Eustaquio O Abay II, MD, FACS
Chairman, HopeBurst Foundation, Inc.
We often think the menace of illicit drugs is remote and far removed from our families and immediate concerns. So did I, until on May 1, 2012, tragedy struck in my own family. A brother was brutally shot while trying to protect a son who was addicted to drugs, right at his home front gate in Quezon city. Early March 2017, that son was also shot and killed.
The conservative estimated drug users in the Philippines is 3.7 million. Since President Duterte began his all out war on drugs, approximately 7000 have been shot and killed, estimated half by PNP, the other half by drug lords/pushers. 1,400,000 have surrendered for fear of their lives, most from the poor.
There are about 5,100 beds for traditional drug rehab, private and public. A new 10,000 bed facility was quickly constructed in Nueva Ecija, but only 138 were admitted because of logistical, geographical and operational issues.
A glaring disparity between need (1.4M) and supply (15.1T) immediately becomes evident. Furthermore, study and research show traditional rehab has a 70+ failure rate. Administrators of programs openly admit, because
treated users return among the same friends and environment, it was only a matter of time, many come right back.
The illicit drug industry in the Philippines is very efficient. They lure mostly young people (16-30 yr olds) into the habit. Once hooked, because they must sustain the habit they cannot afford, they become pushers.
While crime has gone down by half since Pres Duterteís war, (a testament to how many crimes are drug related), he is worried that an estimated 40% of the police force, going up to generals, and public officials-mayors, congressmen, governors, etc., are directly or indirectly involved.
Duterte has been criticized for the killings, but no one has come up with a viable solution.
HopeBurst was started as a traditional rehab, but the rapid turn of events has morphed it into a community-driven program, patterned after Gawad Kalingaís experience with over 3000 GK villages, 95% of which are essentially drug free. Partnering with FAITH, GK and itís Barangay Walang Iwanan program, HopeBurst has developed a template adaptable by any willing community to initiate such a program with their own team who truly care about the addicts, their families and communities.
We have started in Southern Leyte, Palawan and Cavite, embraced by their respective governors. HopeBurst Coordinator for Southern Leyte, Dr Jerome Paler, has been asked to present their program and experience to a meeting of LGU leaders in Tacloban, Leyte, March 2017.
As an NGO, we need all the help we can get to keep going and expand as expeditiously as we can. One young life saved, is one life saved. We are hoping the Philippine Government and LGUís would catch on and adapt the program, to put significant scale to it. But that is nowhere in the horizon.
Thank you for whatever help you can extend to our drug victims, most of whom are poor.
The author is a neurosurgeon in Wichita, Kansas. HopeBurst is a program of the Filipino American Initiative to Transform our Homeland (FAITH), a subsidiary of the Filipino United Network - USA.