House OKs bill to amend anti-drug law

By Paolo Romero and Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 22 2014 10:27 AM | Updated as of Mar 23 2014 09:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill preventing the dismissal of drug cases due to the failure of law enforcers to follow procedures in making arrests and processing evidence.

The bill seeks to amend Section 21 of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs and author of House Bill 2285, wants to provide clear procedures for the custody and disposition of dangerous drugs, thereby preserving the evidentiary value of confiscated items.

“The reasons for acquittal and dismissal include the irregularity and illegality of arrest, search and seizure, reasonable doubt, insufficiency of evidence, inconsistencies in testimony, filing of wrong information, non–coordination with PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and failure to present vital witnesses,” Belmonte said.

He said the proposal to amend the law was prompted by the dismissal of numerous drug cases, including the one involving “Alabang Boys” Richard Brodett, Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson.

PDEA agents arrested them in a drug bust at the affluent Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City in September 2008. Three years later, a Muntinlupa court dismissed the charges against them. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said there was a “breach in the chain of custody of evidence” against the suspects.

The bill mandates that the inventory of seized items shall be witnessed by an elected public official who has jurisdiction over the scene of the crime with any representative from the media or the National Prosecution Service.

The measure also mandates the conduct of the physical inventory of seized items be at the place where the search warrant is served or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer or team, whichever is practicable.

The proposed amendment shall render the seizures and custody of the items valid, as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved.

Furthermore, the proposed amendment removes the restriction for the issuance of certifications of forensic laboratory examination within 24 hours but instead requires an immediate issuance of certification upon completion of the examination.