PDEA orients personnel on shelter program for drug surrenderers

MANILA -- As part of President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign to holistically address the drug problem, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has conducted an orientation on the Balay Silangan Program for key officers from various services and regional offices.

PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the orientation, which was held last March 22 and attended by all PDEA regional directors and regional chiefs of operations, equipped the participants with the program's guidelines in establishing reformation centers in the regions.

This is part of our effort to establish municipal-based reformation centers and come up with specific and well-defined parameters of the program, Aquino said in a statement on Sunday.

Aquino cited Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation Number 2 issued on January 24 this year, which aims to establish the guidelines for community involvement in reforming drug offenders into self-sufficient and law-abiding members of the society.

Balay Silangan is an offshoot of Bahay Pagbabago, a reformation center conceptualized in the Province of Bataan by the Bataan Police Provincial Office. Given the program's success in the province, it was later expanded to the rest of the Police Regional Office 3 (PRO 3) which Aquino headed then.

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, and haircutting, are likewise provided to give drug reformers employment opportunities.

The intensified anti-drug efforts of the government have made a big impact on drug dependents and pushers nationwide that led to their voluntary submission to authorities. Effective mechanisms are in place to ensure their re-integration to society, to recover and become productive citizens again. This is what Balay Silangan is all about, Aquino explained.

Aquino said there are specific conditions that must be met by surrendering drug personalities before they can be considered eligible for the program.

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, Aquino added.

Balay Silangan is built to rebuild lives. The government can never give up on surrendering drug dependents and pushers, he said. Hope is all they need to overcome their former selves and start over again. We will give our assurance that hope will be realized if they show the sincerity and commitment to change.

To ensure that people undergoing the program will remain until its completion, all drug reformation facilities must be located in either PNP or AFP camps/bases and will be manned accordingly.

On the other hand, a Regional Oversight Committee shall serve as counterpart at the regional level to ensure the establishment, operation and sustainability of Balay Silangan programs in the provinces and municipalities. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency