Cebu Archdiocese initiates barangay-based rehab program for drug users
Drug addicts are humans after all. But in the fight against illegal drugs, there can be no shortcuts.
With this in mind, the Archdiocese of Cebu, through the initiative of one of its priests, launched on Sunday a barangay-based recovery and reintegration program for drug dependents, going through the lengthy process of addressing the problem on illegal drugs.
Ninety-one of 180 drug surrenderers in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City, voluntarily went to the pastoral center of San Roque Parish after they were told about the pilot program.
They attended Mass and dined with church volunteers while an orientation was given.
Fr. Carmelo Diola, chairperson of Dilaab Foundation Inc., said the Catholic Church and other sectors of society could not just afford to watch drug addicts dwell in misery.
“The opposite of addiction is connection. If we don’t reach out to them, their co-drug addicts will,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Not enough rehab centers
Based on the records of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), at least 71,000 drug pushers and users have surrendered to the different police stations in the region since Oplan Tokhang was implemented last July 1.
Tokhang is short for “toktok-hangyo,” a nationwide campaign of the Philippine National Police to warn illegal drug peddlers and users that law enforcers are going after them if they don’t decide to give up the trade.
While a number of them expressed willingness to undergo treatment, there are not enough rehabilitation centers that can accommodate them.
There are currently just 45 rehabilitation centers all over the country — six of which are located in Cebu. Only up to 5,000 drug addicts can be accommodated in all the rehabilitation centers in the country, prompting the church to create a community-based program for rehabilitating drug users.
“Tell me what other option can we do. Should we just leave these people (drug addicts) at their current situation? We cannot do otherwise. We have to do something,” Diola said.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, PRO-7 director, wasted no time when he heard about the church’s program to save drug dependents.
He met with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and Diola at the Archbishop’s Residence in Cebu City yesterday morning.
Taliño vowed to give his all-out support to the archdiocese and its program for drug addicts.
He said he will mandate all city and provincial directors, as well as the station police chiefs, to assist the church and to attend in its drug rehabilitation and reintegration activities.
“I like the program, and I’m thankful to the support the church has given in the campaign against illegal drugs. Accordingly, I will create a team that will assist the church in this endeavor,” Taliño said in an interview.
Also present during the meeting were retired Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Rañola and Director Rene Burdeos of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
They didn’t talk about extrajudicial killings, which the Catholic Church, as well as Taliño, openly opposed.
Instead of casting away drug addicts, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the church must provide them a haven where they would feel welcome and cared for.
“Many lives have been destroyed by illegal drugs. But we should not despair. There’s hope. I’m happy that people come together to find solutions to this problem,” he said.
The church’s community-based rehabilitation program consists of four phases: admission stage, psychosocial capability building, vocational/livelihood/capacity building and reintegration to society.
At the start of the program, Diola said drug dependents will be assessed to find out what kind of intervention they need. If there’s a need for extensive treatment, then they have to be admitted to drug rehabilitation centers.
For the rest, Diola said they can avail of the church’s barangay-based rehabilitation program for free. Drug dependents will undergo counseling and spiritual transformation.
Volunteers and psychiatrists from the Magone Home of the Salesians of Don Bosco assist the Archdiocese in the program.
Transition from ‘Tokhang’ to ‘Labang’
The program started in Subangdaku where village officials, the parish priest and police are very cooperative, but the Archdiocese and PRO-7 intend to replicate it, Diola said.
“We need to transition from ‘Tokhang’ to ‘Labang’ (Lahat Bangon). There can be no fence-sitters in the campaign. All sectors must come together if there is to be a serious prospect for the success of the fight against drugs,” he said.
Diola said he is not a stranger to the evils of illegal drugs since he and Dilaab Foundation Inc. actively campaign against narco-politics since the early 2000s.
He said the proliferation of illegal drugs is fruit of the failure of the justice system as well as the community’s apathy.
“In a larger sense, illegal drugs have become a dominant reality due to the failure of all sectors to come together. Back then, it was very lonely fight. Now, the picture has completely changed. Those in illegal drugs are on the defensive,” the priest said.
Diola, also a member of the technical working group of the Ugnayan ng mga Barangay at Simbahan (Ubas) in the region, said he appreciated President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to get rid of illegal drugs.
“Our society has just grown so used to the prevalence of drugs that we no longer pay attention to the countless rapes, murders and thievery brought by illegal drugs. Societies are teetering towards perdition as families slowly disintegrate in the face of the drug menace,” he said.
