POSTSCRIPT / December 1, 2016 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Killing drug addicts is not the solution

SUMMARY execution of drug addicts wherever police operatives and vigilantes corner them may put to a quick end their dependence, but it hardly dents the overall narcotics problem nor eases the misery of their families left behind.

The “shoot ‘em” short-cut ordered by higher authority creates more problems than it solves. It has drawn censure from local sectors appalled by the extrajudicial killings and from foreign entities concerned over what they perceive to be state-sanctioned human rights violations.

The anti-narcotics drive which has claimed more than 5,000 lives in just five months has earned the administration a number of critics from foreign governments and institutions. Foreign pressure is likely to escalate.

President Rodrigo Duterte says there are about four million users nationwide (although independent studies place the number at only two million). It is doubtful if executing most of them, by itself, will wipe out the narcotics scourge.

We will not tire repeating that addiction is not the root problem, but is only a manifestation or symptom of a deeper malaise in society. Killing addicts is like cutting off sickly branches without addressing what ails the afflicted tree.

Drug users are victims of a complex situation for which they need help to escape. Hunting them down like wild boars is not the solution. The government and the community must show a more understanding, holistic and humane approach to drug addiction.

■ Mega rehab center for addicts opened

ONE TESTED path is well-managed rehabilitation. We are happy that the Duterte administration appears to have taken this direction.

Last Tuesday, President Duterte led the opening in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, the first phase of a “mega” rehabilitation center in the presence of its donor, Chinese tycoon Huang Rulun, who traded in Binondo in the 1980s.

The Phase I of the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center sprawled on an 11-hectare site. When its four phases are completed the center will be able to accommodate 10,000 patients.

Huang donated P1.4 billion for two rehabilitation centers occupying 100,000 square meters of the complex, the largest in the country. But nothing was announced about the rehab program and the experts and personnel to handle it.

Duterte said the complex will accommodate addicts who surrender, reiterating that those who choose to fight it out will be in “the memorial parks and cemeteries.” “I am sorry for them,” he added.

■ Who’s the Chinese ‘good samaritan’?

DELIVERING his speech in the yard of the center’s dormitory, Duterte thanked Huang, 65, whom he called a “good Samaritan” who “just came out of nowhere and went to my office and said that he would help me solve the drug problem. ”

Press reports have it that Huang first made known his intention to make the donation during a meeting in Malacañang with Duterte on July 27. Huang was reportedly introduced to the President by a common Chinese friend.

The two had met twice before, first on June 28, and then on June 30 during the President’s inauguration. Then they met again during Duterte’s state visit to China last October.

Huang is the founder of real estate conglomerate Century Golden Resources Group, which posted a $5-billion turnover in 2015. It owns 20 five-star hotels and 10 large shopping malls, including Century City complex in Beijing, and has investments in China, in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Sweden, and Denmark. It has been listed among China’s “Top 500 enterprises” 11 times since 2005.

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said the dormitory in the first of four phases has 2,500 beds. She said the facility will cater to “habitual, not hardened” addicts from Metro Manila and Central Luzon. Hardened addicts will be sent to specialized centers elsewhere.

The first 37 patients were already in the center during the inauguration. To be admitted, a patient must first be assessed by barangay health clinics and recommended based on the severity of his addiction.

Indigent patients will be admitted free of charge. Patients from economic class A will pay P10,000 per month, those from class B will pay P5,000, while class C patients will pay P2,500 a month.

■ FM burial divides, not unites, nation

THE BURIAL of the late dictator on Nov. 18 at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is supposed to lay simmering questions to rest and finally unite the country after President Duterte gave the go-signal for his interment there.

But with the eruption of vitriolic reactions pro and con and the staging of raucous street marches in the national capital and other places nationwide, it seems the debate and mass action will continue.

Yesterday’s protests gathered huge crowds, as they were timed with a national holiday honoring Filipino revolutionary Andres Bonifacio. President Duterte, who has been accused of historical revisionism with his approval of the Marcos burial, was in Mindanao.

The main demonstration at the People Power monument on EDSA in Quezon City was still building up as we filed this column. As early as 8 a.m., more than 200 people converged at the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City. Anti-Marcos groups marched from City Hall and Liwasang Bonfacio to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang.

In Cebu City, around 1,000 anti-Marcos protesters gathered at Plaza Independencia in the morning crying for “justice” for martial law victims. Cebu Mayor Tomas Osmeña told the protesters: “I will stand (with) you to my last breath.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 1, 2016)

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