- The government is quickly running out of space in rehab centers
- Thousands of illegal drug users have already surrendered after the revamp campaign against drugs
- In Quezon City alone, 1,090 drug users have surrendered
- Holistic intervention programs are needed to successfully eliminate drugs
The Philippine government faces shortage problems in rehabilitation facilities as more and more drug dependents surrender to authorities.
Most of the existing rehab centers can no longer accommodate the increasing numbers.
Many small-time illegal drug users and sellers have been killed in police operations, creating alarm for those involved in the trade. As a result, thousands chose to voluntarily surrender in the aftermath of the new administration's jumped up campaign against illegal drugs.
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A total of 1,090 drug users have turned themselves in to the Quezon City police even before President Rodrigo Duterte took his oath.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) implemented the “Oplan Katok at Pakiusap” or “Kapak”, a house-to-house program to convince drug users and pushers to turn away from drugs and seek a better life.
Kapak was adapted from Davao's "Oplan Tokhang" or "Toktok-Hangyo" which was spearheaded by the new Philippine National Police chief Gen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa when he served as chief of the Davao City police.
Voluntary surrender means amnesty, rehabilitation, and counseling for the drug users. They are also given scholarships, livelihood trainings, and loan in the long run in order to provide for their families.
“Talagang dumagdagsa yung nagsu-surrender sa station levels (The number of voluntary surrenders at the station levels are really high),” said Senior Supt. Joselito Esquivel, former QCPD deputy director for operations.
He reported that 352 surrendered last June 22 while 738 surrendered on June 24. Those who surrendered submitted their profile and has undergone drug testing and monitoring.
However, as impressive as this new developments are, the government now has to address a new issue - how to sustain and accommodate the needs that arise for rehabilitation centers.
QC vice mayor Joy Belmonte said that the ones who surrendered during the first wave was sent home as programs for rehab was not part of Oplan Kapak.
Because the QCPD failed to coordinate with the local government, long-term plans weren’t ready including intervention plans such as rehabilitation.
Belmonte heads Quezon City Anti-Illegal Drug Abuse Advisory Council (CADAAC), which is in charge of giving interventions for illegal drug victims. Quezon City only has a single public rehabilitation center, Tahanan in Barangay Payatas, and can only hold a bed capacity of 150.
“Surprisingly, hindi nila kami nasabihan ahead na may ganitong klase na operation. So we were not able to really prepare for it,” Belmonte admitted. (Surprisingly, we weren’t informed ahead of time that there’s this kind of operation.)
Even the police themselves were caught off guard regarding the sudden spike of those who sought to surrender according to Esquivel.
“Wala ‘yun (lack of coordination). Pare-pareho kaming nabigla, una testing lang kasi. Tapos pinaalam namin sa Office of the Vice Mayor. Kaya lang, pagka-Friday (June 24), di naman natin akalain na ganun kalaki yung turnout,” he stated.
(There was no lack of coordination. Everyone was surprised because at first it was just testing. Then we made it known to the Office of the Vice Mayor. But it was a Friday and we didn’t know there will be a big turn out.)
The funds for the drug test kit also presents a problem which prompts the police to send half of them home for the time being. Each drug test kit costs at least P55.
“Medyo may pagkamahal. So that’s more than P55,000 for the drug test alone. Eh marami pang sumusuko,” Esquivel said.
(It’s a bit expensive. So that’s more than P55,000 for the drug test alone. And there’s still a lot of them surrendering.)
According to the current data of QCPD, only 438 of those who surrendered were able to undergo testing due to lack of kits. All of them tested positive but only 283 returned for the drug dependency evaluation (DDE).
DDE is important to determine the next steps of intervention which might be counselling, rehabilitation, or psychiatric treatment. The DDE was conducted last June 30 to July 5 which resulted to 185 for counselling, 70 for rehabilitation, and one for psychiatric remedy at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong. There are still 27 that needs to be assessed.
Currently, the QCPD, the vice mayor, and barangay officials are working hand-in-hand to encourage those who failed to return to have their evaluation as soon as possible to avoid the next surge of those who want to surrender.