The number of people executed for drug dealing or simple consumption without trial or legal proceedings is estimated in the hundreds since Rodrigo Duterte took office as President of the Philippines last June. The new President, in accordance with his election promises, aims to curb the escalation of drug use in the country.
These methods violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1) of the United Nations, an organization of which the Philippines has been a member since 1945. Killing people who consume drugs is an inadmissible atrocity. Member States, international bodies and civil society organizations must firmly condemn the Government of the Philippines for these acts.
These are people killed by the police or the so-called “death squads” for having allegedly consumed drugs. Perhaps they used drugs because they did not want to continue suffering, because they despaired of escaping the endemic poverty in which they live; because their neighbourhoods were taken over by mafia groups and they had to deal to survive; because there is no investment in drug abuse prevention in schools; because their parents did not know how or did not have the means to educate them better; because they suffer psychological disorders but since the cost of pharmaceutical products is unaffordable they turned to other drugs to alleviate the pain. There are many factors that drive a person to abuse or become addicted to drugs. For these reasons it has long been known that a strategy that focuses exclusively on the repression, criminalization and prosecution of drug trafficking and use of illicit substances is doomed to failure because the causes of this phenomenon cannot be attributed only to the individual at the end of the supply chain. A complex problem requires complex solutions.
How much does the Philippine government invest in prevention and treatment of addictions? What social awareness strategies are developed in the country to warn people of the risks of drug abuse? What is the degree of responsibility of the high poverty rates in the archipelago in the proliferation of drug use? What economic policy is the President of the Philippines implementing to generate confidence in the future and jobs for millions of young people?
The international clamour against these crimes, which are permitted and encouraged by President Duterte, was heightened by the dissemination of photographs of young Michael Siaron, his lifeless body sprawled on the street and in the arms of his girlfriend Jennilyn, a poor, humble young couple living in a subhuman shanty amidst the filth and rubbish.
The first meeting of the United Nations on what was perceived as a serious worldwide problem was held in 1946. 70 years later the reality shows that, despite enormous efforts, we face a persistent, highly complex phenomenon on global scale that ruins the health of millions of people and affects the security and development of countless communities.
According to the official U.N. figures, 250 million people consume illegal drugs in the world (and therefore alcohol, tobacco and legally prescribed drugs are excluded from this total). It is estimated that 4 out of 5 drug addicts receive no treatment of any kind. In recent years a growing number of voices has been raised among governments and civil society to demand a change in the policies that have been applied in the past under the aegis of the so-called “war on drugs” and which opt for an uncompromising fight to reduce the supply, combat the drug cartels and penalise the use of illicit substances.
The U.N. General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem was held in April 2016. Fortunately, the Member States approved a document (2) that has progressively evolved, albeit slowly – agonizingly slowly according to the experts – into a health-based model that focuses on the citizens, their needs and the prosperity of their communities.
Decriminalization of addicted people is identified as another priority. The drug addict is not a criminal: he or she is a person who needs help and can be helped to reintegrate into society. In spite of significant progress on this front it was not possible to introduce elimination of the death penalty for drug-related offenses into the agreement. It seems incredible that thirty countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Thailand still violate human rights by applying the death penalty to these cases. Its abolition will entail the application of proportional punishment and provision of treatment programmes as an alternative to imprisonment, methods that have proven much more effective for social reintegration. This ambivalence may explain the excessive neutrality of the U.N. stand on the serious events in the Philippines.
We hope this article will help to alleviate the pain of friends and relatives of the murdered victims, show our support for the people of the Philippines and to request President Duterte to detain a policy of terror that is incompatible with peaceful democratic societies.
- UNO (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/es/documents/udhr/
- UNO (2016). Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 18 April 2016. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N16/110/28/PDF/N1611028.pdf?OpenElement