• Drug cases surge

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    The number of illegal drug cases filed in court in 2014 surged by 62 percent against 2013 figures, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

    In its consolidated report, the PDEA said 17,074 anti-drug cases were filed in different courts nationwide in 2014 compared to 10,502 in 2013.

    From 2002 to 2014, the agency added, 106,092 illegal drug cases were filed in court, of which 19,585 or 18.46 percent have been resolved.

    Of the resolved cases, 5,265 or 27 percent resulted in convictions, 9,051 or 46 percent resulted in acquittals and 5,269 or 27 percent resulted in dismissals.

    The remaining cases filed during the period were either unresolved and pending before the courts, or provisionally dismissed and placed in the archives.

    “I refuse to get discouraged by the low conviction rate arising from these anti-drug cases. It all boils down to the preparation and filing of airtight cases complemented by the prioritization of court duties by PDEA operatives, chemists and witnesses, to guarantee the prosecution of arrested drug offenders,” said PDEA Director General Arturo Cacdac, Jr.

    The anti-drug chief added that internal support mechanisms have been institutionalized to strengthen the PDEA’s aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.

    Capability enhancement trainings, such as anti-drug investigation courses, are regularly provided to enable agents to prepare airtight cases in coordination with PDEA lawyers, he said.

    Moot courts, according to Cacdac, are used to prepare PDEA agents and chemists who will stand as prosecution witnesses.

    Also, case monitors have been permanently assigned to all PDEA regional offices to regularly monitor the status of drug cases.

    One of the frequent reasons cited for the dismissal and acquittal of arrested drug personalities is the drug enforcer’s failure to comply with Section 21 of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, because of the law’s unreasonable and impractical provisions, specifically the requirement on witnesses, inventory of evidence seized and the issuance of drug examination results, according to Cacdac.

    Section 21 pertains to the “custody and disposition of confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment.”

    In response to the challenge, PDEA has pushed for the amendment of Section 21, paving the way to the enactment of Republic Act 10640.

    “The new law is a welcome development that strengthens the law enforcement pillar of the criminal justice system. RA 10640 would speed up the process in the inventory of confiscated illegal drugs and help prevent the dismissal of drug cases due to technicalities in the custody and disposition of drug evidence,” Cacdac said.

    “Apart from the accused, the amended law reduced the required number of inventory witnesses of drug evidence from three to two, that is, an elected public official, and a representative from the National Prosecution Service, or an elected official and a member of the media,” he added.

    Cacdac said this lessens the trouble of looking for witnesses especially during the wee hours or in far-flung areas.

    The law also allows the conduct of physical inventory of confiscated illegal drugs at the site of recovery, the nearest police station or office of the apprehending unit as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved.

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