THE House of Representatives has approved on final reading a bill amending the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act 2002 to avoid the dismissal of drug charges due to mere violation of custody and disposition of evidence like what happened in the case of the “Alabang Boys.”
“This is to provide clear procedures for the custody and disposition of dangerous drugs thereby preserving the evidentiary value of confiscated items. To prevent the dismissal of drug cases due to the failure of law enforcers to follow the stringent requirements of Section 21 of RA No. 9165,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said.
Under House Bill 4660, the presence of one witness to a drug bust and the inventory of seized drugs will be sufficient to prove the arrest and filing of charges against a suspected narcotics dealer.
The present set-up requires at least three witnesses from the media, Department of Justice and an elective public official during the inventory of drugs or drug paraphernalia after a raid or bust.
HB 4660 also removes the 24-hour ultimatum for a forensic laboratory to present certifications of the seized substances and allows physical inventory of seized items to be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served, at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer.
Belmonte said the proposed law is needed because “bungling a drug case to favor the suspected drug trafficker will have to be dealt with seriously.”
The bill was approved following a decision of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 24 Judge Juanita Guerrero to dismiss charges against Richard Brodett and Jorge Joseph because of the prosecution’s failure to preserve the evidence.
In her decision, Guerrero cited the failure of the prosecution to establish the links in the chain of custody of the illegal drugs that were allegedly confiscated from Brodett and Joseph when they were arrested for alleged possession and sale of 60 “ecstasy” tablets in a raid in Alabang, Muntinlupa City on Sept. 20, 2008. – Wendell Vigilia