#AnimatED: Policy on drugs must be based on facts

#AnimatED: Policy on drugs must be based on facts
Despite recent official data of 1.8 million drug users, President Duterte hikes it to ‘4 million addicts’

On September 19, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) released its most recent nationwide survey on drug abuse in the Philippines showing 1.8 million current users of illicit drugs or 1.8% of our 101 million population.

The survey, conducted late 2015 to February 2016, had 5,000 respondents. DDB is a policy-making body under the Office of the President and is the repository of official data on illegal drugs. 

A few days after, President Duterte repeated in a talk before cops in Cagayan de Oro his old estimate of “3 million addicts” and even revised it to “4 million.” 

Here’s how he arrived at the 4-million figure: Duterte cited years-old estimate of 3 million supposedly from Dionisio Santiago, former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and added 1 million based on “recent events,” the Philippine Star reported.

“So, 3 million plus 1 million is 4 million,” Duterte said. He did not cite any source for the additional “1 million addicts” he found.

It appears that Duterte wasn’t aware of the DDB survey. This is worrying because it shows the President’s apparent disregard for facts, for evidence as basis of policy. 

Other findings of the DDB survey are equally important. These include: 

  • ¾ of the drug users thought of quitting but only 3% of current users has undergone rehabilitation program.
  • Only 4% are aware of any rehabilitation facility located nearby.
  • Prevalence of drug use is higher in Visayas than other regions.
  • Respondents recommended conduct of raids, jailing of pushers, patrol of barangay tanod and police, rehabilitation of drug users, and an efficient justice system.

So far, we are not seeing a coherent policy-making process on drugs.

We are not even seeing a holistic policy, for example, linking reforms in the judicial system and law enforcement to curbing of drug use, coordination with the health department in the aggressive rehabilitation of users, and cooperation with international law-enforcement agencies as well as the Anti-Money Laundering Council to track down suppliers. (READ: War on drugs? Other countries focus on demand, not supply)

All these require processes that take time and hard work, beyond the current preference for quick, shock-and-awe fixes.

We are only seeing a tunnel focus on killing suspected users and traffickers, which has already reached alarming numbers: 3,338 since July 1, of which 2,140 (as of Sept. 20) were victims of extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has said he needs 6 more months to fight the war on drugs, realizing that he could not fulfill his campaign promise of reducing illicit drug use in 3 to 6 months. This means continuous killings or, simply, an extermination campaign.

Policy, based on facts and evidence, is missing in this war. – Rappler.com

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