7 February, 2012
The Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs in the Philippines
From the year 2002 to the year 2012, reports of illegal drug use and addiction to illegal drugs have risen in the Philippines, as explained by Tom Bañas the Task Force Commander of the Anti-Illegal Drug and Special Operation Task Force or AIDSOFT. The Philippine government in response to these reports sanctioned the formation of agencies specializing in dealing with cases concerning illegal drugs. Though these agencies are funded by the government to fight in the war against illegal drugs, the power amassed by the syndicates has restricted the efficiency of these agencies as illegal drug abuse and trade still remains prominent in the Philippines (Bañas). The consistency of drug use and trade has resulted in the rise of drug dependents, and this problem is not an isolated one, as other countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and United States according to Bañas and nations such as Spain and Italy according to Hughes, Elizabeth and Stevens are also experiencing this increase. As observed from other nations, the rising influence of drug use and abuse on societies has stemmed the creation of different drug policies, from Portugal’s decriminalization approach to Thailand’s zero-tolerance for drugs. Though with careful implementation and education, albeit through different approaches, these policies have been found efficient at dealing with each nation’s respective drug problems. But in the case of the Philippines for a more efficient war on drugs and to help the victims of drug dependency at the root, a decriminalization-oriented drug policy should applied, one that combines an aspect of Thailand’s stern drug policy with the free-choice of decriminalization applied by Portugal. In 2002, in response to the rise of drug use and trafficking, former President Arroyo signed into law the Republic Act No. 9165 otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002” which abolished the Republic Act No. 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, to further penalize the offenders of drug use and possession. The R.A. 9165 was enacted to reconstruct the Philippine drug law enforcement system, by setting up higher fines and developing definite procedures for dealing with cases involving illegal drugs. It also sanctioned the creation of the PDEA or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead anti-drugs law enforcement agency (Republic Act 9165). Furthermore in 2003, the former President through Executive Order 218, created the PNP AIDSOFT and anti-illegal drugs taskforces of the NBI and Customs Bureau to support the PDEA in the anti-drugs campaign (Bañas). One aspect of the R.A. 9165 is the criminalization of possession of illegal drugs with the penalty of imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to life and fines that would amount from PHP 300,000 to PHP 10,000,000, dependant on the type and quantity of the illegal drugs possessed (Republic Act 9165). Through the PDEA and its supporting agencies, the R.A. 9165 has been implemented across the Philippines, and reports of arrests for illegal drug possession have gradually risen; many of these cases are for drug possession amounting to just a small amount, more for personal use rather than major distribution (Bañas). With this in mind, the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology or BJMP on September 2012 released their report on indexed and non-indexed crimes for which inmates are incarcerated in public jails. When calculated, it could be found that nearly 35% of their inmate population is locked up because of violating the R.A. 9165, which numbers to 25,790 of the 75,015 prisoners locked up here in the Philippines (BJMP). The alarming percentage of drug users, pushers, and traffickers has implications for the Filipino jails. According to a 2011 statistic report by Dr Virola, Secretary General of the National Statistical...