Palace says ‘no’ to New Zealand’s former PM Clark’s proposal to decriminalize drug use

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government has rejected proposed decriminalization of drug use by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, saying it would only “multiply” the country’s drug problem.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said removing criminality liability would encourage others to use the illegal substance and become part of the “dreaded evil.”

“The suggestion of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to decriminalize the use of drugs as an alternative to the drug war, similar to the proposal by the European Union made two years ago, had already been thumbed down by the President,” Panelo said.

“The other countries’ experiences in addressing illegal substance while educational relative to their method of solving their own drug menace, decriminalizing the use of drugs in the Philippines will not only aggravate but multiply the problem,” he added.

He said the country has a billion-peso illegal drug industry where 97 percent of barangays, or small villages, have or had already been infiltrated.

“Take out the criminal liability of those involved and you induce and encourage others to be a part of the dreaded evil,” he added.

Clark, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, has called for reforms in anti-drug policies, particularly seeking health-oriented approach to protect people from harm.

She has mentioned the successful case of Portugal which implemented the decriminalization of drug use and established social and health policies that have reduced drug-induced deaths.

Panelo, however, advised foreign observers against making “unwise” commentaries about the country’s war on illegal drugs.

“We suggest observers, especially those in foreign countries, to understand fully the Philippine government’s strategy in dealing with illegal drugs before being persuaded by one-sided information and crafting unwise if not cerebrally challenged commentaries based thereon,” he said.

At present, Panelo said the government’s campaign against illegal drugs is anchored on national security and public health. He noted that more than seven out of 10 Filipinos are satisfied with the government’s anti-drug crackdown.

Drug treatment and rehabilitation also form part of the second phase of the government’s campaign, according to Panelo.

A 10,000-bed drug rehabilitation center, considered the biggest in the country, has opened in Nueva Ecija. Twenty-seven other reformation centers have also been built as of February 2019.