Diola said the failure of the previous administrations to address the drug scourge has made it “spin out of control.”
Diola said sustainable solutions must be done to totally solve the problem.
“The lust for blood cannot be the basis of any just society. We must resist shortcuts,” he added, alluding the extrajudicial killings as means to solve the problem on illegal drugs.
Based on the data of PRO-7, 73 suspected drug pushers were killed in police operations in Central Visayas while 97 others were gunned down by still unidentified assailants from July 1 to August 25.
Apart from its community-based rehabilitation and reintegration program, Diola said the Church also envisions to educate the public about the evils of drugs and to gradually remove the social stigma towards drug addicts.
“We do this not because what they do is good or should be socially tolerated but because drug addiction is primarily a public health issue,” he said.
The government, he said, must transition from treating illegal drugs from a mainly law enforcement perspective to a public health issue.
“This requires building more rehab centers and adequately training and building the capability of its health workers to deal with drug addicts,” Diola said.
Business sectors, on the other hand, must also be willing to provide training and job opportunities to recovering addicts, he said.
Diola said the Catholic Church and other religious denominations, like a shepherd to a flock, will do its share to address the problem on illegal drugs, particularly in bringing Christ to drug dependents.
“The spiritual dimension is essential. We need to realize that drug abuse is but a manifestation of human hearts remaining restless unless they rest in God,” he said.
CEBU CITY — Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has said he is planning to replicate two existing drug rehabilitation programs in Cebu, namely, the “SuGod” (Surrender to God) Drug Recovery Program of the Love of God Community, and Labang (Lahat Bangon).
“If possible, these two programs should be replicated and spread throughout the archdiocese so that in our own ways, we could respond to the call of caring for our surrenderers,” he said.
“The more the two programs would be replicated, the happier it would be,” he said.
Palma, 66, called on priests, government officials and the police to come together and help drug dependents overcome their addiction.
Palma is also set to meet barangay captains for the launching of the Cebu Archdiocesan Program for Drug Dependents (CAODD).
The Cebu prelate has encouraged different sectors of community to unite as one and provide a sustainable program for drug surrenderers.
He ordered all parish priests and team moderators to make the multi-purpose halls in every parishes available whenever sessions and events for drug surrenderers would be held.
In coordination with barangay captains, priests are also encouraged to extend counseling sessions for drug dependents or refer them to appropriate government agencies or private institutions.
A total of 25 drug surrenderers in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City, completed on Thursday the six-month barangay-based recovery and reintegration program organized by the Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (Ubas) led by Fr. Carmelo Diola.
The first group of drug surrenderers in Cebu who underwent the program were cleared of illegal drug use. (PNA) — KBAPI
CEBU CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte had described them as zombies, drug addicts who are no longer human beings. In Mr. Duterte’s world, Ana (not her real name) should have been dead by now.
Ana was 15 when she got pregnant by an addict she had met in one of the many pot sessions that defined her life in February 2016.
She turned to drugs — “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in particular — thinking them an escape from her problems, including the breakup of her parents, as a pusher/cousin had led her to believe.
But the drugs messed up her life even more: she had multiple boyfriends and pot sessions with different men.
Hope came through a neighbor who learned of Ana’s addiction, and introduced her to a drug recovery program called Surrender to God (SuGod).
Ana became part of the first batch of enrollees in SuGod in August 2016. It was here that she realized that the escape hatch offered by drugs was a mere hallucination.
“The talks about what drugs can do to my body and the mistakes I’ve done against God and the people I love because of my addiction made me realize that using drugs was not worth it,” she said.
But quitting was difficult because some of her friends were addicts too.
Pregnancy provided the answer Ana had been waiting for.
“I’ve wanted to quit drugs but could not find a reason compelling enough to make me stop,” she said.
The 10-day community-based drug recovery and renewal program offered by SuGod combines scientific, educational and spiritual elements in a non-threatening and loving environment that encourages drug users to start living a clean life.
Since the SuGod program started in August 2016, at least 350 addicts have recovered from their addiction. Its next sessions are scheduled from March 28-April 6.
Fe Barino, who helped form SuGod, said she and husband Lito had no idea that the program would find relevance at the height of Mr. Duterte’s drug war.
