Thursday, May 30, 2019

[Presentation] 13th ISSDP Conference, Paris - The impacts of drug testing in Philippine schools

On May 24, 2019, as part of the 13th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP) in Paris, France, I presented a paper entitled "The impacts of drug testing in Philippine schools". A policy analysis informed by key informant interviews, government documents, and public discourse, I highlighted the harms of this policy - to the students, to the schools, and to society at large. 

I concluded my presentation with three major points:

- Random drug testing (RDT) poses a risk for students, requires financial and human resources  from the school system, and perpetuates the idea that society must be ‘drug-free’

- RDT in Philippine schools has persisted over the past two decades because of its largely uncritical acceptance by government agencies, as well as the social and political efficacies of supporting (or acquiescing) to it.

- Beyond the killings, we need to look at other policies whose harms are more insidious - as these are ones that are more likely to persist 

This is a topic that deserves further exploration (and documentation). For more of my thoughts about it, please see a column that I wrote in January.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

[Presentation] Columbia University, New York - Interrogating the Philippine 'Drug War'

On April 22-23, 2019, I joined a conference at the Columbia Journalism School in New York City entitled "Violence and Policing in the Philippines, Latin America, and the U.S.", where I presented some insights from historical and ethnographic studies of drugs in the Philippines.

As in previous presentations, I reiterated three main points: First, that Duterte is best seen as a continuation or escalation - not an exception - to Philippine drug policy: one that views drugs as ‘evil’ and sanctions punitive measures; second, the ethnographic picture shows that drugs are ‘useful’ in the everyday lives of young people and therefore any response must consider their socio-economic situations. 

Finally, drawing on my own research, I highlighted how anxiety and fear characterize young people’s outlooks: they view law enforcement as unfair, corrupt, and hypocritical. 

The conference offered various perspectives from Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, US - as well as various voices from the Philippines. Hopefully, a kind of engagement that finds value in Philippines-Latin America comparisons and collaborations will continue. And so will the work that documents and challenges the violent drug policies in the Philippines as well as the conditions that enable them. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

[Talk] Health Leadership Summit - Medical Anthropology and Universal Health Care

On December 3, 2018, the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) and Ayala Healthcare Holdings, Inc. (AC Health) organized a conference on Universal Healthcare (UHC), entitled Health Leadership Summit 2018: Universal Healthcare at the Ateneo Professional Schools Auditorium, Rockwell Center, Rockwell Drive, Makati City.

As one of the speakers, I gave a talk on "how medical anthropology can contribute towards health for all Filipinos". I gave three roles for anthropology and for the social sciences in general - namely, (1)  identifying gaps in the so-called three dimensions of coverage (2) informing the kind of healthcare in UHC; and (3) evaluating and critiquing ‘UHC’ and document its ‘lived effects’.

As the country moves towards health reforms, it is of vital importance that social scientists engage with the medical communities to make sure that the voices of patients and laypersons are heard and listened to - as to what kind of 'health' we're really talking about when we speak of UHC. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

[Presentation] 4th Philippine Studies Conference in Japan, Hiroshima - Living with ‘tokhang’

During the 4th Philippine Studies Conference in Hiroshima, Japan on November 2018, I organized a panel entitled The Philippine War on Drugs: Critical Perspectives. In this panel, Filomin C. Gutierrez (Department of Sociology, University of the Philippines, Diliman) gave a presentation about the "Experiences of Persons Arrested in Operation Tokhang" while Aaron Abel Mallari (Department of History, University of the Philippines, Diliman) reported the initial insights in our joint research about the "Social constructions of drugs and drug users in contemporary Philippines".

For my part, I presented a paper entitled "Living with ‘tokhang’: Mistrust and fear in a drug war-affected community in the Philippines" based on my research in an urban poor community in Metro Manila where some drug war-related killings have been reported.

Our papers are just among the growing number of works that seek to make sense of and interrogate the Philippine drug war. One important task ahead is to create a community around scholars pursuing this urgent topic - and create venues for public dissemination of their major insights.