How do you bring back the lives that were once imprisoned by illegal drugs?
The local government of Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental has created a community support system where drug surrenderees are given redemption and a second chance at life. This is dubbed Magpakabana Gingoognon Alang sa Kabag-ohan (MGK).
Everyday, these drug surrenderees participate in natural detoxification. The session starts at 7:00 a.m. where they gather in an open court or an open area in their barangay and do physical exercise, running, sit ups, activities to make them sweat. After that, they listen to the words of God through Bible reading with church and religious leaders.
They are taught on God’s love that He is a forgiving and loving God. They are also taught that they have a purpose in life. That is why they exist and they are alive today. Finally they are taught that they too have a responsibility in the community by showing their love to neighbors and the environment.
There are two sessions everyday, two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Saturday is intended for a clean up in the community and Sunday for rigorous religious activity. For those working and those who have classes, they do full blast in the weekend.
Drixel Adran, 24 years old, participant of the MGK said he likes the program especially the exercise because it makes him sweat and he sleeps early at night because they have to wake up early the following morning.
His uncle whom he is living with right now and three other siblings is happy with MGK. He also said that he wants to help send his siblings to school after the three month program.
Joey Quinao, 33 years old said he has been a drug user for four years. It started with just trying out with friends on a fiesta and since then every problem he had he tried to answer it with drugs. In the long run, he got addicted. He looked for it. Each time he had money even just P100, he would go and get some drugs.
He said he is very thankful of President Duterte because of his strong campaign against illegal drugs. If it weren’t for the President, he wouldn’t be trying to change right now. More so, there is a big change since the MGK program. He is now able to think straight and helping his parents with their livelihood. He realized he had been doing it all wrong in the past. Program such as the MGK is badly needed especially by drug surenderees like him because it will bring them closer to their families, he said.
Meanwhile Reygem Rabiana, 25 years old said he had used drugs for eight months. He worked in a mining area in Bukidnon where he first used them. Friends encouraged me to take drugs because of the nature of the job going in the tunnel. He said they can purchase shabu for only P500. They chip in for that. P100 each. The first time you take it you don’t feel tired, don’t feel hungry. He seldom sends money to his mother because of his vice. I regret getting in that vice because I only send little to my parents and more to my vices, he said.
But he has stopped since June. He is very thankful to President Duterte because of this change. I only graduated high school, he said. My dream is to be a mechanic. Before I didn’t have a direction, always going out, no sleep. But now, I am happier because I can sleep and rest and eat well. We are eight siblings in the family.
He discourages young people to try illegal drugs because it will not do anything but ruin their lives.
There are about 2,612 drug surenderrees in Gingoog City as result of the intensified campaign against illegal drugs “Oplan Tokhang” of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Gingoog City Mayor Marie Guingona said that because of the enormous problem of illegal drug trade throughout the country particularly in Gingoog City, an intervention from the local government and all stakeholders is badly needed.
She said, we have to help especially if these surenderrees want to really change. But of course we cannot do it alone, said mayor Guingona. We need participation of other government agencies such as the police, army, health department, educators, non government organizations and even church leaders. This gave birth to the creation of Magpakabana Gingoognon Alang sa Kabag-ohan or MGK.
MGK program is a 90-day comprehensive community-based drug rehabilitation program for drug surenderees to undergo natural detoxification through physical exercise, community involvement such as clean up drive and spiritual journey with church leaders to build up self esteem.
Guingona said sometimes the young kids are urged by friends to try, have a little bit of the substance because of frustrations. Kids nowadays have a lot of pressures. It is different from way back. She said, this is where we need to come in with our support system. When difficult times come around, there has to be a place that they can run to, talk to that will not be judgmental of them. But will help them cross the Rubicons so to speak, said the Mayor.
We are hoping that after this program, we are also going to get help from national government for sustainability and our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) if they can contribute would be great, said Guingona.
According to Police Chief Inspector Esperidion R. Biado III, chief of police in Gingoog City, there are about 31 clusters operating a unified program of instruction for MGK. Each cluster is comprised of barangay health worker who checks the attendance, Barangay Anti Drug Council (BADAC), a pastor for the religious sector and the police or army for security and discipline.
According to him, they conduct assessment after one week such as things they need to improve or what they need to have. Similarly, the community participates through monitoring of the participants. They can inform the police through a hotline if the participants go back to using or selling illegal drugs. Usually the police gives incentive for every positive information they receive.
He said they had the highest number of arrest in July this year for illegal drugs. Usually they just have one per week but in July alone, they had 15-20 including those who surrendered with pending warrant of arrest. Those with warrants were submitted to court.
Since the start of Tokhang, crimes declined 60% – 70%. There were 59 arrests in July. Because of this, families now begin to stroll in the park during night time unafraid of anyone bothering them. He said there is a sense of security among families this time.
He said that what’s good about this program is that participants are not dislocated from their families. They can still do their daily activities and are being supported by the government in rebuilding their lives to become productive citizens in the community with self-worth and confidence.
Meanwhile, the entire religious group is involved. According to Fr. Jerry Padogdog of Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, they are hoping that after three months, the lifestyle of these participants will become normal and they go back to normal thinking. He said, without the moral side, a person will have a hard time to sustain the changes he envisions for himself.
He said, we don’t call them surrenderees anymore but participants. The module they crafted includes Who God Is. Who He is in our lives? Love of God and His enduring mercy. He said they have included the plan of God to His people, for each person. This will have a great effect in how they think and feel so that they will have a different perspective about God where before they thought God was far and does not care. Fr. Padogdog said they will be the hand of God extending love to these people.
Meanwhile, Dr. Agnes Centino of Gingoog city health office said they don’t have facility for rehabilitation that is why they call it community based rehabilitation/treatment. Also, she said they don’t have substance detoxification. We are not capacitated in that aspect but we make use of intervention through religious groups to give moral recovery program, she said.
However she said if the participants show behavioural change after three months, then they can introduce them to education and training skills with Department of Education (DepEd), Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) or Public Employment Service Office (PESO) for job offer. Other agencies who can give them livelihood like Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
No local government unit is ready for this so that we have partnered with Non government organizations for funding. Meanwhile, the local government provides for food.
She said, Gingoog City health office does profiling as preparation of a big future facility. We have to develop a very good facility in the future, she said. There is a location in Sibulig, Lunotan in Gingoog City for a future rehab center and this was checked with Department of Health (DOH) assistant regional director Adriano Suba-an. It takes a while since we are also preparing who among the surenderres will be placed there.
Finally, Dr. Dr. Grace J. Jadol, City Health Officer of Gingoog City said that even with just one family member who is imprisoned or addicted with illegal drugs, becomes a problem of the entire family. She said, we have to go into the nuclear of the family.
This is everybody’s business, she said. (JMOR/PIA10)