Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has commissioned 29 members of the Philippine Army to teach grade school pupils the dangers of illegal drugs.
The 29 soldiers are all members of the Civil Military Operations Group (CMOG), an elite unit of the Philippine Army (PA) that specializes in conducting psychological and psycho-social operations or “hearts and minds” campaign in the communities with the aim of winning the support of the civilian population.
They will augment the 13 police officers of the Manila Police District who are already conducting lectures in the city’s public elementary schools.
On Friday, the 29 Army teachers graduated from the 10-day training under the auspices of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), a private group whose advocacy is to educate young children on how to avoid drug addiction and how to become responsible citizens.
Estrada said training Army soldiers to become certified DARE instructors is part of his plan to expand the implementation of the drug abuse prevention program not only in Manila but also in the entire country.
“This is a historic moment. For the first time in the Philippines, the soldiers have joined the ranks of DARE officers. Our soldiers will be our forward force to spread this anti-drug education nationwide,” the mayor said during the soldiers’ graduation ceremony at Manila City Hall Friday.
The soldiers will be teaching DARE lessons to Grades 5 and 6 students in all Manila public schools.
“With your help, we can now assure the future of our children. And by teaching them how to say ‘No’ to drugs at an early age, we can also save the future of our nation,” Estrada said.
The mayor serves as chairman of the non-profit organization DARE Philippines Association, Inc., which brought and introduced DARE to the country in 1993 when he was vice president and chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC).
DARE, which originated from Los Angeles, California, is a classroom instruction program that taps police officers to teach Grades 5 and 6 students good decision-making skills to keep them away from the influence of drugs and other vices.
Antonio Abacan, Jr., president of DARE Philippines Association, Inc., said the 29 soldiers completed the 10-day, 80-hour DARE Officers Training course.
“Mayor Estrada wants more DARE instructors so we could teach more students not only in Manila but nationwide. As we go on, we will continue training more instructors, both active duty policemen and soldiers,” Abacan said.
Col. Thomas Sedano, Group Commander of PA-CMOG, thanked Estrada for letting them become part of the city’s anti-drug education campaign.
”This is the first time for the Philippine Army. We can integrate it (DARE) to our ‘Pinoy Batang Bayani’ program that teaches nationalism, patriotism, love of country to young children,” he said.