The role of non-governmental organizations in the prevention and reduction of drug abuse: the Philippine experience




Author: S. Q. QUEJAS
Pages: 53 to 62
Creation Date: 1983/01/01

The role of non-governmental organizations in the prevention and reduction of drug abuse: the Philippine experience

S. Q. QUEJAS Chief Preventive Education. Training and Information Division, Dangerous Drugs Board, Manila, Philippines


A wide range of non-governmental organizations are involved in the prevention and reduction of drug abuse in the Philippines. The numerous activities and substantive achievements of non-governmental organizations in combating the problems of drug abuse are manifestations of their commitment to and involvement in an avowed partnership with the Government to promote care for young people and quality of life in general. The Dangerous Drugs Board, the Government's policy-making and co-ordinating body, has facilitated and encouraged the development of existing approaches and strategies and, in co-operation with non-governmental organizations, has made drug-abuse prevention programmes more viable and relevant. This co-operation strengthened agency relationships, encouraged resource-sharing and generated a more balanced approach towards programme planning and implementation. The various government services, in co-operation with non-governmental organizations, have adopted the models and strategies that are action-oriented activities, primarily intended to promote positive values, attitudes, self-development, creative productivity and skills of young people.


Like any other country beset with the problems of illicit demand for drugs, the Philippines has had its own share of difficulties that the drug menace invariably brings in its wake : an upsurge of drug-related juvenile delinquency cases and a proliferation of drugs of abuse, psychotropic and indigenous substances. These difficulties have been aggravated by the influence of unorthodox life-styles, the disruption and deterioration of established moral and social fibre and other social ills caused by modern life and also by the fact that the Philippines has become a transit point for international illicit drug traffic and smuggling operations.

In the early 1970s, the drug-abuse situation in the Philippines had so deteriorated that it became necessary for the Government to respond with an intensive programme to curb the escalating problem. In 1972, a comprehensive strategy was evolved, the aims of which were to: reduce and control the supply of illicit drugs through intensive law-enforcement operations and programmes; reduce the demand for these drugs through a multi- disciplinary approach involving preventive education, research, training, and treatment and rehabilitation; and increase international co-operation with respect to all aspects of drug-abuse prevention and control in the spirit of national commitments to international conventions, concords and agreements.

Significant progress has been made in the areas of preventive education, treatment and rehabilitation, and law enforcement in the ensuing years. This progress indicates the Government's determination to contain the problem, but it can also be seen as a positive result of the effective co-operation between the Government and non-governmental organizations. In this respect the "bayanihan spirit" which is strong among Filipinos, helps very much to strengthen the effectiveness of this co-operation. The' "bayanihan spirit" refers to that character trait deeply imbedded in every Filipino, which makes him feel that he should help his neighbours or work voluntarily for worthy causes.

The Dangerous Drugs Board

The signing of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos marked the Government's commitment to a strict policy against drug abuse. The Act was subsequently amended through Presidential Decree No. 44 and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) was created to implement the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act as the highest national policy-making body and to deal with other related matters on drug-abuse prevention and control.

Since its inception, the Board has endeavoured to provide leadership, co-ordination, technical assistance and financial support to various agencies and organizations working towards drug-abuse prevention and control. The Board has also endeavoured to generate multi-agency co-ordination and multi-disciplinary co-operation as well as community participation for drug- demand reduction programmes. A step in this direction is the organization of inter-agency committees for preventive education and for treatment and rehabilitation.

Since its organization in 1974, the Inter-Agency-Committee on Drug Abuse Prevention Education has played a vital role in the integration of drug-abuse prevention concepts in social-action programmes. It is the forum where representatives from 30 governmental and non-governmental agencies meet regularly to discuss preventive education and community information programmes. Through an Integrated Plan of Action, the member agencies link their efforts, in close collaboration, to design and implement drug-abuse prevention programmes.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Treatment and Rehabilitation is composed of representatives from treatment and rehabilitation centres, drop-in clinics and other governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with the treatment and rehabilitation of those dependent on drugs.

