TACLOBAN CITY- So many drug users and pushers have “voluntarily surrendered” but absence of rehabilitation centers may pose a challenge to the authorities due to the influx of surrenderees.
The drug users and pushers, labeled by police authorities as “drug personalities,” have started to surrender after the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte’s vow to relentlessly stamp out the drug problem of the country. Across the region, the number of surrenderees has reached to over 2,400, some of them were minors. In Tacloban, more than 270 users and pushers have so far surrendered to the police authorities since the campaign came into full throttle on July 1, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte formally assumed the presidency. But as to where they are to be placed for them to shake off their addiction to illegal drugs, notably “shabu,” remains a problem, admitted Senior Inspector Edgar Octaviano, head of the operations division of the Tacloban City Police Office.

“We don’t have much funds to finance the rehabilitation of these drug personalities on top of the fact that we don’t have a drug rehabilitation center here in Tacloban,” Octaviano said. Thus, after these men, who included two 16 year old minors, signed a “surrender form,” they returned to their respective homes. “We just rely on their good faith. That they will stop or refrain from engaging in the illegal drug trade,” he said, adding that all the 138 barangays of Tacloban are “drug infected.” Tacloban has no existing rehabilitation center operated by the government though there is a regional drug rehabilitation center located in the town of Dulag, Leyte. Its lone existing such facility is a privately-owned which charges P25,000 a month, a big amount which most of the users could not afford. “Our chief of police, S/Supt. Rolando Bade, will be meeting with Mayor (Cristina) Romualdez on how we can address this problem,” Octaviano said.

He said that because of the police campaign against drug personalities, dubbed as “Operation Tokhang,” they expect the number of those who will surrender to increase further. ““With no less than the President issuing this order, we will intensify and strengthen this campaign which we think could be achieved,” he said. Among those who surrendered were six men considered among Tacloban’s high value targets or those engaging in illegal drug sale in big volume. Manuelito Aradazon, house manager of the Farm Family and Recovery, a private rehabilitation center in Tacloban, said that since the start of the campaign, they have received “numerous inquiries.”

“Some come to us personally while others call us to inquire about our center, particularly how much we charge and how long the treatment will last,” Aradazon, 32, said. The facility, which started its operations on November, 2015, however, could only accommodate 30 individuals. At present, the facility has 20 “clients” who are charged P25,000 a month. The treatment, which includes counseling, lasts for nine months-six months inside the center and three months “after care” which means the clients are sent home to be with their families while they are still being monitored by them, Aradazon said.

Most of their clients came from families who can afford their fees. Among the clients are a police officer and a government employee. “So far, they are doing well,” he said. But Aradazon, who admitted to be once hooked to the illegal drugs, admitted that their facility could only do so much to their clients. “Drug addiction is a mental problem. It cannot just be treated immediately. It could take years, if at all,” he said. He described himself as a “recovering addict” though he claimed that he is now “clean.” “It’s a matter of self-control,” he said. In this city, aside from rehabilitation, they are also asking the surrenderees to attend masses every Sunday and help clean at their police station or at their respective villages. The process will take for about a month or two, Octaviano said.