“A message of hope, support, and recovery for all drug surrenderers.”

This is what Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistant Secretary Jose Antonio Hernandez said as he spoke to a mass gathering of urban and rural poor residents organized by the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP).

The PCUP today launched its program, “Urban Poor Kontra Droga: Urban Poor Initiative towards a Drug-Free Community”,  in Legazpi City in the Bicol Region.

Based on the records of the Legazpi City Police Station, as of October 18, some 2,467 drug dependents voluntarily surrendered to local authorities of which 2,326 are male and 141 female. Some 62 surrenderers are minors. In the meantime, among all the drug surrenderers, 271 are pushers and 2,196 are drug users.

The drug pushers will be under the disposition of the Philippine National Police (PNP), but the rest will be encouraged to enter the programs of other government agencies such as the DSWD, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The PCUP’s Urban Poor Kontra Droga Program will strengthen the capacities of urban poor communities in the fight against illegal drugs and drug abuse by empowering community leaders and offering alternatives to community members, particularly to those who belong to age groups that are vulnerable to drug abuse.

The program also aims to reduce the factors in communities that increase the risk of drug abuse and promote the factors that minimize the risks. The goal is to build the capacities of leaders and people’s organizations so they can act as positive agents in their communities.

Asec. Hernandez has been officially designated as the DSWD’s focal person when it comes to the anti-drug campaign. Specifically, he is the lead official in implementing the DSWD’s role in the Duterte administration’s campaign to rehabilitate surrenderers and former users/pushers.

DSWD has a role in the administration program’s Pillar III: Aftercare, Reintegration and Transformation Support for Recovering Drug Dependents. As such, the DSWD will work together with the PCUP in pursuing the same goals.

Under the Pillar III, the Cash for Work (CFW), the Assistance to Communities in Need of Protective Services, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), and the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) are recommended to be funded to provide assistance to the recovering drug dependents along with other psychosocial programs of the Department and other programs of other agencies.

Asec. Hernandez said that the Philippines’ drug problem has to be addressed through interventions that go to the root causes: poverty caused by lack of social support for many Filipinos, corruption in various levels in the various agencies of government, and lack of sustainable, productive employment for the poor.

“But we need to start at the beginning – in the communities, in the very areas where the drug problem takes root and endangers the lives and security of Filipinos,” said Asec. Hernandez.

“The DSWD’s involvement in the anti-drug campaign is focused on strengthening families and communities to help them resist and fight against the scourge of illegal drugs. We have to help surrenderers and former users and pushers to return to the fold of society and work towards their own full recovery. We want them not only to be of full use to themselves and to their families, but to their communities as well. The DSWD fully extends all its programs to assist surrenderers who have declared their willingness to become part of the government’s efforts to help them,” he said.

 “Ang gusto natin ay tulungan ang mga surrenderers na maitaguyod muli ang mga sarili at sariling dignidad. Napakalaki pa ng kanilang potensyal na magbagong-buhay at makatulong sa kanilang mga pamilya at komunidad. Madalas kasi, alam ko, na hindi makabangon ang marami nating  mga kababayan dahil kulang o walang natatanggap na suporta mula sa pamilya at sa gobyerno. Ito ang pinagtatangkaan nating baguhin ngayon,” he said.

 “Gusto nating bigyan ng pag-asa ang mga kababayan nating nalulong sa bawal na gamot o sa pagtutulak nito na pwede pa silang tanggapin muli ng komunidad at maging mga kapaki-pakinabang na miyembro ng lipunan. Tutulong ang gobyerno ni Pangulong Duterte at ang DSWD sa pamamagitan ng mga programang pangkalusugan at pangkabuhayan para palakasin ang loob ng mga surrenderers na kaya pa nilang magsimula muli at magkaroon ng kinabukasang hindi nilason o sinira ng bawal na gamot,” he said.#