MADAM Vice President, what are you smoking? Seriously, you thought this is a bright idea, one that you will be best remembered for? This is your way of battling the scourge? Did you read thoroughly Portugal’s Law 30/2000?
Do you know we have ratified and are signatories to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances? Was there CSW done when you decided to merely drop Portugal as a “better” way of battling the menace?
What is to decriminalize? What drugs would Robredo want decriminalized under RA 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs of 2002? She said decriminalizing does not mean possessing drugs for personal use would become legal, but rather, it would be considered an administrative violation punishable by fines or community service.
What the Vice President wants repealed is a 15-year-old law which is only now being strongly implemented by government. When one decriminalizes, it legalizes use; it will no longer a crime to possess, trade and manufacture illegal drugs, right? We become a narco state since now abuse in use is a health issue and not a crime.
Context and perspective are important in referring to certain models or case studies in battling the scourge of illegal drugs. It is very important in using the Mexico model as a failed process of battling illegal drugs, according to the Vice President. She forgot to check the nature of operations and influence of drug use and the drug industry in Mexico and the Philippines, which are two different things. When Robredo keeps referring to failed battles in Mexico and other Latin American countries, she fails to understand the industry itself. Now she comes up with an off-the-cuff remark citing Portugal as “triumphant” in decriminalizing personal possession of all drugs in 2001. “What did Portugal do? Portugal found a system to combat drugs that was peaceful and orderly. They reformed their laws; they strengthened rehabilitation [of addicts]; they fixed their institutions responsible for rehabilitating,” she said.
Ergo, Duterte’s plan and program are not peaceful and orderly. And viola, reforming our laws and strengthening rehabilitation, fixing institutions responsible for rehabilitating are not being done. Clearly, that is false. Rehabilitation facilities are being constructed. Oplan Tokhang has been stopped, corrected and reloaded. Rehabilitation programs are rolling out.
Again, what the Vice President forgot to mention are the trade-offs for Portugal. “Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and is used as the shining example of what all nations should do. It has the lowest percentage of drug-overdose deaths in Europe. But here again, it is all a trade-off. In 1995, eight percent of Portuguese teenagers had tried recreational drugs. By 2011, that percentage had gone to 16 percent and with children under 13, it was the highest in Europe. Even while touting the benefits of decriminalization, the Portuguese government says the 40-percent increase in homicides since 2001 is related to drug use, and HIV transmission related to intravenous drug use is among Europe’s highest. Even Dr. Joao Goulao, the chief architect of Portugal’s decriminalization policy, has said: “It’s very difficult to identify a causal link between decriminalization by itself and the positive tendencies we have seen.” There is no simple or easy solution to the rampant drug-abuse problem. And looking for “simple and easy” solution may cause greater harm (Business Mirror editorial, August 25, 2015).
One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish are the drug quantities one can legally purchase and possess in Portugal, carrying them through the streets of Lisbon.
Ecstasy, and amphetamines—including speed and meth— can also be possessed in amounts up to one gram.
That’s roughly enough of each of these drugs to last 10 days. Will Robredo also recommend these for the Philippines?
These are the amounts listed in a table appended to Portugal’s Law 30/2000. Goulão participated in creating this law, which has put his country at the forefront of experimental approaches to drug control. The substances listed in the Law 30/2000 table are still illegal in Portugal but using these drugs is nothing more than a misdemeanor, much the same as a parking violation.
Pinto Coelho is a doctor ho has run rehab centers and written books on addiction. He is opposed to Goulão’s policy. Coelho’s greatest concern is that his country has given up on the idea of a drug-free world. How is it possible to keep young people away from drugs, when everyone knows exactly how many pills can legally be carried around? He still believes deterrents are the best form of prevention and that cold turkey withdrawal is the best treatment method. He is also fighting the extensive methadone program Portugal began as part of its drug policy reform, which now provides tens of thousands of heroin addicts with this substitute drug. The unintended consequences of a simple and easy solution.
So, let us go into the details, Madam Vice President. What provisions do you want decriminalized in Republic Act 9165? Importation, sale and trading, manufacture, cultivation, unnecessary and unlawful prescription, disposition of confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs? It is so easy to decriminalize but the devil is in the details. So, are you ready for a zombie state?