Robredo, U.N. office tackle ‘best practices’ on health-based approach vs drugs

Mara Cepeda

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Robredo, U.N. office tackle ‘best practices’ on health-based approach vs drugs
Vice President Leni Robredo's chief of staff Philip Dy says community-based drug rehabilitation programs would best help 'slight or occasional' drug users who surrender to authorities

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo met with representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to discuss the “best practices” of other Southeast Asian nations in combating illegal drugs.

The Vice President’s discussion with the UNODC on Monday, November 11, primarily focused on the public health-based approach that the Philippines can adopt from its neighboring countries.

“I think one of the main things that were really discussed, one of the key learnings [from] the experience of other countries is the emphasis on the public health approach and how that can be given equal approach together with the law enforcement,” Robredo’s chief of staff, Undersecretary Philip Dy, told reporters.

Though sparse on the specific details, Dy said Robredo and the UNODC also tackled areas of improvement in the anti-drug campaign of other Southeast Asian nations.

The Vice President also met with the core members of the Community-Based Drug Rehab Alliance, which is a network of local government units, non-governmental organizations, the academe, and faith-based organizations that work towards “people-centered, humane, and evidence-based” solutions to the drug problem. 

Dy once again defended Robredo’s push to reform President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs towards a community-based approach that treats the drug problem as a health issue. (READ: Robredo opens ICAD meet: The enemy is drugs, not people)

“Actually, 90% ng ating hinaharap na problema sa ilegal na droga, ang solusyon talaga is to transition them to the community-based drug rehabilitation programs. Kasi karamihan naman ng mga nagsu-surrender are either slight or occasional users lang,” said Dy. 

(Actually, 90% of the solution to the problem we are facing on illegal drugs is to transition them to the community-based drug rehabilitation programs. Because many of those who surrender are either slight or occasional users only.)

It has been 5 days since Robredo accepted Duterte’s offer for her to be co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). (READ: The gamble of Leni Robredo

The Vice President already said she wants the ICAD, composed mostly of law enforcement agencies, to open its doors to to human rights and faith-based organizations.  

She also said law enforcement personnel should have body cameras to ensure the “integrity” of drug operations.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations, but human rights groups estimate the numbers could reach almost 27,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: The Impunity Series)

The UN Human Rights Council previously adopted a resolution led by Iceland calling on UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to write a comprehensive report on the situation in the Philippines. 

Duterte was outraged by the resolution, prompting him to mock Iceland and mull cutting diplomatic ties with it. 

UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard had also drawn the ire of the President when she said in 2017 that his drug war should be investigated due to reports of state-sanctioned killings of drug suspects. Duterte then threatened to slap Callamard if she investigated him. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.