Hontiveros backs Robredo’s public health strategy vs illegal drugs

Published November 15, 2019, 2:22 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Hannah Torregoza

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday urged Vice President Leni Robredo to initiate an internal cleansing of law enforcement agencies to ensure that their personnel are not infiltrated by elements corrupted by drug syndicates.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senator Risa Hontiveros / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senator Risa Hontiveros / Facebook / File Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hontiveros offered this suggestion to the vice president after the latter was bombarded by critics who cast doubts on her ability to carry out her task as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

The senator, likewise, urged Robredo to consider replenishing the ranks of law enforcers with new and young agents who are impervious to police corruption.

At the same time, she said the vice president should consider mobilizing government resources to fund modern crime-fighting and solving infrastructure and capability enhancement programs.

This may include a nationwide automated crime reporting system, security-camera command centers in police districts and stations, air assets and modern laboratory equipment which can be used for more thorough and extensive substance analysis.

Vis-à-vis this approach, Hontiveros said the vice president should continue pursuing a public health approach to respond to the country’s drug problem.

“We need to replace the government’s ‘kill, kill, kill’ policy with a 4Ks approach namely: kalusugan, kapulisan, katarungan at komunidad (health, police, justice and community),” Hontiveros said.

“Ito ang mga sentrong programa ng isang public health approach na lulutas sa problema ng ilegal na droga, (These are the central program of a public health approach that will help solve the problem on illegal drugs),” added the senator.

Hontiveros said she fully supports Robredo’a plan to use a public health approach in the government’s anti-drug campaign, saying that such a policy will be more effective in ending not only the proliferation of illegal drugs, but drug-related violence as well.

“Hindi ito contest kung sino ang may pinakamaraming pinatay. Ito ay tungkol kung ano ang pinakamagandang istratehiya na magkukulong ng pinakamaraming druglords at sasagip at rereporma sa pinakamaraming buhay, (This is not a contest about who was able to kill many drug users. This is about what is the best strategy that would put to jail drug lords and save and reform the lives of many people),” Hontiveros said.

“Addiction is a health issue. On the other hand, big-time drug pushing is a serious crime. On the demand side, we need to push for the implementation of a barangay health and rehabilitation program. On the supply side, a modern, rights-based drug law enforcement which will focus on big drug lords and syndicates is needed,” she explained.

“I look forward to the Vice President acting on these things,” Hontiveros said.

She said the vice president can start by rolling out voluntary, out-patient, and community-based programs in poor communities in which drug dependents can seek necessary health and social services without threat of harm or death.

Hontiveros also urged Robredo to study the creation of “recovery courts” to help drug dependents become and remain drug free through treatment and recovery, and reduce the chances that people will be sent back to the criminal justice system.

She also suggested that Robredp consider implementing a “law enforcement-assisted diversion” scheme in which the police will turn over drug dependents–especially minors who have not committed serious crimes–to case managers for treatment and rehabilitation, instead of simply arresting them to face criminal charges.

Likewise, she said, Robredo should stengthen the implementation of a comprehensive drug education and prevention campaign to deter non-users from illegal drugs.

Hontiveros earlier filed “Public Health Intervention for Drug Use Act” which seeks to promote a “health and alternative law enforcement strategy” to address the country’s drug problem.