Only half of drug cases in court end in convictions, says PDEABy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Only about half of all illegal drug cases lodged in court by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency succeed mainly because of the failure of witnesses to appear in court or inconsistencies in their testimony, the agency said Saturday.
Based on nationwide data consolidated by the PDEA, “less than 52 percent” of the number of cases it filed against suspected drug traffickers, pushers or users ended in a conviction.
“This covers only cases already elevated to the courts, excluding cases filed at the level of the prosecutor’s office that have been dismissed before being raised to proper courts for trial,” the PDEA said in a statement.
“Statistics reveal that inconsistencies in testimony and non-attendance of prosecution witnesses are included on the list of reasons that lead to dismissal of drug cases,” it added without providing specific numbers.
But PDEA Director General Jose Gutierrez Jr. said he did not see the low conviction rate in drug cases as a stumbling block but “as a challenge to drug law enforcement officers to work harder.”
“I refuse to get discouraged by the dismal conviction rate arising from drug cases filed in courts. Instead, I consider it as a challenge to motivate my men [and women] to work harder to be able to increase the number of suspects convicted for violating the anti-drug law and consequently decrease the incidents of acquittal of suspects and dismissal of drug cases,” he said.
Gutierrez said one of his priorities has been to ensure that arrested drug personalities were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Gutierrez said that he has long issued directives to all PDEA agents and chemists to prioritize court duties to prevent dismissal of drug cases due to failure of prosecution witnesses to appear before the court.
“Under normal circumstances, if our law enforcers present before the prosecutor’s office complaints supported with indisputable evidence, we would be assured of the filing of information in trial courts,” he said.
Gutierrez said the “main ingredients” of an airtight drug case included a well-planned anti-drug operation, complete with supporting documents and complemented by the prioritization of court duties.
He added that internal support mechanisms had been instituted to carry out his directives, such as the presence of in-house legal officers who could provide legal advice and assistance to PDEA agents in the preparation of pertinent documents and filing of complaints in the prosecutor’s office.
“Moot courts are maximized to prepare the PDEA agents and chemists who shall stand as prosecution witnesses in courts. Capability trainings are likewise regularly provided to enhance skills of PDEA personnel to meet the rigorous demands of their job,” he said.
Case monitors have also been assigned to all PDEA regional offices to regularly coordinate with the courts to monitor the status of drug cases, he said.