By Rey Panaligan
Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin on Thursday, October 4, urged not only local cooperation but also international collaboration in the government’s drive against illegal drugs.
Since all countries are beset by the illegal drugs problem, the Philippines has “to collaborate with countries that are the origins of drugs traffic and to intensify all efforts to arrest all traffickers and pushers,” Bersamin said.
In his speech during the National Summit on Dangerous Drugs Law at the Manila Hotel, the Chief Justice said the government has been troubled “by the seemingly endless ingenuity and creativity of drug suppliers and their minions in smuggling their dangerous products across national borders.”
“Our alertness and quickness in frustrating such smuggling must be constant and unrelenting. We must collaborate with countries that are the origins of drug traffic in stifling the menace,” he said.
The Chief Justice recommended the regular training of local law enforcers and “equipping them with sufficient and effective tools for the campaign to completely stop the delivery.”
A stronger government response, he stressed, “is the adoption of a robust system of communication, cooperation and coordination among all concerned agencies and offices, as well as of an operational legal framework to prosecute the traffickers and their minions.”
Representatives of the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches of government converged at the Manila Hotel “to review and adopt effective policies and procedures towards critical adjustments and reforms in the handling of drugs cases.”
The summit was the culmination of the pre-summit workshop conducted by the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA) in Tagaytay last month.
It was conceived by the SC as an avenue to address all issues raised by various government agencies and stakeholders in the implementation of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Among the issues raised in relation to the enforcement of RA 9165 are the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs, plea bargaining, probation, and rehabilitation.
After the full-day summit, representatives from various branches of government were expected to come up with polices aimed at enhancing the procedures in the handling of drug cases and improving further law enforcement capabilities.
Sharper teeth vs drugs
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, on his part, believes there is a need for laws to have sharper teeth to address the illegal drugs menace.
“A re-evaluation and scrutiny of our laws against dangerous drugs, and of our legal processes which related to these cases, are therefore necessary if we are to catch up with the realities on the ground,” he said in his speech at the drug summit at the Manila Hotel.
“Such re-evaluation and scrutiny constitute an important first step in giving sharper teeth to our laws so that we may effectively curb the menace of dangerous drugs and put out of circulation not only substances injurious to the health of our people but also those who choose to deal in them,” he explained.
Among the things he cited, Guevarra said the existence of so-called “ninja cops” who have been involved in the illegal drugs raises the need to improve laws and procedures in drug cases.
Guevarra said the recent revelations at the Senate probe on “ninja cops” showed “the disturbing possibility of how officers mandated by law to fight and contain the menace of dangerous drugs could be corrupted by the very criminals they are meant to apprehend and put in jail.”
“Allegations of the existence of so-called ‘ninja cops’ should force us to rid our laws and legal processes of cracks – no matter how small – so that we may likewise expose and purge out of government those who are bent on using their office to perpetuate their nefarious undertakings,” he stated
Aside from this, Guevarra also found just as disturbing “the very real possibility that even when convicted and imprisoned, criminals involved in the illegal drugs business could continue to operate from within prison cells no less.”
“These may create not only a disturbing impression of the inability of our legal institutions to address the drug menace, but also of an even more disturbing suspicion of institutional connivance or tolerance towards the source of such menace,” he lamented.
Guevarra also raised the need “to carefully analyze other laws that may have directly or indirectly weakened our efforts to eradicate the sale and distribution of dangerous drugs in our communities.”
He cited one such law as Republic Act 9344, the Juvenile and Welfare Act of 2006, which exempts children 15-years-old or younger from criminal responsibility, while those aged 15 but below 18 may be freed from criminal responsibility if proven to have acted without discernment.
“As it now stands, the law enacted to protect and care for our children has incentivized their exploitation and engagement into the shady world of drug trafficking and dealing,” he lamented.
Because of this, he expressed his support to proposals to lower the age of criminal responsibility with interventions to keep children off the streets. (With a report from Jeffrey G. Damicog)