GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Former drug peddlers and users started their free skills and livelihood training in this city Wednesday, less than a month after they surrendered to authorities.
The first batch to undergo training includes 32-year old "Romeo", who admitted to start using drug since he was 16.
Romeo said he started out smoking marijuana before he became addicted to shabu.
"User lang ako, pero hindi man hinahanap ng katawan ko. Kapag meron lang, okay; 'pag wala naman okay lang din," he told ABS-CBN News.
"Sumuko ako kasi baka magaya ako sa iba na mapatay ako."
Romeo took part in the welding training, determined to mend his ways for his wife and their 6-year-old daughter.
Also among the repentant drug suspects was alias "Joseph", 28 years old and a father of three.
Banking on his potential to be a good barber, he is now undergoing training for hair dressing and beauty care.
"Malaking tulong ito kasi sumuko ako para sa anak ko, para sa pamilya ko. Kung matapos ko 'to, may training na ako at may mga gamit pa sa paggupit," he said.
"Pwede na ako maggawa ng pwesto sa amin at may kita na ako."
The other short courses that they can take are hollow block making, carpentry and farming.
The free training is part of project "Balik-Pagasa" - an initiative of the private sector, academe and local police.
"We believe that there should be an initiative from us. That is why our school, Golden State College, partnered with other groups to design skills and livelihood training for them. They will also be given certification that they can use in case they want to apply," said Warren Manilay, president of Golden State College in General Santos.
Police said drug pushers and users who pledged to reform are strictly monitored. Those who fail to attend skills and livelihood training become subject of police operations.
Town police chief Insp. Giovanni Ladeo said suspects must prove to the authorities that they no longer sell or use narcotics.
"Dito sa Balik-Pagasa program natin, kapag natapos nila ito at nakikita nating may kita na sila, may hanapbuhay na sila, mawawala na sila sa target list natin," Ladeo said.
The Balik-Pagasa program also has a moral and spiritual enrichment component.