Some 700 ex-drug dependents graduate from QC rehab program

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 20) — The upcoming New Year is a new start for some 700 former drug dependents in Quezon City, as they graduated from the local government's drug rehabilitation program on Wednesday.

Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte said through the "Katatagan Kontra Droga sa Komunidad" (KKDK) program, the government will help the graduates find jobs so they do not relapse into using illegal drugs again.

"We consider it very successful kasi meron din tayong programang pangkabuhayan ang ating nag-graduate...So far wala pa kaming namomonitor na relapse doon sa mga nag-graduate at naipasok natin sa trabaho," Belmonte said.

[Translation: We consider it very successful because we also have livelihood programs for our graduates. So far, we have not monitored any working graduate who relapsed.]

KKDK, launched in 2016, is a community-based rehabilitation program involving weekly counseling sessions for drug dependents who want to overcome their addiction.

Over 2,000 former drug dependents have graduated from the program.

With the aid of counselors, the participants go through 15 modules designed by the Psychological Association of the Philippines tackling the reasons for their drug use and how to handle cravings, among others.

Each session takes place in barangay health or activity centers and lasts for three hours, while the entire program spans anywhere from three months to 18 months, depending on the participant's schedule.

Among the new graduates was Susana Celestino, a former drug runner and user who surrendered to authorities in June and eventually underwent rehabilitation.

"Yung mga pamilya ko nawalan ng tiwala sa akin, tapos yung sa mga anak ko lumalayo...Sa ngayon naka-graduate kami sa ganitong sitwasyon, parang maginhawa, masarap. Kahit maglakad ka sa kalsada, sa pamilya lumapit ka, hindi ka tatanggihan," Celestino said.

[Translation: My family lost trust in me, and my children were drifting away from me...Now, we have graduated from that situation, it's a really good feeling. Even if you walk down the streets, or you come to your family, they won't ask you to go away.]

Quezon City police chief Guillermo Eleazar said KKDK shows that the government's priority is to rehabilitate drug addicts, instead of conducting operations against them.

"Napakahalaga nito dahil dito natin nakikita na ang solusyon sa droga ay di lamang police operation. Bigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon through prevention and rehabilitation," Eleazar said.

[Translation: This is really important because we see that police operations are not the only solution to the drug problem. We should give them a chance through prevention and rehabilitation.]

The war against illegal drugs has been Duterte's main platform even before his presidency.

Shortly after Duterte took office, the PNP enforced "Oplan Tokhang" and "Oplan Double Barrel," cracking down on drug personalities nationwide.

The anti-drug operations were heavily criticized due to alleged extrajudicial killings, including those of slain teens Kian Delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynaldo de Guzman.

READ: Duterte gives PDEA lead role in drug war

On October 11, Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead role in the war on illegal drugs, instead of the PNP.

However, the President mentioned on several occasions that he wanted the police to return actively to the anti-drug campaign, which he eventually did on December 6.

READ: Duterte allows police to go back to drug war

Police data showed that from July 31, 2016 to October 10, 2017, over 1.26 million drug personalities have surrendered to the police, including about 50,000 minors

It added the operations resulted in the death of 3,933 drug personalities and 80 uniformed men, while 238 others were injured.