THE rising body count in the War on Drugs is matched by a backlash of condemnation in the country and overseas.

Yesterday, priests read a statement in place of the Sunday homily in masses held in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. A Philippine News Agency (PNA) article published in Sun.Star Cebu on Aug. 7 quoted Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who penned the statement, as saying that the killing of hundreds of persons alleged to be drug users and pushers is “too much to swallow.”

According to the monitoring by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its “Kill List,” 524 have been killed by the police from June 30, 2016 to midnight of Aug. 4. “The number of deaths by vigilantes and unknown hitmen has also breached the 200-mark,” reported the Inquirer.

Correct imbalance

The Catholic prelate urges the return of “reason” and “humanity” to prevent the country from becoming a “killing fields.”

To solve the drug problem, the government approach must be like a “vehicle with four wheels,” wrote Netizen Jorge Villanueva. In his online reaction to the Aug. 7 column of Sun.Star Cebu’s Mayette Q. Tabada, “Cardboard justice,” which criticized the summary killings of persons judged by cardboard notices labelling victims as a drug suspect, Villanueva posted that the current drug campaign should focus on many fronts: “teach them when (they’re) young, catch them if they fail, help them if they need, and punish if they disobey.”

The Duterte administration’s tack of focusing on only one approach—the liquidation of drug suspects—is resulting to “screeching grinding imbalance,” observed Villanueva.

Correcting the imbalance implies not just condemning the extrajudicial killings. It also demands that the community must share in the responsibility to address mounting multiple challenges of wiping out the drug culture.

Three Cebu-based private hospitals—Cebu Doctors’ Hospital (CDH), Velez Hospital and Medical College, and Chong Hua Hospital—recently pledged to provide “affordable rehabilitation services to drug users,” reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Justin K. Vestil and Flornisa M. Gitgano on Aug. 7.

It is crucial that these three private hospitals follow up on their pledge by coordinating with the law enforcement and local government officials. According to the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, approximately 49,000 drug users have surrendered, as of July 30.

The CDH pledge includes a commitment to expand their facility to accommodate more than 8,000 persons for drug rehabilitation. To be sustainable, a drug rehab program must not only be affordable but also community-based.

Communal stake

The process to purge a person’s system of drug toxins also requires a support system that helps the drug dependent reject the environmental factors that pushed him or her to use or sell drugs.

Local government units (LGUs) are at the frontline of a community-based drug rehabilitation program. The Cebu City Council passed on Aug. 2 a resolution ordering the strict enforcement of City Ordinance 1786, which is also known as the Curfew Ordinance.

According to Rona T. Fernandez of Sun.Star Cebu on Aug. 7, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Social Welfare Services will supplement the officials of Cebu City’s 80 barangays in enforcing the curfew, which prohibits minors from loitering in public from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

A third offense will result in a case of negligence being filed against the parent or guardian of the minor.

Barangay officials must come up with a program that educates and motivates residents to be responsible parents.

The basic maxim of knowing where one’s children are is often broken in dysfunctional families where the elders are often absent or deep into vice.

Finally, the “reason and humanity” guiding current collective efforts to deliver crucial services needed for public education, prevention, and rehabilitation of drug dependence must still guide law enforcement.

At midnight of Aug. 4, Jeffrey Ozcon was shot and killed by unknown hitmen in Pasig City, Metro Manila. Ozxon had previously surrendered to police during Oplan Tokhang and was participating in “Zumba” dancing lessons for drug users who wanted to reform, according to the Inquirer Hit List.