How a La Union town transforms drug surrenderers into productive citizens

Rappler.com
How a La Union town transforms drug surrenderers into productive citizens
In La Union, a town helps former drug dependents to renew their lives and become microentrepreneurs after rehabilitation

This is a press release from Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Finding jobs and securing gainful employment after undergoing rehabilitation can be challenging for recovering drug personalities (RDPs). Some have “spotty” work histories, while others have criminal records—lowering their chances of being considered for jobs by prospective employers due to the social stigma attached to being former drug dependents. Unemployment then becomes a reason for relapse with drug surrenderers, going back to the vicious cycle they were once at. 

This is why it is very important for RDPs to be provided not just with rehabilitation services, but also skills training and livelihood assistance to help them secure gainful employment or establish a steady source of income that would aid in their full recovery.

The municipality of Santol, La Union understands the plight of RDPs, especially when it comes to finding jobs and obtaining sources of livelihood after rehabilitation.

Following the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Yakap Bayan Framework of Intervention, the town has helped its RDPs renew their lives, transforming them into productive members of society, specifically, as microentrepreneurs.

The “Katipuneros” of Santol

In Santol, RDPs undergoing community-based rehabilitation program are called “Katipuneros,” a term referring to the members of the Philippine revolutionary society Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang, Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Katipunan).

The surrenderers were called as such because, similar to the Katipuneros of Katipunan, they are fighting a battle—a fight against the effects of illegal drugs in their lives.

The Katipuneros undergo rehabilitation at the Itigil at Talikuran Na ang Droga, Ngayon Na! (ITAN) Reflection Camp, which was established by the local government unit in 2017.

ITAN Reflection Camp has been following DSWD’s Yakap Bayan Framework in providing aftercare and reintegration services to former drug dependents in the town.

Yakap Bayan is an inter-agency collaborative framework which weaves together all existing government programs, projects, resources, and activities in order to create a holistic and sustainable approach for the rehabilitation, aftercare, reintegration, and provision of support services for RDPs. It aims to capacitate RDPs and turn them into active and productive members of society, specifically, as leaders in their communities.

Livelihood support

Part of the reintegration program implemented by the LGU of Santol is the provision of capital assistance to RDPs who underwent various skills training to help them start or improve their chosen income-generating activities.

In April 2018, DSWD Field Office I, through its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), granted a total of P158,000 seed capital fund to the 65 members of Pagsadagan nga Agturong Raniag ken Ekonomiya (PARE) SLP Association, which is composed of RDPs who underwent rehabilitation in the town. 

The grant helped fund the association’s various projects, including furniture and soft broom making, bonsai beads making, and barako coffee and food processing projects.

“Maraming binigay na training sa amin sa loob ng anim na buwan, pero mas pinili ko ang furniture making dahil marami akong tanim na mga puno. Gusto ko, ako mismo ang gumawa at magbenta,” said Cardo (not his real name), a RDP from Baranagay Mangaan. 

(We were provided with various trainings within six months, but I chose furniture making because I have a lot of trees. I want to be the one to make and sell the furniture)

Cardo now earns a steady income by supplying furniture goods to April Joy Home Decors and Furniture, one of the biggest furniture retailers in the Ilocos Region. He has also been able to employ his fellow RDPs as furniture makers in his budding business.

Eliza Olario, a former marijuana courier and among the beneficiaries of the seed capital fund provided by DSWD, now makes and sells banana chips. Eliza earns a daily average income of P200, which, she said, is a great help to augment the daily needs of her family.

But more than the livelihood support extended to her, Eliza is thankful for the rehabilitation program for the peace of mind it brought her and for making her realize the value of her family. 

“Pagkatapos ng anim na buwan na paglalagi sa camp at noong maka-graduate kami, maayos na ang tulog ko. Nayayakap ko na ang mga anak ko. Naisip ko na kawawa sila kung nahuli ako. Hindi ko na sila mayayakap nang ganun,” Eliza shared.

(After six months of staying in the camp and after we graduated, I could now sleep well and hug my children. I thought I would never be able to hug them again had I been caught.)

According to Eliza, it is poverty that forced her to engage in the selling of marijuana.

Wala kaming alam na pagkakakitaan na magbibigay sa aming pamilya ng malaking kita maliban sa pagtatanim at pagde-deliver ng marijuana,” she shared.

(We did not know of any other livelihood that could give our families high income except marijuana planting and delivery.)

The 53-year-old recounted that she was apprehensive to surrender to authorities at first, but she thanked DSWD and the local government of Santol for helping her renew her life and obtain a decent source of livelihood with good income.

Like Eliza, Cardo was also hesitant at first, as he did not know what kind of rehabilitation program he would be undergoing.

“Pero sa huli ay naintindihan din namin na hindi lang payo kundi training para may mapagkakitaan, gaya ng furniture making na pinili ko (In the end, we understood that we would be given not just advice and guidance, but also livelihood trainings, just like the furniture-making skills training that I chose),” he said. 

Cardo said he is thankful to all those who supported him and his fellow Katipuneros in changing their lives for the better.

Together with the LGU of Santol, DSWD continues to monitor the progress of the livelihood projects implemented by the RDPs, provide additional technical assistance, and assist in the marketing of their products.

The local government also recently opened a Negosyo Center in its Municipal Hall to promote the town’s products to visitors and to continuously provide means of livelihood to local product makers, including the PARE SLP Association. – Rappler.com

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