Reshaping Our Advocacy, Grounding our Actions: A Support. Don’t Punish 2024 Campaign

By June 25, 2024 Regional

In the Philippines, amidst the ongoing movement for justice against the Duterte administration’s violent and deadly “war on drugs” impact, Students for Sensible Drug Policy – Philippines (SSDP PH) has launched during a radio guesting at Kaya Radio, and supports a pivotal campaign aimed at reshaping the national dialogue on drug policies. The Support. Don’t Punish 2024 campaign marks a determined effort to advocate for humane and evidence-based approaches amidst a backdrop of violence, impunity, and blood.

During the Kaya Radio guesting, SSDP PH convened a roundtable discussion focusing on key issues. A focal point of the discussion was harm reduction—a rights-based and scientific approach that mitigates the negative consequences of drug use and existing policies through community-based strategies. SSDP PH discussed the principles of harm reduction. As an organization, we want to emphasize the urgent need to integrate harm reduction into Philippine drug policies and even in community-based organizing to mitigate the harms caused by punitive measures. We’ve also discussed how the current inhumane drug policies in the Philippines impacts young people, regardless if they are using drugs or not. In August 2017, three teenagers aged 14-17, Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman were brutally murdered in Duterte’s drug war. They were wrongfully accused of being drug dealers. But this is only one of the many ways on how the current drug war and drug policies in the Philippines impact our youths. When parents of young people are incarcerated for drug charges, they are left to take over the role of their parents — from raising their siblings, doing the household chores and working to earn to support their family. They are taken away from their opportunity to finish their education, explore their creativity and youth etc., hence trapping them in a cycle of poverty and trauma and setting them up for failure. 

Understanding the Support. Don’t Punish Campaign

The Support. Don’t Punish campaign, a global grassroots initiative, has become a rallying cry against punitive drug policies worldwide. Timed around June 26th, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the campaign challenges traditional narratives and promotes harm reduction strategies that prioritize public health and human rights. 

Advocating Amidst Crisis: Duterte’s War on Drugs

Since assuming office in June 2016, then President Rodrigo Duterte has led a “war on drugs” characterized by extrajudicial killings that have murdered over 12,000 innocent lives, primarily among the communities of low income households. The Philippine National Police has been directly implicated in thousands of these deaths, amid accusations of falsified evidence and systemic abuses. Duterte’s administration has consistently defended these actions as necessary to combat crime, an approach condoned and criticized by human rights organizations and activists worldwide.

Embracing Healing, Transformative and Restorative Justice

In stark contrast to Duterte’s punitive approach, SSDP PH advocates for healing, care, transformative and restorative justice during this year’s Support. Don’t Punish. campaign. Rejecting violence as a solution to social issues, the campaign emphasizes community support for those affected by drug use. By promoting transformative and restorative justice practices, SSDP PH aims to break cycles of trauma and foster inclusive policies that respect the dignity and rights of all individuals, regardless of their circumstances.

Path to Justice and Public Health: Harm Reduction

At its core, SSDP Philippines practice and advocate for harm reduction. We want to shift the focus from punishment to support, where we hope to catalyze people’s capacities to empower communities and promote policies that prioritize public health and non-carceral outcomes. Through educational initiatives and community engagement, SSDP PH aims to dismantle stigmas and foster a more compassionate understanding of drug-related issues.

Mobilization and Community Engagement

The launch of SSDP PH signifies a proactive step towards mobilizing communities and empowering voices affected by punitive drug policies. Through social media advocacy, educational workshops, and grassroots organizing, SSDP PH aims to build a network of informed advocates committed to practicing and advocating for policy reform and human rights.

Looking Forward: Building Bridges, Empowering Communities

Moving forward, SSDP PH plans to expand its outreach beyond traditional student demographics, engaging with marginalized communities and key populations affected by Duterte’s “war on drugs.” We want to forge partnerships and build community dialogues that inspire our policies to be grounded by lived experiences of people impacted by drugs, drug use and inhumane drug policies, not just statistics — advocating for inclusive policies that uphold human dignity and support marginalized communities.

A Call for Reform and Compassion

SSDP PH’s mobilization of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign this year stands as a testament to the power of grassroots activism in reshaping national discourse on drug policies. Amidst ongoing human rights abuses, the campaign puts emphasis on the urgent need for an overhaul of the existing drug policies. As SSDP PH continues to advocate for support, we want to highlight a commitment to justice, compassion, and a vision of a society where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.

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