For love of family and life, drug personalities reform

By: Doris C. Bongcac, Edison Delos Angeles, Julit C. Jainar July 04,2016 - 11:34 PM
More than a hundred self-confessed drug personalities in Mandaue City take their oath of commitment to help end the drug menace before city and police officials yesterday at the Mandaue City Sports Complex. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

More than a hundred self-confessed drug personalities in Mandaue City take their oath of commitment to help end the drug menace before city and police officials yesterday at the Mandaue City Sports Complex. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Strong love of family brought dozens of self-confessed drug personalities to the different police stations across Metro Cebu yesterday with many of them expressing desire to stay alive under a Duterte administration for the sake of their children.

With a child clutched in her arms, Jonna Sepada carefully filled out a form yesterday committing to end a lifetime of involvement in the illegal drug trade.

“Nahadlok ko labi na karon nga nakakita ko nga naa nay gipangpatay nga mga drug users. Nahadlok ko para sa pamilya (I am afraid now especially after seeing that drug users are being killed. I am afraid for my family),” she said.

Sepada revealed that she had started to use shabu (Methamphetamine Hydrochloride) at the age of 14 and from being a user, went on to peddle the illegal drug as a way to earn a living for half of her life.

Now a mother of three, Sepada, 38, wants real change to come for herself and her family, trusting in the words of the newly assumed President Rodrigo Duterte.

And so along with 160 other self-confessed drug personalities in Mandaue City, Sepada showed up before the city’s police force Monday to heed a government call to cease from illegal drug activities and cooperate with authorities to help curb the drug menace.

Supt. Jonathan Abella, Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) deputy chief for operations, said Sepada and the rest of the “surrenderees” were later released as initial background investigations showed that none of them had pending warrants for their arrest.

“But we will continue to monitor their activities to make sure that they already stopped their involvement in the illegal drug trade,” Abella said.

If in the process of updating the individual profiles of the self-confessed drug offenders pending warrants are uncovered by the police, the surrenderees will immediately be turned over to the courts for the proper disposition of their cases, Abella added.

“Most of them said that they decided to cooperate because of fear of the warnings of president Duterte,” said Abella.

Police officers who attended to the surrenderees asked for their names, addresses and contact numbers before they were made to sign a commitment form and then recite a pledge, with their right hands raised, promising to stop their involvement in illegal drug operations either as drug dealers, peddlers, runners or users.

“Maayo unta hatagan mi og livelihood aron naa mi trabaho (I hope they give us livelihood so that we will have work),” said Sepada.

Now that she had decided to give up her job as a drug peddler, Sepada wants the Mandaue City government to help her find an alternative source of livelihood as the meager income of her husband as a trisikad driver, she said, is not enough to take care of the needs of her three children, aged 1 to 21 years old.

Mandaue City Mayor Luis Gabriel Quisumbing said that he will be tapping the private sector to help surrenderees like Sepada find decent employment.

Quisumbing will also ask the Mandaue City Council to allocate funds to help pay for the rehabilitation of surrendered drug users in the city.

“They started sending (surrender) feelers to their barangay captains or councilors who also contacted the different station commanders,” said Supt. Abella.

Mandaue City has six police stations located in Barangays Centro, Opao, Canduman, Basak, Subangdaku and Casuntingan.

Cebu City

Still on Monday, at least 62 self-confessed drug peddlers and users from the five southern villages of Cebu City namely, Barangays Calamba, San Nicolas, Pasil, Sawang Calero, and Suba surrendered to the San Nicolas Police Station which holds jurisdiction over the areas.

Gertrude, a 58 year-old landlady of a drug den in Barangay Suba, was among those who trooped to the station.

“We need to stop if they said we need to stop. It’s much better than being arrested or worse — being shot right then and there. If I’m dead, who will take care of my children, my grandchildren?” Gertrude told Cebu Daily News in Cebuano.

Gertrude said she felt relieved after she swore to cooperate with authorities in the fight against illegal drugs.

A small space in her two-story house, she said, had been rented out to drug addicts where they could freely “light and shoot” packets of shabu, away from prying eyes, for more than five years.

Gertrude surrendered a day after police officers conducted “Oplan Tokhang” in the different barangays of Cebu City to encourage drug peddlers and users to stop their illegal activities.

Tokhang is short for “toktok-hangyo” (knock and persuade), a police nationwide campaign to warn illegal drug traffickers and users that law enforcers are going after them if they don’t decide to give up the trade.

Since the start of Opan Tokhang last Thursday, some 300 drug peddlers and users voluntarily cooperated with police in Cebu City.

They were interrogated and their names were recorded, according to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

Except for those with existing arrest warrants, majority were allowed to go home after signing commitment forms.

Chief Inspector Alejandro Lopez of the San Nicolas Police (Station 6) said most of the self-confessed drug addicts and dealers were gathered inside the San Nicolas Police Station while some “big-time ones” were escorted to the offices of barangay officials for their safety.

A seventeen-year-old drug “runner” was among those who convened at the station and filled out documents detailing his life as a drug runner.

“I think it’s better to surrender early, especially for someone like me. I know I’m still young and I don’t want to waste my life on illegal drugs,” he told CDN.

Component cities

In Southern Cebu, at least 50 self-confessed drug users showed up at the Carcar City police station on Monday morning while ten other users and pushers surrendered before Naga City police authorities to heed government’s call for change.

Carcar City Mayor Nicepuro Apura said that he is confident that more users and even peddlers will come out into the open in the next few days to also cooperate with them.

In Naga City, drug pushers and users from Barangays Tuyan and Uling who surrendered to city police director Supt. John Lopez Clark were brought to City Hall at about 10 a.m. Monday for a dialogue with Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong.

Mayor Chiong challenged the group to show their sincerity and commitment to change by submitting themselves to voluntary drug rehabilitation.

“Personally, I will commit to (financially) contribute to the rehabilitation of two (drug users). Some private individuals and companies have also expressed willingness to contribute, and I am sure that we can encourage many others to do the same,” Chiong said.

According to Chiong, soon, a government-run drug rehab center will be among her priority projects since the city does not have one for now./with UP Cebu Intern Morexette Marie Erram

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, drug, drugs, family, love, Mandaue City, police, President Rodrigo Duterte, surrender, suspect

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