Through the efforts of these two committees, the programmes and activities of non-governmental organizations are synchronized so that they complement existing government programmes. The co-ordination provided by DDB makes it possible to avoid duplication of effort and wastage of resources.

Non-governmental organizations

The participation and involvement of non-governmental organizations in the drug-demand reduction campaign dates back to the creation of DDB. Through co-operation between the non-governmental organizations and DDB's Inter-Agency Committees, programmes were integrated and their activities monitored by DDB.

In 1979, the first international non-governmental organization conference was held at Jakarta, Indonesia. The second international non-governmental organization conference was held from 3 to 8 November 1980 at Manila. These conferences underscored the increasing interest and involvement of the non-governmental organizations and paved the way for further initiatives and resourcefulness in the search for more adaptable and effective programmes to achieve the important goal of preventing drugs from further affecting the future aspirations of the youth, the most Vulnerable targets of drug abuse. After the second conference, the Philippine Council of Non-Governmental Organizations was organized.

It is noteworthy that in recent years an increasing number of programmes .and activities have been undertaken by enthusiastic non-governmental organizations dedicated to creating a drug-free environment. Some of these programmes received government subsidies. Indeed, evidence indicates that the non-governmental organizations, with their government counterparts, are implementing cost-effective programmes on the prevention and reduction of drug abuse.

Models and strategies

The more active and known non-governmental organizations engaged in the various aspects of drug-abuse control, as well as the models and strategies they have utilized over the past decade, have been categorized into three major groups which are described below.

Socio-civic cultural and religious services

Philippine National Red Cross

This organization provides emergency services and promotes the health, safety and welfare of the people. It includes:

  1. The Safety Services Programme, which integrates drug information and education in first-aid courses for instructors;

  2. The Red Cross Youth Programme, which aims to provide constructive and productive activities, leadership training and lectures on drug education. It publishes articles, pamphlets and brochures on drug- abuse prevention and control.

Boy Scouts of the Philippines

The drug-abuse programme of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines is based on the philosophy that busy and active young men who are properly motivated and acting within the framework of scouting ideals will not resort to drug abuse.

Operation Reach is an activity of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines to improve interpersonal relations and communications among young men and between parents and children. It invites voluntary participation in school or community projects and programmes with merit badges as an incentive.

Kiwanis International

This civic organization, which is located in Davao City, Southern Philippines, has a formally structured drug-abuse information programme. It has been collaborating closely with the regional government's council on drug-abuse prevention and control.

Operation Drug Alert is involved in the dissemination of drug information through the production and use of audio-visual material such as posters, brochures and pamphlets patterned after those printed by the Kiwanis International Club, and the conduct of symposia, forums and dialogues by a "resource team" composed of psychiatrists, sociologists, educators, law-enforcement officers, legal experts and other specialists in drug-abuse prevention.

Teen Challenge Philippines

This is an organization for preventive education, treatment and rehabilitation. Its services are centered on the enlightenment of troubled youths through a therapeutic approach which uses an altered state of consciousness in the form of religious experiences. These religious experiences are supported by a wide variety of therapies which are either vocational, musical or recreational. This organization includes:

  1. The Outreach Programme for Confused Youth, which utilizes sharing encounters, Bible studies, rallies, sports and musical concerts ;

  2. The Coffee House, which is a drop-in social centre. It provides an opportunity for friendly informal group meetings and encounters for young people. Indirect guidance and assistance are provided by volunteer hosts. Coffee is served free.

