A second look at the local anti-drug campaign
posted 1-Jul-2019  ·  
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Disappointing would be an apt description of the present situation of the anti-illegal drug campaign in the province of Catanduanes.

As reported by PNP provincial director Col. Paul Abay, 237 out of the 315 barangays, or 75 percent, remain affected by illegal drugs.

Since mid-2016 when the campaign was launched through Oplan “Tokhang”, only 26 villages here have been certified by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) as cleared of the scourge as of December 2018.

More tellingly, of the 2,105 surrendered drug users and pushers during the first one-and-a-half years of Tokhang and its reincarnations, just a third have completed the Community-Based Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Program (CBTRP) initiated by the provincial government and various stakeholders three years ago.

“Sayang ang effort, bumabalik na sa dati ‘yung iba,” PD Abay told the council as he pinpointed the slow screening of the SDUs as the primary cause of the meager accomplishment of the program.

He said the local police stations are always ready to help fetch the SDUs and Persons Who Used Drugs (PWUDs) from the barangays but the personnel of the Rural Health Units are not exactly moving to this end.

Some of the mayors who were present during the meeting blamed the logjam in the rehab process on the unavailability of the three doctors accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) while one chief executive said the heavy workload of rural health doctors in implementing various health programs and in attending to the drug treatment beneficiaries have taken a toll on them.

Several solutions were presented, from reactivating moribund anti-drug abuse councils at the municipal and barangay levels, to providing extra remuneration to RHU doctors.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) believes that it is just a matter of coordination and time management among the parties involved in the CBTRP.

And the DILG may be correct in its view.

The PADAC, chaired by Acting Governor Shirley Abundo, should perhaps conduct a reassessment of the entire program, including the Executive Order that created it in the first place, in order to come up with policy changes to address the issues and developments that have come up in the past three years.

As disclosed by the Provincial Health Office, it has yet to see an update on the current state of the CBTRP.

An in-depth review should come up with answers to many questions: how many of those who graduated from the program have stayed clean since, the number of those who went back to using drugs, the pace with which the municipal LGUs and partner agencies handles the screening and after-care program, and the impact of the program on its beneficiaries.

How the PADAC and its counterparts at the municipalities and barangays would implement whatever is needed to put the program back on track in the next three years would be crucial in determining if illegal drugs would remain as prevalent here as in 2016.

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