Healing not killing: How a Caloocan church is helping drug addicts


Posted at Apr 21 2017 06:10 PM

MANILA - A Church-run rehabilitation center helps drug dependents recover through Zumba and bible studies, proving that a holistic approach is just as effective in fighting the narcotics menace.

The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Caloocan City started the treatment center in September, just as the number of deaths linked to the government's war on drugs was rising.

"Sa parokya namin, well yung drug problem is talagang rampant and so nung nagsimula ang tokhang, talagang maraming natokhang, napakaraming mga parishioner ang natokhang kasabay ng maraming patayan sa lugar namin," parish priest Luciano Felloni said.

(The drug problem in our parish is rampant and when Tokhang started, many were submitted to Tokhang as others were being killed.)

"Oplan Tokhang" is the police-led anti-drug drive, which involves rounding up thousands of drug dependents.

Aside from exercise and bible study, the Caloocan center offers counseling sessions with a psychiatrist, catechism, and weekly random drug test, said Felloni, an Argentinian.

"We try to embark on all the different areas -- connecting with self, with your family, building relationship with society, with the Lord,' Felloni said.

Carina Cruz, one of the graduates of the program, attests to how the Church has helped her change her ways. Cruz was hooked on drugs for two years along with her husband.

"Lahat ng mga bagay na pwedeng gawin ng isang adik—manloko ng tao ganun, nagawa namin eh. Nagawa naming dalawa," she said.

(Everything that addicts do -- take advantage of people. We did it.)

Cruz said she was forced to change when she and her husband surrendered under Oplan Tokhang.

Cruz said she was hesitant because she thought that a rehabilitation program meant staying at a hospital.

The mother of 4 attended the program initially just so to have her name removed from the police watch list.

"Nung time na marami nang patayan sabi ko sa asawa ko na stop na kami kasi parang nakakatakot," she said.

(When the killings mounted, I told my husband we should stop. It's terrifying.)

"Dumadaan yung araw, yung panahon hanggang unti-unti nalilimutan namin yung bisyo. Naaayos namin yung buhay namin," she said.

(Days passed and we slowly kicked the habit. We put our lives in order.)

Graduates of the rehabilitation program get 2 certificates according to Felloni--a certification of completion of the 6-month program from the local government and a certificate from the police saying that the individual is now drug-free and officially removed from the drug list.

"Nung may mga natanggal na sa watch list marami nang sumuko," he said.

(When people got removed from the drug list, many others surrendered.)

To help former drug users support themselves financially, Felloni said participants of the rehabilitation program produce liquid hand soap and dishwashing liquid.

The said livelihood program was an initiative of business students of the University of Santo Tomas, he said.