Agencies at the forefront of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign on Tuesday vowed to immediately destroy seized contraband to avoid recycling by unscrupulous individuals.
“It must be immediate. President Rodrigo Duterte is right in saying that to stop drug recycling. Even when I was Director for Operations, I always want an audit of the drugs in our custody. They always tell me these should be turned over to PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said in Filipino in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
While he and PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva both agreed to this measure, Cascolan said they would also coordinate with the Supreme Court (SC).
In a separate interview, PNP spokesperson Col. Ysmael Yu said they still have to wait for court orders before they can destroy all illegal drugs used as evidence in cases.
“(I think) the courts would also consider the order of the President. The courts can tell the PNP to just get a portion as a piece of evidence for the indictment of the accused and destroy the rest,” he added.
Meanwhile, Villanueva said the PDEA is now coming up with ways to comply with the President’s order.
“We are going to have a meeting regarding the President’s one-week deadline on the destruction of seized illegal drugs,” he told PNA in a separate phone interview.
He, however, admitted that conflicts in schedules of the parties concerned and other factors have delayed the destruction of seized contraband.
“This October, we have a total of 800 kilos of drugs for destruction but the judge begged off because of conflict in schedule. We also have pending cases and archived cases that involve more than 700 kilos and we cannot just destroy because there is no accused or there is no representative of the accused. But we will do our best to comply,” he stressed.
Villanueva, meanwhile, said they are now following up on the issuance of court orders for destruction of these pieces of drug evidence pursuant to Circular 118-2020 issued by Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez.
“Arising from the Senate Hearing on September 29, 2020 we are likewise seeking the guidance of the Honorable Secretary of Justice to issue guidance relative to the propriety of the refusal of some prosecutors to move for or at least conform to the Motion of PDEA for the conduct of ocular inspection, taking of representative samples and subsequent issuance of Court Order for destruction on archived cases or cases under automatic review (involving more or less 540.6 kilograms of shabu). In the meantime we can destroy more or less 1 ton of shabu next week,” he said in a separate statement.
On Monday night, Duterte ordered law enforcement agencies to destroy all confiscated shabu that is being kept as evidence against accused drug personalities in one week.
“I want all the shabu residual or otherwise, however minimal, destroyed, the whole of it by next week. You have so many days to do it in one week. Do it in one week. Destroy and get specimen,” Duterte said during his televised address Monday night. “We go by science, there’s the experiment. Why do we have to put on our shoulder the burden of keeping contraband or merchandise that can be stolen and used, and recycled?”
In July, the SC reminded all regional trial courts to “strictly comply” with the requirements of Section 21 (4) of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 on the immediate destruction of confiscated illegal drugs weighing five kilograms or more.
The law provides that “after the filing of the criminal case, the court shall, within 72 hours, conduct an ocular inspection” of the confiscated, seized illegal drugs or precursor chemicals, and “through the PDEA shall within 24 hours thereafter proceed with the destruction or burning of the same”, provided, that a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained. (PNA)