MANILA—Vice President Leni Robredo sat down Monday with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as she moved to shift the government’s bloody drug war to one adopting best practices while avoiding mistakes committed in other countries.
The Austria-based UNODC sought the meeting after Robredo formally took charge of the anti-drug campaign, which she had repeatedly criticized for the thousands of deaths during police operations.
She is set to meet with law enforcement agencies on Thursday to tackle concerns such as the conduct of anti-drug operations and the actual fatality count.
Robredo has called for a more comprehensive approach to the drug problem by treating addiction as a public health issue as well.
This approach will require massive rehabilitation because of the number of drug users in the country, experts said.
A 2012 survey by the Dangerous Drugs Board pegged the figure at 1.3 million, but President Rodrigo Duterte floated an estimate of 7 to 8 million users early this year.
Monday’s meeting with the UNODC noted that only 10 percent of drug users need to be placed in in-patient rehabilitation facilities, said Undersecretary Philip Dy, Robredo’s chief of staff.
Community-based rehabilitation “should suffice or should be the first step” for the remaining 90 percent, who were classified as occasional users, he said.
“Ang solusyon talaga is to transition them to community-based rehabilitation programs,” he told reporters.
Robredo sought to replicate in drug-infested areas similar programs being done by the Community-based Drug Rehabilitation Alliance.
The group is composed of members of the academe, civil society groups, faith-based organizations pushing for a “more public health-based manner of solving the demand side of the drug problem,” she told reporters.
Robredo said these were the same groups her office had been working with since she assumed office in 2016.
Her appointment as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) has given her the opportunity to make them a “part of the conversation.”
The Vice President likened previous efforts to “silos” with the government and the private sector each working on solutions to the drug problem.
“Ang aking suggestion, 'wag lang gobyerno lang 'yung nag-uusap kasi ang dami nang experiences on the ground na pwedeng 'yung lessons manggaling sa mga advocates and private organizations,” she said.
One such experience involved communities in Caloocan City, where the Catholic Church opened the gates of parishes and teamed up with local officials to rehabilitate drug users under a program or “healing, not killing.”