Presenting author: Mary Catherine Alvarez Del Rosario
Presenting author biography:
Mary Catherine Alvarez Del Rosario is one of the founders and the Executive Director of StreetLawPh, an organization working for humane drug policies and access to justice in the Philippines
Linking communities with the justice system to advance humane drug policy in the Philippines
Mary Catherine Alvarez Del Rosario, Kristine Mendoza, Ma. Corazon Gaite-Llanderal, Johann Nadela
In the Philippines, people who use drugs who become entangled in the justice system often experience human rights violations in the form of unlawful arrests, delayed judicial proceedings and incarceration, among other things. This oral presentation aims to share how NGOs and communities of people who use drugs in the Philippines engage with institutions of the justice system such as the judiciary to help advance drug policy reform and protect their human rights. StreetLawPh organized a series of discussions on drug policy and human rights with an organization of progressive Philippine judges called HUKOM. As part of these discussions, we introduced the judges to the concept and practices of harm reduction, while also providing a space where the judges can listen to the experiences of people who use drugs not just with the justice system but as part of a community trying to help each other access health services and other fundamental human rights. As a result of these discussions and sharing, the judges organization HUKOM has joined us in pushing for drug policy reform in the Philippines, including calling for decriminalization in public forums, while actively looking for ways to mitigate the effects of the existing punitive drug policy on people who use drugs, such as imposing only the minimum penalty if necessary or maximizing alternatives to incarceration in drug related offenses that reach their courts.