Robin Padilla's take on drugs: Legalize! If law doesn't work, revoke it | Inquirer News

Robin Padilla’s take on drugs: Legalize! If law doesn’t work, revoke it

/ 06:06 PM November 22, 2022
Robin Padilla insists that the Philippines try legalizing drug use

FILE PHOTO: Senator Robinhood C. Padilla at the Senate on November 10, 2022. (Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Robin Padilla is still gung-ho about legalizing drug use in the country, even after hearing all the opposing arguments.

He said the law is always open to change if it doesn’t work.

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The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs heard about drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers, and Senator Ronald Dela Rosa wondered if the country could “afford an experiment” to determine if decriminalizing drug use would be beneficial or not.

Padilla responded: “We can always amend the law. English iyon ah. Kailangan lang natin sumubok. Kailangan natin pakinggan rin iyong medical point of view kasi nagawa na natin iyong law enforcement point of view. Wala naman masama. Kung hindi naging epektibo, eh ‘di next year, palitan natin. Tanggalin natin iyong batas.”

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(We can always amend the law. Wow, that’s English. We need to try. We also need to hear the medical point of view because we’ve already acted from the law enforcement point of view. There’s nothing wrong with that. If it’s not effective, then let’s change it next year. Let’s remove that law.)

Earlier in the hearing, Dela Rosa said that one reason rehabilitation centers’ utilization remains low was that drug users are sent to prison instead of committing them in these centers.

He also cited the case of the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Nueva Ecija province which is inaccessible to people from faraway areas. Thus, he noted, the construction of a rehabilitation facility is being eyed in every region.

READ: Mega rehab center of Duterte drug war still up to task

“At number two, siguro, iyong i-decriminalize natin iyong drug using instead of imprisonment, automatic i-rehab sila. Kung automatic rehab, mapupuno talaga iyang mga iyan,” he said.

(Secondly, decriminalizing drug use instead of imprisonment. Automatically put them in rehab, and those centers will really be filled.)

Padilla then argued that drug users, especially those who deal on a small scale, are merely offenders and should be dealt with differently than violent criminals.

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“Paghiwalayin natin iyong pusher, drug dealer. Iyong mga kawatan talaga, ihiwalay natin sa mga biktima. Iyon lamang po ang purpose ng panukalang batas. Kailangan maliwanag sa batas ng Pilipinas na hindi natin isinasama iyong pipitsugin doon sa bigatin. Kailangan po natin talaga bigyan ng emphasis dito sa batas natin sa Pilipinas kung sino iyong ating tutulungan at sino iyong ating tutuluyan,” he explained.

(Separate the drug pushers from the dealers. Let’s separate the thieves from those victims. That’s the purpose of this proposed measure. We need an explicit law separating small-time and big-time drug users in the Philippines. We need the law to emphasize who the government should help and who should be sent to jail.)

As expected, the proposal to decriminalize drug use was met with opposition during the upper chamber’s hearing.

Dela Rosa acknowledged the points raised by the Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) in its submitted position paper.

“Tama nga iyong sabi ng DDB na baka iyong magiging standard ng mga tao, ‘Walang problema iyan, gamit tayo ng droga. Hindi naman tayo makukulong. Rehab lang tayo.’ Iyon iyong meat ng opinyon ninyo. Napaisip rin ako, kung i-decriminalize natin iyong drug using, baka ma-decriminalize na rin natin iyong drug possession,” the former top cop-turned-senator said, noting that drug possession is of greater offense.

(What the DDB said is right – this may become the people’s standard, and they might say, ‘There’s no problem here. Let’s use drugs since we won’t be imprisoned. We’ll just go to rehab.’ That was the meat of their opinion, so it got me thinking that if we decriminalize drug use, we might also decriminalize drug possession.)

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) likewise opposed decriminalizing drug use.

“From the start, we have registered our objection because it’s going to send the wrong message to the public like we’re saying it’s okay to do drugs kasi gagamutin namin kayo (because we’ll be rehabilitating them). We’re going to take away the real deterrence in drug use which is imprisonment,” said NBI Commander of National Task Force in Illegal Drugs Ross Jonathan Galicia.

Echoing the NBI’s stance, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Moro Lazo said he personally does not encourage this direction in handling drug use in the country.

Lazo cited a provision in the earlier version of the Republic Act No. 6975, which states that drug users could undergo rehabilitation and later face court proceedings with a possibility of a decreased penalty.

But Padilla said that while he understands their position, he insisted that drug users should not be seen as criminals.

“Kapag hindi natin tinanggap na ang drug addict ay biktima at laging sila ang kriminal, para saan pa po tayong nag-usap dito? Para sa akin, dapat merong thin line na sinusunod tayo kung sino ba iyong nagnenegosyo sa drugs. Pero iyong mga biktima na bumibili ng piso, dalawang piso na droga, hindi po siguro natin silang itratong kriminal kasi mga biktima iyan,” he said.

(If we don’t accept that drug addicts are victims and that they’re always criminals, then what are we still discussing here? For me, there should be a thin line separating those who use drugs as a business. But for those who buy drugs for a cheap price, we shouldn’t treat them as criminals because they’re also victims.)

Padilla also clarified that he is only pushing to decriminalize small-scale drug use.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na lahat ng droga, ide-decriminalize natin. Siyempre, ang ibig sabihin ko po, iyong mga maliliit. Katulad po ng mga progresibong bansa, sa mga first world countries, idine-decriminalize nila depende sa dami,” he explained.

(I’m not pushing to decriminalize all drug activities. What I mean, of course, is the small-scale drug players. In other progressive and first world countries, they decriminalize drug use depending on the amount.)

Taking note of the point raised by Padilla, Dela Rosa said: “It really goes without saying that we have to jail the pusher and save the user.”

During the Duterte administration, Vice President Leni Robredo suggested that the country look into the example of Portugal, which has decriminalized drug use since 2001, later leading to lower drug-related deaths and declines in drug abuse among its citizens.

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

However, Robredo’s approach to drug use was mocked by former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose brutal crackdown on illegal drugs was marred with extrajudicial killings.

Padilla and dela Rosa have been staunch supporters of the government’s controversial anti-drug campaign, defending it when critics hit its alleged human rights violations.

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TAGS: Illegal drugs, Robin Padilla, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
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