By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. (Photo courtesy of DILG)

MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday vowed to unleash the full potential of local government units (LGUs) towards good governance and work for the digitalization of their services this year.

During the New Year’s call attended by DILG officials in Camp Crame, Quezon City, DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the agency would mobilize the Local Government Academy and undertake capacity development interventions, especially for “low-performing and low-capacity LGUs” in line with the transition to the full devolution initiative.

“Through the Ease of Doing Business or EODB program with the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), we will advance efforts to gradually shift to 100 percent digitalization of LGU frontline services by infusing technological platforms in the processing of business permits, licenses, and other frontline services to propel innovative and future-ready local governments,” Abalos said.

The DILG chief also said progress has been made in ensuring the ease of doing business at the local level.

“We noted a 92 percent compliance from cities and municipalities regarding the establishment of business one-stop shops; and an 87 percent compliance with the standards set by the Anti-Red Tape Authority regarding business permit applications,” he added.

Abalos, who also sits as National Police Commission chairperson, said the body will follow a “30-day working deadline” on actions related to promotions in the Philippine National Police (PNP), to improve the morale of police officers.

He also vowed support for the Bureau of Fire Protection’s modernization efforts which include providing functional firetrucks for some 101 local government units that do not have them.

“Nakapagpatayo din tayo ng 36 new fire stations sa iba’t ibang probinsya. Sa ngayon, may 1,484 ng fire stations sa iba’t-ibang sulok ng ating arkipelago (We were also able to build 36 new fire stations in different provinces. Today, we have 1,484 fire stations across the archipelago),” he added.

Aside from sustaining “Oplan Greyhound” operations or inspecting inmates’ rooms to thwart illegal activities in jails, Abalos said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology will also focus on the enhancement of its capabilities through the continued provision of paralegal assistance and construction/maintenance of jail facilities to improve the congestion rate; improving social services for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) to advance their welfare for productive reintegration into society; and promoting gender and cultural sensitivity in jails.

He also vowed to strengthen and promote the barangay justice system as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism to help de-clog court cases and reduce overcrowding in jails.

Stiffest sanctions for ‘narco-cops’

Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said stiffest sanctions will be meted against the 177 police officers charged with drug-related offenses.

“This is a major step in our ongoing effort to rid the Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly the NCRPO of corrupt and criminal elements. We guarantee that these police officers are held accountable for their actions, dismissed from the service, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez said in a statement Wednesday night.

Earlier, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said these 177 officers were charged for planting evidence, unlawful arrest, and excessive violence.

“As part of our efforts to strengthen transparency and accountability in the conduct of our operations amid various allegations that have been tagging the police organization in the middle of the government’s intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign, we want to assure our community that the NCRPO is taking all necessary steps to address the involvement of police officers,” Nartatez said.

He added that this is a major step in ongoing efforts to rid the police ranks of corrupt and criminal elements.

“They have betrayed the public trust and undermined the integrity of the PNP. We will not tolerate this type of behavior within the ranks of the PNP,” the NCRPO chief said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier touted the success of the Marcos administration’s anti-drug campaign, where authorities seized a total of PHP10.41 billion worth of narcotics in 2023.

Some 56,495 suspects were also arrested in more than 44,000 anti-drug operations, the agency added. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)