The couple operated successful businesses in the construction and real estate sectors and are active members of the Love of God (LOG) Charismatic Community. SuGod’s current home is in LOG’s community center in Yati village, Liloan, northern Cebu province.
It was the Barinos’ company that built the 2,600 sqm International Eucharistic Congress pavilion.
Amid their businesses’ success, the Barinos felt there was something amiss and thought of checking on their workforce.
“Our company is ISO-certified,” said Fe. “We need to live up to the standards of this certification.”
Fe thought of doing a drug test among her workers, and enlisted the help of childhood friend, Rene Francisco, who runs a drug rehab center. He advised them to do the tests simultaneously in the Barinos’ offices and their construction sites.
The first test showed that 46 of their 300 employees were positive for drug use.
Instead of firing the employees, Fe asked Francisco to design a stay-out drug recovery program to help the workers quit the deadly vice. She had watched news about hundreds of addicts being killed even after they had surrendered to authorities.
“I felt this was a cry for help among God’s fallen children,” she said.
Fe spent at least P300,000 on the first session of SuGod for food, professional fees of recovery coaches and other miscellaneous items for the 78 participants. At least 65 of the 78 initial enrollees in the program have graduated.
SuGod is now being run by LOG, Francisco’s It Works Chemical Dependency Treatment Center and another group, the Kaalam Foundation Inc.
Since it started in August 2016, SuGod has received financial and technical support from different individuals and organizations, including those based abroad.
But Fe is just as aware of the program’s limitations.
“It is not an assurance that everyone who graduates will stop using drugs immediately,” Fe said.
“We have graduates who have a relapse after, but what we have created here is a support group that helps them in their battle against drug use,” she added.
SuGod graduates join a regular session at LOG center in Liloan where they are welcome to share their experiences in drug recovery and even relapse.
The graduates are also given skills and livelihood training to help them return to the community and become productive members of society.
Past SuGod graduates were trained in welding and bread and pastry making, while some served snacks at the sixth run of SuGod. Others found employment in the Barino couple’s company.
Francisco, a former addict himself, serves as speaker and facilitator of SuGod. He also trains other addicts to become recovery coaches.
“We teach them that they are not bad boys who need to become good boys,” Francisco said.
“We tell them that they are sick persons needing treatment,” he added.
The treatment combines cure, awareness and spirituality.
“We teach them how to help themselves,” said Francisco, who is also cofounder and program director of FARM-IT Works Balay Kahayag Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in Baclayon town, Bohol province.
Francisco said SuGod followed the 12 Steps Program of Recovery, a set of guidelines that drug users followed to overcome addiction.
SuGod soon became an inspiration for the Cebu archdiocese, the country’s biggest, to launch the Cebu Archdiocesan Program for Drug Dependents, which partnered with the police, village officials and other government agencies to help the drug dependents in Cebu.
Kaalam Foundation, which runs the LOG Center, has earmarked P5 million to support the Church program.
Fear of cops
During the initial SuGod sessions, the police were asked to stay away while the addicts shared their stories.
But not anymore. At the sixth run of SuGod, 60 participants warmly welcomed Chief Insp. Franco Rudolf Oriol, the police chief of Liloan town, who delivered a talk on the topic, “Rebels No More.”
Oriol, said Fe, “had explained that he could speak as a friend to the drug addicts, and that it could be part of healing their fear of men in uniform.”
That opened her mind “to the reality that the police are part of society,” Fe said, adding that just to make sure the drug dependents wouldn’t react negatively, she had asked Oriol not to carry firearms during his talk.
In Oriol, the addicts saw a soft-spoken and friendly officer who had something in common with them—a relative who was a drug addict, too.
After Oriol narrated his own encounter with addiction, “all of us hugged him,” Fe said.
“Slowly, police phobia was seeping away. We now have an officer in our SuGod team,” she added.
Fe recalled that when she and her husband were thinking of a program to save drug addicts, she had insisted that spirituality should be part of it.
“Never in my life had I felt so disturbed,” said Fe about the killings of hundreds of drug users.
“They are literally crying out for help,” she said.
“If you can only see their faces, you’d cry and realize that whatever change happens to them is something that only God can do,” she added.
A prime objective of SuGod, she said, was to restore self-confidence among participants. They are welcomed with a hug upon entry into the program, a gesture that usually brought tears to their eyes.
On the fourth day of the program, enrollees enjoy “grooming day,” or free haircut and shaves, Fe said. At the end of the program, SuGod graduates are encouraged to join a community of former addicts who meet regularly at LOG Center to serve as a support group for those battling addiction.
