Bato dela Rosa: From hardline anti-drugs to sudden soft spot for legalizing marijuana | Inquirer News

Bato dela Rosa: From hardline anti-drugs to sudden soft spot for legalizing marijuana

/ 01:29 PM December 13, 2022
Bato Dela Rosa wants Filipinos to be open to medical marijuana

FILE PHOTO: Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa during a hearing at the Senate on November 23, 2022. (Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — Former national police chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is a confessed “hardline” and “real” anti-illegal drug advocate, but he currently has a soft spot for legalizing marijuana for medical use.


During Monday’s hearing of the Senate committee on health and demography, he said he understands the fears of government officials about possible abuse if a law allowing medicinal marijuana is enacted, but he appealed to them to open their hearts and minds to give the measure a try.

He said those against the proposal to make marijuana legal for curative use should consider the measure’s benefits for patients who need it.


READ: Medical marijuana can contribute to economy, gov’t projects — Robin Padilla

“Alam ko itong grupo na ito ay — tapos ka na sa mga pro, ‘di ba Mr. Chairman?” dela Rosa asked committee chair Senator Robinhood Padilla. “Lahat naman, ‘yong pro saka anti, puro para sa kabutihan nating lahat ‘di ba, but ang sa akin lang is, try kaya nating, let’s put our hearts and minds to this possibility?”

(I know this group is already composed of the anti, right, Mr. Chairman? All of us, those in the pro and the anti, want what’s good for us, but I want to say, why don’t we try to put our hearts and minds into this possibility?)

“Ang sa akin lang naman is — ako nga hardline ako, anti-drug advocate talaga ako, nakipag-patayan ako d’yan sa mga drug personalities pero ‘pag dating dito ‘yong compassionate use nito, why not, try natin, we open our minds and hearts at tignan natin?” dela Rosa asked.

(For me — I am a hardline, I am a real anti-drug advocate, and I have been putting my life on the line fighting drug personalities, but when it comes to this issue if it is for compassionate use, why don’t we try opening our minds and hearts, and look at it?)

Instead of opposing Senate Bill No. 230, critics and government regulatory agencies should also do something to address possible abuse of the proposed law, according to dela Rosa.

READ: PDEA ‘thumbs up’ on legalizing medical marijuana; DDB defers to health experts’ position


“Alam ko your opposition is anchored doon sa posibleng magiging abuso na mangyari dito (kung) i-grant natin ito, ‘yong posible. Ako naman, kayong nasa anti, tignan kaya natin din kung — lalong-lalo na ‘yong regulating agencies ng gobyerno — tignan kaya natin kung meron din kayong pwedeng gawin, posibleng intervention doon sa magiging posibleng abuso sa batas na ito,” dela Rosa said.

(I know your opposition is anchored on the possible abuse that would happen if we grant this bill. For me, those on the side of dissenters, don’t we look at — especially the regulating agencies of the government — why don’t we look at what you can do, like possible interventions to the possible abuse of this law?)

“Alam ko ang ating kinakakatakutan ‘yong posibleng abuso. In our part naman sana, hanap din kayo ng paraan, kung anong posibleng diskarte or intervention para hindi ito ma-abuso. So mag-kwan tayo, mag-level up tayo, kasi ‘pag sabihin kasi ninyo, mga regulating agencies ng gobyerno na sarado na ang utak ninyo dahil malaki ang posibilidad niyan na ma-abuso talaga ‘yan, ah tapos na,” he added.

(I know that what we fear is possible abuse. But on our part, I hope you can also find a way, possible strategy, or intervention so this will not be abused. So we should level up because if you say that government regulating agencies have already closed their minds because it is a big possibility of being abused, then it’s over.)

Dela Rosa was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) when the brutal Oplan Tokhang was started in 2016. Derived from Visayan words “toktok” or “to knock” and “hangyo” or to “plead help,” Oplan Tokhang is the Duterte administration’s on-the-ground anti-drug campaign that let police officers scour communities to knock on the doors of suspected drug users and convince them to leave the illegal drug trade.

READ: ‘Bato’: What’s wrong with ‘Oplan Tokhang’?

READ: Bato: Oplan Tokhang imperfect but not wrong

Numbers from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) showed that during Duterte’s term, 6,252 drug suspects were killed while around P89 billion worth of illegal substances — including 10,523 kilograms of marijuana — were seized.

Padilla’s committee has been tackling his Senate Bill No. 230, which seeks to establish the country’s Medical Cannabis Compassionate Access Act of the Philippines.

During a hearing last week, resource person and Cannahopefuls Inc. president Dr. Donnabel Trias-Cunanan said the bill would allow the safe purchase of cannabis-based products for treating epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

READ: Senate urged to pass bill allowing risk-free purchase of medical cannabis

Cannabis-based products are derived from the oil of the marijuana plant, which is currently illegal to cultivate or possess in the country.

Cunanan, whose child also suffers from an uncontrollable form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome along with cerebral palsy, also claimed that the current setup, where people needing medication for such ailments would have to make compassionate special permits, is not compassionate.


Medicinal cannabis legalization: It’s high time for the Philippines

Legalizing medical marijuana in the Philippines: A pharmacist’s perspective

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