Bill seeking prosecution of ‘drug protectors’ OK’d

05-Mar-2021 Intellasia | PhilStar | 6:52 AM Print This Post

Lawmakers have passed a measure giving more teeth to the country’s anti-drug law to strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs.

In plenary session on Tuesday night, 189 congressmen voted to approve on third and final reading House Bill 7814, which seeks to amend key provisions of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Eleven congressmen voted against the bill, while nine abstained.

The measure, authored by House committee on dangerous drugs chair Ace Barbers, introduces legal presumptions against personalities who could be considered coddlers or protectors and financiers of drug suspects or syndicates; importers, exporters and manufacturers of dangerous drugs and consenting lessors of properties being used as laboratories or drug dens.

“We are giving our law enforcers a potent legal tool to run after coddlers and protectors of the drug trade or the so-called ‘big fish,’ which critics of the drug war have been looking for. Our enforcers are having a hard time prosecuting these coddlers and protectors, so this is our answer,” Barbers told The STAR yesterday.

But Barbers clarified that due process of law would still be observed and the proposed measure would only ensure that protectors of drug trade would not go free.

“If before, these personalities go scot-free, now these legal presumptions will put them on almost the same footing as the drug suspects themselves because of the presence of factual circumstances that will incriminate them and could make them liable under the amended law. There will be no place for them to hide now and their world will be much smaller if these amendments will be passed quickly,” the Surigao del Norte representative said.

Barbers said he is confident that the Senate and the Palace would support the measure, which he said would strengthen the war on drugs.

HB 7814 seeks to give authorities the legal basis to run after and prosecute protectors or coddlers of illegal drugs, who help illegal drug importers or exporters evade arrest.

The measure provides that a person found in possession of a purchase order, receipt, bill of lading or similar document related to the importation or exportation of illegal drugs “is, until proven otherwise, presumed to have imported or exported” the illegal substances.

It classifies a person as a drug financier if he would “cause the payment, raises, provides or supplies money for or underwrites” the importation of illegal drugs.

Any evidence showing the money was transferred to a person or entity linked to a drug importer or exporter would be considered a proof of consent to or knowledge of the sender, transferer or issuer.

The bill states that such presumption may be overturned only “upon presentation of proof that the importation or exportation is authorised or valid.”

The measure seeks to prosecute any person found to be in the immediate vicinity of an area where illegal drugs are being sold, delivered or distributed due to “presumed involvement” in the illegal drug trade.

It proposes that local government units should allocate at least two percent of their annual appropriations in support of a well-functioning Anti-Drug Abuse Council and establishment of Anti-Drug Abuse Offices.

Review sought

Deputy Speaker Benny Abante called for another review of operational guidelines of the government’s war on drugs following the shootout between operatives of Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Abante said a review is necessary to avoid a repeat of the incident wherein two police officers, a PDEA agent and a civilian asset were killed.

“Law enforcement officials should keep in mind that they should be waging a war on drugs, not a war on each other,” Abante said during the weekly media conference at the House.

Abante urged the PDEA and PNP not to wait for the results of investigation and inquiries before taking action and implementing reforms.

He expressed support for a decision of President Duterte to put on hold congressional inquiries until the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) completes its investigation.

“Having a third party look into the incident will allow for an objective ascertainment and assessment of the facts and prevent a scenario between the two agencies involved,” Abante, who represents Manila’s 6th district, said.

The legislator said he was hopeful that the NBI would be able to identify the lapses and issues in the conduct of the operations that resulted in the shootout between PDEA and PNP operatives.


Category: Philippines

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