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Alternative Values, Alternative Facts: UN Event on Media Disinformation and Drug War Human Rights Violations

Alternative Values, Alternative Facts:
Drug Policy and Justice as Casualties in the Struggle Between Authoritarianism and Democracy

side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting
Vienna International Centre, Thursday 21 March, 2:20-3:10pm CET
(9:20am US eastern time, 9:20pm Manila time)
Conference Room M3, Floor M01 (one up from ground level)

Facebook Live video or our event is archived here. We will post a playlist version
of the video in the near future at https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines.

featuring:

  • Chel Diokno
    Founding Dean of De La Salle College of Law, and Chairman of FLAG – Free Legal Assistance Group, Philippines (via Skype and video)
  • Pamela Combinido
    Researcher, Newton Tech4Dev Network (video)
  • Davey Alba
    Reporter, BuzzFeed (video)

moderated by:

  • David Borden
    Executive Director, DRCNet Foundation (AKA "StoptheDrugWar.org")

discussion and Q&A:

  • Chel Diokno
  • Marco Perduca
    Senator 2008-2013, Italy, and Associazone Luca Coscioni
  • David Borden
  • Others TBA

Sponsored by DRCNet Foundation, with AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing), Arewa Youth Trust Foundation, Association for Safer Drug Policies in Norway, Associazione Luca Coscioni, Broken No More, Death Penalty Focus, FAAAT think & do tank, Forum Droghe, Legalize Belarus, NAMA Recovery, NEFFCON Nor-Cal, No Peace Without Justice, St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust, SA Drug Policy, SAOL Project, Science for Democracy, South Africa Network of People Who Use Drugs, Students for Sensible Drug Policy – Sierra Leone, Students for Sensible Drug Policy – University of Utah, TBHIV Care, UNIDOS-Mocambique

United Nations
Vienna
Austria

Chronicle AM: Legal Pot Bill This Week in NJ, Global Drug War Human Rights Guidelines Issued, More... (3/18/19)

A New Mexico pot legalization bill dies and the governor says she will take it up next year, Minneapolis will quit charging small-time pot offenders, UN bodies and member states issue drug war human rights guidelines, a federal prisoner sues for access to methadone treatment, and more.

The state of New Jersey is banking on marijuana tax revenues. Now, to get that bill passed. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Democrats Unveil Legalization Package. A group of House Democrats held a press conference last Thursday to unveil a proposed package go bills to allow marijuana to be grown, processed, and sold to consumers in the state. The draft bills include a pilot plan for adult sales, but do not include letting people grow their own.

New Jersey Legalization Committee Votes Begin Today. The compromise legalization bill agreed to by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders is due for committee votes Monday, with an eye toward final passage next Monday if all goes well. The bill would allow adults to possess up to an ounce, but not grow their own. It would also expunge records of past pot offenses and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

New Mexico Decriminalization Bill Goes to Governor, But Legalization Bill Dies. In last minute action this past weekend, the legislature passed a pot decriminalization bill, SB 323, and sent it to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). That’s some small consolation for the failure of a legalization bill, HB 356, which passed the House but died in the Senate Finance Committee.

New Mexico Governor Adds Marijuana Legalization to 2020 Agenda. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Sunday she will add marijuana legalization to the agenda of next year’s 30-day short session. The move comes after a bipartisan marijuana legalization bill managed to pass the House this session, only to be stalled in the Senate until the session expired on Saturday.

