Under Kidapawan rehab program, druggies now live normal, happy lives
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Under the “Balik Pangarap Program,” 1,082 former drug personalities are now living normal lives with their loved ones in various communities of Kidapawan City’s 40 villages, Joel Aguirre, program coordinator and former drug dependent, said of the programa launched in August last year.
“They are now transformed individuals. They are now busy working in the farm to sustained the needs of their respective families,” Aguirre said.
Called as “Recovering Drug Dependents” (RDDs), Aguirre said they are now working as rubber tappers or caretakers of rubber plantations.
Others are working at the Kidapawan City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) food for work program who were randomly picked up and given a daily compensation of P230 for a 10-day work that include cleaning of drainage canals and river banks.
Aguirre said these former drug personalities are being closely watched to ensure they will not revert back to their old ways.
A tracking team was formed to monitor the activities of RDDs while under the city’s rehabilitation program.
Mayor Joseph Evangelista believed those who chose the right way must be closely watch, monitored to sustain the noble motive of Balik Pangarap program.
He offered a five hectare relocation site in Barangay Sudapen as “Gulayan” project site to provide RDDs with permanent source of income.
Land preparations are underway in the relocation site, including putting up of shanties that will house gardeners.
“They have nothing to worry about the vegetable seeds, our city agriculture will provide them various seeds. If they are worry because the site is far from their residence, we have dump trucks that will ferry them to and from their houses,” Evangelista said.
Mayor Evangelista said the road towards success of the campaign against illegal drugs in Kidapawan City is very tough since there are some RDD’s who doubted the program.
He said some RDDs fear they might be “silenced” by their former comrades who are still active in illegal drug activities for naming them before authorities.
Evangelista assured them of their safety provided they will do away with illegal activities for good and sustain programs under “Balik Pangarap” program.
“I even gave them my personal number and instructed them to call me anytime in case they are threatened,” the mayor said.
The city government also tapped the expertise of Narcotics Anonymous, a psychology department of Kidapawan Doctors’ College and Neuro-psychiatrists for further monitoring and intervention of RDDs.
The same office will declare and issue certification that the patient has fully recovered and reformed, he said.
A baller marked with “Balik Pangarap Survivor ako” is given to every RDD who successfully finished the six-month therapy.
About 300 of them have been declared to have been successfully “recovered” and “reformed.”
A five-day sports event dubbed “Pagbag-Olympics” gathered the RDDS while every Thursdays they gathered at the city plaza for “zumba” sessions.
Aguirre said some members of Kidapawan City police officers, who in the past were hunting drug personalities, are now dancing Zumba with the “hunted.”
To complete the rehabilitation, RDDs were given spiritual intervention through Parish Renewal Experiences (PREX) of Kidapawan diocese.
Fr. Desederio Balatero of Kidapawan diocese said the RDDs, as “lost sheeps,” they have all the opportunity to reform and deepen their faith.
Sukarno Bagundang, 31 years old, self-confessed illegal drug pusher for seven years, was among the surrenderees who survived the 6-month rehab program. “The first two months was a struggle,” Bagundang said in Filipino of his journey. “But as months go by, things became easy and I love it.”
He admitted that during the entire time he was hooked to drugs, life was full of threats and dangers, highlighted by his daring escape by leaping off Nuangan river while fleeing police anti-drug operation in his home.
“Shabu comes with easy money,” he said in Filipino. “Yet I have no peace of mind. Fears of getting arrested always hound me,” Bagundang recalled.
“Though the stigma is there, but thanks because with the help of the Balik Pangarap program, my neighbors now start to trust me once again and accepted me in our community,” Bagundang, a Maguindanaon, said.
Roel Dumanig, 41, a drug user for 15 years, have the same story, that is always running away from the law.
“Thank you, Balik Pangarap na talaga ako. Thank you mayor Evangelista for giving us chance to live normal lives in our respective communities,” Dumanig said in vernacular.
Supt Leo Ajero, Kidapawan City police director, since the intensified police anti-drug campaign late last year, only one drug personality was killed after he violently resisted arrest.
Arrested during anti-drug operation led to the arrest of drug personalities who are not city residents, he added.
Come August 8, RDDs will gather to commemorate the first year anniversary of Balik Pangarap program, their gateway to better lives. (Williamor A. Magbanua)
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