Neuroscientist Flees Philippines In Fear for His Life After Criticizing President’s Drug Policies

Dr. Carl Hart (left) was forced to cut his visit to the Philippines short after receiving death threats for challenging President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug policies.

Columbia University professor and neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart said he feared for his life after attending a drug conference in Manila, Philippines, where he denounced the harsh drug policies put in place by notorious Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

In an interview with independent news program Democracy Now!, Hart said he received death threats after speaking out against Duterte’s irrational drug war policies and crimes against humanity. Since his rise to power in 2016, the Philippine president has reportedly ordered the extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug users and sellers by local police and vigilantes. The latest estimates on the number of deaths related to the nation’s so-called “war on drugs” are pushing upward of 8,000, CNN recently reported.

“Duterte operates in intimidation,” Hart told Democracy Now! “And so, not only is he the problem, but there are other political officials who are afraid to speak out. And [he] has taken a page out of the 1980s U.S. drug war in that he is using drugs to separate people — the issue of drugs to separate the poor people from the people who have means. And he’s allowing or providing the environment so people can kill … people who are engaged in drug use and in drug trafficking.”

During the two-day drug policy conference, Hart also challenged Duterte’s assertion that methamphetamines, or “shabu” shrinks the brain and causes the user to commit violent acts. The Columbia University psychiatry professor disputed the claims, arguing that there was no scientific evidence to prove it.

Angered by Hart’s comments, Duterte issued a scathing response in The Philippine Star, where called the neuroscientist a “fool” whose thoughts on shabu were based on American forensic science.

“That’s all b——t to me,” the president told the newspaper. “That is why I will not talk to them — because my experience until now and 23 years ago when I became the mayor of Davao City was always a lot of violence and killing because of shabu.

“[Hart] said shabu does not damage the brain,” he added. “That’s why that son of a b—h who has gone crazy came here to make announcements.”

Duterte went on to suggest that United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who has also criticized his war on drugs, should “go on a honeymoon with that Black guy.”

“I will pay for their travel,” he quipped.

Image courtesy of the Manila Times.

Hart said he had no idea his comments would be so controversial, but they turned out to be. He was hit with a barrage of threats on social media before and after revealing his own drug use at the conference, in addition to being featured in a racist cartoon published in the Manila Times, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Fearing for his life, the neuroscientist was forced to cut short his two-week visit after just two days.

Back in the U.S., President Donald Trump has since received mounting criticism for inviting Duterte to the White House, despite the atrocities the Philippine president has committed against his own people. The “friendly” invitation preceded Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to re-vamp the “war on drugs” here in America by promising to throw the book a low-level drug offenders.

“Now, for Trump to invite Duterte to the United States, given that this sort of thing is happening, it’s just consistent with what Trump has been doing,” Hart told Democracy Now!. “Trump has been … has shown himself to be the most ignorant president that we’ve ever had. He has shown himself to be the one that disregards law more so than any other president we’ve had.

“So it’s just consistent.”

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