Duterte had clarified, just like in some of his previous controversial pronouncements, that his statement that he takes marijuana was just a joke to liven up a rather "boring" speech.
Panelo said Malacañang will "never interfere with the function of the judiciary" as well as the other branches of government. "Even the President is entitled to a joke", he said.
"If the President is serious in handling the drug issue, he should stop his tough talk, understand the science behind substance use and addiction, and give the issue the due gravity it deserves", said the Y4MH chair, Dr. Raymond John Naguit. "Anyone on Facebook who questioned that would get brutally bashed", she said in an interview with FRONTLINE.
In his speech during the recognition rites of the Asean National Organizing Council (NOC) officials and personnel, Duterte said he used marijuana to cope with his gruelling schedule in the Asean Summit.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected Ressa's statement, saying the Rappler chief executive was "entitled to the presumption of innocence" and could avail of legal remedies.
"This will definitely anger the families even more".
Duterte was responding to criticism that he had missed a number of meetings at the recent ASEAN summit in Singapore, which he said he had to skip because he was taking power naps.
Panelo explained that marijuana was not a "stimulant".
Sought for comment, Isabela first district Rep. Rodito T. Albano III, principal author of the House Bill 6517 or the Act Providing Filipinos Right of Access to Medical Marijuana, said: "He is fooling you...."
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros described the President's joke as "callous" and "cruel".
"Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine" Duterte said. "That's my style. It's too late to change".
Ms. Ressa says she will challenge the charges, which include three counts of failure to file returns, and one count of tax evasion. Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was not in favor of legalizing marijuana because of the inefficient regulatory environment.
But he repeated the joke later on Monday when asked about extending martial law on the island of Mindanao, he said: "It might be during the cabinet meeting, after the pot session, so we can think clearly", The Guardian reported.
The charges are "part of the Duterte administration´s campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics", said Human Rights Watch Philippines researcher Carlos Conde.