House passes bill further strengthening the anti-drug campaign

The House of Representatives has approved on third reading a bill further strengthening the anti-drug campaign of the government by providing clear procedures for the custody and disposition of

dangerous drugs thereby preserving the evidentiary value of confiscated items.

House Bill 4660, authored by Rep. Vicente Belmonte, Jr. (Lone District, Iligan City), seeks to amend Section 21 of Republic Act 9165 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Belmonte said the bill seeks to dismiss drug cases due to the failure of law enforcers to follow the stringent requirements of Section 21 of R.A. 9165.

Section 21 of RA 9165 deals with custody and disposition of confiscated, seized, and surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals,

instruments or paraphernalia.

Under RA 9165, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as

well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

“In order for the government to pursue an intensive and unrelenting campaign against the trafficking and use of dangerous drugs and other similar substances, it is imperative that Section 21 be amended,”

Belmonte said.

Belmonte said from 2003 to June 2010, the total seizures of dangerous drugs, controlled chemicals and laboratory equipment amounted to P76.62 billion, while seized dangerous drugs can be quantified in

terms of monetary value amounting to billions of pesos, the potential damage however to the socio-economic, political and cultural foundations of the country can never be measured.

“However, from 1999 to December 2010, the conviction rate was only 7.3% or 8,063 out of 110,494 drug cases filed.  Reasons for acquittal/dismissal include irregularity/illegality of arrest; search and seizure; reasonable doubt; insufficiency of evidence; inconsistencies in testimony; filing of wrong information; non-coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA); failure to present vital witnesses and failure to observe Sec. 21 of R.A. 9165,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte said the bill seeks to strengthen the anti-drug campaign by amending the procedure for the custody and disposition of dangerous drugs and penalizing the possession controlled precursors and

essential chemicals, instruments or paraphernalia and laboratory equipment used in the manufacture of dangerous drugs.

Under the bill, the inventory of seized items shall be witnessed by any one of the required representatives from media, Department of Justice (DOJ) or an elected public official.

Belmonte said the measure provides for the filing of administrative cases against required witnesses who fail to attend the inventory of seized items.

Also, the bill mandates the conduct of the physical inventory of seized items at the place where the search warrant is served or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending

officer/team, whichever is more practicable.

Belmote said the bill renders the seizures and custody over said items valid, as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved.

Belmonte said the restriction for the issuance of certifications of forensic laboratory examinations within 24 hours is removed under the proposed amendments.

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