Palace: Uy case a lesson to antidrug enforcers
Malacañang reminded antinarcotics agents to be more careful in preserving the “chain of custody” of evidence in illegal drug cases following the acquittal of Diana Yu Uy, daughter of convicted “drug queen” Yu Yuk Lai, last week.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Sunday that Uy’s case should serve as a lesson to antidrug agencies.
“We’ve been always saying that [to] those involved in raids, in arresting drug personalities. Be careful because many get acquitted because of [a] technicality. You cannot blame the court for its findings,” he said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer.
However, Panelo said her acquittal was not a big dent on the government’s war on drugs.
Uy was arrested by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents in a raid in November 2017, during which 682.92 grams of “shabu” (crystal meth) were supposedly found in her house in Manila.
Judge Daniel Villanueva of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 49, however, cited several reasons to acquit her: the tampering of surveillance cameras in the condominium, the failure of trained dogs to detect the shabu, the entry of a PDEA clearing team without Uy or any media or a barangay representative present, and the break in the chain of custody of the evidence.
The court took note of PDEA agents’ testimony that they did not follow standard procedure for drug seizures.
Under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the chain of custody requires the arresting team—having initial custody and control of the drugs — to immediately undertake a physical inventory of the confiscated drugs, and to take photographs while in the presence of the accused or the accused’s counsel.
The law also requires a representative from media and the Department of Justice, and any elected public official to sign copies of the inventory.
The illegal drugs must be submitted to the PDEA forensic laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination within 24 hours.
The examiner must then make a certification of the forensic laboratory results within 24 hours.
“The chain of custody means that from the time that the drugs are found, up to the court, there is a process, a protocol that is followed. If you don’t abide by it, there’s an acquittal,” Panelo said.
“That should serve a lesson to all PDEA agents, police operatives conducting drug raids or arresting persons involved in drugs. They should follow the law and not violate the chain of custody,” he added.
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