By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will direct government prosecutors to set in motion the release to frontline government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) the medical supplies which were seized by law enforcement agencies during operations against hoarders and profiteers.
“Our prosecutors, pending investigation, will allow the release of seized and impounded medical supplies to the frontline agencies (such as the DOH) for proper disposition, without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation,” said Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete on Monday, March 30.“We are at the moment finalizing first the circular to be signed by the relevant agencies before we release the memo to the prosecutors,” Perete disclosed.
Under criminal procedures, the DOJ spokesman noted that the items confiscated from these operations are kept and preserved in the custody of law enforcers pending preliminary investigation that will be conducted by prosecutors. Subsequently, the confiscated items are presented as evidence once charges have been filed in court.
“Due to the shortage in supply of these confiscated medical items and the urgent necessity to make them available to hospital and medical facilities, the DOJ will study the possibility of putting them to use without jeopardizing the prosecution of the criminal case against unscrupulous business owners,” Perete explained.
“The Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act and the Price Act allow seizure of confiscated items pending commencement of administrative and criminal proceedings. The Department is therefore coordinating with the relevant agencies to make sure that seizure proceedings can be implemented,” he added.
Perete also assured there is no need for court clearance for the release of the confiscated items and said “we’ll just retain representative samples as part of the evidence.”
“After seizure, the items will be sold through public auction. But since there is a public health emergency, we are looking at the government being given preference in the sale of these confiscated items,” he said.
“The proceeds of the sale of the seized items are required to be deposited in escrow. If the offender is acquitted, the proceeds will be given to him/her, otherwise it will accrue to the government,” Perete explained.