Rehab centers shortage: 100 years to treat drug surrenderers – Recto


MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto on Tuesday, August 9, urged for the expansion of the country's drug rehabilitation system as the Duterte administration continues its crackdown on drugs.

"The expansion of the drug wars must trigger the expansion of our drug rehabilitation system," Recto said in a statement.

According to the senator, it will take almost a century to finish treating almost 600,000 drug suspects who have surrendered to the police. His projection is based on the usual 6-month treatment period for drug dependents.

But if all drug dependents would be taken into account, Recto said "it will take 200 years to rehabilitate all" of them if the number of rehabilitation centers in the country does not increase. (READ: Rising number of users seeking drug rehab is a 'happy problem' but...)

Latest figures from the Philippine National Police showed a total of 543,416 drug suspects have surrendered as of Tuesday. Majority of them (509,889) are drug users, while the rest are drug pushers (33,527). 

This is on top of the 1,292,752 "dangerous drug users" in the country estimated by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) in its 2016 national budget.

The senator's research revealed there are only 42 drug rehabilitation centers in the country, 14 of which are government-run, while 25 are private. The other 3 are "non-residential centers."

The DDB has higher figures: 45 residential treatment and rehabilitation centers, 18 of which are government-funded and 27 are privately-owned.

But Recto said there are only a total of 1,670 beds in government-run centers, and 1,546 beds in privately-owned ones. With the current ratio, he said 778 would-be patients will be competing for one bed in government-run centers.

"In Metro Manila, there are less than 900 beds available, whether in government or private [centers].... In the entire Mindanao, there are only 315 beds. Imagine having just 315 beds in an island of 23 million," he said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

*Source: Office of Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto

"Due to popular demand, Malacañang should plan the construction of rehabilitation centers in these regions," Recto said.

He insisted it's time to increase the number of government-run centers especially since rehabilitation is "a costly procedure" and "the poor cannot afford the price of admission charged by some private facilities".

Recto also lamented that the Department of Health's P635-million ($13.54 million)* 2016 budget for its treatment and rehabilitation centers "can only help a small fraction of the drug addict population."

"That funding level was based on the projected normal volume of patients. It did not factor in the tens of thousands of dependents who surrendered to authorities in the hope that they will be helped in weaning themselves of their vice," he added.

*Based on 2016 GAA

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial earlier said that the short-term plan is for government to pay the residential treatment of some patients in private facilities.

For the long term, some facilities will have to be converted into treatment and rehabilitation centers soon, in collaboration with local government units.

Ubial also plans to scale up community-based rehabilitation nationwide, based on the experience of Davao City.

Aside from the thousands of drug suspects who have surrendered, the Duterte administration's crackdown on drugs has also seen hundreds of alleged drug suspects killed in police operations.

According to the PNP, 513 drug personalities have been killed and 7,325 have been arrested as of Tuesday. –

*US$1 = P46.89

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.