PDEA launches shelter program for drug surrenderers

MANILAThe Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Wednesday formally launched its community-based reformation program in four pilot sites which aim to rehabilitate surrendered drug personalities across the country.

PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the Balay Silangan program will build temporary shelters for drug offenders with the objective of reforming them into self-sufficient and law-abiding members of society.

The program is reformatory in nature. It is an alternative intervention for drug personalities who are not users and are not eligible to undergo medical treatment and rehabilitation in facilities supervised by the Department of Health (DOH), Aquino said in his keynote address at the program's launching at the PDEA National Headquarters in Quezon City.

In attendance at the event were key PDEA officials and members of the Balay Silangan Program National Oversight Committee.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation Number 2, Series of 2018 which was approved and adopted on January 24, 2018, laid the groundwork of Balay Silangan.

The Balay Silangan National Oversight Committee, whose task is to oversee the implementation of the program, is chaired by PDEA which include the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development , Technical Education and Skills Development Administration, Parole and Probation Administration, Bureau of Corrections, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of National Defense, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as members.

Aquino, together with other members of the program's National Oversight Committee, also signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Manifesto of Commitment for the unveiling of four pilot sites for the implementation of the program namely: General Santos City on May 22; Cabanatuan City on May 24; Capiz on May 26; and Caloocan City on May 30.

The Balay Silangan reformation program takes on a home-centered approach that would convince drug offenders to give themselves a second chance in life. The rising sun in the East signals the start of a new day. This runs parallel to the program, heralding a fresh start for drug reformers, Aquino said, citing how the program got its name.

General interventions, like continuing education and health awareness, and psychological/spiritual/physical activities such as counseling, moral recovery, values formation, personal and life skills, among others, are provided under the program. Livelihood and skills training programs which include soap making, massage training, basic carpentry, welding, haircutting, etc., are likewise provided to give reformers employment opportunities.

Conditions for beneficiaries

Aquino said there are specific conditions for eligibility to the program that must be met by surrendering drug personalities.

They must not belong to the PDEA/PNP target list, wanted list and watch list, or has any other pending criminal case/s. Those who availed of the plea bargaining agreement and/or convicted under Section 15, Article II of RA 9165 that are required to undergo rehabilitation and those who served jail terms for violation of the anti-drug law, the PDEA chief stressed.

The reformation program was also cascaded to PDEA regional directors and regional chiefs of operations for familiarization and definition of roles in its implementation.

By giving them a new lease of life, drug surrenderers may well become reformers. The government will provide refuge where drug offenders can pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and make themselves whole again, the PDEA chief said, adding that surrendering is a sign of not giving up on life.

Aquino patterned the Balay Silangan on his Bahay Pagbabago reformatory centers, which he established during his term as PNP Region 3 Director in 2016.

Asked on who will fund to sustained the program, Aquino answered the sourcing of funds will come from local government unit and other government agencies.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ramon L. Cualoping III, who is also the Chief Brand Integrator of the PCOO echoed Aquino's remarks.

The LGUs has allocated budget for anti-drugsthe Anti-Drug Abuse Council like CADAC (city) MADAC (municipal) down the line BADAC (barangay) there is budget to fix that, then the national agencies like DILG, DOH have budget they can put funds for establish as part of government effort, Cualoping explained, who is present during the event.

He added the Balay Silangan is a complimentary program which will help eliminate the supply of drugs in the country.

"This one seeks to push reformation not for users but for the pushers, peddlers (of illegal drugs). Programa sa mga nalulong hindi sa droga pero dun sa pera na nakukuha sa droga (A program for those addicted not to drugs but to the money they get from it," PCOO official said.

He noted that the PCOO's part is to push President Rodrigo Duterte's agenda which includes showing the bad effects of illegal drugs and utilizing a multi-faceted aspect in solving this menace.

The nice thing for PCOO is its holistic approach, its inter-agency thing like the ICAD (Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs) that was lacking in previous years. There was no inter-agency approach. But now, people within the government, the officials, the staff, the workforce of the government, they talk and discuss and what's the best (way) on how to approach this, he stressed.

Source: Philippine News Agency