By Joe Zaldarriaga

Government, private sector team up in war vs. illegal drugs

Although implementing a slight change in its approach, the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. remains steadfast in its fight against illegal drugs.

Under the Department of the Interior and Local Government's (DILG) “Buhay Ingatan, Droga'y Ayawan” (BIDA) program, the government aims to combat illegal drugs within the framework of the law, with respect for human rights, complemented by rehabilitation and an inclusive socioeconomic development approach. The new strategy focuses on apprehending, rehabilitating and giving drug users a chance to change their lives.

Interior Secretary Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos Jr. said the war against illegal drugs is similar to cutting off a tree's branches. "It's like a tree, that even if we cut the branch, another branch will grow and take its place. So if you want to cut down the tree, you must remove its roots. Consequently, a more robust and drug-free Philippines will emerge."

The partnership was formally launched through the signing of an MOU by Abalos and representatives of private companies, including the MVP Group of Companies (Meralco, Maynilad, Metro Pacific Tollways, PLDT, Smart Communications), Jollibee Food Corporation, Max's Group, Inc., Megawide Corporation, SM Corporation, Megaworld, Philippine Airlines, Mcdonald's, Nestle, Aboitiz, San Miguel Corporation, ETON, Ayala, Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., Blue Cross, Bench, Gokongwei Group, Lopez Holdings Corporation, RFM Corporation, Tan Yan Kee Foundation, Inc ., Foodee Global Concepts, Cherry Mobile, Mary Grace, UERM Medical Center and the University of the East. The MOU targets to extend the fight against illegal drugs to the private sector.

Abalos also encouraged private companies to have their anti-drug policy and conduct random drug testing of their employees to reduce the use of illegal drugs.

"BIDA Program is all about shared responsibility in countering illegal drugs, and BIDA Workplace is our bid to forge dependable partnerships with the private sector. The BIDA Workplace is part of the government's whole-of-nation approach to fighting and eradicating illegal drugs nationwide. Through this, other aspects of the BIDA program will gradually achieve the administration's vision of a drug-free Philippines," Abalos said.

Under the agreement, private companies will have anti-illegal drug programs and policies that align with the BIDA program's goals.

An example is the random drug testing of employees, in which each company will impose penalties such as suspension, dismissal, or perhaps help a guilty employee to undergo rehabilitation. Abalos said that if all companies do this, our country will be clean, and we will win the fight against illegal drugs.

BIDA Workplace was also inspired by the excellent cooperation between the government and the private sector during the pandemic, particularly in implementing Covid-19 testing. With the help of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the DILG also plans to launch and give the BIDA Drug-Free Workplace Seal to private companies that comply with BIDA Workplace policies and practices and take active initiatives to ensure that drugs do not enter their company is drugs.

First Lady Louise "Liza" Araneta-Marcos, the guest of honor during the launch, expressed her full support to the DILG and the private sector in their initiative to unite to ensure the existence of safe and drug-free workplaces in the country.

"By inviting and involving the private sector, hopefully, we would be able to enlighten the public about the perils brought about by illegal drugs. President Marcos earlier said that there would be no let-up in the government's campaign against illegal drugs. On behalf of my husband, thank you, DILG, thank you, private sector. Thank you for the support you've given and continue to give for my husband's war against drugs. Thank you for your commitment to make our Filipino communities safe and drug-free," added the First Lady.

The war against illegal drugs is not just the government's fight but everyone's battle. Through the BIDA Workplace program, the MVP Group of Companies reaffirms its commitment to support the government's push to promote human and social development and to educate Filipinos on the effects of illegal drugs.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.