Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Special Concerns Marie Rafael on Thursday (Jan. 4, 2019) said the passage of the medical marijuana bill is timely under the Duterte administration, considering the government’s drive against illegal drugs.
“I believe it would be easier, since the public can witness how sincere and relentless the government is to fight illegal drugs. In the past administration, there were a lot of attempts, but this is the only time we have seen progress especially with the continuing anti-illegal drug operations. Data will show it,” Rafael said
“This is the best time to think about it. It will not be abused because the Duterte administration is sincere in eradicating illegal drugs, the parameters will be strict otherwise it will not be passed into law,” she added.
She also shared experiences of people she know who have tried the medical benefits of marijuana.
“It’s about time to address the importance of the benefits of medical marijuana, especially if it will benefit the people. Not everyone can afford [the cost of] standard medicine,” Rafael said.
In discussing the issue of its legalization, the PCOO official said putting in place measures, protection against abuses as well as the parameters on who will do the cultivation must be laid down by Congress.
“The government will be very keen and strict with the implementation especially we are moving for a drug-free country,” Rafael said.
“Under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, there are a lot of issues regarding the war on drugs. Some are quite antagonistic about it and here we are [discussing the legalization of marijuana]. This is where you can see how government especially legislators will balance it,” she noted.
She said with the researches and technology that would prove the effectiveness of medical marijuana, Filipinos should not be deprived if it can provide comfort and help save lives.
“As I have said, there are a lot of things to consider in the legalization of marijuana, especially in plantation, instead of finding a cure for the Filipinos it might lead to abuse,” she said.
Cordillera is known to host abundant high-grade marijuana, with the weed growing naturally in the highland’s mountains.
While the government is not promoting smoking of cannabis, Rafael said Congress should strike a balance in deliberating on and passing the bill.
“For as long as they will not decriminalize and allow the smoking of cannabis, it’s not for recreational use but it would be used for medical purposes only,” she said, adding that legalizing marijuana use does not mean that any can plant or cultivate it in their backyard.
“The President is against the use of ‘shabu’ but if you see the wisdom why the President is open for the legalization of the medical marijuana. It is because it would help save lives,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cordillera’s top governing body, the Regional Development Council (RDC), has expressed its support behind the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
“[There is] no problem if it will be utilized for medical treatment,” RDC chairman and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan said during the Council’s 4th quarter meeting last December 19.
The RDC’s action came after newly-crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray of the Philippines said she is in favor of the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes during the pageant’s question and answer portion.
“Personally, in the medical aspect, we can use marijuana extract to address terminal diseases like cancer,” Domogan said.
Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, officer in charge of the Department of Health office in Cordillera, earlier said that the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) did a number of studies presenting the benefits of alternative medicines like marijuana.
Pangilinan clarified that it is the extract from the leaves, not the leaf itself, should be used by patients for medical purposes.
She, however, cautioned that if the bill in Congress seeking to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes is approved, it must be accompanied by policies based on operational research, which is evidence-based.
PAMELA MARIZ GEMINIANO, PNA