Rodrigo Duterte marijuana joke to get through summit meeting


Rodrigo Duterte marijuana joke to get through summit meeting.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, whose controversial war on drugs has cost thousands of lives, says he uses marijuana to keep awake at long regional meetings, but later disavowed his assertion as a joke.

Mr Duterte made the comment at an awards ceremony where he talked about attending a recent summit meeting in Singapore of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and how the daylong schedules of such gatherings is gruelling.

The 73-year-old Duterte said he used marijuana to keep himself awake at the ASEAN meeting. However, he later told reporters he was joking.

Philippine police say more than 4800 suspects have been killed in the drug crackdown that began in July 2016 after Mr Duterte took office.

Human Rights groups have denounced the killings as extrajudicial executions and say the crackdown is unfairly directed at the poor rather than the kingpins in the illicit trade.

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Mr Duterte is known for making off-the-cuff remarks without much consideration for their content.

Perhaps the most notorious was a joke he made in 2016 about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary, which roiled relations with Canberra.

After his remark about marijuana caused a stir, he explained to reporters that he was joking.

“It was a joke, of course it was a joke, but nobody can stop me from just doing my style,” he was quoted saying by ABS-CBN, a leading radio and television network in the Philippines.

“If I want to joke, I will joke. Now, if you believe it, then you’re stupid,” he said.

In the past, Mr Duterte has said he supported making medical marijuana legal, but his office said in May that he had reversed that stance.

Possession of marijuana is punishable by a long prison sentence and a heavy fine in the Philippines.

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An award-winning Philippine journalist who along with the online news service she heads has been sued for tax evasion has declared her innocence and was freed on bail on Monday after turning herself in for arrest.

Maria Ressa, CEO of the Rappler website, said that taxes had been paid properly by her news service and the five tax charges were politically motivated. She was freed on 60,000 pesos ($A1550) bail on the one charge for which an arrest warrant has so far been issued.

Rappler has been critical of the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, who in turn has accused several independent media groups in the Philippines of biased reporting, including on his crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of mostly urban poor dwellers dead and drawn condemnation by Western governments and UN bodies.

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“We need to hold government to account, and part of the reason I’m here is precisely that,” Ms Ressa said outside a Manila court.

“I’m not a criminal, but I’ve been fingerprinted like a criminal. We feel that we did not get due process.”

Ms Ressa, who has worked with CNN, was the winner of two prestigious journalism awards this year, a Press Freedom award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Center for Journalists’ Knight International Journalism Award.

“I think the end goal of government is to try to make our team lose focus, affect morale, but in the end the mission of journalism, especially Rappler, has never been stronger,” she said. “We know we are doing something right, we know that what we are doing is critically important right now.”


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