SENATORIAL candidate Vicente C. Sotto III said the snail-paced prosecutions of drug cases in regular courts have demoralized operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and other enforcement units.

"Even highly celebrated cases take at least five years to bag a conviction,” Sotto, former chair of Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), said citing the notorious Calvin Tan Case in the National Capital Region.

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Sotto, who made a stop-over in Cagayan de Oro over the weekend after a sortie in Davao City, added that known drug lords are using the clogged regional trial circuit courts to their advantage by delaying hearings with the most ridiculous of excuses, while those who were nabbed for simple possession charges suffer as they languish in jail even for minor raps.

“Nung isang hearing sa kaso ni Tan, nagmotion ang abogado niya to postpone kasi merong sore throat si Tan. Nakalusot naman kasi merong medical certificate na dala. Samantala, kawawa naman yung mga nakulong dahil sa possession lang di nakakalabas para ma rehab kasi hindi pa nadidinig ang kaso,” Sotto said.

However, there has been a stark improvement in the enforcement aspect of the country’s war on illegal drugs, he told Business World.

In International Narcotics Control Board’s (INCB) 2009 yearend report underscored the unprecedented rise and disturbing trends in the production of illegal drugs in Southeast Asia, mentioning the country’s continued report of confiscation of chemical elements used in making of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), the most widely used and trafficked drug.

According to the same report, Philippines reported raids of more than 200 kilos of ephedrine, a primary chemical used in making methamphetamine, at nondescript laboratories. An independent and quasi-judicial control organization, INCB monitors the implementation of United Nations drug control conventions.

He said PDEA had lamented that a measly 21 percent of the 99,434 drug-related crimes prosecuted reached resolution.

“Actually, this is one of the primary reasons why I have decided to run again for senator. We need to enact a law that will create and institutionalize special drug courts in every city and province. If we are to make a difference in our war on drugs, we need these special courts to speed up legal proceedings of drug-related cases,” Sotto said.

These “drug courts,” he explained, would hear only drug-related cases presided by three justices for every court to ensure transparent, credible and impartial decisions.

Justice Puno, Sotto said, included in the bill’s draft that decision of the “drug courts” could only be appealed at the Supreme Court without passing through the Court of Appeals.

“It would be like family courts which exclusively hear and decide on regarding family matters such as marriage annulment, child abuse and domestic violence against women and children,” Sotto, the principal author of Republic Act 8369 Family Courts Act of 1997 explained.

Sotto also authored RA 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2000 that created DDB, which formulates policies on drug abuse and prevention, and PDEA, its enforcement arm.