'Cage of change' in Cavite only for drug users who voluntarily surrender

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(CNN Philippines) — The local government of Rosario, Cavite, is trying a novel means of temporarily detaining a drug dependent – literally cage the user.

Mayor Jose Ricafrente Jr. said Wednesday he introduced his “Cage of Change” as a way of stopping illegal drug use in his town. As the name suggests, drug users will be locked inside a cage for a short period.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Ricafrente said the cage was originally meant for stray animals. However, while it is not being used for its original purpose, he said he thought he might as well use the cage to temporarily hold drug users – but only those who voluntarily surrender or are turned in by family members.

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He said people can decide whether to be confined in a cage or not, unlike animals who will put up a fight to stay out.

"Kasi yung aso, cruelty to animals pa eh. Hindi mo naman pwede basta hulihin yung aso, ‘di ba?” the Mayor said.

[Translation: For dogs, that will be cruelty to animals. You cannot just snare a dog, right?]

Malalason pa o babalian ang aso bago makulong yun, ‘di ba? So sabi ko, kung voluntary na gusto ng magulang o ng kamag-anak, ng pinakamahal na asawa niya, dyan muna siya," he said.

[Translation: The dogs may have to be poisoned or their bones broken before they can be caged, right? That is why I said voluntary – that the parents or relatives, or their loving spouses may decide to let them stay there in the meantime.]

Watch: PDEA: 1 out of 5 barangays struggling with drugs

The police will not hold drug users who are not crime suspects, so Ricafrente said they may as well put them in the cage while waiting to get them into a rehabilitation program.

The wheeled cage, the size of a small van, is made of steel screen and is pulled by a vehicle. Suspects locked inside may be held for a week until they are transferred to a rehabilitation center. It will be parked at Isla Bonita, a beach resort in Cavite, Ricafrente said.

"Magagwardiyahan siya dun, kumpleto mga facilities natin dun.  Para sa gayon kahit walang masyadong pera yung tao - kahit mahirap lang - mabigyan natin ng sustenance, mapakain natin to bago dalhin siya sa rehabilitation center natin."

[Translation: He will be under watch in a place where we have complete facilities. That way, even if the person cannot afford it, we can give him sustenance – we will be able to feed him before bringing him to the rehabilitation center.]

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He explained that earlier on Wednesday, parents of a drug-dependent child went to him to ask for help.

"Ang sabi sakin, sabi raw ni hepe, two days lang, otherwise sasampahan nila ng kaso,” he said.

[Translation: They said that the (police) chief gave them two days, otherwise cases will be filed against the suspects.]

‘Cage of change’ cruel, inhumane

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said putting people in a cage for stray dogs is cruel and inhumane.


Commissioner Gwen Pimentel said this move against drug users is the same as public shaming.

“The act strips the person of his/her dignity as a human being, which should be respected and upheld at all times,” she said.

But Ricafrente said that unlike the “Walk of Shame” in Tanauan City, they do not intend to humiliate drug users. He said the detention will be temporary to detain people on drugs who may turn violent against their own family members or neighbors.

Ito ay (This is) a temporary measure in the public interest para sa gayon wag nang makagawa ng masama itong suspected drug addict na ito (so that the suspected drug user won’t be able to harm other people),” he said.

He said parents, siblings, and spouses of the drug users have come to him to ask authorities to hold their family members who are drug users temporarily before they are  brought to a rehabilitation center.

“So sa tingin ko walang violation ng human rights dito,” he said.

[Translation: So I don’t think there’s any violation of human rights here.]