Callamard sees potential in DDB’s proposed strategy vs. illegal drugs

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MANILA, May 6 — United Nations special rapporteur on summary killings, Dr. Agnes Callamard, on Saturday expressed hope that the Philippines would adopt a balanced strategy in its approach to the drug problem, saying she sees potential in the proposal of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

On the second day of the forum “Drug Issues, Different Perspectives” held at the GT Toyota Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in Quezon City, Callamard said the proposed “balanced” approach of DDB chairman Benjamin Reyes in combating illegal drugs provides an alternative to the current hardline policy of the government.

”I have to say the strategy presentation yesterday from the chair of the narcotic group (Reyes) did give me hope because it is a balanced strategy that he offered. It is not in place. It is not implemented. But I think the plan for the future that he wants to discuss with the government is a plan that he really based on the lessons all around the world,” she told reporters in a chance interview.

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Callamard further said Reyes’ proposal is an integrated and holistic approach that places “a lot of emphasis” on health, justice, and other preventive measures.

Reyes, during the first day of the forum on Friday, proposed an “evidence-based and culturally appropriate, comprehensive and balanced approach, (that is) inter-sectoral and participatory”.

The UN special rapporteur said she plans to invite the DDB to meet with civil society groups to strengthen its proposal.

“I will certainly invite the government to listen carefully to what the narcotic group shares and has to say along with what civil society has to say, so that we can move forward in a way that will put an end to the killings and certainly address the real issue that the government is seeking to address,” she said.

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Callamard however reiterated that she is in the country only for the two-day policy forum on drug issues at the invitation of UP.

“There is nothing about my visit that is official. I came here for the academic conference,” she said.

The special rapporteur also stressed that the forum’s focus is not her visit, but the lessons to be learned from the experiences of other countries in their approach to the drug problem.

“We are here in the spirit of dialogue. We are here in the spirit of opening avenues of communications and sharing information. I have been repeatedly told that you don’t have an alternative. Of course we have an alternative. This is what policy reform is all about,” she said. (PNA)

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