Drug users are victims, not enemies, says health chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2016 03:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2016 07:19 PM

Self-confessed drug pushers and users gather at a covered court in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental on July 12, 2016. Marty Go, ABS-CBN News

DOH eyes 4 new drug rehab centers by year-end

MANILA - The national government aims to put up four new rehabilitation centers for drug dependents before the year ends, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Speaking to radio dzMM, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said they plan to build two big rehabilitation facilities in Luzon, one in Visayas, and another in Mindanao.

This will double, from 5,000 to 10,000, the number of patients the country's 20 existing drug rehabilitation centers can cater to, she said.

Aside from the four new facilities, various local government units across the country also plan to build rehabilitation centers within their communities, which can accommodate another 5,000 patients.

"Meron nang LGUs na nagvo-volunteer ng mga lugar na na-identify na gagawing treatment and rehabilitation centers," Rosell-Ubial said. "Konting trabaho na lang eh pwede na ho gamitin."

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the construction of more rehabilitation centers to accommodate the tens of thousands of drug dependents who have surrendered to authorities in the past weeks.

Malacañang last week said since the Duterte administration began its intensified campaign against illegal drugs, almost 60,000 drug users and pushers have turned themselves in.

According to Rosell-Ubial, the DOH will provide LGUs training and technical assistance. LGUs, meanwhile, will be responsible for human resources as well as maintenance and operating expenses of the rehabilitation facilities.

She said they have started training doctors and nurses in communities to conduct initial assessment of drug users who have surrendered.

"From there, malalaman po natin kung ilan po ang kailangan ng outpatient o community-based na mga programa sa ating drug rehabilitation and management at kung ilan po ang kailangan ng residential," she said.

"Kasi ang importante po sa drug rehab eh yung malayo sila sa kanilang nakaugaliang community at malihis sila sa ganung bisyo, sa pang-araw-araw na ginagawa nila. Iibahin po natin yung kanilang everyday activity," she explained.

The health chief stressed the need to help drug users, saying they are "victims" and not "enemies."

"Hindi po sila ang enemy. Victims sila ng isang mapanlilang na kalakalan. Nabiktima sila ng isang sindikato o ng mga pusher na gustong malulon sila sa droga para meron silang pagkakakitaan," she said.

1.8 MILLION DRUG USERS

Recent data from the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) show that there are about 1.8 million drug users in the country, according to its vice chairman, Rommel Garcia.

Garcia, in a separate interview on dzMM, said the figure includes not only drug dependents or "addicts," but also "experimental," "occasional," and "regular" users.

Garcia said he understands the sentiments of some Filipinos who question the government's allocation of budget and resources for the rehabilitation of drug users.

Rosell-Ubial said government spends around P4,000 to P5,000 for every patient every month.

But like Rosell-Ubial, Garcia emphasized that drug addiction is a disease and drug users need to be "rescued."

"Naiintindihan ko po yan. Marami, lalo na kapag mag-asawa, kung minsan talagang bugbog sarado yung asawa... Nasisiraan ng buhay, hanapbuhay, kung estudyante yan, pagaaral. Yan po ang masameng epekto ng droga," he said.

"Sa tingin ko naman, kailangan po natin silang sagipin at gamutin ang kanilang karamdamang adiksyon."