Now part of the Barangay Patrol team in their community and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Ilegal na Droga (MASA MASID), no one would have thought that Fabian (not his real name) almost lost his family and all his properties to illegal drugs.
Fabian has been involved in the drug business since 1992. “We were children then and we were already used to transporting marijuana to Manila. We carry and sell the marijuana and they give us money. And then, as time passed, I had friends in Manila and that was the time I started using marijuana and then until I shifted to Shabu.”
Illegal drug situation
Before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed as President, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported an estimated four million drug users. With three drug syndicates operating in the country, 13,661 barangays nationwide were drug-affected. Shabu laboratories and drug dens thrive in communities where minors are used as runners.
Though a small province, Ifugao was not spared from the illegal drug problem that the nation is facing. Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council (PADAC) member SPO1 Garry Gattud shared that before the War On Illegal Drugs was launched, Ifugao has recorded 36 drug-affected barangays with an extensive network of illegal drug activities.
Ifugao Reflection Camp
In 2016, the nationwide campaign against illegal drugs was launched. Contrary to the violent war on drugs in the metro, many illegal drug users and pushers have peacefully surrendered to authorities in the province of Ifugao.
One of the drug surrenderers in the province was Fabian. “So I am thankful that last 2016, “Tokhang” came to us. So we went to the municipal hall to surrender; we surrendered on our own. After we surrendered, they told us to go to IRC. So we thought, what would we do in Tiger Hill, will we be imprisoned? We were then hesitant to go.”
The increasing number of surrenderers in the province prompted the PADAC to turn the then one room drug rehabilitation concept into the Ifugao Reflection Camp (IRC) at Tiger Hill in the town of Kiangan. Based on Republic Act 9165 or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the IRC follows the five aspects of rehabilitation which includes abstinence, social therapy, psychological recovery, spiritual healing, and vocational trainings.
With the inter-agency efforts of the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Department of Health, PADAC, the Municipal Anti-drug Abuse Council (MADAC), the Barangay Anti-drug Abuse Council (BADAC), and various religious groups, the IRC follows a system wherein the surrenders or clients stay at the camp for five to six days for detoxification, psycho education, counseling, and profiling.
During their stint in the IRC, clients’ records are established for monitoring, follow-up, and tracking.
Gattud shared that client documentation is very important proofs especially when the surrenderers apply for removal from the drug watch list after their 18 months after care.
The 18 months after care is the time when the drug surrenderers, after their graduation from the camp, are monitored in terms of their progress and relationships with their families and the community.
Life After IRC
After seven months of community-based drug rehabilitation program, the IRC was able to produce its first graduates composed of 109 former drug dependents. They are now undergoing the 18 months after care.
IRC Director Liezl Saldaan shared that among their first graduates, no one has reverted back to illegal drug use. In fact, the graduates in the municipality of Tinoc, who were trained in the camp for First Aid and Emergency Response, have been very helpful in rescue operations during typhoons. In Kiangan, IRC graduates have become regional champions as Barangay Emergency Response Team.
Like his fellow graduates, Fabian has become an active community volunteer joining the Barangay Patrol Team and sharing his life learnings as an example to the youth. “So we advise the youth, it’s like we are their role models. We guide them not to do what we have done in the past.”
With the acceptance of the community and the recent livelihood support from the Department of Labor and Employment, Fabian is now making a living as a tricycle driver. He hopes his name is removed from the drug watch list after his 18 months after care.
He also wants that the anti-illegal drug campaign of the government will continue to help other people like him.
“There have been programs but not like now that it is focused on the war on drugs. So I hope that even if Duterte’s Administration ends, the program will still continue so that we won’t revert to the situation in the past.” Jamie Joie Malingan (JDP/JPM-PIA CAR)