AS the nation gets ready to mark Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Week, the national government has earmarked another P563 million to upgrade public drug ttreatment and rehabilitation centers (TRCs) in 2018.
The fresh funding will be spent to expand the capacity of 14 residential drug TRCs across the country to enable them to accommodate additional admissions. The new money is specifically for the “health facilities enhancement” of 14 TRCs, and not for their maintenance and operations, which have a separate budget.
The P563 million for next year is on top of the P570 million available this year to improve the facilities of 16 government-run TRCs. The P563 million for next year has been set aside to develop the facilities of public TRCs in Argao, Cebu (P24.2 million), Cebu City south district (P25 million), Cebu (P13 million) and 11 others in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) should put to good use the 10,000-bed Mega TRC in Fort Magsaysay built through a P1.4-billion donation of Chinese real estate tycoon Huang Rulan. Our proposal is for the DDB, on a case-to-case basis, to file the appropriate petitions in court so that drug dependents who escape from the centers where they were originally supposed to undergo treatment, may be subsequently committed to Fort Mag once they surrender, or once they are surrendered by their families, within the one-week deadline prescribed by law.
There are many drug dependents who voluntarily submit to confinement and rehabilitation, but who later flee from centers. The problem is real. In fact, the Dangerous Drugs Law itself has a provision especially dealing with escapees from centers.
The lawmaker said Fort Mag could also be of service to drug dependents voluntarily seeking rehabilitation for the second time. The DDB prefers to put drug dependents in community-based TRCs near their families so they can provide complete emotional support through visits.
Community-based TRCs are good. However, there are also many cases wherein the need to keep a drug dependent undergoing therapy as far away as possible from his usual sources of illegal drugs may outweigh the need to provide him direct emotional support.
The Fort Mag Mega TRC has become controversial after DDB chairman Dionisio Santiago called the facility “impractical” and a “mistake” due to the high cost of maintaining it. Santiago has since been forced to resign his post due to his failure to bring his apprehensions about the Fort Mag facility to President Duterte’s attention, and for publicly criticizing an administration project.--Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel, Surigao del Sur