The surrender of 700,000 drug users and peddlers to authorities is not an accomplishment for the anti-drug war, Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo said on Tuesday.
Robredo made the observation after a briefing of the Department of the Interior and Local Government,
Department of Social Welfare and Development and other partner agencies on the status of the drug rehabilitation centers and initiatives in the country.
The briefing had been requested by Robredo.
“Yes, we have 700,000 surrenderers but that should not be treated as an accomplishment. It is just a means to reach a target, that is to pull them out of addiction. Surrendering will not solve it. It’s just step one,” the Vice President said.
Robredo cited the case of a 22-year-old drug user Jeffrey Guarin, who confessed to killing nurse September Ann Paz and later turning himself in to authorities.
“Where are these 700,000 surrenderers? I’ve been going around, seen them surrender before mayors, but the mayors are saying they don’t know what to do with them,” she said.
Robredo then shared that in a recent meeting with the Department of Health, she learned that only 70,000 of the 700,000 surrenderers need confinement in rehabilitation centers and a smaller number should be sent to mental institutions.
The Interior department has identified four classifications of drug users: experimenter, occasional user, drug dependent and heavy compulsive or those who should be brought to mental hospitals.
“We have to make it a point that drug rehabilitation is the way to go. Our office can be of help. You can tell us five locations where the surrenderers are so we can start working. Just tell us where the surrenderers are, and our office will sponsor pilot areas for drug rehabilitation. We should pool our resources and do something now,” Robredo said.
“There is a lot of work to be done, and we are looking for ways where our office can plug the holes. We can’t go back to scratch because it is not as if we only had drug rehabilitation programs after these 700,000 emerged. There are existing mechanisms. We don’t have luxury of time,” she noted.
Robredo, a former Camarines Sur representative, was referring to the Naga City Anti-Drug Abuse Council, as well as the Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS) and the Barangay Anti Drug Abuse Council (Badac), which implements drug rehabilitation programs for drug dependents, an initiative that also involves families of drug users.
The Vice President said existing initiatives should be improved because a number of these drug rehabilitation programs have been inactive.
“There are 26,000 barangay (villages) under UBAS, but there are those who are only organized on paper. A lot of barangay required Badac, but not all barangay have Badac. Others who have Badac, on the other hand, are not active. Rehabilitation is not that easy. It should be a community affair, and we have to organize the families of the drug dependents,” Robredo added.
The Vice President pushed for inclusion of those who are in prison under the drug rehabilitation program, considering that not all of those convicted of drug-related crimes will stay in jail forever.
She cited that in the Women’s Correctional in Quezon City alone, at least 70 percent of the inmates are imprisoned because of drug-related crimes.
“We should also include the inmates because what will happen to them if they already served their sentence? If there is no intervention, then they will be in the same situation,” Robredo said.
“We have to make it a point that rehabilitation is the way to go. Whatever lens we would want to use, I would say we are all in agreement that treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration is the way to go. So everyone who could be of help should do something now,” she added.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco assured the Vice President that drug rehabilitation will be an integral part of the Duterte administration’s intensified war against illegal drugs.
“The Vice President’s challenge will make us work harder,” Sueno said.
“We have to take care of these people [700,000 drug surrenderers], turn them into productive people,” Evasco said.