Sotto: No need for Congress to pass law for medical marijuana
Robie de Guzman • February 18, 2020 • 470
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday reiterated that there is no need for Congress to waste efforts legislating a law that will allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Sotto issued the statement after the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) said that it recently approved “in principle” a resolution authorizing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating severe forms of epilepsy.
The Senate President said he will not raise any objection to DDB’s announcement but his support will border on the assumption that the use of such “is in medicine form and conforms with the DDB-PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) guidelines and permit.”
“The DDB move proves the law being proposed in the HOR is unnecessary. There are more important proposed legislations that our honorable counterparts at the HOR should spend their time on,” Sotto said.
“I hope they give priority to measures that will have more impact on the most number of our countrymen,” he added.
The House of Representatives in January approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to legalize and regulate medical marijuana in treating chronic or debilitating medical conditions. The bill also proposes the establishment of Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers which will be authorized to supply, sell, and dispense cannabis to qualified patients through S3-licensed pharmacists.
According to Sotto, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is already authorized under the country’s Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which he noted sets down the policy that “the government shall aim to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.”
He pointed out that the policy is implemented through a circular issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) providing the guidelines for the issuance of a “compassionate special permit.”
DDB chairman Catalino Cuy earlier clarified there is no need for a separate medical marijuana law since mechanisms already exist to allow the use of dangerous drug compounds in medicine form.
Cuy also said that cultivation and production of marijuana for medical or for any other purposes is still illegal in the country under Republic Act 9165.
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday vowed to uphold the Senate’s independence above political alliances, a day after he and his fellow senators filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to rule on whether on not the upper chamber has a role in the abrogation of treaties previously concurred on.
Sotto and five other senators on Monday formally submitted a petition for declaratory relief and mandamus, asking the SC to define if a treaty previously concurred in by the Senate should require the concurrence of at least two thirds of its members upon its withdrawal.
The petition was filed after President Rodrigo Duterte in February ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to notify the United States of the Philippines’ intention to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which was signed between Manila and Washington in 1999.
Sotto said the legal move was meant to “assert the sense of the power of the Senate that we know and we think that we have.”
He maintained that senators must be consulted on vital matters like the termination of international agreements and treaties just as its concurrence is required before the same are ratified.
“This role is particularly important to ensure that the power to forge partnerships with our neighbors and allies remains impartial. The Senate must do its part in protecting the checks and balances in our government,” Sotto said.
He also set aside concerns that he could lose his alliance with Malacañang because of the Senate’s action.
“Personal interests should never outweigh public welfare. I will always choose to fight for the independence of the Senate. That is the legacy that I would like to leave this institution when my term comes to an end,” he said.
Duterte, on the other hand, said he could not be compelled by the SC and will stand by his decision to terminate the military pact with the US.
“They cannot compel me. I refuse to be compelled. I have terminated it, tapos ang problema ko,” he said in a press briefing late Monday.
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III is urging his fellow lawmakers and policy-makers to start drawing up a comprehensive long-term plan for the rehabilitation of the province of Batangas after the eruption of Taal Volcano.
In a statement, Sotto said that while the government had started implementing short-term strategies to address the immediate needs of residents affected by the residents, these would not be enough to help the province get back on its feet again.
“We have to start pooling our ideas to rehabilitate Batangas. We need permanent solutions to resolve post-disaster concerns and help Batangueños recover,” he said.
The senator said the government should be ready to implement rehabilitation programs once Taal Volcano quiets down, and experts declare that the threat of a hazardous eruption is 100 percent over.
He also highlighted the need to address issues on housing, infrastructure, and livelihood, which he stressed will be the top three concerns of the provincial government.
Sotto said the long-term rehabilitation plans should include the provision of temporary and permanent homes to eruption-hit families, repair of roads, buildings and other infrastructures; and small and medium enterprise opportunities, among others.
“Let us not forget the hard lessons we have learned from the rehabilitation of Tacloban and Marawi. We did not have ready programs to help those who were affected by these tragedies, to the chagrin of the residents who relied heavily on the government to help them get back on their feet again,” Sotto said.
The Senate President noted that hundreds of thousands of families living in towns surrounding the Taal Volcano lost their homes and livelihood after thick layers of ashes belched by the volcano on January 12 blanketed their houses.
Their animals and pets were also killed, while volcanic quakes and fissures damaged roads and bridges in several towns.
Businesses have also remained closed, adversely impacting the sources of income of workers.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Sunday, January 26 lowered Taal Volcano’s alert level, which means a decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.
However, Phivolcs said that “this should not be interpreted that the unrest has ceased or that the threat of a hazardous eruption has disappeared.”
The agency explained it downgraded the alert status following a decline in volcanic earthquakes, slower ground deformation, and weak steam and gas emission at Taal’s main crater.
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has assured that the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be passed on time.
Sotto said the Senate is on track in its calendar for the approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as it resumed plenary deliberations Tuesday following its transmission by the House of Representatives.
“It was submitted on time. We are right on track of our timetable without sacrificing important issues being raised in the different departments,” Sotto said.
He also noted that senators have been given plenty of time to bring up and clarify questionable or ambiguous provisions in the budget bill.
Sotto said plenary discussions on the budget bill, including the period of interpellation, individual and committee amendments are expected to be completed by the last week of November.
The budget bill is also seen to be approved on second and third reading by next week to be followed by the convening of the bicameral conference committee by the first week of December.
“The bicameral debates will be unpredictable. We expect healthy debates among members of the bicameral panel as they thresh out and reconcile the differences in our respective versions of the measure. We hope they will remain level-headed and open-minded during the discussions,” Sotto said.
Congress is eyeing to have the proposed 2020 budget enacted and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before it goes on a break for the holidays on December 20.
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