Rodriguez bill seeks heftier penalties for drug crimes committed during pandemic

Published November 25, 2020, 9:16 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

Deputy House Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has filed a bill seeking heftier penalties for illegal drug-related offenses committed during a pandemic.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Rodriguez filed House Bill (HB) No.8042, which seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) No.9165, the Comprehensive Drug Act of 2002, by adding an “aggravating circumstance” clause.

Rodriguez cited in his bill that the drug problem in the country “still persists and could be considered to have worsened” amid the raging health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As evidence, he pointed to Philippine National Police (PNP) figures showing that some 3,413 anti-illegal drug operations have been carried out in September this year.

“A total of 4,354 drug offenders were arrested, and 2.2 kilos of shabu and 13.7 kilos of marijuana with a combined street value of P151 million were confiscated. Further, the Police Regional Office-Cordillera destroyed three marijuana farms worth P3.84 million in Kalinga,” he said.

He noted that police officers, aside from having to fight possible coronavirus infection, have to continue waging the war against illegal drugs.

“Thus, the need to amend Republic Act No. 9165, the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, to include a provision making the commission of any of the unlawful acts prescribed by the law during a pandemic or a state of calamity an aggravating circumstance, increasing the penalty one degree higher,” Rodriguez, a former law dean, said.

His measure adds to the existing law a new Section 36, which provides: “Aggravating Circumstance – The penalty one degree higher shall be imposed if any of the unlawful acts above is committed during an epidemic, pandemic, calamity, or a state of calamity as declared by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

The succeeding sections are to be renumbered accordingly.

RA No. 9165 imposes graduated penalties on drug-related crimes. The maximum is life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 to P10 million. It is imposed on serious offenses, including possession, importation, manufacture, and distribution.

The lightest penalty is a prison term of one year and one day to six years, plus a fine of P10,000 to P50,000.