DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 March) — The Ateneo de Davao University has set up its multi-disciplinary Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID) to complement efforts of the Archdiocese of Davao and the Davao City Government in the “war against evil.”
Archbishop Romulo Valles, who officiated at the blessing of the center on Wednesday morning, said he felt a “sentiment of joy and pride” as the blessing of the CAID “gives a sure sign of hope and action.”
Davao City went through a long and bloody war on drugs that involved killings by what has come to be known collectively as the “Davao Death Squad.”
The Center has four key programs: Healing and Recovery for Drug Surrenderers (HERDS), Drug Hotline and Referral Helpline, Mindanao Drug Trade Research, and Human Rights Training and Rights-based Policing and AdDU In-House Community Awareness.
Fr. Joel Tabora, University President, said the establishment of the CAID “is part of the Archdiocesan effort to “stand for life.”
“We would like to state that we are in full support of the lawful efforts that fight deaths in our society but we also recognize that this is a very difficult and … complex fight and the Church and the universities and the schools and the parishes would like to do its part to stand for life,” he said.
Roawie Quimba, CAID head, cited church teachings about the “distinction between the error and the errant and that if a person commits an error, commits a sin, that person does not cease to be a person, the person continues to have his or her human dignity which is something that cannot be violated.”
He said CAID is “faithful and true to that conviction so that in a very concrete way, Ateneo de Davao under the umbrella of Archdiocese of Davao’s Sagop Kinabuhi Program does not give up on the drug reformists.”
Prof. Apple Alvarez said the target clients of their 24/7 hotline/helpline are drug dependents, surrenderers / reformists, and their significant others.
She said seven licensed psychiatric nurses serving as hotline and helpline specialists will answer questions on drug addiction and refer the drug reformist to rehabilitation centers and counsellors.
The hotline/helpline numbers are (082) 2986728, (082) 2986729, 09434944211 (Sun), 09121968535 (Smart) and 09563895131 (Globe).
Prof. Neil Ryan Pancho, head of the research component said they are ” interested in looking at the mechanics, the processes, the hierarchy, the organization of the drug trade” because in their review of literature, there are only a few studies on the issue.
Pancho said they will initially focus on six cities — Davao and General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, Zamboanga and Cotabato — to find out the extent of the drug industry in Mindanao.
The areas were chosen based on income and population because “to some extent, naay bearing and income ug population because drug trade normally coincides with other economic activities,” he said, adding they also want to look into the point of contact between the local drug trade and the regional players in Southeast Asia.
Human rights-based policing
Lawyer Romeo Cabarde, chair of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) and one of the persons heading the Human Rights Training and Rights-based Policing and in-house community awareness program, said they will run learning sessions to help prevent drug addiction. He said they were preparing for a Town Hall forum that afternoon with the regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency PDEA who was set to speak on the drug situation and at the same time look at the requirements on mandatory random drug testing in schools.
“We will try to discuss what will be the implications for educational institutions if we run random mandatory drug testing,” he said.
Cabarde said they will also conduct trainings on rights-based policing and has coordinated with the Human Rights Affairs Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for a trainers’ training on May 17 to 19 in Davao City for human rights action officers from all regions nationwide “to create a pool of trainers within the PNP on HR-based policing.”
Healing and Recovery
For the healing and recovery for surrenderers / reformists, Dr. Melba Manapol, project head, said they have committed to assist 28 barangays in coordination with the City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) and the Archdiocese’s Sagop Kinabuhi and other universities.
Manapol said the city has 11,000 surrenderers and they will be able to assist at least around 3,000 surrenderers and their families.
“We will support the initiatives in the barangays so we target and intend to form and develop at least six to 10 core volunteers that will hopefully ensure that surrenderers or reformists in each of the barangays are taken care of in terms of .. various social needs, rehabilitation needs.”
Manapol said part of the process is to do profiling and screening of the surrenderers “so that we are able to identify what are their particular needs.”
She said those who are severely affected will be referred to the city government for further support and assistance in the rehabilitation institution but those who are on the “moderate” level, can be supported through the healing and recovery program.
Manapol said the economic side will be attended to under the HERDS component, where livelihood trainings may be initiated by the university’s School of Business or referred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
War against evil
Valles said Sagop Kinabuhi has a map of the city’s 182 barangays where one could easily see which barangays are attended to by which school or institution and which barangays are still waiting for assistance.
He said there are now close to 50 barangays that are being attended to by Catholic schools and the state-run University of Southeastern Philippines.
He said they are talking with the parishes and the Basic Ecclesial Communities so that when the drug reformist returns to the community, the community would be more receptive.
Valles refers to the CAID’s programs as “the Ateneo forte.”
Tabora said the war on drugs is “a real war and it is a war against evil in our society, abetted by internationally organized groups who have a lot of money and who have a lot of arms and the effect of this activity is very negative on our population.”
“I think as much as possible,” Tabora added, “we all have to stand for a lawful response of the government agencies to this evil, from the level of the church, from the level of the university. We have to be able to trust I think that those who are in charge of the law enforcement will take the means necessary in order to protect the general population against this evil.”
Tabora said the university “is not in the position to dictate on the security forces how to do their jobs… we want to make a contribution to the fight against illegal drugs and we will do it in a way where we understand our competencies and confine ourselves to that.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)