By Ben Rosario
State auditors have lauded the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for heeding their recommendations to improve the security measures in the safekeeping of billions of pesos worth of confiscated illegal drugs being held as evidence in court cases.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)
The Commission on Audit said PDEA has also implemented measures to improve transparency in the handling of the seized narcotics.
In the 2018 PDEA annual audit report, COA disclosed that the anti-drug agency was able to fully implement all audit recommendations the audit body issued in 2017.
IN the 2017 report, the state audit agency chided PDEA for the inadequate security measures it imposed in keeping seized drugs. It noted that there was no strict observance of the guidelines set by the Dangerous Drugs Board on the handling, processing, and disposal of seized illegal drugs.
PDEA keep huge amounts of illegal drugs as evidence in pending drug cases filed in various courts.
The agency has faced a number of accusations of pilferage of seized drugs due to lax security measures.
In the 2018 audit of PDEA, the COA noted that the chief of the agency’s Documentation and Evidence Division (DED) has improved “controls on the safety and security of the laboratory” after undertaking a review of the guidelines on the handling and disposition of confiscated drugs.
Unlike in past years, audit examiners were now allowed to personally inspect storage and evidence rooms, review the existing security protocols and observe the various procedures for safekeeping, recording, and destruction of illegal drugs.
“The Audit Team was able to visit and check the new PDEA Laboratory Evidence Room. They were also able to observe features of the evidence room such as the CCTV cameras, fire extinguishers, locks, double doors, and grilled walls. The grant of access to a restricted facility is PDEA’s way of showing transparency,” auditors revealed.
They noted that on July 27, 2018, PDEA invited COA and members of the media for an onsite visit of the agencies facilities in Trece Martires, Cavite where they witnessed how dangerous drugs were destroyed after being presented as evidence in courts.
COA also noted that steps have been taken to ensure the preservation of physical evidence in drug cases including the installation of air conditioning units, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans in the storage areas.
“The PDEA conducts an annual physical inventory of evidence where PNP and two NBI personnel are invited to do the inventory. Biometrics readers were also installed outside the evidence room to control the access to the facility,” the audit body stated.