Press Release
February 8, 2017

Hontiveros to Duterte: Heed Colombia's warning, stop mimicking failed war on drugs

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, a staunch critic of the government's police-centric war on drugs, called on President Rodrigo Duterte today to listen to a former Colombian president's advise not to mimic his country's failed drug war campaign.

In a New York Times article published on Wednesday, Cesar Gaviria, the president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, wrote that Duterte is repeating his mistakes in confronting the drug problem.

Gaviria, who during his term waged a bloody war on drugs that killed notorious drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and slaugthered thousands of Colombians in the process, said that any anti-drug campaign cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. He admitted that the drug war his government waged was a failure.

"Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse. Locking up nonviolent offenders and drug users almost always backfires, instead strengthening organized crime," Gaviria wrote.

Hontiveros said that Gaviria's admission is proof that a strictly law enforcement approach to the drug problem is flawed.

"Cut and paste approach"

"The Duterte government should stop its 'cut and paste' approach to illegal drug trafficking. If Colombia's war on drugs, acknowledged as one of the most relentless and heavy-handed in the world, failed, what makes President Duterte think that his own drug war, smeared with thousands of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, will succeed? What's so special about the president's war on drugs that it will not end up just like the rest of the failed drug wars implemented by Colombia, the United States and Thailand?" she said.

Last year, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronaldo Dela Rosa visited Colombia to learn from its drug war. Dela Rosa expressed his desire to form a Philippine version of Colombia's Search Bloc, a special Colombian police force that targets wanted and dangerous personalities or groups.

Hontiveros reiterated her call for a strong public health framework to address the country's drug problem, which was similarly advocated by Gaviria. The former Colombian president said that real reductions in drug supply and demand will come through improving public health and safety, strengthening anticorruption measures and in investing in sustainable development.

On Monday, Hontiveros filed Senate Bill No. 1313 otherwise known as "the Barangay Health and Rehabilitation Strategy Act of 2017" to replace the government's "corrupt and abusive anti-drug campaign" with an "alternative health and law enforcement strategy" to address the country's drug problem.

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