Journalist contesting tax charges freed on bail

Philippine leader jokes he used marijuana at summit meeting

Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the Duterte government's move had "sent a chilling message to journalists and human-rights activists that they will be targeted for exposing his murderous campaign". "He was really making a joke", Panelo said. "Even the President is entitled to a joke", he said.

Shortly after winning the election, Duterte said in several press interviews that he was personally in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

"Friends of the Philippines should make it clear to the president that the case against Ressa and Rappler should be dropped or there will be serious diplomatic consequences", Adams said.

Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte is entitled to make jokes even if he is the chief executive and that his pronouncements somehow have an impact on national policy. He made his statement after Duterte drew flak for saying he uses marijuana to keep himself awake to cope with the "killing" schedule at last month's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore.

This is not the first time that the President missed events while on official trips and reports on his absence from events at the Asean summit were routine.

Panelo explained that marijuana was not a "stimulant".

"Of course I was joking...kung maniwala kayo, e, gago kayo."
But Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said he did not believe that Duterte was using marijuana.

"I ask the President, can poor people crack the same joke without fear of being included in the government's "tokhang" list, harmed by state security personnel and becoming victims of extrajudicial killings?" she said.

He added, "That's my style, it's too late to change".

But Salvador Panelo, the presidential spokesman, disputed Ressa's statement, claiming that Duterte had nothing to do with the filing of tax evasion and possibly other criminal charges against her and Rappler.

Rappler added that Duterte has previously, without claiming to be joking, to the use of, an extremely addictive and unsafe opioid believed to have played a role in almost half the opioid overdose deaths in the United States in 2017. "So we will have to live with whatever he is for the next four years or so", Lacson said.

"There is a disconnect between what the president admitted to do and what the president said he will do to those who use drugs", he said.

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