Immediate destruction of seized drugs depends on courts, according to Dangerous Drugs Act

Published October 6, 2020, 6:15 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

Not that fast.

The decision on the immediate destruction of shabu and other confiscated illegal drugs resides in the courts and not on either the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

When then PNP chief Archie Gamboa for instance tried to immediately destroy the more than 1,500 kilos of shabu that were seized in the first six months of 2020, he had to seek a clearance first from the Supreme Court and the courts handling the big drug hauls—the almost 800 kilos of shabu in Bulacan and more than 300 kilos each in Makati City and Cavite.

The PNP’s coordination with the Supreme Court sought to establish a protocol to comply with some of the provisions of the Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), particularly Section 21 which require the immediate destruction of illegal drugs seized in anti-drugs operations.

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 states that “after the filing of the criminal case, the Court shall, within 72 hours, conduct an ocular inspection” of the confiscated, seized illegal drugs or precursor chemicals and “through the PDEA shall within 24 hours thereafter proceed with the destruction or burning of the same,” provided, that a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained.

But since the law was passed, the provision of the law was not properly observed. For instance, it usually takes months and even years before seized shabu, cocaine, marijuana, party drugs and other illegal drugs are destroyed.

In the case of the PNP, the seized illegal drugs are deposited at the PNP Crime Laboratory offices.

President Duterte on Monday ordered the destruction of the illegal drugs within one week, saying that illegal drugs that remain under law enforcers are prone to recycling by erring anti-narcotics operatives.

Duterte himself took note of the provision of RA 9165 on the immediate destruction of illegal drugs as he expressed alarm that the longer it takes for seized drugs to be destroyed, the more some erring cops are tempted to recycle them.

This was the same argument raised by Gamboa when he sat with Supreme Court administrator Midas Marquez to come up with a guideline on the immediate destruction of seized illegal drugs.

Gamboa told the Manila Bulletin that early destruction of seized contraband would reduce the burden on PNP evidence custodians in safekeeping illegal drugs for court proceedings.

As a result, the Supreme Court has issued a circular mandating lower courts to expedite issuance of orders for destruction of illegal drugs confiscated in police operations.

The Supreme Court thru the Office of the Court Administrator issued Circular No, 118-2020 on July 15, 2020 reminding all Regional Trial Courts to ‘strictly comply’ with the requirements of Section 21 (4) of Republic Act 9165 on the immediate destruction of illegal drugs confiscated during police operations.

The same Supreme Court Circular also advised lower Courts to prioritize issuance of destruction orders of seized drugs amounting to five kilograms or more.

“In cases where the illegal drugs seized are physically brought to the court, the court shall issue the order of destruction thereof within 24 hours therefrom,” the SC Circular read.

In the case of the almost 800 kilos of shabu seized in Bulacan early June this year, the drug haul was destroyed in a ceremonial destruction in Cavite last August 21.