SC rules with finality allowing plea bargain deals for drug cases

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2017 11:09 PM

MANILA - It is final. Plea bargain deals for all drug cases are allowed.

The Supreme Court (SC) junked on Tuesday a motion for reconsideration (MR) of its earlier ruling junking the prohibition on plea bargain deals for all drug cases, and striking down as unconstitutional the prohibition found in Section 23 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Act).

“The court, acting on the motion for reconsideration of its decision dated 15 August 2017, denied with finality the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit,” said SC Public Information Office chief, Atty. Theodore Te, in a news conference.

The ruling is in favor of Salvador Estipona, Jr., currently detained in Legazpi, Albay for possession of .084 gram of shabu in March 2016. Estipona filed the petition through the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in September 2016.

In its August 15 decision, the high court said the assailed provision is “unconstitutional for being contrary to the rule making authority of the [SC] in Article VIII, Section 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution.”

In his petition, Estipona argued that “[t]hose accused of other heinous crimes such as murder, some acts of rape, and other crimes where the maximum imposable penalty is either life imprisonment, reclusion perpetua, or death, are allowed into plea bargaining under Section 1, Rule 118 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure."

He lamented how those accused of violations of RA No. 9165 have not been allowed to strike plea bargain deals. Estipona’s motion for plea bargain was junked twice by the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3.

"This, despite the fact that the various pertinent violations under RA 9165 do not bare out any reason to consider a person accused under the said law as a separate and distinct specie that would exempt from plea bargaining.

"Section 23 of RA 9165 deprives not only the accused and the prosecution, but more importantly, the courts, of the benefits of a validly entered plea bargaining agreement. It is antithetical to the early resolution of cases and declogging of court dockets, especially in instances such as this case, where the prosecution does not object and both the prosecution and defense are open to the possibility of plea bargaining,” Estipona explained.

At the time the petition was filed, some 82,000 persons were detained on drug charges.