Drug dependents should be given a chance to live a life free from drug addiction, according to Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Robredo made the statement after her consultation with medical professionals, faith-based groups, non-government organizations and recovered drug dependents on how the Office of the Vice President can help and speed up implementation of drug rehabilitation programs in the country, particularly the community-based drug rehabilitation initiatives at the level of local government units (LGUs).
“What has been happening is a cause for concern. The bottomline here is that everyone should be given a chance to reform. We just cannot stand on the side and not do anything,” she said.
The Vice President was referring to the government’s anti-drug war, which has left at least 3,500 suspected drug dependents dead since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last June 30.
Robredo said it is worrisome that the Department of Health has identified only 10 percent of the 734,000 who surrendered as eligible for institutional drug rehabilitation, while the Dangerous Drugs Board said it is actually one percent.
“What happens to the 99 percent? We don’t need to spell it out,” she added.
Robredo’s office gathered suggestions from the various sectors in attendance at the end of the activity.
The suggestions would be consolidated by Robredo’s team to form a template for a community-based drug rehabilitation program to be piloted in 11 LGUs.
Those involved in the consultation, who refused to be named because of safety concerns, said drug dependents are not all criminals, and that many of the drug dependents don’t want to turn themselves in because they are afraid that they will be killed, making it more difficult to bring them to rehabilitation.
Robredo shared their sentiments, noting that the anti-drug war should not get in the way of implementing an effective drug rehabilitation program.
“I become a little impatient [when it comes to the drug rehabilitation policy]because we can’t just look at one-size-fits-all solution. The community-based rehabilitation is where we want to help, so we asked for your help in gathering all the best practices that will mentor the local executives on how they can go about those who surrendered, something that will include public health perspective, make the response evidence-based,” the Vice President said.
“As it is, the LGUs’ programs depend on chance. What we want to do is complement existing programs and improve them. If we keep on planning [on new programs], by the end of the year, the number of those who died could outnumber those for rehabilitation. We can’t deal with this with killings. We can do something now and adjust along the way,” Robredo added.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez of Quezon said those who surrendered should instead be employed by the government as collectors of the state-run Small Town Lottery or STL.
“This will give them a chance to be productive. The DSWD could also intervene in their transition to ensure that they won’t go back to their old ways,” Suarez added, referring to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“In this situation, they get employed, and the government will also earn revenues,” he said.