Monday, June 5, 2023

[Keynote] 16th Annual Conference - International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP), Leuven, Belgium

On June 1, 2023, I delivered the closing keynote for the 16th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP) in Leuven, Belgium, as the inaugural winner of ISSDP's "Excellence in Research Award". In my lecture entitled "Between global and local: Drug policy reflections from Southeast Asia" and held on the last day of the three-day conference, I talked about the Philippine drug policy situation, the emergence of drugs as populist tropes in the region, as well as regional influences and their roles in drug policy. 

The paper that was the basis of my lecture can be found here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

[Public Lecture] The 59th Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Lecture - Philippine Medical Association

On May 18, 2023, I delivered the 59th Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Lecture of the Philippine Medical Association, in a ceremony held in Manila Hotel. My lecture was titled "Rizal’s Enduring Relevance for Medicine in the Philippines: Nature, Culture, Innovation, and Empowerment" and reflected on lessons from the Rizal's medical practice and way of life that resonate with the experiences and challenges faced by medical practitioners today. The abstract of the talk is as follows: 

Jose Rizal (1861-1896) was an ophthalmologist and general practitioner who, by virtue of his exemplary medical career, is often invoked as one of the pioneers of health care in the country. Less examined, however, is the relevance of the Philippine national hero’s broader ideas for medicine and public health. In this lecture, I survey the life and works of Rizal to identify four major themes - nature, culture, innovation, and empowerment - in which his philosophy and practice hold resonances and valuable insights for the country’s heath care system. Taken together, Rizal’s vida y obra gestured towards a holistic, ecological, culturally-sensitive, and modern approach to medicine: one that viewed patients not as passive recipients of charity but as agents of their health and well-being. 

The lecture was attended by PMA officials and recipients and nominees of the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Awards including DOH OIC Maria Rosario Vergeire and PMA President Maria Minerva Calimag. Previous Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Orators including Ambeth Ocampo, Michael Tan, Antonio Oposa, Howie Severino, Xiao Chia, among others. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

[Public Lecture] Medical Populism in Asia - La Trobe University

On May 12, 2023, I delivered a virtual lecture organized by the Philippines-Australia Forum of La Trobe University in Melbourne on medical populism in Asia. In my presentation, I shared three case studies of medical populism in the Asia Pacific, namely (1) the controversy surrounding the Dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) in the Philippines in 2017; (2) the war on drugs by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand in 2003, and; (3) the COVID-19 response in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The video of the event can be viewed here. Thank you to Dr Raul Sanchez-Urribari, Director of the Philippines-Australia Forum, and Rei Fortes, for organizing it! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

[Plenary Speech] International Harm Reduction Conference #HR23 - Melbourne, Australia

On April 16-19, 2023, I participated in the 27th Harm Reduction International Conference (#HR23) that was held in Melbourne, Australia and organized by Harm Reduction International. Gathering harm reduction advocates, scholars, and policymakers, the conference brought together over 1,000 delegates from 80 countries - including over a dozen from the Philippines.

Together with Kirsten Han (Transformative Justice Collective, Singapore), Gina Jackson (Return to the Heart Foundation, USA) and Kassandra Frederique (Drug Policy Alliance, USA), I was part of the opening plenary entitled "Challenging Systems of Oppression". In my address, I talked about the role of activism, advocacy, and scholarship in the Philippines during and beyond Duterte's drug war - as well as the need to "decolonize harm reduction". Here are some of the concluding thoughts I imparted: 

This is message that we send you from the Philippines: That even when our leaders suppress our rights and oppress our communities, there are good people in government, in the private sector, civil society, people who use drugs who work for change, pursuing activisms both loud and quiet, advocacies both urgent and enduring. 

That even when society as a whole think that drugs are evil, even when they support leaders who echo that view, there are academics, artists, various allies who try - in their own ways, to erode that view, slowly and patiently, pointing out its many contradictions.

And even at the darkest moments of oppression, there are pockets of resistance that are spelling the difference between death and life.

Inspired by the conference, I also wrote a column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled "The case for harm reduction". 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

[Symposium Presentation] Coping with COVID-19: A Comparative Study on Cultural Immune Systems - Osaka, Japan

On March 4-5, 2023, I participated in an international symposium titled "A Comparative Study on Cultural Immune Systems" in Osaka, Japan, hosted by Japan's National Museum of Ethnology. As the organizers put it, the symposium aimed "to compare and analyze the ways in which the “cultural immune system” has been activated in response to COVID-19 in various Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh, and also consider other regions like Europe."

In my presentation, I talked about the ways in which certain COVID-19 cures figured in the ways political actors in Asia responded to the pandemic, in what I call "pharmaceutical messianism", with the following abstract that builds on my work with my research associate Vincen Gregory Yu on the subject: 

This presentation surveys some of the miracle cures or wonder drugs that were touted to treat or prevent COVID-19 in Asian countries - and analyzes the ways in which politicians and other prominent public figures in the region promoted them. While the phenomenon of ‘pharmaceutical messianism’ (Lasco and Yu 2022) has been described all over the world, this presentation also reflects on the particularities of Asian contexts that lead to the social and political efficacies of these products, regardless of their biomedical efficacy.

I would like to thank the organizers in Minkapu, including Ippei Shimamura and Sohee Che, for organizing the event and for inviting me to be part of it.