Cebu and the Opium Law
CEBUPEDIA - Clarence Paul Oaminal (The Freeman) - June 14, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part 2)

The remedial legislation (Act No. 1761) of allowing Chinese opium users to freely use opium as long they are registered and made the proper payment of a fee resulted in the common sight of opium users in Carbon and Taboan.

Opium was kept in the stores of the Chinese users who had different methods of using it; others just chewed it, others smoked it, and those severely addicted with it injected it.

The first anti-drug operation in Cebu on the opium law that reached the Supreme Court happened on August 19, 1909. Although the law allowed opium’s use, it prohibited its importation without permits from the government.

The accused was the Chinaman by the name of Look Chaw, where 96 kilos of opium was aboard the steamship “Erroll” (an English ship) from Hong Kong bound for Mexico.

Look Chaw was convicted by the Court of First Instance of Cebu to five years in prison and to pay a fine of P10,000. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court through Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano (a street in the pier area is named after him, the Arellano Boulevard), amended the sentence to six months imprisonment and the fine to P1,000. The en banc decision was made on December 16, 1910.

The Opium Law was not immune to abuse by our law enforcers. In Cebu on February 14, 1910, the Chinaman Yap Buyco/Yap Buyo who owned a store was framed by Cebuano policemen who asked for P300 in exchange for the dropping of the made-up charges. The policemen were prosecuted and their conviction affirmed by the Supreme Court on January 17, 1912.

Several years later, the Philippine Legislature, headed by the Grand Old Man of Cebu, Don Sergio Osmeña Sr., finally criminalized the sale and use of opium. It enacted Act No. 2381 on February 28, 1914 entitled “An Act Restricting the Use of Opium and Repealing Act Numbered Seventeen Hundred and Sixty One”.

The law gave enormous power to the Constabulary. At this time the major cities were headed by an American Constabulary Officer, while in the provinces, Filipinos who were endorsed by powerful Filipino officials were appointed as constables and designated as chiefs. (To be continued)

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