PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has made a lot of statement’s the past few days but the one he made in front of new government appointees begs the question: Which is more important, rehabilitating drug addicts or feeding the hungry?
“Look at the irony of life,” he said. “I released another P1 billion for these f------ drug addicts because of the community-based treatment or rehab there, whatever is going on there. They do not have money to buy medicine. So, just imagine, P1 billion which could have been used for something like feeding the hungry went to these fools.” The P1 billion was from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Don’t mind the invectives and consider the statement as a serious one (the President has a tendency to joke) and one can see through the Duterte mindset. While he has set priority on the campaign against the illegal drugs trade, it is a drive that is not anchored on the rehabilitation of drug addicts. And he tends to categorize drug addicts as distinct from the “ordinary” poor.
It’s an interesting view but one that is much too simplistic if considered in the context of leadership. The idea that money “better” used to feed the poor is wasted when used to fund the rehabilitation of drug addicts denies the complexity of the problem on illegal drugs. And it is a muddled view.
Two thing. One, many drug addicts are poor themselves and two, rehabilitation is an important part of the campaign against illegal drugs, which in turn serve the poor who are the ones mainly victimized by it. There is therefore no contradiction in the aspects of rehabilitating drug addicts and feeding the poor.
At almost the same time when the President made that statement, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle presided over a mass attended by former drug addicts reformed by a drug rehab farm in Masbate. They wore shirts that sums up the reason why rehabilitating drug addicts is worthwhile: “Every life has hope.”
Rehabilitating drug addicts is not a useless undertaking. Testimonies of former drug addicts show that the problem of drug addiction can also be solved by giving them proper medical attention. That is why rehabilitation has been resorted to in countries with a problem like ours.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2017.
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