Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of proposed measure seeking to institutionalize TESDA training for rehabilitated drug dependents

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of proposed measure seeking to institutionalize TESDA training for rehabilitated drug dependents

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) supports Senate Bill No. 2276 (SB 2276) and House Bill No. 7721 (HB 7721), which seek to institutionalize the technical-vocational education and training (TVET) program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for rehabilitated drug dependents. Legislating the said program is a concrete way to reduce the stigma against reformed drug users and helps facilitate their reintegration into society.

SB 2276 is authored by Senator Jinggoy Estrada and the HB 7721 is jointly authored by Representatives Alfel Bascug, Eddiebong Plaza, and Joseph “Caraps” Paduano. Both bills seek to incentivize companies and establishments that provide employment to rehabilitated drug users that have completed their TVET courses. This will help ensure that there will be companies and industries that will provide gainful employment for reformed drug users. Through the TVET program, participants will not only be equipped with practical skills that can enable them to flourish in the workplace, but also valuable knowledge that will help them to adjust smoothly.

The stigma surrounding substance use and addiction is deeply embedded in the Philippine culture, socio-political landscape, and even in religious setting. Aside from it being criminalized, it is also associated to social-moral decay, which is tantamount to an attack to human dignity. The previous administration’s so-called war on drugs also exemplified the stigma against persons who use drugs. The proposed bills manifest a shift in the State’s perspective on its view of persons who use drugs as it recognizes their inherent human dignity and that they have a chance, not only to be reformed, but to be reintegrated meaningfully into society and to thrive in their chosen field.

Recent data shows that more persons who use drugs voluntarily opted to undergo treatment and intervention given the better accessibility of rehabilitation centers. Senator Estrada cited that admissions to 70 rehabilitation centers nationwide totaled to 3,865—a 43% increase from last year’s data—as per the Dangerous Drugs Board. Providing a program that facilitate reintegration also help motivate persons who use drugs to seek treatment so they can return to normal, productive life. Recent data reflects that many former drug users have the ability and motivation to complete their courses, which reflect their desire to live a better life. In 2021, 8,200 out of 8,700 former drug dependents who participated in TVET were able to graduate from their courses, according to TESDA.

The cited data show that efforts of the government to support the recovery and reintegration of persons with history of substance use serve as positive ways to address the drug problem while also enabling the government to fulfill its duty to respect and protect the inherent dignity of all individuals. CHR is hopeful that the proposed bills can gradually help eliminate the stigma and mistreatment associated with substance use as more of the avail of the program and are successfully reintegrated into society.

CHR recognizes the initial efforts of TESDA that helped paved the way to the crafting of the proposed bills. We commend both chambers of Congress for ensuring that the TVET program is institutionalized to enable inter-agency efforts and consistent funding that will allow it to reach more clients and expand its impact.

The proposed measure manifest the legislative branch’s commitment to the human rights values enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), particularly the principle of restorative justice that endeavor to aid the full recovery and reintegration of individuals. It is also expected that such measure will help create an enabling environment where persons who use drugs can feel safe to reach out, seek support, and voluntarily avail services that would contribute to their betterment. Further, the meaningful reintegration of rehabilitated drug users will enable them to productively contribute to development. ###