Rubouts Are Out, Rehab Is In

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For Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, the war on illegal drugs will not stop, it will be merely refocused.

We know the previous administration took an unequivocal and consistent stand against the drug menace with its marching order for the police to “kill, kill, kill” drug traffickers, whether big-time or the street-level variety, even just drug users caught with a gram or two of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” on their person.

The police claim that some 6,200 drug suspects were killed in the 6-year war on drugs launched by Rodrigo Duterte from 2016 to 2022 because they fought back when accosted by operatives.

But human rights groups claim that as many as 20,000 to 30,000 were summarily executed by unknown assailants in what has been described as extrajudicial killings or EJKs.

This is the reason Duterte and his police chiefs then are now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

To its credit, the Marcos administration has shifted the focus of its intensified campaign against illegal drugs by reducing demand and rehabilitating users under a program called “Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan” or BIDA.

The BIDA approach does not mean, however, that law enforcers will henceforth stop going after drug pushers and big-time drug personalities.

Abalos’ message, delivered during the launch of the government’s new anti-illegal drugs campaign, has been loud and clear: “To the drug pushers: we will send you to jail. We will enforce the law and fill the jails with the likes of you who destroy the future of our youth and families.”

To those who want to turn over a new leaf, Abalos gave the assurance that the government is ready to help them so they can lead productive and drug-free lives in the mainstream of society.

Abalos said the anti-drugs campaign under the Marcos administration will implement a different approach that will work within the framework of the law, respect human rights and focus on rehabilitation and socioeconomic development.

“The challenge is to get to the root of the drug problem. Under BIDA, we will involve the grassroots and not only the police and other law enforcement units,” he said.

BIDA will also involve families, schools and the church in keeping the youth away from illegal drug use.

Barangays will also take an active role in identifying the drug users in their area and convince them to undergo rehabilitation.

On the part of the police, PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said they will be “observing different approaches in our drug campaign to minimize, if not avoid, armed confrontations.”

Will the new approach to solving the drug menace work? Let’s hope it does, and does get results soon.

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