No basis for dissent on new anti-drug bill, says Barbers
MANILA, Philippines — Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers lamented on Friday what he called the whining of critics on the recently passed House Bill 7814, which amends certain provisions in the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
“It is unfortunate that despite all the debates in the committee level, technical working groups and plenary deliberations, these critics just couldn’t seem to comprehend the essence of the bill, or maybe they simply pretend not to comprehend,” Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs and principal author of the bill, said in a statement.
“We have already explained in all languages understandable to them that the presumption of innocence is not lost nor replaced and that there simply is no presumption of guilt in the approved bill,” he added.
Barbers said that even the physical manifestation that critics are pointing to was already taken out even before the bill was approved on second reading.
He added that critics “simply refuse to accept defeat and deliberately misread the letters of the bill.”
“For instance, to be presumed as protector/coddler, one must be in a position of power or influence and he uses this position or influence to protect the suspect, shield him, prevent his arrest or aid in his escape,” said Barbers.
“By no stretch of the imagination can a ‘paralegal, human rights worker, humanitarian or far-removed relative’ fall under this category. It is very clear on the bill, in the debates and in the records. I do not know what bill they are reading,” he further explained.
According to the lawmaker, a person’s presence in the place of drug operation will only put him in the same position as a suspect until facts and circumstances are established and proven that he is involved in the illegal act.
He added: “Calling the presumptions ‘irrational or have no medical basis’ is the desperate justification for failure to find valid reasons to debate on. Even the Rules of Court allow and contain legal presumptions.”
Barbers stressed that HB 7814 provided amendments to Republic Act No. 9165 to address possible abuses of law enforcers such as planting of evidence, bungling, and conducting arrest or search using falsified documents.
“If the drug case against a drug suspect goes on trial, the hearing of the case would be held jointly against the drug suspect and the law enforcers accused of planting evidence,” he said. “This is a deterrent against abuse by anti-drug law enforcers.”
He said that authors of the bill have clarified issues about the proposed measure more than once.
“We have stated that the presumptions pertain to the person’s participation in the commission of an offense based on incriminating evidence and surrounding circumstances personal and factual to him which need to be established first by the prosecution for the presumption to attach to him.
“When this is established, then his guilt as the presumed participant in the prohibited act will be next to be established beyond reasonable doubt. If this is still not clear to them, then nothing will be. No amount of effort to wake someone who pretends to be sleeping will wake him up,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.