Minnesota’s Most Populous County Won’t Charge Small-Time Pot Offenders. Prosecutors in Hennepin County, the home of Minneapolis, will no longer prosecute people caught with small amounts of pot, County Attorney Mike Freeman said last Thursday. Under state law, possession of up to 42.5 grams is a misdemeanor, but possession of as little as 45 grams can be charged as a felony. Freeman said he will no longer charge anyone caught with less than 100 grams; instead, defendants will be considered for a diversion program.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Posts Draft Rules for Medical Marijuana Program. The Department of Health and Senior Services released more drafts of rules for the state's emerging medical marijuana system last Thursday. The rules cover marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities and medical marijuana establishments in general. Click on the link for a detailed analysis of the proposed regulations.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Rules into Law.  Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last Thursday signed into law new regulations for the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry. The legislation sets guidelines for inventory testing and tracking, advertising, and packaging and labeling, among other things. It also allows employers to fire medical marijuana users in certain safety-sensitive positions, such as fire fighters and heavy machinery operators.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Moving. A bill to legalize hemp production, HB 122, passed out of a pair of committees last Thursday and is now headed for a House floor vote. The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp production, and 41 other states have already legalized hemp production.

Psychedelics

Oakland Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative in Planning Stages. A coalition of advocacy groups in hosting a series of meetings in coming months aimed at building support for an initiative to decriminalize not only magic mushrooms but all “entheogenic plants, fungi, and natural sources.” The campaign is called Decriminalize Nature.

Drug Treatment

Incoming Federal Prisoner Sues Over Policy Banning Methadone Treatment. A Massachusetts woman who is about to enter federal prison and will not be permitted to continue methadone treatment for opioid addiction under prison rules has filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons over the policy. Stephanie DiPierro has to do a year for collecting disability benefits and food stamps without reporting income from a job and has been on methadone since 2005.

Massachusetts Bill Would Block Courts from Jailing Defendants in Treatment Who Fail Drug Tests. After the state’s highest court ruled last year that judges could order jail time for defendants who violate probation by using drugs, legislators have responded with S. 397, which would bar judges from incarcerating people who are in treatment and fail mandatory drug tests while on probation. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Human Rights

UN Member States, UN Bodies, and Human Rights Groups Launch International Legal Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy. A coalition of UN Member States, UN entities and leading human rights experts meeting at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on Monday launched a landmark set of international legal standards to transform and reshape global responses to the world drug problem. The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy introduces a comprehensive catalogue of human rights standards. They are a guide for governments to develop human rights compliant drug policies, covering the spectrum of cultivation to consumption. Harnessing the universal nature of human rights, the document covers a range of policy areas from development to criminal justice to public health.  

International

Philippines Quits International Criminal Court Over Drug War Investigation. A year after the Philippines told the United Nations it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal because it is investigating human rights abuses in the bloody war on drugs led by President Rodrigo Duterte it has now officially withdrawn from the International Criminal Court. Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 into President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure. However, the ICC said its preliminary investigation into Filipino drug war abuses would continue.

February 24 -- An Important Day

February 24 is an important day. Two years ago, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines unjustly imprisoned Senator Leila de Lima, who had dared to challenge Duterte for his drug war killings, which now may number as many as 28,000.

Today, not only is de Lima still behind bars, Duterte's trying to jail another senator as well a newspaper publisher. He's promising to make the drug war even more deadly during the remaining three years of his term. And he's withdrawn the Philippines from the International Criminal Court treaty – but that won't stop him from one day facing justice for the crimes he's already committed.

This February 24 (this Sunday), we will call again for Senator de Lima's release. And we announce the launching of "Stand with Human Rights and Democracy: Global Campaign for the Philippines," a worldwide partnership to address this human rights crisis.

Join us if you can in Washington, DC, 4:00-5:00pm on Sunday February 24, for our protest at the Embassy of the Philippines, 1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW. When we protested there a year ago, the video went viral in the Philippines, sending the message that the world is watching. Please RSVP on our Event page, to let your friends know and to encourage others to join us.

Click here to read about that action and watch the video. Along with the oversized Duterte and de Lima masks used in our street theater last year, we've added two new figures, Rappler publisher Maria Ressa (a TIME Person of the Year) and Senator Antonio Trillanes. It's going to be a good show, and we need your help.

Whether you can join us or not, please spread the word on social media. Click here for a folder of images with sample text to post. And if you want to do more to protest this, check out our protest action resources kit too.

