• Mon. Mar 27th, 2023

    CHR lauds Bong Go’s drug rehab measure


    Sep 27, 2022

    THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has praised the intent behind the bill introduced by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go that seeks to establish drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers in every province.

    In a statement, lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR executive director, was referring to Senate Bill 48 which seeks to establish a Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in every province.

    In its explanatory note, the bill states, “[w]hile it is true that the national government has consistently centered its campaign against drugs on crime prevention and eradication, it has not lost sight of its duty to aid in the recovery of those whose lives have been destroyed by illegal drugs.”

    De Guia said the CHR continues to decry the harms and social cost of drugs and substance abuse to people and communities.

    “We have since expressed support for a human rights-based approach to policies and initiatives that prioritize health, rehabilitation, and socioeconomic interventions for the treatment and recovery of persons who use drugs,” de Guia said.

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    With this, de Guia added that the CHR lauds the intent behind the bill in providing care, treatment, and aftercare for persons who use drugs.

    “[I]t aims to enhance their physical, psychological and social capability to cope with common problems complemented with social reintegration services. Using a restorative justice perspective in addressing the drug problem is worthy of citation,” she said.

    To further improve the bill, the CHR also presented recommendations from a human rights-based approach to drug treatment and recovery.

    The CHR cited in particular the 2015 consensus in the East and Southeast Asia Region and the joint statements from the United Nations in March 2012 and June 2020, calling for the closure of compulsory centers for drug use and instead investing in voluntary community-based approaches.

    “Compulsory centers are facilities where those known or accused of using drugs are involuntarily admitted for claimed treatment for violating a criminal or civil law, or government policy on drug use,” de Guia said.

    In the Philippines, she also pointed out that there is an unclear distinction between jails and rehabilitation centers.

    “[P]eople are often confronted with the choice to be imprisoned or bargain for a lesser penalty that usually comes with a commitment for compulsory rehabilitation,” de Guia explained.

    She said this mandatory nature of rehabilitation breaches a person’s right to health, particularly when it comes to the acceptability and quality of intended interventions.

    CHR said access to voluntary and evidence-based services must be done in accordance with standards in upholding the right to health instead of compulsory methods that breach the right to informed consent.

    De Guia also recommends that the proposed Senate Bill 48 should be towards voluntary community-based responses and treat drug dependence as a health condition through evidence-informed and rights-based approaches.

    She also cautions against the continued use of a watch list subjecting people who use drugs to surveillance, including surveillance drug tests.

    “We reiterate that this practice contravenes the fundamental rights to due process and the right to privacy and confidentiality,” de Guia said.

    The CHR said a genuinely person-centered approach toward rehabilitation should seek to empower people who use drugs instead of perpetuating stigmatizing perspectives and language that diminish human dignity.

    It added that to describe people who use drugs as “addicts” and “victims” is disempowering and can be used as justification to remove their autonomy and coerce them into programs and treatments.

    “We urge the creation of an enabling environment that will encourage people who use drugs to voluntarily seek treatment and support,” de Guia said.

    The CHR said it is ready and willing to work with the Office of Senator Go in ensuring that the proposed bill is consistent with international human rights standards.

    “We continue to hope for a humane, long-term, and sustainable policy shift in the drug campaign to truly address the complexity of the problem,” de Guia added.


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