Philippines

Close to 153K drug cases filed 2 years into Duterte’s drug war

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Close to 153K drug cases filed 2 years into Duterte’s drug war
By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — A total of 152,741 drug cases have been filed in various courts since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency and launched a relentless war against illegal drugs.

Data from the National Prosecution Service (NPS) obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said it has filed a total of 70,706 drug cases in courts with 1,645 cases involving minors in 2017.

This is higher compared to 2016, when a total of 68,859 drug-related complaints were filed in courts with 1,132 cases involving children as accused.

For the first quarter of 2018, the NPS has already filed 13,176 drug-related information in courts.

There were already 9,030 drug cases resolved by the courts for the first quarter of 2018.

Out of 9,030 cases, 5,693 resulted in conviction while 1,060 cases were dismissed and 1,713 drug accused acquitted.

In 2017, the combined number of drug-related cases dismissed by the courts and accused who were freed was higher compared to the number of convictions.

Out of the 21,383 drug cases that were resolved by the courts, only 32.79 percent or 7,011 resulted in conviction.

A total of 5,270 drug cases were dismissed and 6,353 drug accused were acquitted by the courts for the same period.

On the other hand, proceedings for 2,749 drug cases were either suspended due to prejudicial question or referred to other agencies.

But for year 2016, only a total of 2,241 drug cases were successfully prosecuted and resulted in the conviction of the accused.

The number represents 27.84 percent of the 8,051 drug cases disposed by the courts in the same year.

Based on the same statistics, the total number of drug cases dismissed and drug accused acquitted in 2016 was much higher compared to the number of convictions.

The number of drug-related cases filed was steady in 2011 and 2012, with 12,627 and 12,534, respectively. The number dropped to 10,923 in 2013 before rising to 17,619 in 2014; and 25,009 in 2015.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra vowed to improve the drug rate convictions.

“The DOJ (Department of Justice) is of course very concerned about the high rate of dismissal of drug cases filed in court. Often the main reason for dismissal is technical; i.e., failure to observe procedural requirements, particularly on the chain of custody of the drugs seized,” Guevarra said in text message sent to PNA.

“The DOJ has to collaborate more closely with law enforcers to ensure that dismissals based on technicalities are reduced. Maybe the new guidelines on plea bargaining in drug cases can also speed up the disposition of drug cases and increase the rate of convictions without going to trial,” Guevarra explained.

Former Prosecutor General Victor Sepulveda said the process of filing drug cases begins with an inquest, during which, evidence is validated. Once evidence is found to be sufficient, a case is filed before the local court.

“An inquest ideally takes 72 office hours,” Sepulveda told PNA in an earlier interview.

He, however, noted that the validation period gets extended when a respondent submits a counter-affidavit.

The length of time to resolve a case, he said, also depends on the local court.

In line with Duterte’s directive against illegal drugs from July 2016 up to June this year, authorities apprehended a total of 147,802 individuals involved in illegal drugs.

Of this number, some 229 were elected officials, 52 were uniformed personnel, and 245 were government employees.

Duterte has repeatedly declared that he will not stop his crackdown against illegal drugs that resulted in the deaths of 4,354 drug personalities in legitimate police operations.

In the same period (July 2016 to June 2018), the total value of illegal drugs seized is PHP21.29 billion while 2,738.73 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as “shabu”, with an estimated value of PHP14.66 billion were also seized — 714. 92 kilograms of shabu were confiscated from smuggling and 318. 39 kilograms were confiscated from manufacturing, particularly from the dismantled clandestine laboratories.

It added that 6,562 out of 42,036 barangays in the country were already cleared of illegal drugs from July 2016 to June 2018.

The agencies involved in the anti-illegal drugs operations are Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Bureau of Customs, among others. (PNA)

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