Senate passes amendments to Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act

THE Senate approved on second reading a bill amending the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to strengthen the country's fight against the drug menace and catch perpetrators.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, sponsored crucial amendments to the Republic Act 9165, providing precise guidelines on strict procedures for tight preservation of seized illegal drugs.

"The improved Anti-Drugs Act will prevent occurrence of the failed prosecutions like the Alabang Boys’ cases, in which the accused were acquitted and escaped justice on the basis of technicality," the senator explained.

In sponsoring Senate Bill 2273, Poe stressed three points in amending Section 21 of the law, which pertains to the preservation of evidence in seized illegal drugs.

"First, the current law requires that inventory of seized dangerous drugs must take place at the police station. We propose that this inventory must take place at the police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer or team of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency," Poe said in Committee Report No. 45.

"Second, the current law states that a media representative, a Department of Justice (DOJ) representative, and an elected public official must be present during the inventory as witnesses. We propose that only two witnesses must be required: an elected public official and a media or DOJ representative," Poe added.

"Third, the current law provides that noncompliance with Section 21 renders the evidence inadmissible. We propose that improper compliance or noncompliance under justifiable grounds will not render the seizure void," the senator added.

Poe explained that the proposed amendments aim to address conflicting court decisions, citing People vs. Magat and People vs. Frondozo where noncompliance led to acquittal of the accused; and People vs. Pringas where the accused was convicted despite noncompliance with Section 21.

The senator further said, "Compliance with the rule on witnesses during physical inventory is difficult, since media representatives are not always available, especially in remote areas. It is not easy to get local officials as witnesses. Most police stations are also far from places where suspects are apprehended."

"Drug addiction has soared to a new height, endangering the youth and destroying society. The Dangerous Drugs Board estimates that at least 1.7 million Filipinos are hooked on drugs, a 13-percent increase from 1.5 million just two years ago," the senator noted.

"Panahon na para susugan ang ating batas para sa malawakang pagsugpo ng droga— dahil ito’y sumisira ng buhay, dahil ito’y problema ng maraming kabataan, dahil ito’y nagbabaon ng ating lipunan sa lalong kahirapan," Poe said.

Committee Report No. 45 is a consolidation of seven Senate bills authored by Senators Poe, Vicente Sotto III, Gringo Honasan, JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada. It takes into consideration the approved version of the bill in the House of Representatives. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)