SuGod also involves members of the addicts’ family, Francisco said.
“Substance abuse or drug addiction is a family disease,” he added.
“Sometimes the families feel the pain more than the substance abuser,” Francisco said.
“They, too, need help,” he said, adding that the program “tells them that addiction is a no-fault issue.”
Volunteers, like Cynthia Green, offer their time and services to the program. Society has to be reminded that addicts are not zombies but people with a desire to quit drugs or alcohol, but they don’t know where to start, Green said.
“They long for somebody to guide and trust them,” she added.
Program recovery coach Noel Mantuhac, 25, was himself a drug addict at 13. When he turned 18, he started selling drugs in his hometown in Toledo City, Cebu province, and was later sent to a rehab center by his parents. He felt angry and betrayed, he said.
“Rehab was a living hell,” Noel said.
“It was very disturbing and it made me bear a grudge against people, even those who love me. I was there for a year,” he added.
Less than a month after rehab, he went back to using drugs. Addiction destroyed even the call center he had put up.
His aunt, Fe Barino, encouraged him to join SuGod.
Noel has been sober since October 2016, and is now employed at Duros, the Barinos’ firm.
The program is expanding. The SuGod Continuing Care Program recently employed 10 recovering addicts to prepare the planting materials for the landscaping of Liloan Golf Course that the Barino couple owned.
A halfway house is currently under construction where individuals on the way to recovery from addiction can stay while taking part in training programs.
“If we can help just 1,000 people, then that would make me very happy,” Fe said.
“The world will know that a small community like ours chose to embrace people, instead of judging their past, we see their potential to become renewed members of our society,” she added.
ROMNICK, 18 (not his real name) began his “love affair” with illegal drugs at a young age.
A resident of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Liloan town, Romnick said he started taking illegal drugs when he was 12 after being influenced by an older brother.
“Halos kada adlaw kong walay tugpa (I was high almost every day),” Romnick said.
But Romnick’s life changed when a barangay official urged him to attend a 10-day drug rehabilitation program in Liloan after being subjected to an “Oplan Tokhang” in their village.
After 10 days, Romnick is one of 70 suspected drug personalities who graduated from the program.
Organized by church groups led by the Archdiocese of Cebu, the “Surrender to God (SuGod) Drug Recovery Program” is designed as a live-out seminar workshop intended for outpatient drug users.
The program was the Archdiocese of Cebu’s answer to the shortage of drug rehabilitation centers, said Fe Barino, SuGod’s program director and chairman of the Catholic Charismatic Communities of Cebu.
Barino, co-owner of Duros Development Corp., said the program started as a drug rehabilitation for their 26 employees who were found positive of illegal drugs during a surprise drug test they conducted earlier this year.
Barino said she didn’t have the heart to fire her employees. So instead, she sought the help of IT WORKS! Chemical Dependency Treatment Center to get them rehabilitated.
But what started as a simple rehabilitation program for her employees expanded to other barangays in Liloan who had drug surrenderees.
Aside from IT WORKS!, Barino also sought the help of Fr. Monico Catubig, who specializes in drug-related family counseling.
They presented the program to Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who gave his approval and ordered Barino to implement it.
Around 65 participants, who became the first batch of SuGod, started the pioneering rehabilitation program last August 14.
In the group, four are drug pushers and the rest are drug users.
For 10 days, the participants underwent rehabilitation sessions that used scientific and spiritual approaches.
Rene Francisco, IT WORKS! program director, told reporters that the rehabilitation of the 65 participants doesn’t stop after 10 days.
“The 10 days is just to jump-start their rehabilitation. They really need to have a follow up to ensure their recovery,” he said.
Francisco said that after the 10-day sessions, the 65 participants should attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings in their community for an hour and a half.
Barino said that at first, she was afraid that a lot of their participants will be dropping out in the first three days.
“But we were surprised because a lot of them really came and were willing to get themselves clean,” she said.
Barino offered to provide rice packs and meals to the participants so they would return every day.
Barino said the activity has also taken a toll on their wallets. She said that the 65 participants, they spent around P300,000.
Barino hopes the National Government will help them sustain the program.
In a separate interview, Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said SuGod was one of their initiatives to counter the increasing number of drug surrenderees in Cebu.
“It goes to show that the Church is working for the benefit of all,” Tan said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2016. Latest issues of Sun.Star Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.
