IN THIS OUR JOURNEY: PRO-POOR DEVELOPMENT AND VALUES FORMATION

By Nestor Maniebo Pestelos

The overwhelming number of people in Bohol’s more than 1,000 barangays who voted for Tabing sa Pamilya Project (TSPP) as number one choice for funding support under the I- Budget Natin Project, an initiative implemented by several national and international organizations committed to achieve greater transparency in governance, validated observations about how to further enhance current approaches to the country’s drug addiction problem.

The majority vote, a result of polling done in barangay assemblies for three weeks last May, confirmed the vital role of NGOs and civil society organizations to complement existing government programs in addressing a major social problem.

On the whole, the overwhelming votes given to the project showed that the Provincial Government is on the right track in its intention to draw local communities and its governance structures from purok to municipal level to be involved in community-based approaches or doing much-needed work both inside and outside counselling or drug rehabilitation clinics. 

In effect, the people’s preference for TSPP over nine other priority projects confirmed broad-based support to the intention of the Provincial Government and its CSO/NGO partners to present a united front to address a social problem affecting more than 30,000 self-confessed drug users and pushers in a province widely known for its adherence to Christian values.

The vote for TSPP indicates that the people of Bohol supports a multi-sectoral, multi-level approach to the drug addiction problem rather than a single-motive police or health problem. TSPP supports the provincial government’s advocacy for an integrated community-based approach in ways that will involve the whole community and the individual families in each local community.

First, it can be asked, what outstanding features of TSPP that the people would like to see in place as part of current community-based approaches to the drug menace in our midst, a key social problem that local communities and individual families have been grappling with for quite a number of months?

For the record, I have devoted 67 out of 136 columns or 49%,  to issues related to the drug addiction problem in Bohol and how we may be able to complement Government efforts to address it. It may be recalled I started writing the column “In This Our Journey” for this paper on 11 January 2015, a period of two years and 8 months.

As a review for readers of this column and several Facebook pages (nestormaniebopestelos, bohol local development foundation, coalition for a drug-free bohol, gifts and treasures for a cause) which have published information related to our advocacy for the past two years and eight months, let me just cite the following features voted by majority of barangay and purok residents in a poll last May which can enhance current efforts in addressing the needs of surrenderees and other target groups in our province and the country as a whole:

-Meticulous use of existing screening and assessment tools, Alcohol Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test-Brief Intervention (ASSISTBI) and documenting the results in a dynamic database processed through a software.

-Documentation of specific interventions delivered to each drug abuse victim to match the addiction level of specific clients which will make possible the evaluation of the impact of interventions to the entire recovery process.

-Detailed planning and implementation of activities per project component (Counselling; Livelihood Assistance;  Culture and the Arts; Advocacy and Fund Raising; IT Support and Database Management) and ensuring adequate policy, technical and administrative support for each component.

-Training and deployment of volunteer psychology interns and guidance counsellors from academic institutions to fill the expertise gaps in drug rehabilitation teams trained and fielded by local governments, civil society organizations/NGOs and faith-based organizations.

-Focus on reaching individual families through existing structures at various levels (purok, barangay, municipality, provincial) and documenting the progress in outreach services indicating the actual number of families directly reached by interventions.

-Flexibility in the provision of services to target families in terms of privacy requests, venues for counselling or interviews and greater respect to the rights of drug users taking into account the need for a more humane and systematic care and treatment of persons with substance use disorder.

-Evaluation of actual recovery process of each client provided with interventions through the project.

-Case documentation of selected clients to determine combination of factors that have led to the addiction and eventual recovery to guide future policies, treatment processes and procedures;

-Greater security and protection to confidential data provided by surrenderees eventually resulting in their greater trust on Government agencies and the police.

As stated in previous columns, TSPP was based on a pilot project implemented in the municipality in response to the need to operationalize a community-based approach preferred by the Provincial Government rather than limit it to a predominantly facilty-based strategy.

On this matter, the project document says:

“In support of the Community-Based Drug Rehabilitation Program of the Provincial Government of Bohol, the Municipality of Baclayon has implemented since November, 2016  a pilot project entitled “Database+Interventions Project for Surrenderees” (DIPS) as an undertaking of the Local Government Unit, Holy Name University (HNU) and the Bohol Local Development Foundation, Inc. (BLDF).

“The pilot project was conceptualized to support a broader program entitled “A Community-Based Drug Demand Reduction Program & Recovery Support System For The Province Of Bohol And Its Municipalities,” presented by a three-member team from the New Day Recovery Center (NDRC) on 22 August 2015 to Gov. Edgar Chatto and the provincial task force on drug rehabilitation. The program was presented subsequently to Baclayon LGU representatives which included Mayor Benecio Uy, several members of the Sangguniang Bayan led by Vice Mayor Romulo Balangkig, and key staff of technical offices and NGOs. The Baclayon LGU finally approved the pilot project, entitled Database+Interventions Project for Surrenderees (DIPS) which seeks to field-test approaches on the use of screening and assessment tools for data gathering.

“The resulting database could then be used for planning, implementing, and monitoring interventions, as well as in evaluating the impact of such interventions on the recovery and post-recovery of the drug dependents. Moreover, actual cases of recovery and relapse could be documented for possible use in Psychology and Social Work courses as tools for drug abuse education and counselling.

