Cebu and the Opium Law
CEBUPEDIA - Clarence Paul Oaminal (The Freeman) - June 12, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 1)

Drugs from China entering our ports is not recent history, it dates back centuries ago. China, having lost to the Opium War, was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking in 1732, whereby aside from ceding Hong Kong to the British (who were selling opium from India in China) it was forced to open five ports to allow the continuous entry of opium brought in by the British merchants.

Chinese immigration to our country had the by-product of opium addicts who became residents of Cebu. The Spanish authorities tolerated the sale and use of opium. When the Americans came (after the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898) to the shores of Cebu in 1899 they found that there was large number of Chinese opium users.

When the Philippine Legislature was established in 1907 with Don Sergio Suico Osmeña Sr. as its first speaker, the Americans, together with the Filipino elected officials, tackled the opium addiction. It was decided that the social issue be viewed as an economic opportunity of the country. The Americans did not want to shake the present setup, thus the first law on opium was enacted, it did not make opium use as a crime but a revenue-generating hobby.

The law “Act No. 1761” enacted on October 17, 1907, it was an act to gradually restrict and regulate the sale and use of opium pending the ultimate prohibition of the importation of opium into the Philippines.

A proviso of the law provided the procedure on how the regulation is to be implemented is quoted here in portion:

“Sec. 2. Upon the presentation to any Chinese person of a written application, verified by his oath before an officer entitled to administer oaths, and reciting that he habitually smokes, chews, swallows, or injects opium, stating the quantity of opium consumed daily.”

It further provides how the government generates revenue on the opium addiction: “It shall be the duty of the treasurer of the municipality or the treasurer of the township or settlement in which said application is presented, or if presented in the city of Manila then the Collector of Internal Revenue, upon the payment to such official by the applicant of the fee herein prescribed, to register such Chinese person as a confirmed user of opium…” (To be continued)

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