THE Catholic Church has not been sleeping on its mission to help drug surrenderers.
This was the statement of Fe Barino, one of the organizers of Surrender to God (SuGod), after President Rodrigo Duterte criticized the Church for its alleged refusal to help the National Government with its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
SuGod, which started last year, is a community-based drug rehabilitation program led by the Archdiocese of Cebu.
During the graduation ceremony of SuGod’s sixth batch of recovering drug surrenderers yesterday, Barino defended the Church, saying it had been helping drug users fight their addiction.
As much as they want to inform the President of the Archdiocese’s efforts, Barino said they would rather let their deeds do the talking.
“We would rather not allow our right hand to know what our left hand is doing,” she said.
In a separate interview, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said that while he didn’t hear Duterte’s speech during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Cebu-Cordova bridge project last Thursday, he was not surprised of the President’s tirades.
He said the Church will continue to stand for what it believes, despite the criticisms they have received.
“Many of the things we have spoken, he may not like. As I mentioned in the past, we will never stop talking on what we believe is right and what is good for the people, for that is our mandate,” he said.
Palma facilitated the graduation of the 45 recovering drug surrenderers during the ceremony held at the Love of God Community in Barangay Yati, Liloan yesterday.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 04, 2017. Latest issues of Sun.Star Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.
Charismatic group, private firm organize free drug rehab workshop for drug dependents
Couple Margaret and Jojo (not their real names) decided to surrender themselves to God and undergo drug rehabilitation after seeing their children growing up without anything that they could call their own.
Jojo, being the breadwinner, said most of his earnings from being a tricycle driver all went to buying shabu.
“Usahay maibog ko sa uban, ug unsay pangayoon sa ilang anak mahatag nila (I envy other parents who can give what their children wants),” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Jojo added that even his elder sister had to adopt his eldest daughter so that she could finish school and could have a better future.
Jojo admitted that they did not even have a house to call their own since he was not able to save money to construct a decent house.
He said they were living in an extension room in the house of his parents in Liloan town.
The couple, who got married in 2010, attended the 10-day seminar workshop dubbed as “SuGod (Surrender to God) Drug Recovery Program” with the help of their aunt at the Love of God Community, a charismatic group headed by Fe Barino.
Jojo admitted that they were hesitant to attend it.
During the first two days, the couple admitted that they attended the sessions high from using shabu.
Margaret said their desire to be respected by their children was also one of the major factors that encouraged them as a couple to submit themselves to the program to help them stop using illegal drugs.
They were among the 65 participants who finished the program organized by the Love of God Community and Kaalam Foundation Inc. in partnership with IT WORKS! Chemical Dependency Center based in Ozamis City.
How it started
Barino, owner of Duros Construction, told reporters in a press conference that the initiative started when 46 of their employees tested positive for using drugs.
Barino said another factor that prompted them to do this was the call of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma for lay organizations to come up with a rehabilitation program for drug addicts who surrendered to the government.
“We want to show them that there’s hope for them,” she told reporters.
Of the 65 participants who completed the workshop, 26 were employees of the company while the rest were drug users and four drug pushers who lived in Barangays San Vicente, San Roque, Sta. Cruz, Tabla and Yati in Liloan town.
Rene Francisco, program director of IT WORKS! Chemical Dependence Center, spearheaded the rehabilitation program.
The 10-day community-based program was designed as a live-out seminar workshop intended for out-patient drug addicts. This program was also a solution to the shortage of drug rehabilitation centers and the high cost of residential treatment facilities.
Scientific and spiritual
The program uses the scientific approach applied by professional drug rehab practitioners using the Evidence Based Therapy and The 12 steps Spiritual Recovery Methods of Narcotics Anonymous.
The spiritual aspect is handled by Fr. Monico Catubig, a priest who also handles drug-related family counseling.
The program is given for free to them.
Barino said they spent about P300,000 to cover for the food and other costs in inviting drug-rehab experts.
Barino admitted that they needed the help of groups and even the government to sustain their efforts since the program does not stop only after the workshop.
Francisco said the 10-day program was only a jump-start for the participants, and they would be made to commit to attend the Narcotics Anonymous meetings that would be held at least once a week to follow-up on them.
“The recovery is with the meetings,” he added.
Aside from this, it was announced yesterday during their closing program that those who wished to take up technical courses might avail of free skills training being offered by Duros.