THE House of Representatives on Thursday approved House Bill 2285, which amends the custody and disposition of dangerous drugs to preserve evidentiary value of confiscated items.
Illegal drugs cases end up getting dismissed because enforcers fail to follow Sec. 21. The bill said that it is “too stringent” and “a hindrance to operations,” citing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.
“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 and failure to present vital witnesses,” Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte said.
The law requires the apprehending person(s) to submit seized or surrendered items to the PDEA within 24 hours for examination after inventory.
The bill amends this requirement of Sec. 21 and provides that noncompliance of its requirements under justifiable grounds will not render void and invalid the seizure and custody of items, as long as the apprehending officer or team have properly preserved their evidentiary value.
The bill also requires the immediate issuance of certification upon completion of the examination instead of within 24 hours.
Unlike the present version of Sec. 2, the bill mandates and not merely states as an option that inventory of seized items be witnessed by and done with an elected public official, who has jurisdiction over the scene of the crime and with any representative from the media or the National Prosecution Service.
Belmonte, who filed the bill and is chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said that seized dangerous drugs, controlled chemicals and laboratory equipment totaled P76.62 billion from 2003 to June 2010.
“However, from 1999 to December 2010, the conviction rate only 7.30 percent or 8,063 out of 110,494 drug cases filed,” he said.
The bill aims to strengthen the governments drive against illegal drugs by penalizing the possession of controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments or paraphernalia and laboratory equipment used in the manufacture of dangerous drugs.
It 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.