The SC voted unanimously to acquit Romy Lim. Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the ruling, citing prior work at the Office of the Solicitor General while Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo was on wellness leave.
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SC sets rules on drug-related seizures, arrests
(Philstar.com) - October 2, 2018 - 8:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has set rules for authorities, prosecutors and courts over drug-related cases in a move to help decongest court dockets.

The SC, in an en banc session, acquitted suspected small-time drug trader Romy Lim in a drug case “on reasonable doubt” after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency failed to follow the rules on the marking of evidence on drug cases.

Lim was arrested on Oct. 19, 2010. Seized in his possession was .02 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

The tribunal pointed out that Section 21 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 states: “The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.”

But this was not followed in Lim’s case as no elected public official, DOJ representative or a member of the media was present “to witness the physical inventory and photograph of the seized items.”

“In fact, their signatures do not appear in the Inventory Receipt,” the SC pointed out.

The Court also said that the prosecution failed to explain why they did not secure the presence of a representative from the DOJ and that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses failed to establish the details of an earnest effort to coordinate with and secure the presence of the required witnesses.

In the same ruling dated September 4, the high court laid down a mandatory policy in arrests and seizures related to illegal drugs:

1.      In the sworn statements/affidavits, the apprehending/seizing officers must state their compliance with the requirements of Section 21 (1) of RA 9165  or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR);

2.      In case of non-observance of the provision, the apprehending/seizing officers must state the justification or explanation therefore as well as the steps they have taken in order to preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized/confiscated items;

3.      If there is no justification or explanation expressly declared in the sworn statements/affidavits, the investigating fiscal must not immediately file the case before the court. Instead, he or she must refer the case for further preliminary investigation in order to determine the (non) existence of probable cause; and

4.      If the investigating fiscal filed the case despite such absence, the court may exercise its discretion to either refuse to issue a commitment order (or warrant of arrest) or dismiss the case outright for lack of probable cause in accordance with Section 5, Rule 112, Rules of Court.

The said policies will “help weed out early on from the courts’ already congested docket any orchestrated or poorly built-up drug-related cases,” said the SC.

The SC voted unanimously to acquit Lim. Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the ruling, citing prior work at the Office of the Solicitor General while Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo was on wellness leave. — Kristine Joy Patag

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