THE Department of Justice (DOJ) said that it is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and not the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that is mandated by the law to take custody over seized illegal drugs.
In a legal opinion dated July 27, the DOJ said under Section 21 of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, "PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs," and paraphernalia seized during operations.
The opinion was issued by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II upon the request of PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña following the probe of the House of Representatives into the smuggling of P6.4 billion shabu that illegally entered the country from China.
Aguirre said there is no question that the PDEA is the lead agency tasked to enforce the provisions of RA 9165, "specifically on the taking of custody and disposition of contrabands."
Aguirre added that even the RA 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) has confirmed the powers given to the anti-drug agency.
Under Section 214 of the said Act, it said that the police authority has the power to effect "search, seizure, and arrest."
Section 1147 of the same act also provides that all seized illicit drugs should be further turned over to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Aguirre noted that PDEA is the implementing arm of the DDB.
Lapeña sought Aguirre's opinion after he expressed confusion following conflicts between BOC and PDEA authorities in relation to the custody of seized drugs.
The official also told Aguirre in his letter that there were incidents that the BOC asserted their "exclusive authority" to seize drugs as provided in the CMTA.
These conflicts, Lapeña lamented, results to failure to arrest "big fishes." (SunStar Philippines)