Ateneo Organizes an Evidence-based Forum on Anti-Drug Campaigns
On October 03, 2016, the Ateneo School of Government, the Ateneo Law School, and the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health held a forum titled “Anti-Drug Campaigns: What Works and What Doesn’t Work” at the Microtel Hotel, UP Technohub, Quezon City. The policy forum brought together international and local experts, policymakers, and various stakeholders in the anti-illegal drug campaign in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, Vice President for the Ateneo Professional Schools, welcomed the participants of the forum and emphasized the urgent need for an honest and rational discussion on this issue. Senator Risa Hontiveros delivered the keynote speech. She stressed that it is imperative to shift our anti-drug policy from punishment to treatment and emphasized the need to introduce harm reduction as the public health solution to the illegal drugs problem.
In the first session titled Lessons from International Experience, Atty. Ricky Gunawan, Director of the Community Legal Aid Institute (LHB Masyarakat) based in Jakarta, shared Indonesia’s experience on enforcement-centered war on drugs. He emphasized that punitive policies don’t work and what works are anti-illegal drugs campaigns that respect human dignity and evidence-based public health response. He described the ineffectiveness of Indonesia's anti-drug policy which rehabilitates only a small fraction of addicts, creates "markets" for drugs by overcrowding prisons, and targets more poor people. He emphasized harm reduction as a better strategy.
Ms. Gloria Lai, Senior Policy Officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, put some global perspectives in the discussion. She explained the global statistics in drug use and anti-drug efforts. She noted that an emphasis on a punitive approach alone will not work. Experience of other countries suggests that it will be anti-poor, expensive on the public budget; and without international cooperation, will only shift drug markets and drugs supply across borders. The presentations were then followed by an open forum where the participants were given the chance to voice out their questions and reactions. The session was moderated by Professor Mario Antonio Lopez of the Asian Institute of Management. The first session provided a brief yet relevant account of the experiences on the different anti-illegal drug campaigns that worked and did not work in countries around the world.
The second session focused on Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Anti-Drug Policy Reform. Atty. Ray Paolo Santiago, Executive Director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, commenced the discussion with a snapshot of the Legal Framework of the Anti-Drug Campaign in the Philippines and further delved into the constitutional issues surrounding the Double Barrel campaign program. Dr. Ma. Vilma Diez, Director of the Office of Special Concerns – Dangerous Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program (DDAPTP), focused on the public health perspective on the War on Drugs. Dr. Elmer Soriano, Managing Director of Civika Asian Development Academy, advanced the discussion further by laying out the Leadership Models for Academe-Government-Community Rehab Partnerships and emphasized the need to recognize the nature of the challenge and type of leadership needed, and the role of social labs for drug rehab and social innovation and universities in the fight against illegal drugs. Dr. Emma Porio, Professor of Sociology and anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University and Science Research Fellow at the Manila Observatory shared her study titled Children in Drugs in Southeast Asia: Implications for Anti-Drug Campaigns/Reforms in the Philippines. She emphasized the need for child/youth/gender-sensitive drug policy framework, supportive bureaucracy, and budget and other resource support in the fight against illegal drugs. Finally, Fr. Luciano Felloni, Vicar Forane of Our Lady of Lourdes Vicariate, shared the Community-based Rehabilitation Program undertaken in his parish and the principles that guide their program. Dr. Ma. Luz Querubin, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, presided as the moderator of the panel and the open forum.
The third session further contextualized the discussion by focusing on the Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign of the Duterte Administration. This session was moderated by Mr. Quintin Pastrana of Bloomberg TV Philippines. Sec. Benjamin Reyes, Chairman of Dangerous Drugs Board, discussed the mandate, mission, composition, and the 2017 Program Thrusts (National Anti-Drug Plan of Action (NADPA)) of the Dangerous Drugs Board. PSSupt. Rene Pamuspusan, Chief, Law Enforcement Division, Directorate for Operations of the Philippine National Police, shared the National Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategies and the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign Plan – Double Barrel, its basis for crafting, purpose, concept of operations, and the program’s accomplishment report. Gov. Hilario Davide III of the Province of Cebu shared Cebu’s own anti-illegal drugs campaign programs and stressed that the “fight against illegal drugs is not a matter of choice as it is a must”. The panel capped off with an open forum also led by the moderator.
The forum was well-attended by participants in the private sector, government, civil society, and academe. It offered a unique opportunity to present different views and learning experiences of other countries and it served as the venue to engage various sectors for a more informed analysis of the country’s war against drugs.