February 24 is important. The loss of life in Duterte's drug war is bad enough, but the brazenness with which he's doing this is having international ramifications. The killings have spread to some countries already, and it's affecting the climate in more. Other human rights violations are on the rise in the Philippines too. Meanwhile, the Kremlin disinformation machine is supporting and campaigning for Duterte, in the Philippines and internationally.

If a dictatorship gets established in the Philippines, there's no telling how far the killings could go. That's why we're asking you to stand with human rights and democracy, and with our allies in the Philippines working for justice and a better drug policy.

1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: FL Bill Would End Mandatory Minimums, BC Plan for Heroin Buyers Clubs, More... (2/22/19)

The Philippines president vows even harsher drug war, the Mexican Senate approves a new national guard to fight drug crime, a Florida bill would end mandatory minimum drug sentences, and more.

Pharmaceutical heroin. Could it be coming to heroin buyers clubs in Vancouver? (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Regulatory Bill Advances. The House Rules Committee voted Thursday to advance HB 2612, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. The bill sets up an extensive medical marijuana framework and is moving with bipartisan support.

Asset Forfeiture

Missouri Bill to End Civil Asset Forfeiture Advances. The House Judiciary Committee has approved  HB 444, which would bar law enforcement from confiscating assets from someone unless and until that person is convicted of a criminal offense. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Sentencing

Florida Criminal Justice Reform Bill Would End Mandatory Minimums. A sweeping criminal justice reform bill that includes ending mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses has been introduced in the Senate. SB 642, the Florida First Step Act must get past the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote.

International

British Columbia Plan for "Heroin Buyers Club" Unveiled. The BC Center of Substance Abuse Thursday unveiled a plan to create a heroin buyers club to sell pure, regulated heroin to people addicted to opioids.  The cooperative group would buy bulk medical grade heroin from Switzerland to sell to doctor-assessed club members. The plan is part of the effort to stem overdoses in Vancouver. Informal heroin buyers clubs are reportedly already operating in the city, but their supplies are iffy.

Mexican Senate Approves Plan for New National Guard to Fight Crime, Drugs. The Senate on Thursday approved President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plan to create a new national guard, a key part of the government’s strategy to address drug gang violence. But the Senate amended the legislation to ensure that the new security force is headed by civilians, not the military, which has been linked to numerous human rights violations.

Philippines President Vows "Harsher" Drug War in Coming Days. President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to ramp up his bloody anti-drug campaign in a speech Wednesday. The war on drugs will be "harsher in the days to come," he said. When asked by reporters if the crackdown would be even bloodier, he said: "I think so." The remarks were condemned by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights: "With thousands that have already been killed because of this campaign, ‘harsh’ is an understatement and a trivialization of the lives that were lost—it is irreversible and the suffering of families of victims can be lifelong," Jacqueline De Guia, CHR spokesperson, said. "To say that it will be ‘harsher’ insults the victims and their families while the drug trade has not seemingly waned."

Thai King Signs Decree Legalizing Medical Marijuana and Kratom. Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has signed a royal decree formalizing the legalization of medical marijuana and kratom. The move comes some two months after the military government’s parliament unanimously approved it. 

The Year in Drugs II: Good, Bad, and Ugly Global Drug Policy in 2018 [FEATURE]

(See our Top Domestic Drug Stories of 2018 piece here.)

It's been a year we couldn't wait to put behind us, but as 2018 comes to an end, we can look back on some advances on the international drug policy front, as well as continued brutal and regressive responses from some quarters. Here are 10 of the global drug policy stories that shaped the year, for better or worse:

Iranian drug executions have come to a screeching halt in one of the good news stories of 2018. (handsoffcain.info)
1. Drug Death Penalty Reforms Cause Massive Drop in Executions

Early this year, it became official: Iran had reformed its death penalty statutes to radically reduce the number of people facing execution for drug offenses, and it had done so retroactively, saving the lives of thousands already on death row. By mid-year, it was clear that the move was having an impact, as human rights observers reported a 99% reduction in drug executions, with only one person being executed for drugs as of June, compared to more than a hundred during the same period in 2017.

