In Baybay City, We Save the User and Jail the Pusher

80% of the cases faced by the residents of the Baybay City Jail are drug-related

The anti-illegal drugs campaign in the city of Baybay focus on saving the user and putting the pusher in jail.  And for the last 11 years, 67 pushers and users have been apprehended and filed with corresponding cases at the Regional Trial Court, Eight Judicial Region, Branch 14 in Baybay City, Leyte.

Based on available records, five (5) of these cases were dismissed due to lack of sufficient evidence to establish probable cause of the offense charged, while one (1) case was dismissed due to lack of legal jurisdiction.

This was revealed by PSUPT RAMIL N. AMODIA, Chief of Police of the Baybay City Police Station during the Kick-off Ceremony of the 2016 Drug Prevention and Control Week, on November 14, 2016, which was held at the Baybay City Gym.

PSUPT RAMIL N. AMODIA, Chief of Police of the Baybay City Police Station reported the accomplishments of the Baybay City LGU in relation to the War against Drugs. (Picture courtesy of Diane Nuñez of the City Information Office, Baybay City, Leyte)

And as a popular saying goes, “Knowledge is power”, the Police Community Relations Office and the City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) joint forces in the conduct of Information, Education and Campaign (IEC) activities among the different sectors of the society.  During the “Drugs Symposium”, the Salient Features of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165), the reasons why people turn to illegal drugs, the ill effects of drugs, the fines and penalties, and how each could help stop illegal drugs were discussed.

When President Rodrigo Duterte mandated the Philippine National Police (PNP) to implement PROJECT “TOKHANG”, 2,252 drug victims voluntarily surrendered themselves to the Baybay City Police Station and were categorized as users and pushers. Among the users, 6 are female minors, 133 are male minors, 60 are female adults and 2,041 are male adults. Among the pushers, on the other hand, the men (11) outnumbered the women (1).

          The City Mayor, Hon. Carmen L. Cari, immediately called for a meeting on how to handle the surrenderees.  The former Chief of Police, PSUPT CARLITO DE GUZMAN GALLARDO, suggested to conduct a physical activity thus, the first taebo exercise with the surrenderees was held on July 19, 2016 at the Veteran’s Plaza. This activity is being sustained by the Baybay City Police Station and is done every Saturday in the morning.

This was the first ever TAEBO EXERCISE with the drug surrenderees at the Veteran’s Plaza in Baybay City, Leyte.  Together with the surrenderees were the City Mayor, Hon. Carmen L. Cari, members of the Philippine National Police and the other officials of the City of Baybay. (Picture courtesy of Lyndee Chua of the City Information Office, Baybay City, Leyte)

The next day, July 20, 2016, Ms. Rogelette Urgel, the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) conducted a Drug Symposium at the Baybay City Gym with more than 500 drug surrenderees. And according to Ms. Urgel, “We are very happy that the Local Government Unit of Baybay spearheaded this activity.  So far, this is the first time that I conducted a Drug Symposium with drug surrenderees.  This is a very big help in our campaign against drug abuse and we are happy that the City of Baybay is a pilot of this kind of intervention which could be replicated in other places.”

PDEA Region 8’s PIO, Ms. Rogelette Urgel (the lady in green standing in front), explains to the drug surrenderees of Baybay City the effects of illegal drugs, not only to their health but also to their family and to the community where they belong. (Picture courtesy of Lyndee Chua of the City Information Office, Baybay City, Leyte)

A week after, Dr. Norberto Oja, Medical Officer of the City Health Office (CHO) in Baybay City, revealed that in a meeting called by the Department of Heath Regional Office 8, the latter revealed that all cities and capital towns in the country are mandated to establish a Day-time Therapeutic Community Center to accommodate the need to provide immediate interventions to the escalating number of drug surrenderees.

And with the able leadership of Dr. Oja, 585 drug dependents had already been assessed, with whom 96 turned out to belong to the high-risk category and needs immediate intervention.  Thus, City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) Officer Loreta Malabanan and Dr. Oja asked for the permission of Congressman Jose Carlos Cari of the 5th District of Leyte to use the newly-constructed Library of the City of Baybay for the purpose, for a period of six months, and the latter responded positively.

Ms. Malabanan and Dr. Oja presented the proposal to the Sangguniang Panlungsod, headed by the City Vice Mayor Michael L. Cari, for approval and for fund allocation.  The proposal was also approved by the City Mayor, Hon. Carmen L. Cari. Ten (10) CHO and CSWDO personnel were immediately sent to the SALAG (Saving Lives at a Common Ground) Rehabilitation Center in Dulag, Leyte for immersion while the City Engineering Office and the General Services Office personnel converted the New Baybay City Library into the Baybay City Day-time Therapeutic Community Center.

Finally, on November 14, 2016, the Baybay City Day-time Therapeutic Community Center was launched but the therapy of the twenty-one (21) residents started on November 21, 2016.

Dr. Teresita Caneja, Chief of Hospital of the Department of Health Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (DOH-TRC) in Dulag, Leyte, in her message said that, “Drug addiction is not without redemption.  You can always go back to what you are but the decision to change must come from you (the drug surrenderees).” (Picture courtesy of Diane of the City Information Office, Baybay City, Leyte)

After more than a month of exposure to the day-time therapeutic community center activities, the once fierce-looking individuals had turned into jolly happy souls. And during her inspirational message, tears fell from the eyes of the residents and their loved ones as the City Mayor said, “We are doing this because we love you!”

In an interview with one of the residents, he said, “There has been a very big change in our lives here at the day-time therapeutic community center. Here, we let go of our vices and we have become responsible persons.  Outside of the center, we felt doomed but here we found hope. Here in the center, we are taught to become better persons so that by the time that the therapy ends, it would be easier for us to go back to the community where we belong.  I never thought that there is such a government program that cares for drug dependents like us. Thus, I call on the other drug dependents to join us here at the Baybay City Day-time Therapeutic Community Center where there is hope for people like us.”

The residents of the Baybay City Day-time Therapeutic Community Center played “Paper Dance” during their Christmas Party on December 22, 2016.  (Picture courtesy of Diane Nuñez of the City Information Office, Baybay City, Leyte)

In his message, on the other hand, Dr. Oja said that the greatest challenge of these residents, when they graduate from the day-time therapeutic community center, is that they will then become Resource Persons for the other drug dependents who had second thoughts of enrolling with the therapeutic center.

Now that the Christmas Season has ended, the 21 residents of the Baybay City Day-time Therapeutic Community Center are back to their daily routine.  And as an incentive to complete the whole week’s sessions, aside from the fact that they are fetched and conducted daily,  the residents are given ten (10) kilos of rice every Friday afternoon before they are conducted back home. (Marissa Miguel Cano, City Information Officer III)