By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Monday expressed belief that conducting further hearings on the proposed measure legalizing marijuana in the country would be a waste of time now that President Rodrigo Duterte has finally rejected any attempts to legalize its use under his watch.
Reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, which also conducted a hearing on the proposed measure, said he respects the President’s decision on the issue.
His panel had earlier started discussions on House Bill No. 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which seeks to legalize marijuana for medical purposes which is pending at the House of Representatives.
“Though I am open to talks on medical marijuana, I understand the change of position of the President. Because of his frustration in the war against drugs perhaps he is not taking any chances on the possible substance abuse on use of cannabis in the guise of medical purposes,” Ejercito said in a message to reporters through Viber.
“We have to respect the President’s decision on medical marijuana. It’s the prevailing situation and circumstances probably that made him change his position. He has access to intelligence and other information, he should have a better grasp of the situation than us,” Ejercito added.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who is known for his strong stand against illegal drugs, also expressed certainty the measure will not pass in the Senate even if it resumes hearings on the bill.
“Hindi papasa dito sa Senado yan. Kung pumasa man, natsyambahan na wala ako o nawala yung kalahati ng Senado na kontra dito at nakapasa, ive-veto ng Presidente eh (That will not pass in the Senate. If it does, that would mean I was out or half of the senators who are against it were not here. If it passes Congress, the President will just veto it),” Sotto told reporters in an interview.
“Again, (it’s going to be a) waste of time. Kaya yung dati na nating sinasabi, na dapat yung mga bills na pinapasa, dapat ini scrunitize na rin ng PLLO, nakakarating na sa Executive Department,” he said.
“Because remember the Executive Department is the one executing the laws so kahit anong gusto namin ng isang batas pag ayaw ng Executive Department they will just veto it or they will not execute the law so waste of time, waste of money, sayang lang,” he pointed out.
Sotto agreed with Ejercito saying the President could have gotten information that there were groups eager for the passage of the measure and use it as a front for their nefarious activities.
“Siguro nakarating kay Presidente iyan na pwede namang gamitin nung mga nangangailangan through the legal process which is allowed in the compassionate provisions in the declaration of policy of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs of 2000 to which I’m the principal author of,” Sotto pointed out.
“Legal sa mga nangangailangan, hindi legal sa mga hindi nangangailangan. Ganun yung current law (It’s legal to those who need it; illegal to those who don’t. That’s the current law),” Sotto said.
“So siguro nakarating sa Pangulo yan na na may mga nasa likod na ang gusto talaga eh pagtatanim ang target (So I think it has reached the President that those behind the proposal to legalize marijuana is targeting its planting),” the Senate chief said.