Philippines Enacts Death Penalty for Drug Dealing, Possession of a Pound of Marijuana or Tens Grams of Ecstasy 6/14/02

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The Philippines congress has approved and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed a draconian new anti-drug measure, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The act mandates the death penalty for drug dealing -- no matter how small the quantity -- or for possession of as little as 500 grams or marijuana (a pound is 454 grams), ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine, or 50 grams of methamphetamine, or "shabu," as it is called in the Philippines. The new law will go into effect in July.

"I want to deliver a message to all illegal drug traffickers to immediately close their business," said Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City) at a press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila after President Macapagal-Arroyo signed the bill into law on June 7. "They have no future. If they are caught, they will be punished with life imprisonment or a death sentence," said Cuenco, one of the bill's most ardent proponents.

Among other provisions, the new law includes:

  • The death penalty for any trafficking, cultivating, importing, selling, or trading controlled drugs or their chemical precursors.
  • The death penalty for possession of the amounts listed above.
  • The death penalty for any government official found guilty of trafficking or of planting drugs.
  • A life sentence for possession of more than five grams of hard drugs.
  • A 12-year prison sentence for possession of less than five grams of hard drugs.
  • Stiff new penalties for using cell phones or the Internet to make drug deals.
  • Stiff new penalties for "dangerous drug financiers, protectors, and coddlers."
  • Mandatory drug tests for persons seeking drivers' licenses or weapons permits.
  • Mandatory drug tests for candidates for public office.
  • Mandatory drug tests for persons charged with a crime punishable by more than six years in prison.
  • Random drug tests for students and workers in government and the private sector
  • Compulsory drug education in all school levels.
The new law has broad support among the political and opinion-leader classes. In a column Monday lauding the new law, Manila Times columnist Ernesto Herrera referred to the drug trade as "the Dark Pied Piper" and as "our modern-day Hitler." In metaphor-mixing, lurid prose, Herrera urged public support for the new law. "The drug menace has become the dark Pied Piper of the new millennium," he wrote, "luring our young people away from what is decent and moral, toward a huge cave and right into the bowels of despair and decadence, where hope dare not show its face."

According to the Filipino government, the country has between 1.7 million and 2.1 million illegal drug users, "close to 10% of the youth population." DRCNet could find no sign of any organized drug reform effort in the Philippines.

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