August 17, 2016
Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues.
I rise on a matter of personal privilege to offer my support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. As the Philippine National Police zeroes in on eradicating the supply, I ask that we parallel their efforts by proposing various legislations and mechanisms on mitigating and reducing the demand for narcotics and illegal drugs, as echoed by my distinguished colleague from Muntinlupa in yesterday’s interpellation – some of which include:
(1) capacitating various sectors of government in the fight
against drugs, including the barangay, to strategize and implement programs on drug abuse prevention;
(2) building and expanding rehabilitation facilities to
accommodate more of our brothers and sisters in their
(3) ensuring their reintegration back to society as they
themselves are victims of societal conditions and circumstances; and finally,
(4) ensuing a multisectoral approach on the war on drugs.
Let me begin by relating the story of Rowena Tiamson from our city of Dagupan. An honor student and a member of her church choir, hers was a promising life cut short by an unfortunate tragedy. Four weeks ago, her lifeless body was found in Parian, Manaoag, hogtied, with a gunshot wound to her head. Beside her was a piece of cardboard with words: “Huwag tularan. Pusher.”
Sadly, churchgoers would no longer be able to hear her beautiful singing – her parents’ dreams and her dreams, all but snuffed with a callous pull of a trigger. She would have graduated this October with a degree in Mass Communications at the Colegio de Dagupan.
Reports said that Rowena was a victim of mistaken identity. According to the Pangasinan Provincial Police, Rowena was not part of the list of drug personalities. She was collateral damage to the activities of a so-called Dagupan and Pangasinan Death Squad who have taken upon themselves to extract their own brand of justice by way of extrajudicial killings.
Her family and friends have remained vigilant about exposing the truth and clearing her name via the hashtag #JusticeForRowena. But whether she is wrongly accused or guilty is irrelevant because Rowena is now just a footnote in the cold statistics of extrajudicial killings in our country – an unfortunate effect of an isolationist campaign against drugs, one that is not strongly supported by due process.
An alternative slant to drug use prevention
As part of the administration’s efforts to end the surge of drug abuse, the Philippine National Police has been instructed to eradicate the supply of narcotics in the country. To do so, they have admonished suspected drug users and drug pushers to surrender, file an affidavit of use, and identify their source. It is the method by which they are able to establish the ‘totem pole’ or ‘family tree’ of the insidious narcotic ecosystem of users, suppliers, manufacturers and syndicates destroying our country and corrupting our people, most especially the youth.
As a corresponding, parallel national effort, I enjoin various sectors within our community and society to collaborate with the President and the PNP in proactively reducing the demand for narcotics and illegal drugs in the country through prevention, because as opposed to the reductive mindset of some, cutting off the supply does not necessarily eliminate the demand.
This idea comes as very relevant, considering that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that: “The simplest and most cost-effective way to lower the human and societal costs of drug abuse is to prevent it in the first place.”
A coordinated multi-sectoral response
We must recognize that the formula embodied in the present efforts to curb drug abuse is not its end-all-be-all. It is only the beginning, as mentioned by my distinguished colleague from AKO-Bicol party list. For one, it has been deplored in various media channels as chimerical, perhaps even quixotic to some extent, citing that there has never been “a successful war on drugs in any country.” But I am a firm believer in the concept of disruption– finding new solutions to old problems.
There is strength in working together, rather than working apart. Thus, the war on drugs should not only be a war by thePresident or the PNP.It should be a multi-sectoral battle that hinges on mutli-sectoral cooperation – from the barangay, the health sector, the church, our educational institutions, civil society, and even mass media.
So, what are these possible collaborations?
1. On the level of the barangay, I call on the immediate convening of the BADAC or Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council as the first-line of defense in this war against drugs. The BADAC, headed by the barangay chairman, and composed of barangay council members, the school principal, the Sangguniang Kabataan chair, chief tanod, civic organizations, and a representative from a faith-based organization, should meet regularly to brainstorm programs on drug prevention. To be able to solve the drug problem, we must first know the root of the problem. Therefore, it is important for the BADAC to also collaborate with various sectors like Parents-Teachers Associations, health workers, senior citizens, youth groups, even TODAs.
I call on our barangay families to allocate a portion of their Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA for the proliferation of the said body, and for provincial and municipal governments to be vigilant about its implementation. I also call on the DILG and the DOH to capacitate BADAC by providing drug testing kits drug dependency and assessment mechanisms, training and other forms of assistance so that they could be ardent frontliners in the war on drugs
At this point, I would like to acknowledge that our friends from Bontoc in Mountain Province, Butuan City, Pampanga and Cotabato have already begun in birthing anew their BADACs.
2. On the level of the school, I call upon the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to include Drug Education in the curriculum of all levels including primary, secondary and tertiary education, provided that the syllabus is sensitive, meaningful, and age-appropriate, fitted to the absorptive capacity of the students.
The DepEd and CHED should work in consultation with the NCCA or National Cultural Commission for the Arts for its cultural rootedness, transformativity and overall impact. If it is said that culture is a tool for nation-building, then it is a powerful tool in nation re-building – re-building a nation that has suffered because of the insidiousness of drugs.
I also call upon the National Youth Commission, and urge Chairperson Aiza Seguerra, to provide their invaluable input and collaborate with the DepEd, CHED and NCCA to achieve a tailored and effective drug education module.
3. On the level of health, I call for the establishment and expansion of existing drug rehabilitation centers such as the ones found in Davao, Pangasinan, Cebu, Zamboanga, Albay, Camarines Sur, Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Leyte, among others. These institutions should be able to cater to men, women, and minors who are drug-dependent, making available (at affordable rates or through state subsidy), in-patient services and dormitories for the duration of the treatment, under the keen supervision of the Department of Health.
(to be continued on Wednesday)