“The DIPS used the screening tool Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1997 to:

-administer a screening tool faster than existing diagnostic tests for substance use disorders;

-screen for all psychoactive substances, not just alcohol or tobacco;

-enable use in Primary Health Care settings;

-ensure cross cultural relevance; and

-link specific addiction easily to a brief intervention.

“Specifically, the initiative could provide a basis for a more systematic documentation of:

  1. the assessment of individual drug dependents in terms of addiction level, as well as the specific interventions provided; and
  2. the actual impact of such interventions on the drug dependence, as well as  on the desired outcome to help them lead normal, productive lives in harmony with their family and the community.

“DIPS is Baclayon’s response to the need to face the challenge of having 567 registered “surrenderees/surrenderers. “ It adopts the ASSIST (Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Screening Test) methodology recommended by the World Health Organisation. The  ASSIST methodology is essentially a screening and interventions process developed by the WHO experts and field tested in several countries such as Australia, Brazil, India, Ireland, Israel, the Palestinian Self-Rule Areas, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and Zimbabwe over 10 years from 1997 to 2007.

“BLDF assumed the role of proponent with its President serving as Project Coordinator. It signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Holy Name University, represented by Karen Capapas, and the Baclayon LGU headed by Mayor Benicio Uy. A 36-member group of HNU psychology interns led by Karen Capapas conducted the interviews during November and December. Prepared by a series of intensive training from a prominent psychologist Dr. Miriam Cue, the psychology interns successfully completed 252 interviews.”

Here are the outputs of the pilot project in Baclayon which the new project, Tabang sa Pamilya, will build on to arrive at a critical mass of information to guide the replication process in other municipalities:

The 252 interview data were encoded and consolidated by the same interns and then submitted to Q2Analytics, Australia, for processing.  From the 252 surrenderees interviewed, 26 (10.3%) came from Guiwanon, 25 (9.9%) from Laya and the same number from Taguihon, 23 (9.1%) from Pamilacan and same number from San Roque.  These are the Barangays where the most number of surrenderees were found.  As far as use is concerned the top most substances tend to be tobacco, alcohol, amphetamine and cannabis.

Using an “open source” statistical software called R, the clients (or surrenderees) were scored by substance and categorized according to “Low Risk”, “Medium Risk”, and “High Risk” cases.  Results were that 44(18.8%) came from Tobacco group of users, 29 (11.7%) came from Alcohol group, whereas 6 (2.6%) came from Amphetamine users.

The Final Report was prepared by Q2Analytics and was presented by the Lead Consultant, Dr. Marie Balce, to the Baclayon Local Government Unit and the Sangguniang Bayan, Holy Name University, CEDEC Staff and representatives from the Provincial Health Office (PHO), Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), and Bohol ICT Unit. In addition, a total of ten participants, including IT specialists, from the Baclayon LGU, Holy Name University and volunteers from BLDF, were trained on how to operate the software and update the existing database for outputs from the use of the ASSIST tool.

With the majority affirming support to TSPP, a more systematic approach will be undertaken as funding assistance is assured once the policy and programme guidelines are formulated and approved by project and government authorities.

As proponent agency, BLDF has informed the Baclayon LGU about the endorsement and strong support given TSPP by majority of those who voted during the barangay poll conducted for three weeks in May. In response, Mayor Benny Uy has instructed his secretary, Rosette Manding-Garcia, to prepare for the transfer of the project office from its temporary location at the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) to the Municipal Cultural Center as previously planned to enable the project to have adequate office space and to have convenient access to other parts of the building in case they are needed for cultural shows, counseling, livelihood skills training and the conduct of orientation for volunteers required for each project component.

Prior to this support action to TSPP, Mayor Benny designated IT Specialist Anderson Simblante as Database Administrator for the project to ensure data security.

Two prospective implementation partners, the Diocese of Tagbilaran and Holy Name University through Bishop Abet Uy and Holy Name University Arts and Sciences Dean Ted Gapuz, respectively, have committed full support to this innovative and potentially effective project to address the drug rehabilitation problem in Bohol. Bishop Abet Uy has appointed Fr. Jingboy Saco, focal point of the Diocese on drug-related issues, as his representative to the TSPP team will eventually be created.

The day after the meeting with Governor Chatto on the polling results, we met with PPDO deputy, Engr. Hermilo Arcaya, and Economic Sector Head Imelda Borromeo, to inform them about TSPP so they can include the winning projects among those to be monitored by the office.

For its part, BLDF will phase out of the project team once the management structure has been firmed up and the project implementation details finalized within the next three weeks. We will focus on establishing the Center for Pro-Poor Development and Values Formation and align its program to support the TSPP.

Our Board of Trustees would like to thank the I-Budget Natin Team headed by Gladys Selosa and provincial focal person, Doris Dinorog-Obena for inviting BLDF to this all-important initiative that will lead to more effective governance in support of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Our involvement in this journey from DIPS to TSPP has been part of our forty-year advocacy for pro-poor development in the Philippines and other Asia-Pacific countries.

Based on our personal observations on the breakdown of moral values on the level of project beneficiaries and those supposed to help them from the Government and other sectors, I have proposed the creation of the Center for Pro-Poor Development and Values Formation to be located at the Balay Kahayag Retreat House and Training Center. Another journey begins. Indeed old development workers never die. Like boxing champs and politicians, they just reinvent themselves to pursue new dreams as their old roles fade away.

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