2. Canada Becomes the First G8 Country to Legalize Marijuana

Justin Trudeau pledged that he was elected prime minister, his government would legalize marijuana. It didn't happen as fast as he would have liked, but the Liberals' legalization bill passed parliament in June and went into effect on October 17. So far, the sky has not fallen.

3. Medical Marijuana Earns Growing Acceptance

The year began with Thailand announcing a plan to allow medical marijuana and ended with Thailand approving it and becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so. But in the meantime, Israeli pharmacies began selling medical marijuana in April, Zimbabwe legalized it in May, and Portugal and Luxembourg followed suit in June. In November, Great Britain joined the club, and Greece issued its first medical marijuana production licenses. Late in the year, in South Korea, the National Assembly approved an amendment to the country's drug laws that will pave the way for the use of medical marijuana by prescription, and New Zealand also approved it in December Not a bad year for medical marijuana.

Canadian Senate
4. The Philippines Drug War Continues, But Pressures Mount…

The bloody drug war of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte continued apace in 2018, with a death toll now put at 12, 000 (20,000 by some estimates), but Duterte has come under increasing pressure both domestically and internationally. In February, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch aimed broadsides at the Philippines even as the International Criminal Court began "preliminary examinations" of whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a case before the court. In March, activists called out drug war human rights abuses at the embassy in Washington, DC. By July, an unbowed Duterte was vowing to continue a "relentless and chilling" drug war even as national human rights groups said he was using it as a cover for assassinating political opponents. In September, he unleashed an attack on a second drug war critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes, after last year imprisoning critic Senator Leila de Lima on trumped up drug charges. She is still imprisoned.

5.. ...and the Rot Spreads in the Region

Following the lead of the Philippines, other countries in the region have also embraced drug war thuggery and human rights abuses. In May, the Bangladeshi opposition warned of a wave of police killings of drug suspects, and within weeks, more than a hundred were killed and 20,000 arrested, even as evidence emerged that the crackdown was being used to hide political assassinations. The situation was fraught enough that the UN human rights head and even the US State Department expressed concern. Drug war killings were also reported in Indonesia, although there were mixed signals about moves toward reforms there, and Sri Lanka vowed to begin hanging drug dealers. Paradoxically though, a Malaysian court's imposition of a death sentence on a man for providing cannabis oil to patients now appears to have resulted in a moratorium on the death sentence and could end the death penalty in its entirety in the county.

6. The US President Aligns Himself With Global Drug War Authoritarians

President Donald Trump was a baleful presence on the global drug policy stage this past year, sympathizing with drug war authoritarians such as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, as well as drug death penalty countries such as China and Singapore. He said early in the year he wants to execute all drug dealers and admires the Singapore approach (mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking), a statement that moved more than 150 organizations to condemn his call. At year's end, he was singing a similar tune with a ghoulish call for more Chinese drug executions. In between, he went to the United Nations to try to gin up a reinvigorated global drug war.

coca leaves drying by highway
7. South Africa Legalizes Marijuana

In a case brought by three marijuana users, the country's Constitutional Court ruled that the private possession, cultivation, and consumption of marijuana is legal. "It will not be a criminal offense for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption," Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wrote in his ruling. It will, however, remain illegal to use cannabis in public and to sell and supply it. The ruling did not set allowable quantities, with the court saying parliament had two years to come up with a new law that reflected the ruling.

