Surrendered drug users thanked President Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — They admit giving up for fear of ending up as casualties in the government’s deadly war on drugs but nevertheless thank President Rodrigo Duterte for forcing the choice on them. All they ask for in turn are adequate job opportunities to better their chances of kicking the habit.
This was the sentiment of many of the hundreds of residents of Parola in Manila’s Tondo district who showed up before law enforcement and barangay officials in the first week of Oplan Tokhang, the police’s house-to-house “knock and plead” campaign for drug users and peddlers to give up.
Since July 1, the death toll from the anti-drug campaign is estimated to have risen past 3,600, both from what police maintain are legitimate operations — although cases of summary executions have been reported — and increasing incidents of what authorities call “deaths under investigation,” mainly drive-by shootings by “riding in tandem” gunmen or vigilante-style executions, with the victims often tied up with placards proclaiming their alleged crimes placed on or near their bodies.
Despite mounting local and international criticism, including a warning from the International Criminal Court of possible prosecution, Duterte has refused to budge and has challenged human rights experts from the United Nations, European Union and United States to visit the country to investigate the killings and try to pin him down.
Duterte points to the more than 700,000, at last count, alleged drug users and pushers who have given themselves up as proof of his aggressive campaign’s success.
However, many quarters say deaths and surrenders alone do not a successful anti-drug campaign make.
Ed Castillo, a recovered drug dependent who now heads the Seagull Foundation, told InterAksyon: “Tumataas ang surrenderers (The number of surrenderers has risen) out of fear, they just surrendered physically out of fear. The question is sinurender ba nila ang kanilang (did they also surrender their) addiction? I doubt.”
“What we need right now is to have a community-based method, wherein community leaders (and) service providers are trained to manage thousands of surrenderers,” he stressed.
The Department of Health has indeed announced a community-based approach to rehabilitation, although its effectiveness has yet to be gauged, while Duterte recently announced that a multi-billion pesos rehabilitation facility in the military’s Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, built through the help of China, will be opening soon.