Adopt an addict

>> Tuesday, January 3, 2017

By Jose Ma. Montelibano 

When it comes to statements from our President, I tend to take things literally. Later, his subalterns would often be found trying to clarify, to explain further, or to give their own interpretation. When they do, I also try to rearrange my previous understanding. And because this has happened quite frequently, I have evolved my own way of understanding what the President is trying to say.
For me, it is not first and foremost about liking or disliking Rodrigo R. Duterte. Being partisan and emotional about a person does not allow me even a reasonable level of objectivity. It may be a personal weakness, but I suspect that it is more a human formula that partisanship and emotionalism equal non-objectivity. It does not mean that in the process, especially towards or at the end, judgment and emotion do not seep in. I just try to keep this after, not before, I go through my private assessment.
Rodrigo R. Duterte is not a simple subject of study for me even though I do try to understand what makes him tick. He is my President, the only one President until he is so. I am a Filipino citizen and Rodrigo. R. Duterte is the President of all Filipinos. Even though he may have some actuation that seem to contradict this, it is just a simple fact that he is our President, we whom he likes, we whom he does not like, we who like him and we who don’t. He is our President. We are his people. This is the basic horizon I use when I try to understand, when I try relate to President Duterte.
Therefore, when he recently said, “Adopt an addict,” I assume he was being literal. Of course, I also know that he said this in the context of mounting complaints about the unexplained killings of victims suspected of being drug peddlers. And the same news reports say that he meant the statement, or suggestion, of adopting an addict to those who were complaining about the killings. My understanding and interpretation are formed from all these factors. At the end of my assessment, I agree that the spirit of the message of adopting addicts, meant or not, is the very succinct answer to many controversies.
The President has said that approximately one million drug dependents and small-time drug pushers, overwhelming from the sector of the poor, will have surrendered by the end of this year. He has also said in his more recent talks that there may be four million drug dependents in the country. Until there are more credible figures that can be presented to the citizenry, I am assuming the numbers to be the most accurate. And when I try to understand the micro and macro of the illegal drug situation in the country, these numbers are what loom large in my mind. They are the context from which I proceed to think and create opinions.
Early on, when the number of drug dependents and pushers who surrendered were just in the tens of thousands, even before Rodrigo R. Duterte officially took his oath of office, it was clear that the traditional facilities for drug rehabilitation from both the government and private sector would not be able to accommodate the surrenderees. It was also clear, at least to me, that unexplained killings would not stop as long as the players of the drug industry, from drug lords to drug protectors to drug dependents, believe that the President is determined to root out the problem. By his pronouncements and his record in Davao City, all concerned were afraid that they could very well end up dead. I concluded that the unexplained killings would not just stop, mainly because protectors in the illegal drug industry would naturally try to eliminate evidence against themselves.
The controversy about the killings is understandable to me. After all, so much has been said for or against. My bigger concern, however, has always been what to do with the one million surrenderees and the other three million who have not surrendered but are using and peddling drugs. Consequently, I had written a series of articles about this concern, focusing on community-driven rehabilitation work as the only workable solution to the great numbers of drug dependents. Also, I believe that a community response does not only rehabilitate drug dependents but strengthens the communities themselves against many other threats.
Taking the words of the President literally, “Adopt an addict,” and raising the singular to the scale of drug dependents whom he estimated at four million, I can only concur with the intent and propose that we, as communities, adopt our own addicts. It matters little if we know how to rehabilitate drug dependents or not; what is primordial is that we want to. Problems with people, especially family members, perennially confront us. We may not have degrees that technically prepare us, yet we naturally try to solve our problems with one another. It is really less about techniques and methodologies and more about believing and wanting to do so.
The truth is, if we do not want people being killed summarily, then our first response should be to care for them, to protect them. We must expand our understanding of family and friends to the community, if not to the whole country. The numbers of drug dependents should make us understand that it is closer to home, if not already in it. I am not saying that we should be quiet and tolerant about the killings, but ranting against them without doing our share in caring for and rehabilitating drug dependents in our own communities does not seem a good substitute. After all, our principles against the killings is grounded on the value of human life and it is simply in integrity that we try our best in saving and restoring lives.
Let President Duterte be prophetic, then, in the noblest of ways, when he said, “Adopt an addict.” If we do, we might just surprise him.


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