Many drug cases falter because cops don’t appear at trialsBy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Very few of the charges lodged by the narcotics arm of the Philippine National Police against drug personalities end in conviction because many of its officers fail to appear during the trial, an official said Tuesday.
The PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) admitted its “batting average” in prosecuting drug-related cases from 2003 to 2008 stood at only 5 to 7 percent.
Of the total cases filed, more than a fourth, or 27 percent, ended in dismissals due to the non-appearance of the PNP officers who arrested the suspects and leveled the drug charges in court, said Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia, head of the task force’s Legal and Investigation Division.
Updated figures were not immediately available, however.
“Based on our data, the likeliest ground for dismissal is non-appearance of PNP personnel, up to 27 percent of all cases in court,” he told reporters in a briefing at Camp Crame.
The lead agency tasked with enforcing drug laws is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which is not under the PNP, but AIDSOTF conducts its own anti-illegal drug operations in coordination with the PDEA.
The AIDSOTF launches about 6,000 operations every year.
Merdegia said AIDSOTF members often fail to appear during the trial for a number of reasons.
“One reason is sometimes they do not receive the subpoena. Another is when they have simultaneous court hearings because of the number of cases they have to attend to. There are also officers who go AWOL (absent without official leave), or who have died, or been transferred,” he said.
“Many of those who could not attend the hearing did not mean to be absent because the case had gone on for so long,” Merdegia said.
A typical drug trial will require the attendance of PNP officers in more or less 15 court hearings, and they will have to spend for their own for fare and other expenses, since AIDSOTF does not have its own budget, he said.
But he said the AIDSOTF would continue to monitor such cases and press administrative charges against those found to have been negligent in their duties.
In the second semester of 2011, Merdegia said some 40 PNP officers from various units were charged administratively at the National Police Commission for their failure to attend court hearings.
He said the second most frequent ground for the dismissal of AIDSOTF cases was failure of the officers to comply with certain provisions of the drugs laws involving the physical inventory and taking of photographs of the evidence.