Mikey can exhale, mom not about to change son’s mind

November 26, 2004

Theresa Torres and Maricel Cruz, The Manila Times

President Arroyo will not ask her son, Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo of Pampanga, to withdraw his support for a proposed law legalizing the use of marijuana.

Ignacio Bunye, the President’s spokesman, said Mrs. Arroyo respects the independence of her son.

“He [Rep. Juan Miguel Arro­yo] has his right to speak his own mind,” Bunye said, noting that the younger Arroyo’s view “must be considered and respected like all views expressed in democratic debate.”

Arroyo is one of 50 lawmakers who support the proposal of Rep. Solomon Chungalao of Ifugao to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

His support for the bill drew criticisms from lawmakers who believe that legalizing the use of marijuana could worsen the country’s problem on narcotics abuse.

In a statement Arroyo said that his remarks during the budget deliberations of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency clearly indicated his opposition to all illegal drug use.

Although he expressed willingness to cosponsor Chungalao’s bill, he said the measure would have to be studied by authorities in the medical, law-enforcement and sociological fields.

Arroyo acknowledged that it might be difficult to prevent abuse if such a law is passed.

“I was very clear in saying that the proposal will have to be carefully studied before we can even begin to support the bill of Representative Chungalao. Personally, I’ve always been and will continue to be against the use of drugs in all its forms, as this is a major destroyer of our people’s lives and of our society,” he added.   

Arroyo underscored, though, that authorities should continue to crack down on marijuana’s cultivation and sale and arrest peddlers and users.

Meantime, Rep. Gilbert Re­mulla of Cavite warned that legalizing the use of marijuana, even just for medical use, could “open the floodgate for our country to become a country of marijuana addicts.”

He explained that marijuana plantations are usually run by drug syndicates, not legitimate pharmaceutical firms.

Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon also cautioned that marijuana’s “proven dangers far outweigh its unproven benefits.”

“It’s a narcotic that addles the brain. Many crimes were precipitated by marijuana use. [New Bilibid Prisons] is one big alumni house of ex-marijuana users. Legalize marijuana and criminality would become its downstream industry,” Zubiri said.

Antidrug authorities are also opposed to the proposal, warning it could harm the country’s standing in the international community.

The chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Undersecretary Anselmo Avenido Jr., explained that marijuana is included on the United Nations’ list of dangerous drugs.

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