PDEA pilots community-based reformation centers in 2 provinces

MANILA -- The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), tasked to provide the "real numbers" on the government's anti-drug campaign, has already opened two community-based reformation centers aimed to rehabilitate drug offenders in the provinces of Sarangani and Nueva Ecija.

Known as Balay Silangan Reformation Center, or house of hope, it is a temporary shelter intended to reform drug offenders into self-sufficient and law-abiding members of society.

The Balay Silangan Reformation Center welcomes with open arms drug offenders who aspire (for) a renewed life and have chosen to be on the side of the government rather than help peddle illegal drugs in the streets, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said.

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 added.

The PDEA chief added that the initiative is the agency's pilot harm-reduction program aimed at boosting efforts to clear 26,000 barangays in the country from illegal drugs.

He said this program shows that PDEA values life despite pursuing war against drugs, noting that government agencies want former drug offenders to have the opportunity to rehabilitate, to regain their dignity and place in our society.

PDEA is continuously enhancing its operations and programs for the holistic resolution of the country's drug problem by clearing barangay by barangay from the drug menace. Balay Silangan, as a priority initiative, is one of them, Aquino stressed.

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

Last May 22, Aquino, together with Malungon Mayor Ma. Theresa Constantino, led the inauguration of the reformation center in Malungon Outpatient Reformatory and Treatment Center for Drug Dependents in Barangay Nagpan, Malungon, Sarangani.

Last May 24, Balay Silangan Reformation Program in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, the pilot project of PDEA in Luzon was funded by the Cabanatuan City government through the initiative of Mayor Julius Cesar Jay Vergara.

PDEA, meanwhile, is set to open the program's pilot area in Metro Manila at the Caloocan North Medical Center on May 30.

The agency has also chosen Jamindan, Capiz as its pilot area in Western Visayas for the Balay Silangan program intended for drug personalities in the region.

According to the PDEA chief, in order for the Balay Silangan program to make headway, they will be needing the help of not just the other government agencies, but also of the non-governmental organizations, private sectors and big corporations. We are knocking on the hearts of the companies through their corporate social responsibility programs by helping us provide employment to graduating drug surrenderers.

Dole Philippines has recently signified its intention to hire drug surrenderers who underwent the recovery program as production employees.

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.

For his part, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ramon L. Cualoping III, who is also the Chief Brand Integrator of the PCOO said 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), Cualoping 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.

Aquino added, that after the pilot launching of the Balay Silangan, PDEA is in the process of finalizing the Gawad Sagisag ng Tagumpay Laban sa Droga Award which will be given to local government units that gave valuable efforts to fight illegal drugs and showed exemplary actions in maintaining their barangays or municipalities as drug-free areas and successful implementation of barangay drug clearing operations.

Boosting anti-drug operations

The PDEA purchased PHP202,861,835 worth of high-powered firearms as well as protective and IT equipment that will be used by the operating units in its regional offices nationwide.

The PDEA procured 689 units of tactical modular type vest with a total value of PHP55,051,100; and 43 units of mobile armor rifle protective/ ballistic shield, with a total value PHP32,526,000.

The high-powered firearms consist of 560 units of Galil rifle which has a total value of PHP105,840,000.

The protective equipment includes tactical modular type vest, mobile armor rifle protective/ballistic shield (level IV) and high powered firearms.

The IT equipment includes 135 desktop computers with a total value of PHP9,444,735.

Meanwhile, PDEA agents underwent training and familiarization on the use of its newly-procured body cameras, digital forensic equipment, handheld radios and drones.

The training was attended by PDEA Regional Chief of Operations, Regional Intelligence Officers, personnel of the Special Enforcement Services and Intelligence and Investigation Service of the national headquarters.

The PDEA recently procured 100 units of camera, 86 units of digital forensic equipment, 166 units of handheld radios and 20 units of drones.

The training aims to develop a high level competence of PDEA operating units with experts from Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) conducting basic drone pilot handling operation.

Last January, PDEA has spent a total of PHP90,405,940 in the acquisition and funding of additional equipment and motor vehicles to better equip itself in waging an all-out war against illegal drugs. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency