WHAT shall we do with the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts who have surrendered to the police for fear that they may be killed in the ongoing anti-drugs campaign of the administration? When he Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights began its inquiry a month ago, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, reported that some 670,000 drug users and pushers had already yielded to authorities, while over 11,000 had been arrested, and nearly 2,000 killed.
The figures have since gone up considerably. The death toll has now exceeded 3,000. President Duterte cited this figure when he said before Filipinos in Hanoi, Vietnam, that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the Philippines “to save the next generation from perdition.”
The President’s remarks drew world attention at that time because he mentioned Nazi Germany’s Hitler as one who massacred three million Jews in World War II. He has since apologized to the members of the Jewish community in the Philippines, saying he was just citing the three-million figure in relation to the three million drug addicts he believes the Philippines has today.
What should concern us is what we must now do with these addicts. Their addiction is a problem to them; they cannot give it up by themselves. They need rehabilitation help. Drug addiction has such a disruptive effect on the brain and on behavior that only medication-assisted treatment can lead to recovery.
Today there are only about 60 government rehabilitation centers in the Philippines, with monthly fees ranging from P5,000 to P10,000. Privately owned centers charge more – P10,000 to P100,000 a month. Multiply these costs by the number of addicts we now have and the result is in the billions of pesos.
A bill has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Vicente Sotto to accredit new rehabilitation centers and make drug addicts beneficiaries of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Philhealth President Alex Padilla in turn cited the big problem of funding. If there are 1.7 million drug dependents, he said, P30,000 is needed for each of them.
Last week, a survey was conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on the people’s opinions on a variety of subjects afer 100 days of the Duterte administration. In the survey, 84 percent said they were “satisfied,” with his campaign on drugs. At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said it was “very important” that drug suspects be caught alive.
This reflects Filipinos’ concern for life, even that of a drug addict or pusher. If there are indeed three million addicts in the country today, leaving them to fend for themselves and perhaps die from their addiction would not be welcomed by most of the Filipino people. A rehabilitation program is a must and the government should try its best to have one, with help from civic, religious, and other community organizations.