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COA to PDEA: Be more transparent

/ 06:15 AM July 12, 2018

METH INVENTORY PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino presents packs of “shabu” worth P74.8 million that were seized in antidrug operations in Paranaque City and Cavite province in June. —Inquirer Photo

The Commission on Audit (COA) has called on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to be more transparent on the illegal drugs it confiscates and on the firearms that are issued to its personnel.

In its 2017 report on PDEA, the commission cited the “limited access” given to its audit team who tried to put the billions of pesos worth of seized narcotics under more detailed scrutiny.

COA also noted the lack of accountability concerning the issuance of firearms to PDEA agents, saying only 18.6 percent of the firearms had proper documentation that can help pinpoint their end users.

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Of the 1,403 firearms covered by the annual audit, 898 were not supported with property acknowledgement receipts (PARs)—which indicate the persons to whom the weapons were issued—or “any other accountability form,” according to the report.

Poor documentation

Even the holders of the 505 firearms with PARs were not all well-documented, it added. And of this number, 135 PARs were left unsigned, while 109 were signed by the property custodian instead of the end users.

COA warned that poor documentation would make it “difficult to identify the agency personnel who would be liable in case of loss or theft.”

The state auditors recalled that they were given limited access when they tried to examine pertinent documents and storage conditions for PDEA’s drug inventories.
“The Audit Team cannot form a conclusion on the existence or effectiveness of controls as well as on the compliance of the agency with the guidelines on the safekeeping and monitoring of seized/confiscated dangerous drugs,” the report said.

The PDEA management, COA said, cited the “sensitivity of the drug evidence kept in the (storage) area.”

But auditors who inspected the storage facility at PDEA’s national headquarters in Quezon City found it to be “vulnerable to forced entry.”
Behind the rear wall of the evidence room, for example, is a multilevel parking lot, the report said.

Still, PDEA assured the auditors that the room was protected by “four consecutive entrances with 11 locks,” plus a wire mesh barrier.

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The auditors also found that the facility’s laboratory lacked a water sprinkler system and surveillance cameras that can detect fires and forced entry.

The forensic examinations conducted by PDEA’s resident chemists were also not witnessed by outside parties who could attest to the correctness of the result and the “unbiased appreciation” of the procedures, COA said.

State auditors also requested a closer look into PDEA’s tracking system for seized drug evidence, but they were only presented a single case folder as a sample.
“We were informed that for most of the documents needed, we had to obtain prior approval and clearance from various top officials,” the report said.

PDEA reply

Reached for comment, PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon clarified that with the inauguration last month of a new building serving as storage and laboratory for PDEA’s confiscated evidence, the COA report had been rendered “moot and academic.”

Carreon explained that the COA 2017 report referred to an old annex building that was affected by a fire and now serves as quarters for agents.

As to the auditors’ limited access to PDEA facilities and documents, Carreon said it was due to “lack of coordination” for the “sudden” inspections COA conducted.

Regarding the paperwork for the guns, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino acknowledged that the agency had “a problem with documentation” but that it was already being addressed particularly at the regional offices.

Total drug hauls

Based on the PDEA inventory obtained by COA, 1.11 million g and 1.17 million g of “shabu” were seized in 2016 and 2017, compared to 114,156.94 g in 2015.

The volume of liquid shabu seized reached 68,429 ml in 2016 and 1.11 million ml in 2017, far exceeding the 141 ml recorded in 2015.

Meanwhile, 45,445.07 g and 135,525.63 g of marijuana were added to the PDEA inventory in 2016 and 2017, respectively, up from the 12,753.96-g haul in 2015.

Recovered ecstasy tablets totaled 9,556.25 g in 2016 and 669.05 g in 2017.

PDEA intercepted cocaine amounting to 60,915.78 g in 2016 and 14,980.44 g in 2017.

In 2015, the agency seized 676.39 g of ecstasy and 13,888.5 g of cocaine. —WITH A REPORT FROM JAYMEE GAMIL

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TAGS: Commission On Audit (COA), Illegal drugs, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
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