Will Change Come To PAS?

More than two months after the Summit Meeting On Church’s Response To The War On Drugs held in the Diocese of Novaliches for its Quezon City and Caloocan City Areas, has change really taken place for the healing and protection of those inflicted by illegal drugs?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) reports as of October 8, 2016 that 1,278 drug related killings were verified 100 days after the new president assumed his post*. While Rappler reports 4,900 deaths resulted from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings** linked to the War On Drugs declared by the Philippine Government.

In the Diocese of Novaliches, reports from the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) tell of groups of people killed summarily on the streets and in their homes by riding in tandems who randomly fired gunshots as they passed by–taking lives away from people who just happened to be with Barangay-enlisted surrenderers–that never seemed to reach mainstream Media.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has actually condemned this continued increase in killings in the pastoral letter, “Our Country And Our Faith”, released last November 22, 2016. Signed by CBCP President Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, the pastoral letter encouraged every one–especially Bishops, Clergy and Religious–to be courageous amidst the moral issues facing the Country***.

With so many lives lost, is there ever hope for a peaceful and more civilized way of addressing this nationwide issue on illegal drugs? Or will danger for our lives and our families become more unsecure in the months to come?

According to Diocese of Novaliches Human Development Ministry Directory Rev. Fr. Jaime Lara, the change for a drug-free society that the Government’s War On Drugs aims to achieve will actually only happen if each one in society will adapt Change PAS–that’s a Change in Paradigm, Change in Approach, and Change in Strategy.

“How are we to respond? The keyword is change. It has to be a three-dimensional change. Unang-una, Change of Paradigm: we are waging a war on drugs not on its user…Change of Attitude: to be more welcoming…Change of Strategy: our approach is not only healing of the body and mind but of the soul,” said Fr. Lara during the Summit Meeting On Church’s Response To War On Drugs held last September 9, 2016 at St. Peter Parish Shrine of Leaders, Commonwealth Ave., Q.C.

Fr. Lara, who synthesized the messages and responses given by speakers during the Summit, explained that a Change in Paradigm is necessary since what is currently happening is that people perceive those afflicted by drugs–whether as users or pushers–as the enemies resulting into the unprecedented “casualties” of the War On Drugs in the Country. He emphasized that, “We are all engaged in the business of saving lives…and as much as possible, we don’t want to lose human lives.”

Rev. Fr. Jim Lara giving the Synthesis of the Summit Meeting On Church’s Response To The War On Drugs last September 9, 2016 in St. Peter Parish Shrine of Leaders, Q.C.

“Unemployment and corruption ang kalaban natin at nagpapabigat o nagpapalala ng problema sa droga sa Pilipinas,” he said. (Unemployment and corruption are our enemies that worsen the problem of illegal drugs in the Philippines.)

He went on to say that a Change in Attitude by foregoing prejudices and biases is key to accomplishing any progress in this all-out war. He urged those present in the Summit, “To be more inclusive rather than divisive, to be more supportive…the more hands the more we can accomplish.”

Ang ating strategy ay preventive not reactive…We go the ‘traditional way of brewing coffee’,” he expounded what Change in Strategy meant while echoing St. Peter Parish Shrine of Leaders Rector Rev. Fr. Marlou Lemaire’s Welcoming Remarks for the Summit wherein brewed and instant coffee were compared to that of the instant way of solving illegal drugs through extrajudicial killings.

Fr. Lara cited the Diocese of Novaliches’ Community-Based Drug Rehabilitation Program (CBDRP) also known as Abot-Kamay Alang-alang sa Pagbabago (AKAP) as a holistic response that actually embodies Change PAS.

Meron tayong proposed response dito sa war on drugs na ito…na tinatawag nating AKAP,” he emphasized, “We have a three-thronged response…hindi lang ang individual, pati yung pamilya…at community…kailangan nating pagtiwalaan ang isa’t-isa…we have to develop our sense of voluntarism.”

Hopefully everyone, not only those belonging to the Diocese, will eventually come to embrace this change proposed by Fr. Lara, especially when lives are at stake.

The Summit Meeting On Church’s Response To The War On Drugs was spearheaded by the Diocese of Novaliches Pastoral Office through its Vicar General Rev. Fr. Antonio E. Labiao, Jr. to bring together various stakeholders from the communities under the Diocese, such as Local Government Units (LGUs), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Barangays, Parishes, Business, Academe, and Inter-faith Groups, in concretely yet peacefully addressing the issue on illegal drugs.

With the Caloocan City Area Summit held on September 17, the Summit actually reinforced the launching of AKAP last September 1, 2016. The Diocese also joined the National Launching of the Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamayang Ayaw Sa Ilegal na Droga (MASAMASID) last September 28, 2016 to push the implementation of AKAP on the level of the BECs who are its expected volunteers. (~Minnie Agdeppa)

*”Story In Numbers War On Drugs” by Sara Isabelle Pacia, Senior Digital Producer, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 16, 2016
**”In Numbers: The Philippines’ War On Drugs (21st Update) by Michael Bueza, Rappler, November 23, 2016
***”Bishops Urged: ‘Don’t Let Threats Silence You‘ ” by CBCP News, November 24, 2016