8. Glimmers of Hope in Mexico

then-President Felipe Calderon unleashed the latest chapter of the country's drug wars, bringing violence to levels not seen before in the country, Mexico is showing signs it is ready for change. The death toll from prohibition-related violence is higher than ever, and that is impelling a psh for change, most notably with the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is very open to finding exits from the drug war, whether it's legalized opium production in Guerrero, granting amnesty for non-violent drug trafficking offenders, or legalizing marijuana. And speaking of legalizing marijuana, the Mexican Supreme Court in November struck down the ban on marijuana possession, cultivation, and use. Now, Lopez Obrador's governing MORENA Party has filed a bill to legalize marijuana sales. Tackling the violence, may be a bit more difficult.

9. Colombia Sees a Record Coca Crop as US Cocaine Deaths Rise

Efforts to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production in the country after the peace agreement with the FARC rebels have not gone well, and that's causing rising worry in Washington. In June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that 2017 production was at an all-time high, prompting expressions of concern from the drug czar's office and support from President Trump for new rightist Colombian President Ivan Duque's "head-on fight against drug trafficking." That could include a renewed resort to aerial fumigation, even drones, as well as forced eradication of coca crops, leading to renewed conflict in cultivation zones. Meanwhile, cocaine is now the third leading cause of drug overdose deaths, trailing only fentanyl and heroin.

Vienna International Centre, home to the UN drug agencies
10. Historic UN Cannabis Review Hits Last-Minute Procedural Delay

In June and again in November, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) met to consider the evidence on cannabis (marijuana) and its placement in the UN drug scheduling system, which determines whether or what level of control the UN drug conventions mandate that countries maintain for the substance. The conventions specify that substances should receive such an evaluation before being scheduled, but that never happened for marijuana. Observers believe the process should lead to marijuana being moved to a less restrictive schedule than it is in currently -- if the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) votes to adopt such a recommendation from ECDD.

That didn't happen when, earlier this month, WHO voted to delay release of ECDD's recommendations until January, for unexplained reasons. That may mean they get taken up at the main annual CND meeting in Vienna in March, rather than December's intersessional. The delay seems unusual, and probably political, but its intent is unclear.

The next few months may tell. In the meanwhile, ECDD says that CBD shouldn't be scheduled at all. But that didn't stop the US FDA from saying that treaties require it be scheduled, even though they also think it shouldn't be.

Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Hears IN Seizure Case, Filipino Cops Jailed for Drug War Crimes, More... (11/29/18)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an Indiana asset forfeiture case, outgoing marijuana reform roadblock Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has done it again, a North Carolina "decrim" bill gets filed, and more.

Three Philippine police are jailed for murder, marking a first in Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pete Sessions Blocks Another Federal Pot Bill. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has consistently used his position as chair of the House Rules Committee to block marijuana reform measures, and he did it again Wednesday. This time he blocked an amendment from Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that aimed at providing tax relief for legal marijuana businesses. But Sessions' career as reform roadblock is coming to an end; he was defeated in the November midterms. Incoming Rules Committee Chairman Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) has already promised to allow marijuana amendments to move when he takes over in January.

North Carolina Legislators File Bill to Decriminalize Up to Four Ounces. Four legislators have co-sponsored a bill, S 791, which would essentially decriminalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. Possession would remain a misdemeanor, but with no possible jail sentence, and the bill includes language that would allow people convicted of possessing less than four ounces to petition for expungement, which would be automatic if the amount actually was under four ounces.

Asset Forfeiture

Supreme Court Oral Arguments Suggest Indiana Will Be Slapped Down in Asset Forfeiture Case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case of an Indiana man whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized after he pleaded guilty to small-scale heroin sales, and the justices' questioning strongly suggested they would rule against the state. The legal argument is whether the 8th Amendment's provisions against "excessive fines" applies to civil asset forfeiture at the state level. The case is Timbs v. Indiana.

Harm Reduction

San Diego Judge Orders Preliminary Injunction Closing Orange County Needle Exchange Program. A San Diego judge has issued a temporary injunction to shut down a mobile syringe exchange program run by the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP), which is being sued by Orange County. A ruling issued in California Superior Court on Tuesday bars the mobile program from operating until a trial is held sometime in January 2019.

