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Mindanao provinces adopt church drug rehab program

South Cotabato governor admits being at a loss over what to do about narcotics problem

Mindanao provinces adopt church drug rehab program

Former drug users receive certificates of completion on April 19 after undergoing a three-month rehabilitation program in Quezon City. (Photo by Robert Gines)

RS Sarmiento, General Santos City
Philippines

April 19, 2017

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A local government in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao has adopted a church-run drug rehabilitation program as part of its anti-narcotics war.

The program dubbed "Pastoral Accompaniment of Illegal Drugs Users and Pushers" or PAID-UP has been initiated by Marbel Diocese in South Cotabato province.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel said the program was designed to "Christify" drug users and pushers to make them "responsible, responsive, and disciplined citizens."

Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes of South Cotabato signed an agreement with the diocese for the local government's own "Surfacing Personalities Involved on Drugs" program.

Some 8,363 drug users and pushers have surrendered to authorities in South Cotabato province since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched his anti-narcotics campaign last year.

Bishop Gutierrez said the church program employs a "study, pray, and act" strategy and revolves around the catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible.

"We are happy that the church is here to help us," said Governor Fuentes. "We must admit that we do not know what to do with the huge problem facing us," she added.

The program comprises daily prayers, weekly activities, monthly gatherings, family counseling, and "enrichment encounters" of families.

Bishop Gutierrez said the program aims to make drug dependents reflect on the purpose of life and "to find happiness in God."

The church program has also been adopted in the nearby provinces of Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and in the cities of Koronadal and General Santos.

Marbel Diocese in the central Mindanao region, which has jurisdiction over the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani, and parts of the province of Sultan Kudarat, is home to nearly 1.9 million people, 75 percent of whom are Catholics.

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