Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who recently authored a bill that seeks to decriminalize the use of illegal drugs in the country, said Friday he is now having second thoughts about pursuing the measure.
While he clarified he is not withdrawing Senate Bill No. 202 as it contains other meaningful proposals, Dela Rosa said he is rethinking his stand after hearing the arguments during the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs’ discussion this week.
The former national police chief, who led the Duterte administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs, cited the sharp opposition of law enforcement agencies to the bill, which he said he filed out of pity for those who were arrested and seeing the outcome of having congested jails.
A staunch human rights group backed Dela Rosa’s proposal on Friday.
“While this could be considered as a belated move, we fully welcome the proposed legislation to decriminalize illegal drugs use,” the Free Legal Assistance Group through its chairman, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, said in a social media post.
Diokno stressed that “drug addiction is a health problem that, according to experts, is addressed through rehabilitation and other humane means.”
But an anti-drugs advocacy group expressed its opposition to Dela Rosa’s measure, warning of its possible dangers to the community.
“The bill is good for the ears but it’s actually foolishness,” Laban ng Pamilyang Pilipino chairperson Jonathan Morales said to GMA News.
Morales said psychologists or psychiatrists should take part in evaluating the proposed measure because they know the “state of mind” of drug users.
In an interview with radio dzBB, Dela Rosa said: “We felt pity for those who are crammed in jails. So, we want to decongest these jails.
We thought that maybe we can decriminalize illegal drug use.”
But his former colleagues in the country’s law enforcement agencies are against his proposal, saying it may send a wrong signal to the public that drug use is now permissible since no one would be put to jail for using it.
“So, I am now having second thoughts, being the proponent of the measure,” the senator said.
Dela Rosa also said he is considering the use of illegal drugs to be a mental health problem and the mantra of the anti-narcotic agencies is to save the user by rehabilitating them, while drug pushers should be jailed.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Diokno noted that many countries have already implemented such measures and were found to be effective.
Drug addiction cannot be resolved through violence and imprisonment, he stressed.
“Let us always remember that thousands of deaths in the past administration’s bloody drug war have not solved the problem of illegal drugs, and we must continue to seek accountability for those responsible,” he said.
De La Rosa, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, clarified that decriminalization of use of illegal drugs does not include illegal drugs pushing, manufacturing, and trafficking.
Morales, for his part, said there are corruption issues in some rehabilitation centers, as well as problems in management, administration, logistics, and monitoring in these facilities.
Patients who are paying receive privileges and special treatment while staying in rehabilitation centers, according to Morales.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), meanwhile, reported that agents have seized some P9.7 billion worth of illegal drugs since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in July this year.
DILG secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. also announced that the National Police and other law enforcement agencies have conducted 18,505 anti-narcotics operations resulting in the arrest of 22,646 individuals engaged in drug dealing and other illegal activities during that period.
The agency will launch its new anti-illegal drugs advocacy program dubbed as Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan or BIDA Program nationwide, in Quezon City and in key areas of the country today.
The BIDA Program is a nationwide anti-illegal drugs advocacy program involving local government units, national government agencies, and other key sectors of the society that will focus more on drug demand reduction and rehabilitation in the communities underscoring the role of drug enforcement agencies including the Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, and others.