MANILA — The House of Representatives has expressed to support the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users in the country which is part of the Duterte government’s overall program to eradicate the illegal drugs problem.
The assurance was made by Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte), chairman of the 13th Meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly Fact Finding Committee (AIFOCOM) to Combat the Drug Menace and the House committee on dangerous drugs, during the visit of the AIFOCOM delegates to the DOH-Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (TRC) in Tagaytay City last Friday.
“Congress will provide funding assistance to the DOH-TRC and the other treatment and rehabilitation centers of the DOH. In fact, every budget hearing, we make sure the DOH rehabilitation and treatment centers are well-funded. We make sure their budgets are enough to sustain the necessary funding requirement of their operations. Yun ang gusto namin para hindi naman sila hirap,” said Barbers.
During the visit, the AIFOCOM delegates met the patients and officials of the DOH-TRC led by its chief Dr. Ronnie del Mundo.
Barbers said the House will wait for Del Mundo to submit the budgetary needs of the facility.
“We are always willing to support the DOH program to help in the rehabilitation and treatment of drug users because we do not view drug users as criminals but as persons who are sick and need to be treated. Walang pinagkaiba sa taong may sakit na dapat gamutin. Para magamot mo yan, kailangan bigyan mo ng tamang gamot. Yan ang pananaw namin dyan,” said Barbers.
“Kami naman lagi naming sinusuportahan ung budget ng treatment and rehab centers. Basta humingi ang DOH binibigyan namin because we know na napupunta naman siya sa ganitong programa. So dapat lang. Kung kinakailangang dagdagan dahil sa programang gusto nilang gawin na makakatulong sa rehabilitation bakit hindi,” said Barbers.
Based on their ocular inspection, Barbers said there is a need to put up additional facilities for the DOH-TRC in Tagaytay City. He said patients in the facility are fortunate to have comfortable beds, electric fans and concrete rooms. “Kung ikukumpara natin ang rehab center na ito dun sa pinakita ng ibang bansa, aba malayo ito. Duon maliit lang yung higaan, hindi sementado (ung sahig), hindi naka-tiles, lupa nga eh. Tapos ung dingding parang dahon, parang sawali,” said Barbers.
Del Mundo said they used to work with an annual budget of PHP22 million for the Tagaytay DOH-TRC, but when they learned about how to utilize well the funding, the DOH gave the center more. The PHP22 million excludes capital outlay for the salaries of their staff, said Del Mundo.
“The rule would still be, from Health Secretary Ubial herself, you spend well, we will give you more,” said Del Mundo.
Del Mundo, said there are 300 all-male patients presently undergoing rehabilitation at the Tagaytay DOH-TRC, coming from the northern to the southern parts of the country. He said the Center makes sure the staff members are competent and up to the job.
“It reflects on our management. We do not compete with other rehabilitation centers because what’s the point, we all have the same purpose. We give them (patients) the best practices that we have and we share these with other rehabilitation centers,” said Del Mundo.
The DOH-TRC, Tagaytay City is the pioneer Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines which originally had 20 drug dependent-patients. It has grown into a complex treatment and rehabilitation center with an Authorized Bed Capacity (ABC) of 300 patients. Its mission is to re-integrate into society individuals who have fallen victims to drug abuse through sustainable programs of treatment and rehabilitation.
Its facilities include the administrative building, six patient’s dormitories, seven staff quarters, isolation room, disciplinary cell, medical clinic, a staff commissary, pavilion, conference room and a multi-purpose hall.
The DOH-TRC Tagaytay was originally the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-TRC which was created under Republic Act No. 6425, constituting it as the nucleus of the centers created, authorized or accredited by the Dangerous Drugs Board. In 1965, the NBI received a donation of a four-hectare lot located at 56 kilometer south of Manila, now known as Tagaytay City.
Del Mundo said the Center presently has 144 staff serving 300 patients. These include nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors, among others.
“They go to training almost every other month. I make sure there is budget for training because if I take care of my staff, they also take care of the patients. And the more we spend better the budget, the more they (DOH) give us funding,” said Del Mundo.
Meanwhile, Barbers said their visit to the DOH-TRC made them realize that there are drug users in the country who really want to change and reform. “They can take advantage of government programs like this, and hopefully when they leave the center their self-reformation is genuine because there are a lot of opportunities that await them,” said Barbers.
Barbers, along with AIFOCOM Secretary Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento (1st District, Samar) and Rep. Rosemarie Arenas (3rd District, Pangasinan), chairperson of the House committee on interparliamentary relations and diplomacy, encouraged the patients to take seriously their rehabilitation program so they can soon go back to their families and start a new life.
Barbers said the drug problem is not confined in the country. The AIFOCOM Meeting showed the delegates that all ASEAN countries are dealing with the illegal drugs problem, he said.
“Kapag may droga, mataas ang porsyento ng krimen. Halos lahat ng nagko-commit ng krimen under the influence of substance abuse. Ayaw naman natin na maging biktima yung mga anak natin ng krimen dala ng isang drug addict na di niya alam yung ginagawa niya,” said Barbers.
Barbers said the 13th Meeting of the AIFOCOM in the country was a successful conference. In fact, the exchange of information, strategies, and best practices among the 10-member ASEAN will certainly help in the fight against drugs according to him.
The country reports helped the ASEAN lawmakers understand the magnitude of the drug problem in the region, he said. “These and our discussions are relevant basis in harmonizing our work in our fight against illegal,” said Barbers.