In his weekday mass homily, parochial vicar Rev. Fr. Noel Lao of the Sto. Niño Parish in Tacloban City stressed a point that should be a guidepost for Christians in these days that the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte is dead serious in the war against drug menace. He exhorted the churchgoers to be redeemers like Christ for the drug personalities who surrendered and promised to reform. It is not right to just criticize the surrenderees but instead empathize with them. Noting the unprecedented number of those killed in the course of the arrest of hundreds of suspected drug pushers and an even more overwhelming number of those who admitted being drug users and pushers, he cautioned the people not to condemn them. The people should rather ask their own selves, “What have I done for them and for this change?” His query poses a challenge that penetrates beyond sheer comprehension, but the conscience of man now that “change is already here.” “Be a redeemer to them like Christ,” he egged on.
Lao, along with fellow parochial vicar Rev. Fr. Fritz Francis Del Pilar, were among the spiritual leaders, advisers and counsellors who were invited to a meeting with other interfaith church representatives held at the Tacloban Astrodome very recently. The role of the church could not be overemphasized in the holistic struggle to help the drug personalities who surrendered to truly change to a “illegal drug-less” life. Simple counselling and prayer for them are highly appreciated as gesture of morally supporting the surrenderees attempt to be better citizens.
Del Pilar, however, disclosed in an informal conversation that the Tacloban vicariate will still have to meet to synchronize efforts towards same end. He underscored the need for synchronicity. This is to at most make the intervention effective. At the Archdiocesan level, plans for rehab intervention of the church must likewise be underway. As of today, according to the Archdiocese’s spokesperson and secretary of Archbishop John Du, none of these plans have come to his knowledge. In a social media post, Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin expressed the significance of prayer and counselling in the transformation of surrenderees. While no rehabilitation facilities are ready to welcome the surrenderees, alternatives could be had, such as instilling Values formation upon these drug personalities. “For now, we will seek the help of the church through their pastors, priests and minister in counselling, the PNP for monitoring and the support of the private sector and NGO for the program,” he elaborated in an inquiry.
The city government embarks on a program called “Inside Out Transformation” for the surrenderees that includes prayer, counselling, community service and eventually livelihood. Absence of rehabilitation center does not seem to be an obstacle for the city government to push for the reformation of the drug personalities who surrendered. What is vital is sustaining the program and helping the surrenderees get over what hook them to the vice. To the surrenderees, this is what Yaokasin could advice, “If you are willing to change, the city government is ready to help…Do it for yourself, your family and for your future.”