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QC unprepared for mass surrender of druggies

Drug suspects in Quezon City have been turning themselves in by the dozens, presenting a big problem to city officials who were caught off-guard by the mass surrender.

As of yesterday, more than a thousand drug pushers and dependents trooped to police stations to signify their intentions to submit themselves for rehabilitation.

It was the result of the QC Police District’s “Oplan Katok at Pakiusap” campaign launched even before President Duterte was sworn into office.

The drug offenders were assured of amnesty, rehabilitation and livelihood training.

However, many of them were told to return home under the supervision of barangay officials because they could not be accommodated to the city’s rehabilitation centers.

The city’s lone center, the 25-year-old QC Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center known as “Tahanan” in Barangay Payatas, only has a 150-bed capacity.

The big turnout was unexpected that the police ran out of testing kits.

QCPD deputy director for administration Senior Supt. Joselito Esquivel said more than half of those who surrendered were not tested.

“Ang halaga ng isang kit is P55. Medyo may pagkamahalan. So that’s more than P55,000 for the drug test alone. Eh, marami pang sumusuko,” Esquivel said, adding they are still awaiting for more supplies.

On Wednesday, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Bemonte blamed the police for not coordinating their anti-drug campaign with city hall.

“Surprisingly, hindi nila kami nasabihan ahead na may ganitong klase na operation. So we were not able to really prepare for it,” said Belmonte who chairs the Quezon City Anti-Illegal Drug Abuse Advisory Council (CADAAC).

All of 438 tested were positive for drug use, but Belmonte said that only 283 returned for drug dependency evaluation (DDE).

DDEs are meant to determine the degree of one’s dependency on drugs and the kind of the intervention he/she needs:

whether it be counseling, rehabilitation, and psychiatric treatment for worst cases.

After the DDEs conducted June 30-July 5, Belmonte said 185 of them were recommended for counseling, 70 for rehabilitation and one for psychiatric remedy at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong.

Twenty-seven, meanwhile, still need to undergo further assessment.

The vice mayor said they are now working closely with the QCPD and barangay officials to convince those who did not return for evaluation to do so as soon as possible, “before another batch of surrenderees are rounded up.”

QC Mayor Herbert Bautista said allayed fears that the drug suspects may return to their old ways.

“May blotter naman, eh, di na makakakilos ’yun…They’re being monitored by the barangay. That’s the administrative function of the barangay officials,” Bautista said.

Bautista said the mass surrender should raise a red flag for the national and local government to invest on more public rehabilitation centers.

He said the local government is now considering to develop Tahanan into a huge drug and crime rehabilitation complex where drug users, children in conflict with law, those with human immunodeficiency virus, and those abandoned will have buildings of their own.

Currently, there are about 10 private-owned rehabilitation centers in QC, which require a minimum fee of P10,000 a month — costs which the poor cannot sustain.

“It’s quite a big investment. Kasi di lang naman ’yung facilities kundi ’yung psychiatrist, mga peer facilitators, marami pa. And it’s not just about, pag nirehab ka, okay na. Meron pang another six months na imomonitor mo kung siya ay magba-backslide pa,” Bautista said.

The mayor said that skills training through TESDA and alternative learning system (ALS) are always available for those in need especially to those who submit themselves to the government. (VANNE TERRAZOLA)

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