Beating illegal drugs through education in the Duterte presidency

According to President Rodrigo Duterte, we are at the brink of becoming a narco-political state. This was his warning to the country as soon as he was sworn in to the top position of the country. He wasted no time in drilling down to the core problem of illegal drugs as it was his pronouncement to totally eradicate, or at the very least suppress it in 3 to 6 months. Just a day ago, he named 5 PNP generals who were involved or protected certain groups involved in the local drug trade. It came as a shocker to everyone, but it will surely not be the last.

Helping the President eradicate this deeply rooted problem is his appointed PNP Chief, Roland “Bato” Dela Rosa. The tough-looking chief immediately got a 4-star promotion from his 1-star rank. Both men have gone a long way fighting crime and drugs in Davao. And now, they are doing it for the whole country.

Busting drugs through education

Speaking of dela Rosa, he was present during the turnover ceremony of the Department of Education along with newly elected Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, the former Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) head. Their presence was duly acknowledged by the new DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones and outgoing Secretary Br. Armin Luistro. With more than a hundred present in the Bulwagan ng Karunungan of the DepEd, Briones had the first chance to address the Department as the new DepEd Secretary. She pointed out the priority of President Duterte to eradicate or at the very least, suppress illegal drugs and criminality in the country. And she wants the DepEd to do its part by educating the youth on drugs and drug addiction. Briones noted that despite having a topic on illegal drugs in the K to 12 curriculum, it was focused on its scientific aspects and misses out on the practical side. Briones wanted students as early as Grade 4, to be able to identify a drug pusher and know how to respond or who to report to when they encounter one, especially when they are offered to buy illegal drugs. The presence of dela Rosa and Lacson emphasized Briones’ point, as they were the ones who witnessed the turnover of the DepEd seal and Transition Report. Both were open to act as resource speakers through the invitation of the Secretary herself.

Drugs and minors

In narcotics-infested countries (like in some Latin American countries that the Pesident himself noted), drugs have become so influential that families run the drug trades themselves, and it involves their children. The late Griselda Blanco for example, notoriously known as Colombia’s drug queen (aka the Godmother, La Viuda Negra, La Madrina), was exposed to the drug trade as early as 11 years old. It had become her world, so much so that she had turned it into her empire. She died in a drug-related encounter in 2012. In our country, minors are already exposed to drugs and the drug trade. Some affluent children, aged 12 to 15, were tested positive for drugs after the Close Up Forever Summer Event that left 5 people dead. The horrific tragedy was masked by the hype stirred up by the events organizer, luring the youth to engage in a YOLO-kind of event. It was such a baffling situation as to why minors, liquor (which carried no permit to sell in the event), and drugs made it inside the concert grounds. If YOLO means taking drugs and alcohol, then there should be no more Forever Summer events like these. And the problem of youth and drugs has already been going on for a long time. In 2012, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported an alarming increase of minors getting involved in the illegal drug trade. According to the report, “there is an alarming increase in the use of minors as couriers, runners and drug peddlers. It also appears that drug traffickers are targeting children of considerably younger age bracket. In fact, there was one incident in 2012 where a 1-year-old baby was used to conceal shabu being trafficked.” The report also added, “Solvents and other inhalants are also a preference and are usually abused by street children.” The use of minors as drug couriers is something that is also prevalent in the borders of Mexico and the United States. Shabu crystals have been hidden in their stuffed toys, inconspicuous objects like baby formula, and almost anything that will smuggle illegal drugs across the borders. In our country’s case, children are used as couriers as they could not really be imprisoned due to the current laws that protect their welfare. In this case, the law was used to abuse. Street children on the other hand, have such easy access to a common binding agent called rugby glue. These solvents could easily be bought in makeshift hardware stores, alarmingly, even in small packets worth PhP5 (not in bottles) as if the real intent was to satisfy the addiction of these kids. And solvents have the power to suppress someone’s feeling of hunger.

Helping the youth against drugs

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) under the Office of the President has collaborated with different government agencies including the PNP, DepEd, and DSWD to direct the youth away from illegal drugs. One key program is the National Drug Education Program (NDEP) done with the Department of Education. The NDEP is done in compliance with the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Strengthened through DepEd Order No. 12, 2009, there are 5 key components involved in the implementation of NDEP:

  1. curriculum and instruction
  2. co-curricular and ancillary services
  3. teacher/staff development
  4. parent education and community outreach
  5. research, evaluation, and monitoring.

School heads are required to oversee the successful implementation of the program and to ensure that the campaign against illegal drugs are made aware to all students. Other supporting programs of the DDB include:

  1. Barkada Kontra Droga (BKD). A peer-based preventive education and information program that aims to promote a healthy lifestyle free from drug addiction. DDB reported more than 50,000 members across 251 BKD chapters nationwide.
  2. National Youth Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control. An annual 3-day congress that orients the youth on how to move away from drug use. More than 2,000 youth leaders have participated since 2002 according to DDB.
  3. Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). A program spearheaded by the PNP where 156 DARE police officers conduct classes and seminars to Grades 5 and 6 pupils on the dangers of illegal drugs and how to avoid them.

With barely 2 weeks in office, President Duterte has managed to have drug pushers and addicts surrender to the police. At the same time, he has dropped the bomb on 5 generals, while PNP Chief dela Rosa reassigns dozens of his erring policemen to Mindanao. But stopping illegal drugs must start from the roots. And the roots are right at the doorstep of DepEd where Sec. Briones will definitely keep watch.