Lawyers’ group: War on drugs won’t work

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The crackdown on drugs in the Philippines is bound to fail, according to a lawyers’ group.

“We learned that the war on drugs doesn’t work. It never has. It didn’t work for other countries and it will not work for us,” the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement was made during the launch by FLAG’s Anti-Death Penalty Task Force of a book based on a policy forum that tackled the Philippine drug issue earlier held with human rights advocates.

The task force collaborated with other groups including Coalition Against Death Penalty, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, Commission on Human Rights and No Box Transitions Foundation in the book project.


The two-day forum that was held in May was attended by over 200 delegates, local leaders and professionals from abroad.

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, was one of the forum’s keynote speakers.

“In April 2016, the General Assembly of the UN recognized explicitly that the ‘war on drugs’ does not work, be it community-based, national or global,” she said.

Neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart also spoke in the forum about myths surrounding drug use leading to brain disease.

“Viewing addiction as a brain disease promotes social injustice. The view of drug use and drug addiction as a brain disease serves to perpetuate unrealistic, costly and discriminatory drug policies,” Hart said.

The book cited Dr. John Collins of the International Drug Policy Project who talked about the economics of the war on drugs.

“Consistently, research shows that there is no correlation with the severity of policies and the scale of use. The more severe the drug control regime a country has does not mean lower rates of consumption,” he said.
Collins reiterated that there is a correlation between aggressive policing and violence.

“It only destroys the relationship of the community with the police,” he said.

“The drug war will soon be reverted to the Philippine National Police [PNP] so we can expect more blood to appear on the streets,” FLAG secretary general Ma. Soccoro Diokno said.

Diokno urged the government to engage in better discourse and review state policies involving drugs.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency now leads the government’s war on drugs, a job previously performed by the PNP.

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