Editorial: Community anti-drug programs

·3 min read

INTO the final stretch of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the drug war had come down to the barangays in an intensified clearing program that puts emphasis on community-based therapy (CBT). In the middle of the pandemic, for instance, the Cebu City Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (Cosap) and the Talisay City Health Office (TC-CHO) had pushed their programs of reaching out to drug surrenderers, persons in drug watch lists, and persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) to lure them into availing themselves of the CBT programs. The cities have pretty much set a relentless example.

Cosap is headed by Jonah John Rodriguez and TC-CHO’s CBT program is spearheaded by Dr. Cesar Rey Bautista, himself a pioneering advocate of community-based addiction recovery programs.

The CBT modality has been proven effective as it involves the community, especially the drug dependents’ family members so that recovering loved ones are better understood, taken care of and protected from possible relapse, considering that science has found addiction a “chronic, relapsing disease.”

The numbers alone show how a significant portion of our populace is stuck in a cycle of drug abuse. That alone makes it a public health concern. The police, on the other hand, have always maintained that crime rate is for the most part linked to the presence of illegal drugs in communities.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 Director Levi Ortiz, in an interview recently, said the agency has softened the otherwise vigorous campaign of government against illegal drugs. Part of the agency’s mandate is pushing for the creation of the Barangay Silangan, a facility meant to reform most especially drug pushers. As of now, a number of these facilities are already in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, in a recent meeting of the Cebu City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Cadac), Rodriguez revealed that 14 out of the 80 barangays had given the Cosap’s program the cold shoulder.

“Ni-reach out gyud mi sa tanang barangays kabahin sa atong mga programa kuyog namo ang PDEA ug PNP. Wala mi pagkulang nila. Hinaot nga unta mo-cooperate sila (We reached out to the barangays regarding our program with the PDEA and PNP. We didn’t lack anything. We hope they’ll cooperate),” said Rodriguez.

The barangays must be called to task in the campaign against illegal drugs. The program has all the best intentions in mind amid the tarnished image of the government’s drug war, which critics said have already claimed over 30,000 lives in extrajudicial fashion.

A CBT is most ideal for drug dependents in the grassroots. The sessions happen a few hours a week; the coaches themselves are recovering addicts. It calls to mind the story of the man who jumped into the hole to save someone who had been stuck in it. Now there are two of us here, the other man complained. “Don’t worry, I’ve been here before, I know the way out,” was the joiner’s reply.

The village chiefs must see for themselves this whole act of hope-giving among drug dependents in their barangays.