Renato Reyes  (with cap) is the face of Bayan. (Renato Reyes Facebook)

Philippines brings opposition to drug war to Vancouver

By Ted Alcuitas

A prominent mass movement leader in the Philippines is bringing the issue of the drug war to the streets of Vancouver, ground zero for the opioid crisis in Canada.

Renato Reyes, Jr., head of the leftist BAYAN, the Philippines’ largest alliance of democratic mass organizations, is speaking at 2 PM on Tuesday, January 8 at the headquarters of VANDU at 380 Hastings St. in the Downtown Eastside.

VANDU stands for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. Founded in 1998, it is a group of users and former users who work to improve the lives of people who use drugs through user-based peer support and education, according to it’s Mission Statement.

Vancouver is 6,550 miles away from Manila were President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has claimed more than 28,000 people since he took power in 2016 according to some reports although government statistics pegged it at more than 4,000.

The victims of Duterte’s drug war are killed without due process in what is called ‘extra-judicial killings’ (EJK) and the killers are believed to be policemen.

LAMENTATION : A weeping Jennelyn Olaires hugs partner Michael Siaron, 30, a pedicab driver and alleged drug pusher, who was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen near Pasay Rotonda on Edsa.  RAFFY LERMA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

More than 9,000 people lost their lives in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018 related to opioids according to a Government if Canada report as of December 12, 2018.

From January to June 2018, British Columbia had the highest deaths at 754.

It is against this background that VANDU hopes to understand what is happening in the Philippines today and how the people are resisting the drug war.

Paramedics respond to an opioid overdose on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.(Global News)

“RESISTING THE DRUG WAR FROM BC TO THE PHILIPPINES:

Featuring BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes and members of VANDU, “ says an announcement posted in their website.

“From Canada to the Philippines and everywhere that it wages in between, the so-called war on drugs is used to target poor people and communities and contain our resistance. Since the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines in 2016, over 12,000 people, overwhelmingly poor people, have been killed in a murderous drug war, part of an overall context of repression with impunity that also includes martial law and the extrajudicial murder of peasant organisers, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders.”