A TOTAL of 12 drug offender surrenderees who successfully completed a three-month community rehabilitation program through the local government unit’s ‘Balay Silangan’ were showcased and presented to Municipal Mayor Rommel Arnado, local officials and employees during the flag raising ceremony, Novemner 18, in the municipality of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte.
The graduates comprise the third batch of successful participants of the local government-run program which opened October 2018. Since its inception, a total of 50 drug offenders have already completed the program who are now delisted from the drug offenders list maintained by the Philippine National Police and the LGU.
As part of the reintegration process, the LGU provides guaranteed work for the graduates who are locals of Kauswagan and continues to monitor their progress outside the program. While confined in Balay Silangan, participants undergo a structure and intensive community rehabilitation program with the goal of getting rid of their addiction to illegal drugs and other substances for a period of 90 days.
‘Balay Silangan,’ the national drug reformation program established by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in January 2018 and nationally implemented with the PNP and host LGUs, is a temporary refuge with the objective of reforming drug offenders into self-sufficient and law-abiding members of society.
Prior to the Balay Silangan launch, Kauswagan was already running a youth reformatory center for drug offenders where confined beneficiaries undergo a boot camp for discipline and values formation since 2016.
In October 2018, the LGU converted its reformatory center into a Balay Silangan facility to comply with the PDEA requirement for LGUs. It became the first operational LGU-run rehabilitation and recovery center in northern Mindanao.
The Balay Silangan program in Kauswagan provides services to drug offenders who surrendered to authorities such as continuing education and health awareness, psychological, spiritual and physical activities, counseling, moral recovery, values formation, personal and life skills, among others. Likewise, national government agencies implement programs and services that seek to enhance education and livelihood skills of participants.
A series of lectures on farming, agriculture, electrical skills, alternative learning system, among others, are regularly conducted in the confinement period. During such time, participants are not allowed to contact their families and the outside world and are required to adhere to discipline and values-based regulations, sanctions, and activities.
Primarily, the rehabilitation process in Balay Silangan utilizes therapeutic community and narcotics anonymous following the 12-Step Recovery Program involving acceptance, decision making, fearless moral inventory, readiness, making direct amendments, and spiritual awakening, among others.
Between October and November 2019, at least five LGUs from different provinces in Mindanao have visited the municipality’s Balay Silangan facility to establish benchmarks and learn from its operational, administrative, management, and financial processes.
While several LGUs are eager to install their own Balay Silangan facilities, a lot of them have faced challenges in terms of facility availability and funding requirements.
A group of municipal officers and employees from the town of Nasipit in Agusan del Norte visited the program site, November 15 and acquired planning and execution knowledge on running the facility.
Today, a group from LGU Baroy came for dialogue and sharing of best practices with Arnado. Earlier last week, another group from Camiguin Provincial Government also came.
Due to the successful management of Kauswagan’s Balay Silangan Center, the PDEA and PNP have started informing other LGUs in the area and nearby provinces and regions to take a look and see the example set by Kauswagan in terms of successful and effective implementation of the program.
“We are very thankful that we came to visit Kauswagan and we can see how the LGU and the mayor’s leadership have contributed to the successful execution of this program. We are inspired by Mayor Arnado’s political will and strategy and we hope to replicate these efforts in Nasipit,” said Lawyer Mary Christine Anthonette Salise-Punzalan, Municipal Local Government Operations officer of Nasipit town.
For his part, Arnado relies on the commitment of national and local stakeholders in the successful implementation of Balay Silangan services. Likewise, he hopes that the beneficiaries who undergo the community rehabilitation program will successfully lead better lives after their incubation and confinement in the facility.
“These drug offenders need to be incubated and for them to adapt to new values and a new life after the program. They are victims and they need to be fully supported by the government,” said Arnado.
“The success of Balay Silangan in Kauswagan is an indication that the program may become effective and successful if the LGU takes the lead in the full execution of its services. For the drug problem in the Philippines to be resolved, such efforts and commitment in the community is really necessary,” he added. (By Recthie T. Paculba)