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One of those patients is Ramon, 43, whose name has been changed to protect his identity.
Poor tricycle cab drivers sniff shabu — Filipino slang for methamphetamine — to stay awake throughout the night to be able to earn more money.
For the breadwinners of impoverished families, there often seems to be no alternative.“The problem with the drug war is the way the administration views the drug problem,” says Wilnor Papa, the local campaign coordinator for Amnesty International.
The government, meanwhile, did little to clean up its rhetoric.“We often see the police or even our legislators say that the menace of society is drugs and if we solve drugs then we solve everything,” says Lee Yarcia, a researcher at No Box Transitions.
“People like to subscribe to this narrative because it’s an easier solution, but it’s not evidence-based.”No Box is a rehab center that advocates harm reduction, a more therapeutic approach to addiction treatment.
But even if my name is cleared, I’m still not sure of my safety as long as Duterte is president,” says Ramon.
In 2002, the Philippine Congress overhauled the pre-existing drug treatment policy, taking a more clinical approach to addiction.
This premonition has reverberated throughout the country’s rehab centers, where drug addicts have sought refuge in hopes of escaping a seemingly inevitable death on the streets.
Confronting addiction is no longer the primary motive for drug dependents to enter into rehab, according to Gomez.
Occupancy at the Bicutan Rehabilitation Center, for example, has been stretched more than double its capacity of 550 beds. Bien Leabres has been forced to provide less one-on-one counseling and more group therapies and activities.
When patients vent their fears of reintegrating into society (a common occurrence), Leabres listens.“We let it flow so they can have catharsis,” says Leabres, the chief medical doctor at Bicutan.“The challenge for therapists now is to shift the thoughts of the patients from being fearful to motivating them to change,” he adds.