International

Brazilian Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Bill. A bill that would allow the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical reasons was approved by a Senate committee on Wednesday. Patients with doctors' prescriptions would be able to grow, possess, and consume the drug. The Senate Social Affairs Committee advanced the bill, but it now has to be approved by the Commission on Constitution and Justice before going to a Senate floor vote. If it passes the Senate, it must then be approved by the Chamber of Deputies and signed by incoming President Jair Bolsonaro, who opposes legalization and has espoused a harsh approach to drugs.

Philippine Court Sentences Three Cops for Drug War Murder of Teen. The Caloocan City regional trial court on Thursday sentenced three police officers found guilty of murdering a 17-year-old high school student to 40 years in prison. They were the first police to be convicted in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs. "A shoot first, think later attitude can never be countenanced in a civilized society. Never has homicide or murder been a function of law enforcement. The public peace is never predicated on the cost of human life," said the ruling by Judge Roldolfo Azucena.

Philippine Democracy and Human Rights Face a Critical Test This Week

From our Facebook page today:

Our ally Senator Trillanes of the Philippines is facing possible jailing, maybe as soon as tomorrow, as a result of legal maneuvers that strain credulity in both their reasoning and their timing. It's not a given that Judge Soriano will go along with the administration in allowing the case against Trillanes to go forward. But even if he doesn't, there is a second case that could have the same result -- the judge in that case, Elmo Alameda, has used reasons that are farcical on their face to allow that one to move forward. He did at least allow for bail, but the case before Soriano would not. It's possible that the judges have been threatened.

If Trillanes joins Senator de Lima in the Camp Crame detention center, it will be even harder for political opponents of Duterte's drug war killings to oppose him, and the Philippines will be a big step closer to dictatorship. We would like the US government to make use of the Magnitsky Act to sanction Duterte administration officials who are responsible for these and other human rights violations. We also support legislation in Congress to cut off most funding to the Philippines National Police, and to fund the work of Philippine human rights advocates and health-based drug service providers. We prefer targeted measures of those types, for now at least, to pressure individual officials without harming the Filipino population as trade sanctions might. We would also like President Trump to retract his two disturbing statements that praised Duterte's drug policies.

In the meanwhile, we are hoping that Judge Soriano will do the right thing, and we commend the IPU for keeping a focus on this. Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippinesto read about our work with Senator Trillanes and others.

Trillanes Gets Reprieve, for Now

Update: Senator Trillanes has had a reprieve, for at least a week.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of the Philippines, a high-profile critic of Rodrigo Duterte's murderous drug war, is likely to be jailed tomorrow morning, according to unconfirmed reports we've received. For those of watching this from the US, that means tonight. If you've followed this, you probably know that two days ago the Senator was arrested on a related charge, but released on bail. Unfortunately the charge that a second court is ruling on is not normally bailable, though one never knows what a judge's ruling will say until one sees it.

speaker meeting before our March UN event (photo by Joey Tranchina)
I spent two days with Senator Trillanes and staff members last March, when he keynoted our side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. Trillanes highlighted data released by the Duterte administration suggesting that the number of extrajudicial killings in Duterte's drug war may be as high as 20,000. Perversely, the administration included the killings in its "2017 Accomplishments" report, he pointed out, asking "what kind of president" would consider the killing of its own people to be accomplishment. By today, numbers over 25,000 are being floated, and human rights organizations are confident there have been at least 12,000 extrajudicial drug war killings in Duterte's first two years as president. (Follow the link above for more links to all this info.)

As far as the current cases against Senator Trillanes, an online news search on his name turns up countless articles for those who want more background. We have published two statements on the subject as well, on September 4th and yesterday. Our statement was featured in articles published by two news outlets in the Philippines as a voice of the international community, GMA News and Rappler.

