Proposed changes in illegal drugs law: ‘More harm than good’ — CHR

Published March 3, 2021, 5:43 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed serious concern over House Bill No. 7814 which would amend certain provisions of the anti-illegal drugs law like presuming outright the guilt of all suspects upon arrest.

Commission on Human Rights (MANILA BULLETIN)
Commission on Human Rights

The CHR said the proposed legislation would make an individual “who shields, harbors, screens, or facilitates the escape of, or prevents the arrest, prosecution, or conviction of the importer or exporter” of illegal drugs guilty upon arrest.

It also said the bill presumes guilty a person who is caught in possession of purchase orders, receipts, or other similar documents related to the illegal drugs trade.

It stressed that criminal suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

HB 7814 seeks to amend certain provisions of Republic Act No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Last March 2, lawmakers approved on bill on second reading.

CHR Spokesperson lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that lawmakers should contemplate the legislation’s legality and consistency with human rights standards so as to protect an accused against wrongful conviction.

“While CHR supports the efforts of the government to eradicate the illegal drug menace in the country, we have been consistent in emphasizing that it must be at all times in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards,” De Guia said.

The CHR noted that since the government launched an all-out drive against illegal drugs, various irregularities in the police operations have resulted in illegal arrests, wrongful convictions, and even deaths of innocent individuals.

Also, it said, there have also been delays in pursuing criminal investigation against these drugs-related deaths.

“Enacting a law that might produce more problems than actually addressing the drug problem itself,” De Guia.

“Instead of reversing the burden to prove the innocence of the accused, the CHR urges the government to ensure that its accountability mechanisms are working for the best interests of the people while looking into the drug problem holistically,” she said.

The CHR, she stressed, is hoping an “open and transparent” working relationship with the government, particularly on issues involving illegal drugs.