Legislators in the Philippines have proposed a new bill to legalize medical cannabis in their country, but the bill has many opponents, including an organization of American-based Filipino doctors who recently voiced their opposition to the bill. Dr. Philip Chun, a heart surgeon and chairman of the Filipino United Network (FUN-USA), wrote a statement to Philippine Rep. Lito Atienza expressing his opposition to the bill, the Manila Standard reports.
Atienza, the country's senior deputy minority leader, has been leading the opposition against the proposed Act Providing Filipinos Right of Access to Medical Marijuana. The bill has already been approved by a House committee, and will be up for debate when the Philippine Congress reconvenes on November 20th. The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) is also strongly opposed to the bill, arguing that medical cannabis legalization "runs counter to the State's policy to protect the wellbeing of its citizenry."
Chun's statement echoes the PMA's prohibitionist stance. "We currently have enough drug addiction problems in the Philippines and certainly do not want to add more," Chun wrote. "While as a heart surgeon I am personally in favor of therapeutic marijuana for those medical cases that do not respond to standard medical care, I feel as you do that this will be abused in our country and turn the Philippines into a zombie nation as you stated. This is already happening in America."
By allowing the bill to pass, "Congress will in effect be planting the seeds of a new public health emergency as well as a new law enforcement problem," Atienza said in a statement. The Congressman also wrote that the law "is guaranteed to be exploited aggressively by criminal drug syndicates." These drug syndicates are one of the main concerns of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected on a promise to eradicate drug dealers and users from the country.
Philippine officials have reported that over 3,000 people have been killed by the country's law enforcement in drug raids since Duterte took office, but human rights groups estimate that as many as 9,000 people have been killed. During recent visits to the Philippines, President Trump has not only overlooked these murders, but even lauded Duterte's violent war on drugs. "Trump seems very comfortable with strongmen," Mike Chinoy, senior fellow at U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California, told the Associated Press. "It's not just that he won't criticize Duterte. I wouldn't be surprised if he patted him on the back."
A leaked transcript of a phone call between the two presidents this May reveals that Trump did just that. "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump reportedly told Duterte. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."
In a visit between the two leaders this Monday, "human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs," according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque told CNN the the topic "was not brought up" at all, however. Roque said that Duterte mentioned the "drug menace" in the country but that Trump "appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter but was merely nodding his head."