Educational and information services

Youth and Student Travel Association of the Philippines

This is a non-profit-making, non-stock organization that is engaged in developing educational programmes through international or domestic study tours, travel exchanges and field trips. It includes the following two programmes :

  1. The Domestic Travel Exchange Programme, popularly known as "Tulayan'", which is a project co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports and subsidized by DDB. There is a three-month exchange of five agricultural high-school students from each of the five regions. Participation in school and community activities provides students with experience of socio-cultural norms typical of a particular region, problems that affect the development of young people and factors leading to drug abuse. An understanding and appreciation of common problems and unique situations help them in formulating action plans for programmes in their own schools, communities or regions on drug-abuse prevention ;

  2. Summer Work Camps, which is a programme for selected volunteer leaders from private colleges and universities concentrated in Metro Manila. In an informal and camping atmosphere, the participants, who invariably come from affluent families, are acquainted with the drug-abuse phenomena by young speakers who are familiar with the programme. The programme includes sharing periods that afford the participants an exchange of views and opinions, camaraderie and healthy relationships. The week-long exercise includes :

    Role-playing techniques to develop internalization of knowledge, attitudes and practices

    Workshops on programme planning for the respective schools of participants

    Field trips to neighbouring communities where participants observe actual youth programmes in action

    Plenary sessions where resource persons are invited to discuss aspects concerning youth and drug abuse.

La Salle University

The drug-abuse prevention programme of La Salle Universit (Greenhills, Metro Manila) is under the leadership of a representative of the Boy Scouts organization who co-operates with the university's Parent- Teacher Association. The programme includes:

  1. The Drug Abuse Prevention Brigade, which is composed of two groups, one for parents and the other for student volunteers. The brigades go on parent-child camping expeditions for closer family interaction and have regular monthly meetings in private homes;

  2. Cross-Parent Assistance, which is a form of service where a parent assists or counsels another person's child;

  3. Cross-Age Tutoring, which is a service rendered by older students who counsel younger ones on drug-related problems.

Don Bosco Technical Institute

The Don Bosco Technical Institute is a technical school that has recognized the need to involve itself in drug-abuse prevention and may implement programmes in co-ordination with the Narcotics Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. An example of this activity is the Drug Defence Brigade, an organization composed of student volunteers, the objective of which is vigilance against the dangers of drug abuse and against student drug abusers and drug pushers who penetrate school campuses. It engages in information campaigns from room to room and gives peer encouragement on the positive use of free time in school through activities initiated in the drug information centre of the school.

Youth Action Development Organization

This is an affiliate organization of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), composed of college or university students who are required to earn units in military training. Its members are encouraged to become involved in the development programmes and priority projects of the Government.

Operation Plan "Cadena de Amor" is an operation where volunteers or the Youth Action Development Organization gather information on drug abusers and other drug violators providing referrals to concerned agencies.

Philippine Christian University

The Philippine Christian University sponsors a weekly radio programme in co-operation with the Philippine Catholic Women's Temperance Union, the Ministry of Social Services and Development, DDB and the Far East Broadcasting Company. The organizers are composed of women leaders from different religious denominations. It includes the Home Enrichment Life Programme, which is a seminar on the radio featuring problems of drug abuse, alcoholism, smoking and other vices. It utilizes interviews and panel discussions, features life testimonies of rehabilitated drug dependents and provides listeners with updated information on the drug-abuse problem.

Anti-Drug Abuse Media Guild

This is an association of representatives from newspapers, radio and television which was formed after the Media Update Seminar in 1982. Radio, television and staff correspondents from Manila newspapers are committed to follow media guidelines formulated during seminars co-sponsored by DDB, the Office of Media Affairs and the Colombo Plan Bureau.

Treatment and rehabilitation

Drug Abuse Research Foundation (Inc.)

This is a residential centre which applies the therapeutic community approach. The programme is built upon two fundamental concepts related to (a) the personality of the drug dependant and (b) the goal of rehabilitation. The DARF centre offers not only treatment and rehabilitation services but also preventive education and information activities.

The Built-in Educational Programme offers high-school courses to its residential clients. Certificates of completion are accredited by the Fabella Memorial School, a government institution.

