War on drugs not just Digong’s fight alone

By Malou Guanzon Apalisok |August 15,2016 - 09:58 PM

We can rant all day about how dirty and bloody the current war on drugs has become, but we cannot deny the fact that only President Rodrigo Duterte has shown utmost resolve and political will to do battle with drug syndicates.

The illegal drug trade is just one of the tentacles of the underworld. According to law enforcement experts, revenues accrued from drug trafficking fund the criminal colony that is illegal gambling, human trafficking, white slavery, gunrunning, cybercrime and terrorism, not to mention sustaining the network of government officials who aid the illegal structure.

I’m not saying it is okay for President Duterte and the Philippine National Police to take shortcuts because that is a formula for abuse of power, but we can’t just close our eyes on the extrajudicial killings wherein most of the victims come from the fringes of society. These developments have become a grave cause for concern even by those who want this administration to succeed.

There is a perception the administration adopts a double standard in dealing with drug traffickers because of the more than 500 killed in alleged shootouts with law enforcers, maybe less than five (5) percent are in the PNP’s order of battle. The rest are in the lowest rung of the illegal trade, who may have been silenced by drug syndicates and their protectors in the police agency. In fact, the death of the notorious Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz in the hands of Cebu police intelligence agents, who were subsequently given “hardship” assignments in Muslim rebel-infested areas has boosted this perception. Meanwhile, important people who have been “named and shamed” are given a chance to clear their names. All told, we have a monumental problem and I pray that President Digong finds a more humane solution in ridding our society of the drug cancer.

In the meantime, the gargantuan task of rehabilitating 600,000 surrenderees out of 3 to 4 million drug dependents all over the country is not the government’s alone. We all have a responsibility and we ought to rally behind this by contributing our time, talents and resources. Some corporations can even realign or redesign their corporate social responsibility (CSR) directions to this gargantuan challenge.

I’m happy to note that the Cebu Archdiocese has rolled out a community-based recovery program in collaboration with a Catholic covenanted community and a non-government organization based in Ozamis City.

The 10-day program opened last Sunday in Yati, Liloan town in northern Cebu and I’m privileged to hear the backstory of the recovery course from the main coordinator, my friend and tireless supporter of the Catholic Church, Fe Barino. Fe, together with husband Lito, leads the Love of God charismatic community.

When hundreds of drug dependents turned themselves in to Liloan authorities, Fe was very perturbed because there have been talks that some employees in the family-owned Duros Development Corporation (DDC) are hooked on drugs. I think the prospect of company workers or even family members ending in grisly vigilante-style killings has pressured Fe no end. She then decided to discuss the matter with Fr. Monico Catubig and thereafter touched base with Rene Francisco, a son of a former coworker in Atlas Mining Corporation in Toledo City.

Mr. Francisco is behind IT WORKS!, a non-stock, non-profit organization which has designed a program that caters to drug and/or alcohol dependents through a program widely used by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The group is accredited with the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Health since 2002.

With the aid of Fr. Catubig and Mr. Francisco, Fe designed a program brief and submitted it to Archbishop Jose S. Palma last August 11. The Cebu prelate subsequently approved the Archdiocesan intervention for drug dependents without delay.

The program launch last week was preceded by a drug test among DDC employees and true enough, some 34 company workers tested positive for shabu. Instead of kicking them out of the company or hauling them off to the nearest police station, Fe encouraged them to submit to the 10-day live out seminar workshop that consists of lectures, sharing, testimonies, prayers, and workshops. While under the program, DDC workers were given allowances of P200 per day and one kilo of rice to help their families.

The spiritual dimension is under the guidance of Fr. Monico Catubig who opens each day with a Eucharistic celebration. Members of the LOG alternately hold a daily vigil before the Blessed Sacrament in the community chapel. The course is capped by the participants doing an inventory of their individual skills needed for livelihood programs.

I have been invited to attend the initial program last Sunday but begged off owing to a previous commitment. I’m making a mental note to attend a full one-day activity to get a “feel” of the program that I think embodies our aspirations for a humane approach to the scourge of illegal drugs.

In an online interview, I asked Fe how she intends to make the program sustainable because mounting it for ten days straight can be very expensive. A complete program (open to 50-70 participants) comes with an assessment of P5k per participant but the organizers initially tapped their own resources and donations from charitable individuals and organizations. I understand Fe is open to conduct the program outside of the LOG community with the help of generous benefactors.

In the drug trafficking map, Cebu is a major artery because this is where drugs are brought in from Hong Kong and distributed to many parts of the country. I have been commenting on this issue since the 90s and God knows how many lives have been destroyed, families wrecked and government agencies contaminated by the filth of the evil trade.

Now that the problem is out in the open, it is but fitting the faithful especially in Cebu supports a program that enables drug dependents to confront their demons and return to the loving embrace of God, their families and the community.

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