SOME 2,247 minors have been rounded up in Cebu since the police unveiled Oplan Tokhang on July 1, 2016 in a bid to persuade drug users and pushers to stop their involvement in illegal drugs.
Thirty of the minor surrenderers were pushers, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 data show.
Outside of Tokhang, however, another 300 minors didn’t voluntarily surrender to police after a house visit. They were arrested in anti-illegal drug operations.
To prevent more youth from getting involved in drugs, the Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (Cpadao) is piloting in Barangay Poblacion, Danao City a project to reactivate the Parents-Teachers Associations (PTA) in schools so the PTAs can be given a role in the anti-drug program.
This is the Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers project.
“The first target in the prevention program is the adolescents group, so we target the school first. Based on studies, the drug problem starts in first and second year high school,” said psychologist Pocholo de los Santos, Cpadao consultant for the prevention education and treatment program.
Under the K to 12 program, this is equivalent to Grades 7 and 8.
“Now it’s getting worse. Some even start (drug use) at Grades 5 and 6,” he said.
The program will involve information dissemination, education and providing healthy alternative activities, like sports and creativity projects, to keep children busy. Speakers from the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Health and Cpadao, among others, will be tapped to speak to the teachers, students and their families.
“We want to educate and involve the parents because most parents are not involved. They themselves are ignorant about drugs. And they also do not know that they are the biggest contributing factor to the drug problem. Why? Because of family dysfunctionality,” said De los Santos.
He gave this example: “Papa is busy with business. Mama is not in the house, always playing mahjong. When the child gets home, there’s no one there. Worse, there’s even no food in the refrigerator. So the child goes out. He goes to the barkada (friends), where there is peer pressure. Some friends introduce foolhardy things. Psycho-emotionally, there’s nothing in the house. There’s no love in the room. There is no supervision. Nobody cares. The children are just given money because Papa and Mama are very busy. So they become so empty. They don’t feel good, so they take drugs to feel good.”
Cpadao will educate parents and teachers on the drug problem, addiction and detection of the signs of drug use as manifested in the children’s behavior and the items they carry.
In the meetings, parenting skills will also be taught.
De los Santos said many parents didn’t know how to parent, with some in unclear live-in arrangements and always quarreling so that there is no peace at home, as revealed by Grade 7-10 students surveyed on their top concerns during a drug symposium in Danao City.
“These are the problems that trigger the emotional state,” De los Santos said, “because the drug problem is an emotional disease. What drives you to use is not logic. It is emotions.”
All public high schools will be tapped. Cpadao will also help any private schools willing to join.
De los Santos wants the PTAs to meet monthly, but he acknowledged that the schools will have difficulty gathering the parents because “most parents are negligent.”
Cpadao executive director Carmen Remedios Durano-Meca said the program may be funded by the local government if the DepEd, a member of the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Madac), proposes that it be made part of the Madac’s plan of action for the in-school youth.
To gauge the success of the program, the schools will monitor the children from Grade 7 until they graduate from high school.
De los Santos lamented that the drug culture has become “a trend and lifestyle” in part because of media’s showing of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, which include drug use; and the ready availability of drugs, even in parties.
“We are decaying morally,” he said, citing the rise in teenage pregnancies and of mothers selling their children on Colon St. for sex or filming them for cyber pornography, as well as the involvement of whole communities in the illegal drug trade.
“In squatter areas like Hipodromo and Pasil, the drug culture is very much accepted. If the drug lord is killed, the wife takes over. If the police go to the area, the neighbors block their way because for the community, there’s money in drugs. If you don’t have morals and values, you will really condone it (the drug culture).”
This is why under Cpadao’s new program, children will also be taught morals and values, he said.
To parents, De los Santos had this message: “Value life. As parents, di magpataka og panganak (don’t bear children mindlessly) considering that you will be giving life. If you have children, you should learn to value life because if you don’t, you will just consider your children to be disposable.”
In Cebu City, DepEd-Division of Cebu City night high school coordinator Gerome Misa said schools were active in the anti-drug program.
Aside from lessons on the effects of illegal drugs already integrated in the curriculum, he said almost 90 percent of mountain school principals joined the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council meetings.
But it was harder for city school principals to attend, since some city schools receive students from several barangays, said DepEd-Cebu City assistant schools division superintendent Dr. Danilo Gudelosao.
Misa said the division had undertaken a campus caravan in all its 54 public high schools and 69 public elementary schools, and its night schools, as part of its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Started in 2016, the caravan involved DepEd, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and PNP officials going to the schools to give talks. Barangay and PTA officials joined the caravan.
Erlinda Melgo, DepEd-Cebu City education program supervisor of the division focused on guidance and values, said the caravans would be reinforced by activities the students would have based on the information they received in the advocacy against drugs.
Gudelosao said there was a coordinator in every school in the anti-drug campaign.
In its 2015 International Standards on Drug Use Prevention citing the populations vulnerable to drug use, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said, “Marginalized youth in poor communities with little or no family support and limited access to education in school, are especially at risk.”
Gudelosao said that in Cebu City, there were enough classrooms for those who wanted to go to school, citing the presence of night schools for students who could not be accommodated in classrooms during the day.
“We have 29 night high schools with total enrollment of close to 17,000,” he said. In Barangay Zapatera, which offers elementary night school, there are about 53 students.
Gudelosao said poverty was the main reason children did not go to school.
“In our (public) schools, there are students selling rags. Some are construction workers, fruit vendors or help their mothers do laundry,” he said. “Many stopped going to school because of early employment or child labor.”
The DepEd officials said the family was the main influence in a child’s decision to start taking drugs, saying some parents themselves smoked and used drugs, giving their children the impression that this was normal.
Gudelosao said although earning a living made it hard for poor parents to spend time with their children, they still had the responsibility to be role models and to supervise their children.
“Most of our students who attempted to use drugs were those who had been neglected, or came from broken families, or were from households where one parent was absent, like if one was abroad, especially if the parent left here had to work also. The children didn’t want to go home because they said they had nothing to go home to. Their parents had no time for them. It’s the parents who are at fault,” he said.