Other than that, suffice it to say for now that the legal reasoning of both the Duterte administration and the judges enabling them seems pretty far-fetched and strained. I'm not a legal scholar, and of course I'm not neutral in this. But it's clear from the public discussion, on news and social media, that most legal thinkers in the Philippines feel the same way. The attack on Trillanes is just the latest in a series of moves against critics of the president. These include:

  • the jailing of Senator Leila de Lima two and a half years ago on unsupported drug charges;
  • the removal of the the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a narrow majority of her colleagues;
  • attacks on Vice President Robredo for a video she made criticizing the extrajudicial drug war killings (for our 2017 UN side event), leading to a vigorous though unsuccessful campaign to impeach her;
  • a pending case against the last outspoken opposition Senator in the Philippines, Risa Hontiveros, for providing protection to teenagers who had witnessed the murder of a friend by Philippine National Police in a widely-publicized case (they're claiming that constituted kidnapping of the teens);

and the list goes on.

We got involved in the Philippines situation, as a US-based drug policy NGO, because the bulk of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines today are in the drug war, and because we've had an advocacy focus on foreign policy the last few years. Indeed, the drug war killings have spread now to Indonesia and Bangladesh, with high-ranking officials in Malaysia and Turkey also calling for killings or other extrajudicial violence by drug enforcers. And President Trump himself, not only has praised Duterte, but has specifically praised Duterte's drug war, and has done so twice.

I hope, if you haven't already, that you'll take a few minutes to read about our work in this area. We have bigger plans in the works, that I hope to be able to write about here in the near future -- I had the honor of conversing with Senator Trillanes himself about them last Sunday, just hours before his first arrest was announced. If this work seems important to you, please consider making a donation to support it. One other small thing you can do, if you're a US voter, is write to Congress supporting current bipartisan legislation to place human rights conditions on some aid to the Philippines.

Thank you for reading this far, and please stay tuned and be ready to raise your voice in this -- a devolution into global barbarism will affect us here -- the time to take a stand is now.

Statement: Philippine Court Fails Crucial Test

(UPDATE: Our statement was covered by two Philippine news outlets, Rappler and GMA.)

Senator Trillanes at our March 2018 event (photo courtesy Joey Tranchina)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2018

The Philippine court system failed a crucial test today, and human rights may be the gravest casualty. Last night (mid-afternoon Philippines time) a court ordered the arrest of Senator Antonio Trillanes, a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Trillanes is free on bail, but believes he is likely to be jailed in an upcoming court hearing in a related case.

Trillanes is the second opposition senator to face charges. In a similar situation, Senator Leila de Lima was incarcerated a year and a half ago on unsupported drug charges, half a year after President Duterte promised to "destroy" her. The case against de Lima was brought shortly after she had a confessed former member of Duterte's "Davao Death Squad" testify in the Justice Committee, one of two former DDS members to go public. Duterte promised a year ago to also "destroy" Senator Trillanes.

The legal pretexts for the administration's action against Trillanes have drawn broad criticism in the Philippine legal and human rights communities. Trillanes was the recipient with others of an amnesty grant in 2011 by then President Benigno Aquino (the equivalent of a presidential clemency or pardon in the US). He was a leader of a famous military mutiny in which soldiers in the "Magdalo" group occupied a building to protest corruption in the Gloria Arroyo administration, and less-covered issues including illegal military attacks on Filipino Muslims.

Trillanes served seven years before the amnesty, getting elected to the Senate the first time while still jailed. Arroyo turned out to be even more corrupt than the Magdalo soldiers had claimed, and was caught engaging in election-rigging in not one but two elections, but is now Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives.

The Duterte administration issued a proclamation three weeks ago declaring Trillanes' amnesty to be revoked -- a wholly unconstitutional move, according to most observers -- claiming that he failed to submit an application or admit guilt. Despite news footage showing him turning in the application, an affidavit by the military official administering the amnesty process attesting that there was an application, and a certificate of amnesty granted by the government, Judge Elmo Alameda insisted that because Trillanes could not find a copy of the application, he couldn't prove that he had complied with the amnesty's conditions. Alameda was similarly unmoved by the point that it was the military that was obligated to keep track of the application, not Trillanes, and that it could have been removed from the files as part of a conspiracy by the administration.

