Renewed call for war vs. illegal drugs

LINGAYEN–Gov. Amado Espino Jr. reiterated his earlier call for the creation of special courts that will try cases on violations of the illegal drugs law which now clog most Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) in the country, including Pangasinan.

Espino, one of the principal authors of Republic Act 9165 or the Anti-Drugs Law of 2002 as then congressman of the second district of Pangasinan, said he proposed that the special courts be included in the law but this did not gain enough support.

Espino, who spoke at a one-day seminar-workshop on illegal drugs sponsored by the Judges Association of the Philippines (JAP)-Pangasinan chapter, said the sale and distribuiton of illegal drugs is the “worst crime” and precipitates other crimes.

“This is the worst crime I’ve ever seen in my life,” the governor said, citing that 90% of criminal cases, including heinous crimes, are related to use of illegal drugs, especially the synthetic drug shabu.

He went on to propose that the judges assigned in the special court must stay in his sala for a minimum of 10 years while agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency must  have a minimum of five years tour of duty in one area to maintain continuity in the pursuit of cases.

He also proposed that the Dangerous Drugs Board be made a permanent constitutional body like the Commission on Audit, and the Office of the Ombudsman.

FRUSTRATING

During the seminar — attended by prosecutors, law-enforcers, lawyers and members of professional organizations — the main speaker, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Mario Lopez, said while there is “more fun in the Philippines, there is much, much more fun if we have a drug-free Philippines”.

Part of the event was a ceremonial burning of illegal drugs and related paraphernalia which were submitted as evidence in various past cases.

Espino earlier announced an intensified campaign against illegal drugs in the province but observers note the continued proliferation of trading in the province.

The governor said that the problem on illegal drugs is “very frustrating” because of the tedious requirements and processes in the implementation of the law and pursuit of charges in court.
He cited the case of the busted drug laboratory in Barangay Binmotobot in Naguilian, La Union a few years ago where tons of drugs and drug precursors were seized that involved the chief of police of Dagupan that took years to resolve.

Lopez, echoing the governor’s frustration, said “Under PDEA records, the dismissals and acquittals (in dangerous drugs cases) accounted for 56% because of the failure of the police authorities to observe proper procedure.”

RTC Judge Hermogenes Fernandez of San Carlos City, head of JAP-Pangasinan, also expressed disappointment over the low conviction rate of drug cases in the province’s courts.

Fernandez said, “More often than not, I am disappointed with the outcome”, adding that only about 50 per cent of the drug cases he handles lead to conviction.

At the same time, Espino appealed to all law enforcers and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Pangasinan to work together in drawing up a more comprehensive, innovative, and stricter policy to combat illegal drugs.—with reports from Johanne R. Macob, Eva Visperas and PIO

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