DOJ to prioritize drugs cases following Duterte directive to destroy drugs

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2020 08:50 AM

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is set to issue a memorandum circular ordering prosecutors to prioritize drug cases following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to authorities to destroy seized illegal drugs.

“In accordance with the president's directive, the DOJ will issue a memo circular to all prosecutors investigating drug cases to give top priority to the resolution of the same, to file the informations asap, and to move for a court order to conduct ocular inspection of and destroy the seized drugs, precursors, etc within the time specified in RA 9165,” Guevarra said in a text message Wednesday.

The justice chief explained that under the section 21(4) of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, trial courts are required to conduct an ocular inspection of confiscated or surrendered illegal drugs, precursors, paraphernalia and other items and through the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, proceed to burn or destroy them within 24 hours after inspection, in the presence of accused or counsel and representatives from the media, the DOJ, civil society organizations and any elected public official.

“A representative sample of the seized drugs will be retained for use during the trial of the case. Thus, law enforcement agents must file the criminal complaints immediately so that the destruction of the seized drugs could proceed as early as possible,” he said.

In a televised address to the public Monday night, President Duterte gave authorities 1 week to destroy seized illegal drugs to prevent “unscrupulous” anti-drug operatives from recycling them and peddling them on the streets.

The Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator, on July 15, already directed trial court judges handling illegal drugs cases to “strictly comply” with the requirements of section 21(4). 

OCA Circular 118-2020 signed by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez added that if full compliance is not possible, priority should be given to dangerous drugs seized amounting to 5 kilos or more.

If the drugs are physically brought to court, the court should order them destroyed within 24 hours.