MANILA, Philippines — His record of arrest and detention for drug use during his youth did not discourage Johann “Panki” Nadela, now 49, from advocating a society that understands, not punishes or kills, people like him who need humane care and support the most.
Since 2015 when he cofounded a community drop-in center in Cebu City for people involved in drugs, Nadela has put a face to substance abuse in the country with his experience in drug addiction and its consequences—using his newfound resolve to help seek better options to the drug problem.
“It doesn’t need to be a war,” he said in an interview. “I believe that we can have an environment where persons who use drugs are not arrested, mistreated or killed, but are given the chance to be understood and reintegrated,” he said. “They can receive proper care and treatment and their rights to live normally are restored.”
The former intravenous or injecting drug user (IDU) is the executive director of IDUCARE, a Cebu City organization managed exclusively by former IDUs.
The group still carries its name despite changing terminologies steered by the United Nations and other international organizations to promote a more compassionate language—from IDU to persons who inject drugs (PWIDs), persons who use drugs (PWUDs) and persons involved in drugs.