‘Paskong walang bato’ A story of hope and recovery

By Loreto B. Concepcion and Emmakris D. De Guzman 

Since the PNP’s Oplan Tokhang started, more than two million houses have been visited resulting in the surrender of more than 700,000 drug suspects, of whom more than 600,000 were users.  Hope springs eternal that the country will become drug free under a sustained intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

Concerned barangays have implemented a community-based rehabilitation program with the help of community volunteers and relatives of the drug users. Total rehabilitation includes an “after-care” program to prevent any relapse so drug patients can be integrated slowly back into society; and provision of cash-for-work program by DSWD or livelihood training program from TESDA for former drug dependents.

 Former drug dependents are given the chance to be part of a rehabilitation program administered by DSWD and TESDA
While these processes intend to eliminate fears of drug surrenders that they could be killed, such apprehensions are ever present in most of those who answered the call of the authorities to surrender and undergo treatment.

Couple Jason Gonzales, 38, and Maricris Guevarra, 31, both of Barangay 309, Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila, are self-confessed drug users who surrendered and now undergoing rehabilitation under the government’s anti-drug campaign. Jason, a former funeral driver and now earns a living as a ‘barker,’ like his wife Maricris, has no permanent residence. He originally lived in Tondo, Manila, while Maricris was from Sta. Mesa, Manila.

The couple has a six-year-old daughter. They admitted to using drugs when Jason was 25 and Maricris at the age of 18. They used drugs only occasionally, when they were with the barkada (group) and would stop using whenever they found work.

“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa Barangay 309, kahit hindi po ako tagarito, inalok nila kaming magbago, para iwas droga. Binigyan nila kami ng suporta na ‘wag kaming matakot, para mag-tuloy-tuloy ang pagbabago namin,” (We are thankful to Barangay 309, even if we are not originally from this place, they offered to help us to get away from drugs, assured us not to be afraid, so we can be totally changed), Jason said.

“Thank you sa buong staff ng Plaza Miranda, especially, kay Sir John Guiagi. Thank you sa lahat ng tumutulong para maidiretso natin yung plano ng Tokhang. Sana hindi lang kami at marami pang iba na puede nyong matulungan. Sa mga tao, sana ‘wag kayong matakot sa mga pulis, hindi naman sila nakakatakot (Thank you to all the staff of Plaza Miranda, especially, to Sir John Guiagi. Thank you to all those who are helping to achieve the goals of Oplan Tokhang. I hope they can help others who need help. For the others, they should not be afraid of the police, because they are not to be afraid of),” Maricris said. 

“Kausapin n’yo lang sila ng maayos at makikipagtulungan din naman sa inyo ang mga katulad namin. Dahil, unang-una, pag nakita nila na naka-uniform kayo, iisipin nila nakakatakot kayo. Maging friendly din kayo sa mga tao para matuto rin silang sumunod sa inyo (Talk to them in a nice way and they will cooperate (drug dependents). You know because when they see you in uniform, you will strike fear. Be a little friendly so they will turn to your side),” Maricris added and advised the men in uniform.

Jason and Maricris said  they are sincere to follow the process for rehabilitation for their and their daughter’s future. They have been under the program for two, three months now. Rehabilitation includes periodical reporting to the Chairman of Barangay for attendance and community works such as street cleaning, canal clearing and center decorating for the Christmas season.

Couple Jason and Maricris thank their barangay coordinated with the police and now thankful that the government helped them to come clean 
“OK naman kami. Napatunayan namin na kaya naming kumilos, kaya naming maglinis kahit wala yun. Kaya naming i-assure sa sarili namin na makakapag-move on kami at i-uplift ang aming mga sarili (We are doing alright. We have proven that we can work, we can be clean even without it (drug). We are able to reassure ourselves that we can move on and we can uplift our spirits and well-being), the couple proudly said.

Jason and Maricris is one couple who has known hardships and poverty and continued to face an unsecured future. They are only two of millions of Filipinos who have suffered injustice and neglect from previous governments which promised them heaven but left to wallow in misery and deprivation. They continue to hope for the government which will finally bring them redemption.

Topics: Philippine National Police(PNP) Oplan Tokhang , Drug dependents , Campaign against illegal drugs , “after-care” program , Rehabilitation program , DSWD , TESDA , Jason Gonzales , Maricris Guevarra , John Guiagi , Plaza Miranda , Cash-for-work program , Livelihood

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