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For drug cases under automatic review, DOJ wants immediate release of suspects

CEBU, Philippines - Drug suspects will now be immediately released once their case is under automatic review.

Citing respect for human rights, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new rules to immediately release the drug suspect while the case is under automatic review.

This is pursuant to the Department Circular Number 12 issued on May 2, 2012 which addresses “the problem of delay in the disposition of drug-related cases and the prolonged detention of drug suspects while maintaining the process of automatic review to ensure that meritorious drug cases are duly prosecuted.”

The automatic review of drug cases takes place when the complaint was dismissed in the prosecutor’s level involving the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

Previously, suspects are held until the dismissal of the case was affirmed by automatic review.

The automatic review of cases was introduced in year 2003.

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Prosecutor Llena Ipong-Avila said the automatic review of cases is to ensure that meritorious drug cases are duly prosecuted.

She said the dismissal of the complaint will be automatically reviewed by the Regional State Prosecutor (RSP).

With the new rules, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima emphasized their commitment to improve the “administration of justice by providing a just, speedy and effective means to resolve illegal drugs cases and respecting human rights.”

De Lima said that instead of 60 days automatic review, it is now shortened to 30 days.

She said the suspect will be immediately released unless he or she is detained for another case.

Meanwhile, Judge Meinrado Paredes of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 13 told The Freeman that 85 percent of the illegal drug cases filed before the courts were acquitted.

“Acquittal is usually the trend in the drugs court because of the failure of the authorities to comply with Section 21 Article II of Republic Act 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act,” he said.

Section 21 states the custody and disposition of confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled pre-cursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment.

Paredes said that drug cases are mostly dismissed due to the improper handling of evidence.

In order to preserve the integrity of the evidence, there must be a marking of exhibits and photographs with the presence of the media, local government officials and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Paredes said in order to successfully prosecute the case, the authorities are required to follow the proper handling of evidence and compliance of the procedures.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged all local government units to strengthen the anti-drug abuse councils and the enforcement against the proliferation of illegal drugs and other similar substances.

In memorandum circular No. 2012-94, the DILG also instructed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the LGUs to coordinate with each other especially from the pre-operation, during and post-operations of the drive to eliminate, if not totally eradicate the problem.

Under the circular, the roles and responsibilities of each agency were defined and delineated. On the pre-operations, the PDEA were instructed to conduct orientation on relevant laws and issuances while the PNP will submit certificates of coordination and pre-operations to PDEA.

The LGUs will prepare plans of action and undertake capability enhancement activities of all stakeholders.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the valuable support of governors, city and municipal mayors, is encouraged to plan and formulate methods and different activities involving the public in this unending war against drug abuse.

During the operations, the PDEA and PNP will arrest and file cases against identified drug users and pushers. They will also conduct an inventory of seized drugs and paraphernalia.

The LGUs concerned will serve as witness in the inventory of seized drugs and paraphernalia. They will also process applications for rehabilitation of drug dependents.

However, the DILG pointed out that the role of barangays involvement, initiated by the PDEA or PNP, should be only after the raid.

In the post operations, the city, municipality and barangays will identify and implement sustainable projects and submit monthly reports on anti-drug activities.

“All DILG regional directors are directed to cause the widest dissemination of this memorandum circular, provide assistance where necessary and appropriate and see to it that intent of this directive is complied with,” the memorandum reads.—(FREEMAN)

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