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WALANG MURA, PURO LOVE LANG | Amid Du30's cuss words are messages of hope among priests, drug users

Drug 'surrenderers' participate in a spiritual drug rehab program at the San Roque Manila Parish in Sta Cruz on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Photo by Bernard Testa,
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s relations with some leaders of the Catholic Church have turned sour amid the latter’s criticisms on the chief executives’ war on drugs.

Duterte called them “sons of bitches” and hypocrites as Church leaders expressed fears that the country was turning into a “killing field” amid the government intensified anti-narcotics battle.

But inside the multipurpose hall of the San Roque de Manila Parish in Sta. Cruz, there are no hurtful words uttered, only messages and expressions of faith and hope as priests, nuns, laymen, barangay officials, and policemen join hands in helping drug ‘surrenderers’ battle addiction.

Hide me now under your wings

Cover me, within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with You above the storm

The lyrics of a religious song with the images of Jesus Christ were flashed on a video screen before 9 a.m., on Wednesday, October 12, as about 35 self-confessed drug users, wearing name tags and maroon shirts with the image of St. Roch, arrived at the church’s hall.

The 30 men and five women, aged 30 to 50, participated in the “Renewal Formation Program for Drug Surrenderees,” which was organized by the Catholic Church, the Manila Police District, and officials of 30 barangays within Blumentritt area.

Fr. Bobby dela Cruz of the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish called the 10-week rehab program a “spiritual warfare on drugs,” which he hopes would help users “open their ears.”  

“In the beginning, makikita mo, may mga resistance sila. Nahihirapan pang makinig. Actually, ‘yong first sessions [of the rehab program] are just to dismantle their defenses,” the priest said.

[In the beginning, you'll see that they still have resistance. They find it difficult to listen. Actually, the first sessions are just to dismantle their defenses.]

Dela Cruz said it would “already be a big thing" if the surrenderers would learn to truly listen.

“The difficulty with drug addicts is that they don’t listen. It’s very common. They will listen to you but it will just go in one ear and out the other,” he said.

The rehab doesn’t just start with opening the ears through religious songs. A lay sister told the attendees that they must also exercise to help release “toxins” in their bodies.

“And what toxin is that?” asked the sister, whom they called Ate Lenie.  

“Bato! Shabu!,” shouted some of the giggling surrenderers.

Afterwards, the attendees were asked to stand up and dance to the tune of Agadoo mimicking the energizing steps of Charlie Bear on the video. 

Ag-a-doo-doo-doo, push pineapple, shake the tree

Aga-doo-doo-doo, push pineapple, grind coffee

Dela Cruz said the spiritual war against drugs won’t win unless the method used against the menace is complete and comprehensive.

He stressed the importance of assisting poor people hooked on drugs, who “are more vulnerable” because their basic economic needs are usually tide to the drug trade.

Ang simbahan kumikilos, kailangan naming kumilos…At mas mabuti talaga kung magtutulungan and simbahan at pamahalaan [The Church is doing something about this, we need to act…And it would be better if the church and the government will help each other],” he said.

Before the preaching started, the surrenderers sang another song.

Binabago mo ako araw-araw

Love, love, love, tayo’y magmahalan

[You change me everyday. Love, love, love, let’s love one another]

-video by Bernard Testa, with reports by ARCS,