Where’s the meth? Judge sits on shabu case

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THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is willing to risk a constitutional crisis with the judiciary to make sure the courts strictly comply with the law on the immediate disposition of confiscated drugs.

Sen. Richard Gordon, committee chairman, on Tuesday threatened to issue a subpoena against a judge who failed to order the destruction of 890 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) which authorities seized during a drug raid in San Juan in December 2016.

At the resumption of the Senate panel’s investigation into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China, Gordon said he would subpoena Judge Jovencio Gascon over his supposed inaction on the seized drugs.

Gordon was surprised to learn that the confiscated illegal substance has not been destroyed 10 months after it was seized by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in a series of raids in San Juan last year.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd told the committee that hearings were still ongoing for the destruction of the 890 kilos of illegal drugs, delayed for several months because Gascon was on sick leave. Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the drugs should have been destroyed if only the court complied with the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165), which requires the immediate destruction of confiscated drugs.

Under Republic Act 9165, the apprehending officer is required to file a motion for the immediate destruction of the seized illegal drugs within 72 hours after the filing of criminal charges, with a prayer for ocular inspection,
The court within 72 hours must conduct an ocular inspection and resolve the urgent motion for destruction in five days.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) after receiving the order from the court, must proceed with the destruction within 24 hours.

“Since the drugs were confiscated last December, definitely the 24-72-24 periods already lapsed,” Lacson said.
It was also learned that of the 890 kilos of seized shabu, only 560 kilos have been turned over to the PDEA while the remaining 258 kilos remained with the NBI.

NBI Deputy Director Vicente de Guzman 3rd told the Senate panel authorities could not do anything to expedite the destruction of drugs because these were under the jurisdiction of the courts where the cases was filed.

“Considering that we already filed this case on inquest, it is now under the jurisdiction of the court so we are waiting for the court to order the NBI,” he said.

The NBI wrote the Supreme Court to expedite the ocular inspection of the remaining illegal substances under court custody, but there was no response, he said.

Aguirre told senators he even brought the matter to the attention of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in August, but there was no reply.

The inaction of the courts is the reason people are losing their trust in government, and some are taking shortcuts, Gordon said.

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