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.