A different kind of Tokhang

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok September 26,2016 - 09:59 PM

When Fe Barino and the family-owned business Duros Development Corporation donated a 1,000-square-meter lot in Barangay Yati, Liloan for religious and civic programs of the family-run foundation and Love of God charismatic community, little did she know that the group she and husband Lito co-chair would be deeply involved in the work of drug rehabilitation, and that the LOG Center would become a major venue for a drug rehab project that looks like a model for a realistic, doable, measurable and time-bound rehabilitation program for drug addicts.

The rehabilitation of some 600,000 and counting drug users and peddlers who have surrendered to law enforcement authorities leaves a gaping hole in the anti-drug war of the Duterte administration because until now, the government has not presented any specific plan what to do with them. The sad fact is that after being identified, they get a police record that practically writes finis to whatever plans they may have for gainful employment. Worse, some of them get killed like what happened to a drug user in Liloan town.

I maybe wrong but I haven’t heard of any concrete state programs for drug users and peddlers who responded to the Philippine National Police’s Toktok Hangyo or Tokhang campaign to lay off drugs.

The grisly scenario that leaps out of news stories about killings of suspected drug users and peddlers that occur on a daily basis is that kining mga sagbot sa katilingban angayan lang nga patyon; nganong mag-usik-usik pa man tag kuwarta para sa ilang rehabilitasyon? (What is the point of spending money for the rehabilitation of these menace to society; they deserve to be killed.)

The onus to initiate drug rehabilitation programs clearly falls on the private sector, but major companies like San Miguel Corporation which earlier pledged P1 billion for drug rehab efforts cannot be expected to simply bet its money on project proponents that have no track record.

Comes now a different kind of Tokhang, which according to main organizer Fe Barino is simply a sincere effort to make drug addicts respond to God’s call.

“Kinasingkasing lang gyud ning akoa… Iyaha nis Ginoo. Toktokhangyo ni to surrender to God. Dili lang unta na mahitabo, apan kon pamusilon man gani, at least nakaila sila sa Ginoo. Kun di jud nato kapugngan, at least na-encounter nila ang Ginoo (This is God’s work. It is God who knocks and pleads. I pray it will not happen but if they get killed, at least, they have the knowledge of God),” Fe told me last week at the end of Sugod Batch 2. That’s two batches in just a matter of 30 days, netting 112 drug users who attended the program and by God’s grace are now on their way to leading a drug-free lifestyle.

I heard some groups in Manila are keen to know more about the different kind of Tokhang in Cebu which has upended traditional rehabilitation programs by veteran rehab professionals like Rene Francisco who has been in the industry for more than 20 years.

I wrote about Fe and Rene’s collaboration in a previous column (War on Drugs, Not Just Digong’s Fight Alone, CDN, August 15, 2016).

Rene Francisco is a professional rehab practitioner who runs IT WORKS! Chemical Dependency Center based in Ozamis City. Together with Fe, they developed a 10-day live out rehab program and ran it last August 14 – August 23 in the LOG Center. This is a major adjustment because the 12-step program that Rene administers for drug addicts usually runs for 3 to 6 months in keeping with Department of Health regulations.

The 12-step program is widely accepted and used by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) worldwide to teach drug addicts and alcoholics how to stay off substance and alcohol abuse.

For practical reasons, Fe reduced the 90-day period to 10 days and integrated the Catholic renewal program called Life in the Spirit Seminar.

Despite his own misgivings, Rene gave in to the benefactress’s wishes and was he astounded by the results of the Sugod Batch 1 who attended the program for ten straight days without taking a hit.

The program was capped by graduation ceremonies attended by Archbishop Jose Palma who turned emotional upon seeing some 65 participants who tested negative for shabu. More importantly, they were reconciled with their families who bore the burden of addiction as co-dependents.

What is heartwarming to note is that prior to Batch 2, some 100 charismatic members attended the facilitators training program organized by the Kaalam Foundation, LOG and Rene Francisco’s IT WORKS. Talk about striking the iron while it is hot. Facilitators are crucial to the rehab program because they handle group therapy sessions. The newly minted facilitators were then immediately called to serve Sugod Batch 2.

Suffice it to say that drug rehabilitation is a major agenda. It will certainly take more than medical and psychological care to treat the social affliction. Having said that, I really believe it is providential that the great commission has fallen on the lap of stalwarts of the Catholic renewal movement and a professional group steeped in NA and AA approaches.

NEXT: The challenges of the community-based rehab program.

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TAGS: barino, development, drug peddlers, drug users, drugs, Duros, Duros Development Corporation, Fe Barino, illegal drug trade, Lito Barino, LOG Center, Oplan TokHang, Philippine National Police, PNP, rehabilitation, Tokhang, Toktok Hangyo

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