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PDEA happy with Aguirre opinion on seized drugs

/ 07:13 AM August 13, 2017

Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) welcomed the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on PDEA’s custodial and disposal authority over all illegal drugs seized in the country.

“There is no conflict of authority between PDEA and BOC (Bureau of Customs) relative to the custody and disposition of confiscated illegal drugs,” PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña said, quoting the legal opinion.

Lapeña asked Aguirre to issue a legal opinion on the matter because of incidents where BOC personnel refused to cooperate with PDEA investigations.

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The BOC, he said, claimed exclusive authority over seized contraband under Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

But the supposed conflicting authority of the two agencies has also resulted in high-profile drug personalities evading investigation and prosecution, Lapeña said.

Custodial authority

However, he said the CMTA actually states that “PDEA shall remain the custodial authority over drug evidence seized even if it is an antidrug operation conducted by the BOC.”

“The CMTA has confirmed and strengthened PDEA’s authority on the custody of seized dangerous drugs,” he said.

Lapeña explained that while all contraband, including illegal drugs, intercepted in the country’s ports need to be turned over to the BOC, the CMTA provides an exception under different laws.

One such law, Lapeña said, is the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act which states that the PDEA has sole custodial and disposal over seized dangerous drugs.

“As a matter of fact, there have been incidences where BOC asserted exclusive authority over the contrabands pursuant to their jurisdiction over importations of restricted goods, as provided in the CMTA,” he said.

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“The BOC also disposed seized instruments and equipment for the manufacture of dangerous drugs according to their rules,” Lapeña added.

On May 26, P6 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or “shabu,” was recovered during separate raids by the combined teams of the PDEA, the BOC, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation in two Valenzuela City warehouses.

The BOC again turned over the seized narcotics to the NBI although “the law, given its literal meaning, is very clear.”

“PDEA shall take charge and have custody and disposition of all dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals and laboratory equipment confiscated in antidrug operations,” Lapeña maintained.

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TAGS: CMTA, Isidro Lapeña, PDEA, Vitaliano Aguirre, war on drugs
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