Congressional spouses support President Duterte’s war on narcotics by helping drug dependents

DAVAO CITY — The all-out campaign against illegal drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte opened many people’s eyes on how much the menace has destroyed the lives of both the young and old, rich and poor.

Even the President himself admitted he never realized the extent of infiltration of illegal drugs into the society — government included. It was noted that police authorities target to get 1.8 million personalities linked to illegal drugs in six months.

Duterte’s campaign drew criticisms yet there was initially little offer on how to help the administration attend to the three million drug dependents who voluntarily surrendered to government authorities.

Recently though, Duterte received help to build rehab centers in addition to his project of establishing new homes for drug dependents within the military camps.

But what about those already inside detention cells still waiting for court decision on their cases? What will their lives be beyond those concrete walls?

This is where the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. (CSFI) chooses to take the path less traveled by many people — reaching out to inmates. It will be the congressional spouses’ way of supporting the war against illegal drugs of the President anchored on his battlecry — “Tapang at Malasakit”.

“The courage (tapang) of the law enforcers to clean our country with the menace of the society is complemented by the ‘malasakit (concern)’” the group said.

CSFI heeded the call of the Bureau of Jail and Penology (BJMP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on programs for rehabilitation and productivity projects for the increasing number of inmates.

Emelita Alvarez, CFSI president and chairperson, said there are about 115,000 inmates under BJMP facing drug-related cases. Alvarez is the wife of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. “They are not yet convicted,” she pointed out.

“Walisin ang Droga”

Alvarez announced the start of the joint CSFI-BJMP-DILG “Malasakit Inmate-Preneur Livelihood Program” with the aim of not only making the inmates productive but also contributors in the Philippine economy instead of being part of the cost affecting the national budget.

It is noted that government allocates a daily meal allowance of P50 for each inmate, which remains a challenge for the DILG because the supply allocation for jails is affecting the BJMP and DILG budget.

Under the project, Alvarez said they are already negotiating with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as main customers for the “walis-tambo” or “walis-tingting” (broom) livelihood project.

CFSI will buy raw materials from farmers and provide them to the inmates to do the labor. DBM, which spends millions for broom supplies alone for all government agencies nationwide under a centralized procurement system, will buy the finished product of the inmates.

“It can give jobs to inmates and can provide savings to our country,” Alvarez said. Alvarez said what is good in the project is that they have already the market. “This is a government to government program,” Alvarez added.

Cathy Binag, partner of Davao del Norte First District Rep. Tonyboy Floirendo, said CFSI will provide the seed capital to the inmates, who will later return the money to CFSI for other projects.

Binag said the seed capital will come from donations. We do not get money from the congressmen, she said. We will roll out the money for other projects, she added.

“Shabu to ShaBon”

From the word “shabu”, which refers to illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, CSFI is creating a project name “ShaBon” coined after shampoo and sabon (soap).

There is also the Drugs to Rags…Laundry Behind Bars (laundry bar soap) as upcoming projects of CFSI under the Inmate-preneur program.

Rags, laundry soaps, shampoo and bath and beauty soaps are just initial products tagged “Made from the Inside (gawa sa loob ng kulungan)”.

The creative names of the projects, Alvarez said, are contributions of younger members of CSFI like Binag. She admitted that the old hands at CSFI are more on traditional ones.

Last Saturday, CFSI led by Alvarez and Binag, initiated partnership with Dr. Francisco dela Pena an organic farming advocates and accredited national private extension service provider of the ACES Natural Farming Institute in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

Dela Pena’s group will provide technological skills in making soaps, preserved organic products.

“We can make many projects to make them productive. We will teach them how to produce. Iparamdam natin sa kanila na may pag-asa pa sila (We will let them feel that there’s still hope for them),” Binag said.

Binag said these Inmate-preneur program will be implemented nationwide.

Alvarez said the inmates can participate in the livelihood program according to their skills and based on the criteria set by the BJMP.

Both Alvarez and Binag are hopeful the projects will succeed.

“The spirit of helping and kindness will surely make this program a success. Coupled with cooperation and proper management of resources including the human resource and raw materials, the enterprising spirit guided by proper business management knowledge and skills, this project can become an asset instead of liabilities of our society,” Alvarez said. Lilian Mellejor/