By Hermogenes N. Camangeg, PDO-I, Division Office

The new normal has posed different challenges to individuals, communities, and organizations across the globe. Many sectors were placed to resort to budget cuts, re-allocation, and worse, the total shutdown. However, digital media, in general, has emerged as a new avenue to continually deliver programs challenged by the new normal. Social media such as Facebook and Instagram have gained heightened popularity to deliver learning amid the pandemic.  Even TikTok which was traditionally introduced as a video-sharing platform for funny and entertaining videos has been maximized to deliver informational and transformational videos for various programs like campaigns against drugs and substance abuse.

In the Philippines, statistics have revealed that people engage on the internet for an average of 6 hours per day, and spend 35 hours per week on social media (Pew Research Center, 2020). Internet usage even rose to 94% of the population aging from 18 to 24 years old in 2020. Generally, these numbers also make up the student population. This is the same vulnerable population (Mackey, et. al, 2013) that is hypnotized by illegal internet pharmacies and individuals to buy substances like drugs via social media (Forman, et. al, 2006 UNODC, 2021). Consequently, pressing the need for positive interventions to counter the risk of drugs and substance abuse.

On the other hand, the Philippine government had launched its battle cry against illegal drugs even before the pandemic. The Philippine Anti-Illegal Drug Strategy (PADS) was launched across the different sectors through its whole-of-nation approach to counter the rage of illegal drugs and substance abuse in the country (DDB, 2019).

The Department of Education was mandated to educate the student population on drugs and substance prevention through the National Drug Education Program and Barkada Kontra Droga Program (DDB, 2010). The National Drug Education program focuses on integrating drug prevention and awareness into the curricula and integration of drug-related webinars. Whereas the Barkada Kontra Droga focuses on the provision of positive alternative strategies through co-curricular and ancillary services. Both the programs were mobilized by the key implementers among the schools- the teacher-advisers.

In 2010, DDB conducted program research and assessment for the BKD program. The study revealed the need for continuity of capacity building, particularly for the key implementers of the chapter-based activities (DDB, 2010). Reyes (2020) stressed that learners and educators should be encouraged to attend seminars to raise awareness of the alternative ways and gain new ideas that may improve their understanding of drug obliteration. Furthermore, the new learning setup posed an additional challenge to the implementers. Such is the creation of the Digital Barkada Kontra Droga (DIGI-BKD).

Digital-Barkada Kontra Droga or DIGI-BKD is a project that advocates continuity of the BKD Program in raising Drug Awareness Campaign through the implementation of activities using the digital platforms. It is a division-initiated project that serves as a

response to the training needs of BKD teacher-advisers. It is composed of activities patterned according to DDB Board Regulation No. 5, s. 2007. Following the 4 Phases of the Barkada Kontra Droga, the activities served as training interventions through webinars and video recordings. The series of webinars included discussions of the salient features of the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002, drug trends in the Philippines, the medical and preventive aspects of the Drug Education Program, enhancement of life skills focusing on digital and financial literacy, and skills training on livelihood. And to adapt to the emerging trend on online platforms, the implementers were equipped with training on designing effective posters and infographics.

The topics were based on Section 5 of the DDB Board Regulation No. 5 s. 2007 Program Components, DepEd Memorandum No. 200 s. 2016 and research recommendations as presented by Julius P. Reyes (2020) Project E.N.T.A.B.L.A.D.O. A Basis for Promoting the Drug Abuse Prevention Advocacy and Practices; DDB’s 2010 Assessment of the Barkada Kontra Droga Program and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s International Standard on Drug Use Prevention. The outline was patterned on the presentations during the National BKD Orientation realized thru DepEd OUA Memo dated March 1, 2021.

Adapting the whole-of-nation approach, the online platform served as an avenue for knowledge transfer through collaboration with non-private organizations. This also allowed for the provision of quality learning through the experts from Mega Drug Rehabilitation and Treatment Center, Boy Scouts of the Philippines-Nueva Ecija Council, Nueva Ecija Youth Action Network, and a volunteer from Mega Global Corporation.

The project was initially launched to the BKD teacher-advisers of the Division through the National Drug Education Program and Barkada Kontra Droga Program coordinators. As an activity output, the participants were required to craft their school-based action plans integrating the topics discussed. This shall serve as their basis to transfer the knowledge and skills to their respective as acquired throughout their online training duration.

The activity indeed served as a statement that the campaign against drugs will continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.