WHAT WENT BEFORE: Fort Magsaysay drug rehab center
MANILA, Philipines — In November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte opened the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (MDATRC) at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province as part of the administration’s efforts to provide a health component for his war on drugs.
The 10,000-bed center was to be made available to some of the 700,000 drug users who had turned themselves in at the time under “Oplan Tokhang” of the Philippine National Police.
Huang Rulun, a Chinese real estate tycoon, donated P1.4 billion for the construction of the center in support of President Duterte’s antidrug campaign.
But months after the center’s opening, only a handful of addicts had been treated, prompting the Supreme Court to direct all lower court judges to issue commitment orders for arrested drug suspects to MDATRC.
The Department of Health clarified that only those who volunteer for rehabilitation were qualified for admission, and that drug dependents with criminal records could not be accommodated there for security reasons.
In November 2017, then Dangerous Drugs Board Chair Dionisio Santiago, a retired military chief of staff, was forced to resign by the President, who was irked by his remarks that the MDATRC was “a mistake” because it was impractical.
Santiago said a community-based rehabilitation program for drug users would be more effective than the “megadrug rehab” center, pointing out that a family support system was vital to the recovery of drug users.
In November last year, at least 40 employees, including 25 psychometricians or case managers, resigned due to delayed wages. As a result, each of those who stayed had to oversee 50 residents, or double the ideal number of cases for handling.—Inquirer Research
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