This is an Entry to the Government Best Practice Recognition Awards
Balay Silangan Reformation Program
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
Best practice Focus Area(s)
Social and environmental responsibility
The Balay Silangan Reformation Program provides intervention for small-time drug offenders who are neither users nor dependents. It includes guidelines that provide for its administrative and operational requirements with corresponding criminal and administrative penalties for its violation and non-implementation. Director General Aaron N. Aquino initiated the program. This is a new approach aimed to address the surge of drug offenders who surrendered and availed of the plea bargain since there was no institutionalized intervention for the Program’s intended clients. The Program was adopted by the Dangerous Drugs Board as a Regulation in January 2018.
Background and Problem
The primary objective of the Program is to provide a humanitarian alternative to arrest, prosecution, and conviction of small-time drug offenders who are neither drug users nor dependents.
Before Balay Silangan, drug offenders who are non-users/dependents are subjected to arrest, prosecution, and conviction regardless of involvement in the drug trade. As a result, law enforcement units, courts, and jails were overwhelmed. Further, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Estipona vs. Judge Frank Lobrigo allowed drug offenders to avail of plea bargaining. Unfortunately, there were no programs for drug offenders who were granted plea bargains. Treatment and rehabilitation became the “band-aid solution” to these concerns. However, this is an intervention for drug users/dependents and not for other violators of the Drug Law.
The Bataan PNP Office has an initiative aimed to expedite the Barangay Drug Clearing Program (BDCP) by giving intervention to the individuals cited above instead of arresting them. However, this initiative is not institutionalized and is more of a stop-gap measure for the BDCP rather than being a program by itself.
Solution and Impact
The Balay Silangan Reformation Program was conceptualized when law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration was the only course of action to address all drug offenders, both small-time and big time. This is an approach that cannot avoid violence and trauma despite best efforts. This is manifested by the conduct of arrest, filing of charges, and deprivation of liberty of the drug offender.
The “Balay Silangan” brought a transformation by changing the paradigm on how to address small-time drug offenders. This new approach is grounded on compassion by looking at the human side of the drug situation. It considers that its intended clients, small-time drug offenders, are compelled to engage in the illegal drug trade due to lack of legitimate means of livelihood and lack of proper guidance. This innovation takes a course of action that avoids the trauma while providing them with an opportunity for a new life without being subjected to enforcement operations and getting a criminal record. Further, its clients are allowed to reform without being deprived of liberty.
It has been approximately a year and a half since “Balay Silangan” was adopted for implementation. Ever since it has made an impact on the lives of nine hundred forty-eight (948) individuals. Same individuals who would have been subjected to a paradigm with a high probability of violence, trauma, and deprivation of liberty without “Balay Silangan”. With this innovation, these individuals were provided with education, livelihood, and various kinds of support that aims to reintegrate them to society and be able to contribute positively.
- The 948 graduates of the Balay Silangan Reformation Program are individuals who would have been arrested, prosecuted, or jailed are now reintegrated in their communities as law-abiding and productive members of society;
- There is now an alternative approach to address small-time drug offenders that will alleviate significant financial, manpower, logistical, and other operational and administrative burden of the LEAs, Courts, and Jails. Further, this will allow them to focus on big-time drug personalities; and
- The PDEA is currently developing comprehensive evaluation tools for Balay Silangan Facilities.