Sunday, April 23, 2017

An answer to failure of Duterte, from his Vice-President

Why not decriminalize drug use? VP urges gov’t to study Portugal move

Is decriminalizing drug use the better alternative to killing drug addicts?
Vice President Leni Robredo, who is banned by Duterte from his cabinet meetings, suggested on Friday that the Philippines look to the example of Portugal, which made the radical decision of decriminalizing drug use in 2001, leading to lower drug-related deaths and declines in drug abuse among its citizens.
Robredo was the guest at a forum in the University of the Philippines in Los Baños when she was challenged by a student to offer an alternative to the government’s deadly drug war, which has left thousands dead since last year.
She said the government should study the best practices by countries that found solutions to the drug menace, and cited Portugal as a “triumphant” example, according to a transcript of the exchange sent by her staff.
Robredo did not directly propose following the Portuguese government’s policy of decriminalizing drug use, but noted how the European nation dramatically shifted its focus from looking at drug abuse punitively to treating it as a health issue requiring treatment and reintegration.
She contrasted it with the failed drug campaigns by state forces in Latin America, most of which had focused on violent methods.
“If we only study the drug campaigns around the world, we will see that the countries that used violence in combating drugs never succeeded. Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico —these countries used force, they fought fire with fire. Many lives were lost but they were not successful,” she said in Filipino.
“Who were successful?” she asked the students.
“One of those is Portugal. What did Portugal do? Portugal found a system to combat drugs that was peaceful and orderly. They reformed their laws; they strengthened rehabilitation [of addicts]; they fixed their institutions responsible for rehabilitating. They were triumphant,” Robredo said.
Portugal decriminalized personal possession of all drugs in 2001.
This did not mean possessing drugs for personal use became legal, but rather, it was considered an administrative violation punishable by fines or community service.
According to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Portugal registered lower drug use levels than the European average since the decriminalization policy took effect in 2001.
Drug use also declined among those aged 15-24, the population most at risk of initiating drug use, the UK-based group said in a 2015 report.
“Overall, this suggests that removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession did not cause an increase in levels of drug use,” the foundation said. It noted, however, that besides decriminalization, Portugal instituted corresponding social and health reforms that aided the new drug policy.
“This tallies with a significant body of evidence from around the world that shows the enforcement of criminal drug laws has, at best, a marginal impact in deterring people from using drugs,” it said.
In the UP forum, Robredo said it was important to learn from the experience of other countries facing drug problems.
“Why don’t we look at the best practices and try them, because we have enough lessons in the past from other countries to determine what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
She said she wished to pursue community rehabilitation for drug dependents.
“Many of those who surrendered were not really drug dependents but occasional drug users. Why don’t we create a program for them?” she said.
Robredo noted how congested Philippine jails were, with more than half of the inmate population incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

Philippine Enquirer, 23rd April 2017

Robredo was elected Vice President independently of President Duterte and differs from him on most issues.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

They shot him. Just like that.

                                                  Raymart, son of Luzviminda

Luzyiminda Siapo dreamt of giving her children a better life when she left for Kuwait two years ago. But last week news from home, the kind nightmares are made of, sent the domestic running back.
On March 29th, a group of men in ski masks abducted and killed her 19-year old son Raymart a day after a neighbour tagged him as a marijuana peddler in Barangay NBBS, Navotas City.

“All it took was a false accusation for these people to murder my son,” Siapo, a single parent, said in an interview earlier this week. They did not bother to investigate, they did not bother to verify. “They just killed him”. The night before the murder, Raymart and a neighbour had a heated argument that ended with the latter going to the barangay hall to accuse Raymart of many things, like selling marijuana. The neighbour, ideentified only as Pejie, said his piece before desk officer Christopher Cariquitan who had everything recorded in his logbook.

The following night, aarmed men on motorbikes came looking for the teenager. An uncle who served as Raymart's guardian said over 14 men arrived and five of them entered their target's house. They couldn't find Raymart but later located him at a friend's house nearby.

Last cries for help
Forced to ride with the group, Raymart was last heard crying for help from anyone he saw on the street. They went around the barangay until they reached the area known as Bangkulasi.
The gunmen reportedly asked Raymart to get off the motorcycle and run. He wouldn't, and couldn't for Raymart was born with bilateral club foot (both feet were deformed).

“When my son refused, they asked him to sit down instead. Then, they shot him. Just like that, Stapo said.

Aie Balagtas See: Philippine Daily Enquirer, April 9

Comment by M. Ceres P. Doyo in Phillipine Enquirer, 4/13/2017

                                                        There s no name for her pain

Monday, April 03, 2017

"All the world's a stage"

MANILA - A Philippine youth theatre club staged a musical at a Manila park on Sunday, challenging President Duterte's bloody war on drugs. The count of those gunned down is over 8,000.
"The 20-minute show features a casket salesman whose funeral parlour is doing brisk business as corpses pile up.
But the salesman and his friends end up as statistics, falling to vigilante-style killings that have gripped the Southeast Asian nation and alarmed the international community."

See original photo of the slaying below in "There is nothing more to say"

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Philippines: Latest killing

                                                         Is this a human being?

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The trauma of being an executioner

An article in the “Guardian” newspaper, carries the heading, “The psychological impact on execution teams is one of the least discussed aspects of capital punishment in the US, yet arguably one of the most disturbing” : to introduce the article, “Eight executions in 11 days: Arkansas order may endanger staff's mental health” , The Guardian, 30th March, 2017. The article begins by relating the experience of a Dr. Alan Ault who as commissioner of the department of corrections in Georgia,gave the order for five executions by electric chair in 1994 and 1995. After the fifth life was taken, the cumulative distress reached breaking point and he resigned from the post.

Next month, the state’s Republican governor of Georgia has scheduled no fewer than eight executions over 11 days: “On Wednesday, 23 former corrections officials from 16 different states sent a joint letter to Hutchinson urging him to reconsider. They warned, several on the basis of personal experience, that participating in executions can exact a “severe toll on corrections officers’ wellbeing” and that by doing so many so quickly, Arkansas was “needlessly exacerbating the strain and stress placed on these officers”. The article goes on to report senseless exchanges on the issue, such as a justification that scheduling the executions over a short time would reduce the stress for the team of executioners. How convenient! I am reminded of a state in India where executions had not been carried out for several years. Suddenly, a judge sent an order of execution to the prison ordering a resumption of executions. The prison staff responded with the terse response that if he wished a resumption of executions he could come and carry them out himself!

It is true that in the debate on the death penalty and its abolition, little attention is paid to the trauma of those who carry out the execution on our behalf. However, in Thailand, this aspect of capital punishment has been treated with immense insight and sympathy by Tom Waller in his film “The Last Executioner” where the conflict in the mind and heart of Thailand's last executioner, Chavoret Jaruboon is treated, using all the arts of the powerful medium of film. Chavoret, in his day, executed 55 prisoners, including one woman. He wrote an artless account of his life and the trade which shaped it, as it did the lives of his family. One cannot add, and his friends or acquaintances, for he was a lonely and possessed man. Perhaps only his superior officers understood something of the effects of being an executioner to their command. The writer of this blog met Chavoret, and felt his longing for approval and acceptance. The film of Tom Waller is often surreal, as the world of karma and guilt intrude into a the banality of a very ordinary life. But its art is great, and offers a profound reflection on the act of judicial killing.

Significantly, the moment of crisis in the film, which strains the self justification of Chavoret, and disrupts his family harmony, is his botched execution of a condemned woman. But that will be a story for another day.