Building a large drug rehabilitation center that could accommodate up to 10,000 drug dependents in a military camp north of the capital was "impractical" and a "mistake," the chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board said Wednesday.
Money for the Mega Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Nueva Ecija, a key project under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs built in partnership with philanthropists, could have been used to fund smaller community-based rehabilitation programs, which will be "more effective," said DDB Chairman Dionisio Santiago.
"That was a mistake. Ang problema, naging excited si President. Yung ginasta doon, puwedeng ginamit sa mga community based rehab yun, malilit which can only accommodate siguro mga 150 to 200," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Masyadong malaki yung 5,000 (capacity). Saan ka kukuha niyan?" he said.
The rehab facility, which has a maximum 10,000-bed capacity, was seen to help a lot of these surrenderers, but there were only 311 residents in its first phase as of June.
Santiago, former head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said admitting drug dependents to the treatment center must have been difficult because of its distance.
"Saan mo panggagalingan yun? Yung iba taga-Batangas. Eh sa rehab, kailangan mo ng family support. Paano ka pupunta dun kung pamasahe lang sa loved ones mo, wala ka?" he said.
He compared the situation of the drug dependents to overseas Filipino workers. "Kaysa maghirap kayo dun, ayusin niyo ang kontrata dahil nag-iisa kayo dun, solo flight kayo, wala kayong support system. Kawawa kayo. Dito na lang kayo maghirap, may tutulong sa inyo."
Former Health Secretary Janet Paulyn Ubial earlier confirmed admitting drug dependents to the treatment center will not be easy as this should first be authorized by a court order to ensure that patients have no criminal liabilities.
Potential patients could come from other rehabilitation facilities or from among the hundreds of thousands of drug suspects who have surrendered to authorities.
Ubial said only 1 percent of those patients need residential rehabilitation while the rest only require outpatient or community-based rehabilitation.
The DDB earlier announced their new "game plan" in fighting illegal drugs in the country, putting prevention and rehabilitation as the main thrust in addressing the problem and hoping to change the narrative that anti-illegal drug operations leads to the loss of lives.
Santiago said they had submitted the campaign proposal to Malacañang around August or September and is already in the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
The DDB chief said he is hopeful the President will approve it, noting that it balances the current anti-narcotics drive and will show that the Chief Executive "has a heart."
"We just would like to show to the people that actually, hindi puro law enforcement itong anti-drug campaign. We want to show that it has been a balanced approach," he said.
"It is now more aligned with the social reform agenda of the president, sa national security strategy agenda. Dito, we want to show na yung social reform, kasama ang anti-poverty," he added.