DESTROYING illegal drugs is expensive.
This is one of the reasons that delays the destruction of narcotics confiscated from arrested pushers, Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Macaundas Hadjirasul said on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019.
Speaking during the Cebu City Council’s regular session on the same day, Hadjirasul said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 does not have the equipment that can destroy seized narcotics.
He asked the City Council to consider helping the PDEA 7 acquire a thermal incinerator, a waste treatment machine that can hasten the destruction of seized drugs. It is worth around P10 million.
Based on Republic Act (RA) 9165, Hadjirasul said at least five grams of the seized illegal drugs should be presented before the court during trial as part of evidence.
He said that should a witness not recognize the evidence, there is a need for a law enforcement unit to present another physical evidence.
The case, he said, will be dismissed if the law enforcement unit fails to present evidence in court.
However, Hadjirasul said, the evidence can be inspected by a judge. He himself had gone to the crime laboratory several times in the past for the identification of evidence.
RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 mandates that a court must conduct an ocular inspection on the confiscated drugs within 72 hours from the seizure. After a court decides on a drug case, the PDEA has 24 hours to destroy the evidence.
Hadjirasul said it takes at least one month to complete the destruction of the seized drugs.
The law mandates the destruction of illegal drugs to prevent rogue law enforcers to recycle them. Last September, President Rodrigo Duterte had received more than 700 names of police officers who were suspected “ninja cops,” or those who recycled confiscated drugs.
Although there were no reports of “ninja cops” in Cebu Province, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia wants to establish a protocol in disposing of illegal drugs confiscated during operations.
Garcia met with the officials of the Cebu Provincial Police Office and PDEA 7 last Monday, Oct. 21, to learn about out the process in destroying illegal drugs.
The governor will call another meeting with executive judges to find out the precautionary measures in storing and disposing of the drugs.
The Supreme Court is planning to allow a validated picture of seized drugs as evidence during a court hearing.
PDEA 7 Director Wardley Getalla said they have to spend at least P70,000 every destruction.
Getalla said the PDEA 7 plans to conduct the destruction every three months. His office is acquiring a thermal incinerator machine, which he said would be placed in a facility far from residential area and should be operated by experts.
For his part, Vice Mayor Michael Rama said the law states that the offender, or the arrested pusher, should shoulder the cost in destroying drugs. Getalla agreed, but he said “in real life we cannot implement because the offender does not want to pay for that.”
The PDEA 7 has 35 kilos of illegal drugs in its custody, while 19 kilos are in the custody of courts that hear drug cases.
Getalla said they are set to conduct a destruction on the first week of December this year. They had their last destruction in July 2017.
During the destruction, RA 9165 mandates the presence of the accused, his/her representative or counsel or anyone from the Public Attorney’s Office, and representatives from the media, the Department of Justice, civil society groups and any elected public official. (JJL, RTF)