StoptheDrugWar.org condemns the Duterte administration's blatantly political attack on Senator Antonio Trillanes. We further note that the day on which the president's arrest order was initially made public, was the same day Trillanes was leading a Senate hearing on government contracts issued to a firm owned by the family of Duterte Solicitor General Jose Calida. Evidence came out demonstrating that the amnesty revocation was initiated by Calida.

We are also concerned that the amnesty revocation threat can now be held over other members of the Magdalo movement, one of whom, Rep. Gary Alejano, is a likely candidate for the Senate as part of the opposition coalition, of which the Magdalo Party is an important plank. The congressional election in the Philippines is scheduled for May 2019, which is also when Trilllanes' term in the Senate expires.

Senator Trillanes joined our March 2018 event at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting in Vienna, where he presented administration data suggesting that extrajudicial killings in President Duterte's drug war may exceed 20,000. Perversely, the Senator observed, the administration listed these killings among its "2017 Accomplishments."

"StoptheDrugWar.org is focused on the still-unfolding human rights crisis in the Philippines, and Senator Trillanes is one of a handful of leaders willing to aggressive confront that crisis. Whether he remains free to speak and campaign, or instead joins Senator de Lima as a symbol behind bars, we will continue to support his efforts," said StoptheDrugWar.org Executive Director David Borden.

"Trillanes told us in Vienna he expected political prosecutions to increase in pace during the second half of this year," Borden continued. "We are saddened that he is personally a victim of this. But it has already further mobilized the already energized Philippine opposition to Duterte, and it will also focus even greater world attention onto Duterte's crimes and depredations."

StoptheDrugWar.org is a US-based NGO with a focus on international drug policy, and which has advocated on the Philippines human rights situation since early 2017. Our educational nonprofit DRCNet Foundation has been in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 2016.

Footage of Senator Trillanes' presentation in Vienna is online at https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines#vienna2018.

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Statement: Duterte Moves Against Second Drug War Critic

Senator Trillanes at our March 2018 event (photo courtesy Joey Tranchina)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2018

StoptheDrugWar.org condemns the Duterte administration's blatantly political attack on Senator Antonio Trillanes, a fierce and brave critic of the President's human rights violations.

Senator Trillanes joined our March 2018 event at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs annual meeting in Vienna, where he presented administration data suggesting that extrajudicial killings in President Duterte's drug war may exceed 20,000. Perversely, the Senator observed, the administration listed these killings among its "2017 Accomplishments."

We note that President Duterte promised a year ago to "destroy" Senator Trillanes.

Senator Leila de Lima was incarcerated a year and a half ago on unsupported drug charges, half a year after President Duterte promised to "destroy" her. The case against de Lima was brought shortly after she had a confessed former member of Duterte's "Davao Death Squad" testify in the Justice Committee, one of two former DDS members to go public.

"Senator Trillanes told us in Vienna he expected political prosecutions to increase in pace during the second half of this year. But he also promised that while he remained free, he would continue to speak out," said StoptheDrugWar.org Executive Director David Borden.

"Undoubtedly the imprisoning of Senator Trillanes, if that happens, will further mobilize the already energized Philippine opposition to Duterte," Borden continued. "But it will also focus even greater world attention onto Duterte's crimes and depredations. I am saddened by this development, but I can't imagine a better gift to our international organizing efforts."

StoptheDrugWar.org is a US-based NGO with a focus on international drug policy, and which has focused on the Philippines human rights situation since early 2017. Our educational nonprofit DRCNet Foundation has been in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 2016.

Footage of Senator Trillanes' presentation in Vienna is online at https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines#vienna2018.

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