How Legazpi City fights drugs through its health office

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Talent performances, food, testimonials and cheers – there’s no mistaking the event’s celebratory mood, which is typical for a moving up ceremony.

The nature of the event was not typical, however. On Sunday, August  5, around 150 drug-cleared surrenderers from all over this city received their official certification from the local government at the 9th community-based rehabilitation (CBR) graduation ceremony at AVP Catering in Tahao Road here.

The graduates, considered as "mild" drug users, completed the 4-day program facilitated by the Legazpi health office under Dr Fulbert Alec Gillego.

Judith Ante, one of the CBR participants, considered her certification from city hall a personal achievement. “Hindi man ako naka-graduate sa school, at least dito grumaduate ako (I may not have graduated from school but at least I graduated here).”

She urged her fellow participants to move on and lead a drug-free life.

Before the certificates were awarded, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal thanked the program participants for completing the CBR as mandated by the national government for drug users who voluntarily surrendered.

Rosal gently reminded everyone of the ill effects of drugs, especially on one's self-control, which had put their lives at risk. He then gave the participants a quick reality check, saying those who return to drug use "will be put to the watchlist, subject for PNP operation.”

He said he gave the reminder not to frighten anyone but to share the status quo on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Rosal also relayed the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to local government officials, “Do your job or resign.” 

He said barangay chiefs, in particular, have to identify drug pushers and users in their areas. If not, they will be tagged as protectors and  included in the watchlist.

Program, aftercare

The CBR program begins with rapid screening and assessment where the surrenderer will be interviewed on details of their drug use. This will determine the person’s category of drug use: low-risk, mild, moderate and severe.

One-time drug users are categorized as "low risk" and are recommended to undergo a two-day general intervention program  involving spiritual, physical, emotional and health lectures and activities and means for social reintegration. The mild drug users will be subject to CBR, a more thorough version of GI.

The moderate drug users will have intensive outpatient care, while those in the "severe" category will have to enter a rehabilitation facility for treatment. A local rehabilitation center in Malinao, Albay, in close coordination with the with health office handle these two categories.

During the Sunday event, the city health chief shared there was a time he wanted to resign, especially when Rosal asked him about the progress of the program.

“I could have faked the results for all I care, right?” There were also those who lied during assessment. However, these people need help and it takes genuine care to address their need," Gillego said.

The city government holds the CBR in an air-conditioned venue and provides food to show the participants that they matter.

Local offices and groups have committed to support the city program, among them, the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD), the Legazpi City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC), the Philippine National Police, and faith-based organizations, Gillego said.

After the ceremony, the CSWD will oversee aftercare for the participants. Social Welfare Officer III Nancy Perez said this will help the city government monitor the latter over a 6-month period.

"The unemployed will be referred to agencies for skills training, should they qualify and express their interest," Perez said.

After the ceremony, 3 young participants approached Perez to avail of training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. She told them to just go to her office.

Walang kung anu-anong (No need for all sorts of) requirement. Just say 'aftercare' and someone will assist you, including me," Perez told them.

The city government hopes to finish the CBR program by the end of August since 1,400 out of more than 2,000 surrenderers have completed it. Unfortunately, 3 out of the 157 participants from the recent batch yielded positive from drug test.

Meanwhile, CADAC head Ric Fontanilla said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has declared 5 barangays in Legazpi as "drug-cleared" –Barangays Baybay, Cruzada, Bigaa, Sagpon, and Imperial. –

Image of Legazpi City from RioHondo at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons