The Marcos administration has launched its “revamped” campaign against illegal drugs called “BIDA” or “Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan,” a program by the Department of Interior and Local Governments that focuses on drug demand reduction and rehabilitation.
The campaign is aligned with the holistic approach to a successful campaign against illegal drugs adopted by many countries having similar problems with the Philippines.
The holistic approach — prevention, law enforcement, prosecution and rehabilitation — is actually the best approach to any campaign against illegal drugs.
With the holistic approach in the campaign against illegal drugs, President Marcos Jr. in effect revamped the “war” on illegal drugs of his predecessor, former President Duterte, that focused on “kill, kill, kill,” almost all those involved in illegal drugs, including, Santa Banana, drug users and drug addicts who are more the victims of illegal drugs!
And the result has been a disaster as we all knew it because there was no accountability with extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses!
The primary aim of BIDA is actually the reduction of the demand for all drugs.
With the building of community-based rehab centers, the demand for illegal drugs will be reduced.
For so many columns, I have been pushing the government, especially during the time of Duterte, for the building of community-based rehab centers, as a solution to reduce the demand for illegal drugs.
Having been involved at one time for some years in the rehabilitation of drug addicts, these community-based drug rehab centers are important in the reduction of the demand for illegal drugs.
The illegal drugs trade worldwide is a multi-billion dollar industry and cartels and drug syndicates are always there to supply the demand.
In other words, the illegal drug problem in the Philippines has become a matter of supply and demand.
Once the demand is reduced, there will be less supply.
Consequently, once the demand is reduced, there will be less supply of illegal drugs, and rehabilitation is the answer, my gulay!
During the incumbency of Duterte, there were an estimated 7 to 9 million drug users and addicts nationwide.
Duterte, with the police led by then police chief Bato dela Rosa, launched the brutal, bloody and unabated “kill, kill, kill” to exterminate all those involved in illegal drugs, including drug users and addicts, who soon became drug pushers to finance their habits.
And what did this achieve? Extrajudicial killings, which in effect developed the culture of impunity that alarmed world human rights watchers and which even the United Nations and International Criminal Court created by the Rome Statute deemed as a crime against humanity.
With Marcos Jr.’s revamped approach to the illegal drugs problem, using the holistic approach, the problem will be greatly reduced.
My gulay, we all knew that during the time of Duterte, killings of all those involved in illegal drugs were estimated at over 6,000 by the police, although unofficial estimates placed the killings to be from 8,000 to 12,000.
And we all know how slowly our court justice system works to make those responsible for extra-judicial killings accountable.
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Rehabilitation of drug users and drug addicts?
While President Marcos Jr.’s approach to the illegal drug problem is to be commended, the reduction of drug demand and rehabilitation is another problem, since rehabilitation does not mean just isolating drug users and addicts from illegal drugs.
Having been vice-president of the late Father Bob Garon’s rehabilitation center — the DARE Foundation – I know how difficult and hard , and truly expensive it was in rehabilitating drug users and drug addicts.
We accepted drug users and addicts not only from the rich, but also from the poor.
DARE was financed by contributions from both the government and the private sector, but the funds were not at all enough.
We used to approach well-funded institutions and people we thought could help further augment what the usual donors give. The San Miguel Corporation was our foremost donor.
And rehabilitating drug users and addicts was not just a matter of isolating them from drugs .
We had to have psychologists, psychiatrists and nurses and doctors in our staff. And that meant money.
As I said, rehabilitating drug users and addicts was not that easy, especially so when addicts had reached the withdrawal stage.
They felt like they were going crazy, like having a monkey on their backs.
DARE used to graduate drug users and addicts after six to eight months or even more.
On the average, only 75 percent of “graduates” were “cured” while others returned to their old habits or died of overdose.
As I said, rehabilitation of drug users and addicts was not easy.
It entailed a difficult process at that time.
DARE made users and addicts confront their parents to find out, Santa Banana, why they went into illegal drugs.
The process of “confrontation” was difficult in a sense that parents were usually blamed by users and addicts of having fathers having a mistress, or a mother not doing her duty and responsibility because of playing mahjong the whole day and night.
Other users and addicts just had weak personalities, so much so that when their peers went into drugs, they followed suit, or when their school grades had failing marks, they went into drugs as a means to escape.
These and other multiple problems made boys and girls turn to illegal drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana and even heroin at that time. Now the most common illegal drug is shabu.
Rehab centers must be community-based because drug users and addicts need family support.
It is for this reason that the 10,000-bed capacity of the ultra-rehab center in Camp Laur, Nueva Ecija is a failure, because it’s too far from families.
Thus, with the adoption of the BIDA concept by President Marcos Jr.’s campaign against illegal drugs, the ideal would be rehab centers in every community, and that, Santa Banana, needs a lot of funding!
Drug users and drug addicts enclose themselves in a shell to isolate themselves and this shell must be broken, which takes time.
That’s the reason why it takes some time, about 8 to 10 months, before a drug user or drug addict can reenter society again.
But, as I said, “graduation” from rehab centers is no guarantee that drug users and drug addicts are considered “cured,” since it takes some effort to break that shell to make him a normal person again who can re-enter society.
There’s another aspect of any drug campaign that should be adopted by President Marcos Jr., which was used in the 70s and 80s, and this is the use of special courts for drug users and addicts, which were used by the parents who wanted to surrender their drug-addicted children to get rehabilitated.
The idea was to stop the drug addicts from escaping from drug rehab centers because, my gulay, in my experience with DARE, there were many occasions when they would escape rehabilitation and get into drugs again.
These special courts of Marcos Sr.’s administration were also used by the police and the PDEA when they apprehended and arrested known drug users and addicts.
And special courts would have the drug users and addicts rehabilitated. Since they are considered under the law as respondents, when courts sentence them to be rehabilitated, they have to be under watch by the police and the PDEA.
It’s for all these reasons why I say that a special presidential committee should handle the BIDA campaign because of its ramifications.
Yes, President Marcos Jr.’s campaign against illegal drugs is a clear departure from Duterte’s “war” on illegal drugs, which was “kill, kill, kill” all those involved with illegal drugs.
But at the same time the BIDA campaign, because of its multifaceted ramifications , needs a lot of study.
As a result, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos, who is at the forefront, should first have a special committee study all its aspects, since any campaign against illegal drugs has ramifications.