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The rest of the world knows war on drugs doesn’t work

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The rest of the world knows war on drugs doesn’t work

/ 01:16 AM July 22, 2016

President Duterte is waging a hard-line just-kill-them-all war on drugs at a time when the rest of the world already knows the truth about such a strategy: It doesn’t work.

This was underscored just a few weeks before Duterte was elected.

As the Philippine election campaign was wrapping up in April, world leaders met at the United Nations to rethink the decades-old global war against drugs and drug abuse.

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“A war that has been fought for more than 40 years has not been won, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the New York Times. “When you do something for 40 years and it doesn’t work, you need to change it.”

That view was echoed in a letter by political leaders from all over the world and even such celebrities as Sting and Mary J. Blige to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights,” the letter said.

“Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.”

The war on drugs has had tragic consequences, the letter argues, citing governments that “devoted disproportionate resources to repression at the expense of efforts to better the human condition.”

The following sentence should resonate among Filipinos as the Duterte campaign unfolds.

“Tens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial and ethnic minorities, were incarcerated, mostly for low-level and non-violent drug law violations, with little if any benefit to public security.”

Governments and civic groups have long recognized the effectiveness of treatment, rehabilitation and even decriminalization of drug use and possession.

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“A growing number of city, state and national governments no longer treat drug use and possession as crimes,” the letter to the UN says. “Some are beginning to legally regulate cannabis for medical and even non-medical purposes. Many more recognize the need to make essential medicines readily available, especially for pain and palliative care in lower income countries.”

This six-minute video from the Stop the Harm campaign is a powerful summary of the failure of the war on drugs: “Drug prohibition led to a system that bulldozes human rights, costs vast sums of money and creates a lot of human misery all in pursuit of an unattainable goal.”

The video could have been describing what Digong is trying to do. Actually that’s not exactly true: other countries wage their wars based on laws. Duterte’s war is more like a cruel, reckless witchhunt.

Take the bizarre procession that took place in Batangas a few days before Duterte took his oath of office. It was given a macabre name: “Flores de Pusher. “

That was on the banner leading the procession of accused drug dealers, their hands tied behind their backs, were forced to march in the streets of Batangas, led by agents of the city’s mayor.

Around the necks of the suspects were signs proclaiming, “Ako’y pusher. Wag tularan.”

Many of us hoped that was just the sick display of power by a mayor eager to impress an incoming president who had vowed to wage war on drugs.

Well, we were wrong.

Thousands of drug users (or more precisely, people who say they are drug users) have surrendered to authorities since Duterte took office.

Nearly 200 suspected drug dealers have been killed since that time, according the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s tally, which could very well be a conservative count compared with much higher numbers from other media outlets and the Citizens Council on Human Rights.

The killing and mass surrenders demonstrate Duterte’s decisiveness, his supporters argue. But it’s still unclear if those killed and those who are turning themselves purportedly for using or dealing are guilty of any crime.

Worse, we seem to be getting used to all this, to the bloody images and stories of people killed on suspicion of being a dealer or a user, to the lack of due process for those accused of these crimes.

That led my friend, lawyer-activist Raffy Aquino to lament, in a Facebook post that “the president Duterte is thus far worse than what the candidate Duterte initially appeared to be.”

“He is not only crass, he is crass, intellectually dishonest, and breathtakingly contemptuous of the Filipino and his rights and entitlements under a modern and enlightened system of laws,” he continues. “For confirmation of at least one thing, we need not wait for the unfolding of his entire six-year term: Duterte is thoroughly undeserving of the title manananggol that our elders reserved for their respected and beloved neighbors who were members of the lawyerly profession.

“I am a lawyer, and I am deeply offended by this President.”

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TAGS: Citizens Council on Human Rights, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Digong, drug criminalization, drug rehabilitation, effectiveness of war on drugs, Flores de Pusher, Mary J. Blige, President Rodolfo Duterte, Sting, Stop the Harm campaign, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, war on drugs
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