Robredo reimagines resistance
In different parts of the world today, protesters in their thousands have reinvented resistance—from Hong Kong to Chile, Lebanon to Ecuador, Sudan to Catalonia.
Resist from within. Here at home, we are witness to one woman’s resolve to reimagine resistance. To take a stand against the senseless killings spawned by an unending war that cannot be won, Vice President Leni Robredo has stunned foes and friends alike by accepting the President’s dare to take charge of the government’s so-called “war on drugs.” In so doing, she has reimagined resistance by pledging to “work from within,” proposing to change the metrics of a deeply flawed campaign and laying down the pillars of the principled position she brings to the task.
The Vice President aims to provide a fresh and critical perspective. “If all I can accomplish is to save one human life, then it will be worth all the effort”: That line, both brave and disruptive, sums up Robredo’s decision to accept the high-risk task. It turns resistance on its head and empowers one to resist from within.
Lessons learned from a “Hundred Years’ War.” In a working paper for the Global Commission on Drug Policies done early in this decade, Martin Jelsma, who coordinated the “Drugs and Democracy Program” at the Transnational Institute in the Netherlands, traced the history of international drug control from the first convention signed in 1912 to successive UN Conventions signed in 1961, 1971, 1988 and counting. He then discussed the compelling critique against the failed “war on drugs”—a term first used by US President Richard Nixon—that has now led to a reexamination of more modern and effective approaches.
A palette of viable options for addressing the drug problem exists, as exercised in Uruguay, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and others. Among the preferred approaches that have evolved are the following seven points:
Develop evidence-based responses and more meaningful targets; focus on “reducing death, disease, crime and suffering” associated with illicit drugs.
Tackle substance abuse as a public health and community health priority. Portugal’s health-centered approach, for example, combines the reduction of supply and demand with harm reduction and social reintegration as well as appropriate medical treatment; in the Netherlands, drugs fall under the jurisdiction of health agencies, not law enforcement, a system that has since seen a decline in the chronic use of hard drugs.
Take a multipronged approach that addresses poverty, inequality, the lack of livelihoods or meaningful employment, the loss of a sense of community and the prevalence of a “sense of drift” among the youth.
Zero in on large-scale drug suppliers and violent drug gangs instead of drug users and small-time dealers.
Shift funding from unproductive punitive drug eradication programs to approaches that meet treatment demands and rehabilitation.
Incorporate respect for the rule of law and due process, human rights and accountability, and the strengthening of democratic institutions while providing reparation to the victims of injustice.
Decriminalize properly and distinguish between certain levels of drugs, since they represent different degrees of dangers or threats to the health of individuals and the safety of communities. To decriminalize does not diminish the vigor of operations against drug syndicates or suppliers; drug dealing and trafficking remain criminal offenses.
Involve citizens. The task taken on by Robredo cannot be accomplished without the collaboration of citizens in barangays in different parts of the country. Citizens are our first line of defense in a democracy, for what is at stake is the future of our country. In a sense, her acceptance of the challenge is at the same time an invitation to a “conspiracy of hope,” and a call to every citizen’s sense of courage.
Ed Garcia is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
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