Prevent and Rehabilitate Drug Abusers

Based in Olongapo City, Central Philippines, the overall objective of the organization Prevent and Rehabilitate Drug Abusers is to serve drug-dependent persons and bring them back into the mainstream of society. The centre utilizes primal therapy, an approach that is directed towards the causes of delinquent and deviant behaviour. The client is encouraged to release pent-up feelings and to express emotions freely. This modality is supported by family, recreational, spiritual and occupational therapies.

Narcotics Foundation of the Philippines, Inc.

This was the first private residential centre supported and partially subsidized by DDB. It is maintained by civic-minded professionals, philanthropists and other local and international entities. It operates the Community Outreach Programme, a preventive programme which establishes walk-in centres, sets up information and audio-visual exhibits and co-ordinates its educational programmes with schools.

Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Network (Inc.)

A non-stock organization, Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Network (Inc.) has been working closely with the Narcotics Command and has been receiving financial support from DDB. The centre applies a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment and rehabilitation and preventive education. It provides guidance and counselling, involves clients in income- generating projects, conducts educational information and Bible studies and facilitates client participation in sports festivals and contests.

Operation "Sagip" is a Network programme with the objective of rescuing drug-law violators and dependents by causing their arrest and providing treatment, rehabilitation and after-care services until such time as they can be reintegrated into the mainstream of society.

Shalom House

This is a non-profit-making and non-sectarian organization supported by civic-minded professionals and private organizations of Baguio City, Northern Philippines. Shalom House is accredited by DDB as an out-patient rehabilitation centre for those dependent on drugs. Its service is closely co-ordinated with the local Philippine Mental Health Association to deal with the basic personality problems related to drug abuse. In addition, Shalom House utilizes: (a) counselling services, which include family therapy, home visits and consultation with educational and social experts; (b) public information through seminars, radio programmes and press releases; and (c) cultural and musical services in hospital wards and selected community multi-purpose centres. One of its principal prevention programmes is the Juvenile Offender Counselling Project, which provides counselling services to selected juvenile offenders and referral services for medical, legal and psychological evaluation.


Effective and continuing co-operation between the Government and non-governmental organizations was marked by a national conference of government and non-governmental organizations on the prevention and control of drug abuse, which was held on 6 June 1983. The conference supported the development of systematic mechanisms for co-operation and collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations and the revitalization of the efforts of the Philippine Council of Non- Governmental Organizations in the prevention and control of drug abuse.

The exercise was followed by a training seminar on drug-abuse prevention and control for local government officials in Quezon City from 7 to 10 June 1983. Countries members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) also participated in this seminar, which was sponsored by DDB, the Colombo Plan Bureau and the Quezon City government in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and the Philippine Council of Non-Governmental Organizations Against Drug Abuse.

The seminar stimulated the future courses of action of some non- governmental organizations. As a result, DDB has received project proposals and requests for financial and technical assistance. These include a number of innovative strategies in drug-abuse prevention programmes, such as the family-cluster therapy, inter-faith spiritualism and colloquia for top-ranking officials of government and non-government entities. Also, the inter-agency committees for drug-abuse prevention education and for treatment and rehabilitation have increased their memberships to include agencies and organizations from civic, religious, industrial and commercial groups and also from private colleges and universities that provide community services.

While there is a noticeable increase in the incidence of drug abuse, the drug situation in the country is under control, mainly because of the intense and co-ordinated efforts of governmental agencies, the political will favouring drug-abuse prevention programmes and the close collaboration of the non-governmental organizations. The private sector has also been deeply involved in such co-operation.

Admittedly, however, national endeavours against drug abuse can be made more effective than they are at present, and the need to do so is not lost to those in Government and the private sector who are involved with finding solutions to the problem. There is a prevailing sentiment among government officials and people in general that studies are needed in order to :

  1. Further improve pertinent laws and procedures in the criminal justice system to make it extremely difficult for illicit drug traffickers to succeed and, at the same time, allow all possible enticements to encourage drug-dependent persons to come forward for treatment and rehabilitation ;

  2. Enhance the capabilities of social facilities, government and private, so that they can, to a larger extent, assist in the prevention and control of drug abuse.


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