MANILA – UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for supporting an alternative faith-based rehabilitation of young Filipino drug addicts relative to the government's war on illegal drugs.
"I told myself, this man is not the murderer that his critics portray him to be in the international community. The President is receptive to a church-based, Christ-centered therapeutic approach towards drug-dependent youth from the urban poor," he said. "Contrary to the unfounded accusations against him, the President has a full grasp of the country's drug problem and is open to alternative ways to solve it."
The former presidential spokesman said Duterte understands that young drug users are victims of pushers and syndicates and deserve to be fully rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
In a recent UniTeam campaign rally in Caloocan City, Duterte revealed a previous no-holds-barred talk with Roque on "Oplan Tokhang."
Roque publicly assailed and legally challenged the drug war campaign as a party-list representative in the 17th Congress.
Roque is the founding chair of Onesimo Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports young drug users and out-of-school youth from the poorest barangays in Manila and Quezon City.
Since 1996, he said he is privy to the unspeakable crimes committed by drug-crazed individuals to their own families and within their communities.
From 2016 to 2022, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency reported that 4,230 children, aged four to 17, were rescued during anti-drug operations.
"I thank the President for revealing the truth in a UniTeam rally. In our one-on-one talk, I enumerated my criticisms of the government's war on drugs, particularly the numbers killed during police operations," Roque said.
He also questioned the alleged use of excessive force by authorities in poor urban communities that his foundation serves.
Instead of getting angry, Roque said Duterte agreed with his recommendation that the government should support and allocate resources to the faith-based rehabilitation of drug-addicted youth.
"I was happy that the President agreed with our foundation's radical approach of incorporating bible studies and church-based activities. We believe that Christ and His teachings will bring about transformative change in these youth," he said.
As a former lawmaker, Roque sponsored bills that seek to secure Philippine borders to prohibit the entry of illegal drugs and reduce the demand and inappropriate use of illegal drugs.
If elected to the Senate, Roque has vowed to sponsor legislation that would sustain the anti-criminality and drug control programs of the Duterte administration.
The senatorial aspirant would file a bill abolishing the corrupt-ridden Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and replacing it with the National Health Service. (NHS), which will take over as implementer of the Roque-authored Universal Health Care law.
He would introduce measures on job creation to aid pandemic-affected workers and a supplemental budget to continue the rehabilitation of typhoon Odette victims.
Roque's legislative platform also includes the "three-day court hearing" rule, Victims Compensation Fund for murder victims, "zero hunger" within six years, and access to potable water for all Filipinos by 2028. (PR)