­keep­ing Ef­man life. As early as forts. kinder­garten, I was taught Day af­ter day, Al­latog to honor God above all,” vis­its the vil­lages of Bogo Al­latog told CEBU DAILY City, mak­ing sure that resNEWS. idents are en­cour­aged to

Al­latog, who was born share their prob­lems to to a fam­ily of farm­ers in him and jointly find a soBon­toc town, Moun­tain lu­tion. Prov­ince, be­longs to the He of­fers to even the Bon­toc-Igorot tribe. poor­est among them his

Grow­ing up, Al­latog cel­lu­lar phone num­ber was taught that any­one and urges them to text who kills another hu­man him when­ever they have be­ing must of­fer prayers con­cerns. and three pigs to atone for “Ever since, my apsins in a rit­ual called proach is com­mu­nity“chaw-es.” based. I want to em­power

Con­sid­er­ing their lean peo­ple down to the grass­in­come, Al­latog said it was roots level so they will dif­fi­cult for his fam­ily to sup­port all our peace and get the swine which would or­der ef­forts. I want to es­cost them at least tab­lish their con­fi­dence P30,000. and trust. Good enough,

When he be­came a poI’ve been able to get much lice­man, Al­latog put into sup­port,” he said. ac­tion, both at home and In­deed, Al­latog’s co­mat work, ev­ery­thing that mu­nity-based ap­proach he learned as a child, and has led many to of­fer feed- back and re­ports that are giv­ing the Bogo City Po­lice Sta­tion a huge lift.

“In­for­ma­tion is pow­er­ful,” he said.

Un­der­stand­ing the prob­lem

Af­ter Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte launched an all­out war on il­le­gal drugs in July 2016, Al­latog deemed it nec­es­sary to make peo­ple un­der­stand the ur­gency to end the narcotics prob­lem in the coun­try.

“Many of the crimes that are preva­lent — theft, rob­bery, phys­i­cal in­juries, rape — are caused by il­le­gal drugs. It is def­i­nitely nec­es­sary to wage war against il­le­gal drugs, but not the per­sons who are into it,” he said.

“I told my men, if it is not nec­es­sary to kill, then why do it? Of course, we have to de­fend our­selves when the call arises. But as much as pos­si­ble, I want sus­pects to live,” he nar­rated.

At least 1,955 users in the city have sur­ren­dered to the po­lice, while 45 drug push­ers were ar­rested in dif­fer­ent po­lice op­er­a­tions. No one was killed.

Last July 2017, PDEA de­clared all of Bogo City’s 29 barangays as “drug-free,” a recog­ni­tion given to lo­cal­i­ties where there are no more drug push­ers.

Al­latog said there has been no letup in their cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs as some drug ped­dlers from other towns and cities con­tinue to visit Bogo City.

Al­latog helps the Bogo City gov­ern­ment in its three-month drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams which in­volve sem­i­nars and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties that had made a dif­fer­ence in the lives of more than 200 drug sur­ren­der­ers.

Bogo City Vice Mayor Maria Cielo Mar­tinez, head of the com­mu­ni­ty­based drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment unit, said they en­cour­aged those who com­pleted the pro­gram to be each other’s sup­port sys­tem.

“We are giv­ing drug­sur­ren­der ers a rea­son­able so­lu­tion to the prob­lem at hand. The good thing is we are so proac­tive in ad­dress­ing the is­sue. We face the prob­lem head on and find so­lu­tions to it,” she told CDN.

Drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, she said, is a la­bo­ri­ous way to ad­dress the il­le­gal drug prob­lem, but it is the right thing to do.

“If we want fast re­sults, that (killing) is the path you take. In all hon­esty, if you choose the path of no killings, it is a rig­or­ous process. It’s very te­dious, la­bor in­ten­sive and drains the re­sources of the city. We never thought it’s go­ing to be the hard way,” Mar­tinez said.

Though his tech­niques are te­dious, Mar­tinez be­lieves that Al­latog is on the right track.

“We sup­port him. I think what he is do­ing is con­sis­tent with our prin­ci­ples and val­ues. Def­i­nitely, that’s the di­rec­tion that we want to take in ad­dress­ing the drug prob­lem,” she said.

“We have to do what our peo­ple de­serve. As pub­lic ser­vants, we al­ways be­lieve we are here to serve them and to re­ally put for­ward what is in their best in­ter­est, and killing is not one of them,” she added.

Now that Duterte has or­dered PDEA to be the “sole agency” in charge of the drug war, the Bogo City po­lice — like all other PNP units in the coun­try — will cease to con­duct their own anti-drug op­er­a­tions.

But Al­latog promised to do his best to help PDEA in what­ever man­ner, if needed.

“When I’m gone, I want peo­ple to at least re­mem­ber me as some­one who served them well. I am but a sim­ple po­lice of­fi­cer who wants noth­ing but the best ser­vice for the peo­ple,” he said.

Be­fore his de­ploy­ment in Cebu, Al­latog was first as­signed at the Manila Po­lice District then trans­ferred to the Que­zon City Po­lice District. He was even­tu­ally as­signed as po­lice chief in Bon­gao, Taw­iTawi; Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion in Mus­lim Min­danao; La Trinidad, Bengu et; Cordillera Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion; and Benguet. He was then ap­pointed as as­sis­tant re­gional chief of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and De­tec­tion Group in Cal­abar­zon.

In all his 17 years of po­lice work, Al­latog ap­pears to strongly abide by the PNP pledge of main­tain­ing a high stan­dard of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

And as the PNP bat­tles to keep its rep­u­ta­tion from ruin, Al­latog as­sures that there are still many cops like him who do their best to serve the coun­try well.

“These po­lice scalawags are just too lit­tle com­pared to those who are do­ing good,” he said.


The new Bogo City Po­lice Sta­tion, com­pleted just barely five months ago, is where pro-life po­lice of­fi­cer Supt. By­ron Al­latog holds of­fice al­though he spends a lot of his time on the field, reach­ing out to the dif­fer­ent vil­lages of the north­ern city in...

Supt. By­ron Al­latog

Vice Mayor Cielo Mar­tinez

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