SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go reaffirmed President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to intensify the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs as well as provide a holistic approach for individuals and their families who have been victimized by illegal drugs.
“As we continue to intensify our campaign against corruption, criminality and illegal drugs, efforts to protect the welfare of the victims are also equally prioritized. This is in fulfillment of our President’s promise of tapang at malasakit,” he said.
During a hearing by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on Tuesday, February 16, Go denounced the drug trade and its destructive influence on Filipino society.
“‘Pag meron pong naging biktima ng droga sa pamilya, maniwala kayo sa hindi, talagang sira na ang pamilya. Iwanan mo ‘yung pitaka mo diyan sa bahay mo, nanakawin na bukas ‘yung laman kapag meron pong adik sa pamilya. Apektado talaga ang buong pamilya,” he said.
Among the bills being tackled by the committee is Senate Bill 399 filed by Go in 2019 which aims to support the campaign against illegal drugs by requiring one drug rehabilitation center to be established in every province, under the supervision of the Department of Health.
The center shall provide care, treatment and accommodation to drug dependents; enhance their physical, psychological and social capability to cope with common problems; and provide after-care, follow-up and social reintegration services, among others.
Go further pointed out that individuals who suffer from addiction are also victims of drug criminals, syndicates and other opportunists who seek to take advantage of the downward spiral that takes place once addiction takes hold, and thus must not be vilified.
Instead, the victims must be given a chance to seek recovery from their addiction, start anew, and rejoin life back in the community. This, he said, is in keeping with the President’s thrust of “tapang at malasakit”.
“Drug dependents should be treated as victims in dire need of medical, psychological, and spiritual help, with a chance of being successfully reintegrated into society as healthy and productive citizens. Pwede naman pa po natin silang bigyan pa po ng panibagong buhay,” continued Go.
When asked by Go about the effectiveness of the administration’s campaign against drugs, Dr. Jose Bienvenido Leabres, Program Manager of the DOH’s Dangerous Drugs Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program, disclosed the number of drug users in the country had drastically dropped from an estimated four million in 2016 to 1.7 million in 2019.
However, he stressed the need for more out-patient rehabilitation centers at the provincial and local levels and community-based rehabilitation programs to treat both mild and moderate cases of addiction, noting that only one to two percent of drug users will require confined rehabilitation.
The Senator recounted his experiences talking with drug dependents and expressed concern over the unwillingness of many to seek assistance. He called for further studies to be made into strategies that promote or encourage treatment, and how access to the relevant services and treatments may be improved in rural and far-flung areas.