Ecija drug rehab ‘grads’ see better future

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RANDY, 23, pulled an 8.5 x 11-inch special colored paper from a brown legal-sized envelope that also contained a release order from the court and other important documents. He showed it off shyly but with a proud smile. That piece of paper is now everything to him—the passport to a new start.

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It was the certificate given him and 53 other erstwhile confessed drug dependents who finished last week the required six to eight months program in the government drug rehabilitation center in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

“They told me that with this, I can now easily land a decent job,” said Randy, who during that brief talk with The Manila Times, was getting ready to head home where his family waited.

The Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (Datrc) told the program “graduates” to present the certificate together with the skills and training completion documents to their prospective employers.

A court order clearing them of their drug-use cases (except from criminal charges), which the employer would likely demand, was also inside the envelope.

Randy was one of the 33 “batangeños” who completed the required rehabilitation regimen for eight months. They are referred to as batangeño, which meant former drug patients.

Sighing deeply while wiping a tear on his eye with his shirt sleeve, Randy said, “I hope life would be easier now for me after living in hell.”

Aside from the documents, the graduation package will entitle them to be part of a special community-based job opportunity pool.

They will work in their hometown on projects funded with the local government unit’s 10 percent share of the internal revenue allotment, said Mega Datrc program assistant director Christopher Victor Daraug.

Daraug said the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) also awarded the 53 batangenos with a certificate of recognition for completing the informal in-house training in select areas.

Tesda gave those who could not read and write a chance to take the accelerated learning system program that taught them practical skills on motorcycle engine repair, pastry and bakery processes, liquid soap making, and conditioner making, said Jeric Manalili.

Another batangeño, Jologs from Batangas, seemed luckier. He previously dreamed of being a media production assistant imagining how glamorous it was to often work closely with writers and producers. He revealed it earlier to the Datrc staff that he was given a chance to assist in the preparation of materials for events like their graduation. The Datrc will work for his regular employment papers as part of a media crew.

Jologs confessed that he now wants to get closer to his family. Before the program he led a wayward life—even stealing money from his mother to buy illegal drugs. His girlfriend broke up with him and be became alienated from his siblings. “Maybe, my surrender was a signal to make up for my sins,” he said.

A member of the center dormitory crew, “Daga,” from Pangasinan, wanted to be a company supervisor before drugs ruined his life. He is now a supervisor (dorm strength crew)—in charge of orderlies in the center dormitories and his fellow former drug dependents.

One security guard of the rehab center really wanted to be a security guard before. The Datrc gave him what he wanted—he was assigned as an expediter, one who assists in maintaining peace and order and dorm security.

It was learned that the center’s other utility workers, kitchen helpers, gardeners and maintenance workers had always dreamed of the work they are now actually doing.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial led the graduation rites of the 53 former drug dependents. After their eight-month healing process, they are now qualified under the government’s special livelihood program that includes job placement either in their own communities or in other localities.

Another 379 Datrc residents are now undergoing treatments.

The first batch of batangeños, however, are required to report to the assigned Department of Health official in their respective local government units twice a week for monitoring and to undergo monthly drug test. The rest of the reformists are from Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union, said Mega DATRC program director William Patricio.

CELSO M. CAJUCOM

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