VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Did Callamard say shabu doesn’t lead to violence?

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, in his report before the United Nations Human Rights Council, took issue with a statement supposedly made by the UN Special Rapporteur during her recent visit to the Philippines that “there’s no evidence that shabu leads to violence or causes brain damage.”

Speaking in Geneva at the 27th Session of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 8, Cayetano, who led the Philippine delegation, also questioned Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s impartiality.


To prove his point, Cayetano showed a slideshow of tweets posted by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and said:

“Please take a look at these statements of tweets of this Special Rapporteur… Well, Your Excellencies, if you were Filipino and you read these slides, would you think that the Rapporteur is impartial, is factual, is fair? I already read the WHO description of the types of drugs that is used in the Philippines, yet this Rapporteur in a speech in the Philippines cited one doctor saying there’s no evidence shabu leads to violence or causes brain damage. She may have good intentions but she caused a wave in the Philippines now of parents, brothers, sisters, OFWs, who have drug dependents in their family who have been violent against them and now they’re saying, ‘Why is this person who is an official of the UN telling us that there is no evidence that it is associated with violence?’”

(Source: Philippines Review – 27th Session of Universal Periodic Review, May 8, 2017, Geneva, watch from 27:51: to 28:55)

The tweet that riled Cayetano was posted by Callamard on May 5. It read:


Was Cayetano accurate in attributing to Callamard the statement that shabu does not lead to violence?

No, he was not.

The statement is clearly not Callamard’s but that of Professor Carl Hart, an American neuroscientist who made a study on the subject together with other academics. (See Is Cognitive Functioning Impaired in Methamphetamine Users? A Critical Review by Carl L. Hart, Caroline B. Marvin, Rae Silver, and Edward E. Smith)

Callamard told VERA Files she live-tweeted the statement during an academic conference focusing on drugs policies at the GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium in the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

The two-day conference — “Drug Issues, Different Perspectives: A Policy Forum” — was attended by international and national experts who delivered statements and presentations on May 5 and 6. Hart was one of them.

Callamard said she usually live-tweets during conferences “in order to ensure that views are shared and spread, including views that may not be popular.” This, she said, is “an essential component of freedom of expression and academic freedom.”

Callamard quoted a link to Hart’s study the next day.

It didn’t help that Cayetano gave conflicting versions of how the statement was made. He initially mentioned “statements of tweets” made by Callamard, but later changed it to “in a speech in the Philippines.”

And although he first said Callamard “cited one doctor saying there’s no evidence shabu leads to violence or causes brain damage,” he later made it appear that it was Callamard’s own statement.

Earlier, the UN Special Rapporteur clarified that her recent trip to the Philippines was not an official country visit. She said she was not assessing the human rights situation in the country, but was participating in an academic conference on drug-related issues.

“It is normal routine for Special Rapporteurs to visit countries to attend different conferences or events, but such activities are not official country visits,” she said in an official statement. (Source: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Special Rapporteur rejects misinformation about her current academic visit to Philippines, May 5, 2017)