Drilon hits ‘guilty until proven innocent’ bill
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday added his voice to the chorus of objections to House Bill No. 7814, warning the House of Representatives that its passage would impinge on constitutional presumption of innocence and make it easy for authorities to arrest and detain anyone from landowners to janitors as drug “protectors” or “coddlers.”
Drilon said the proposed amendments to drug laws under the bill, which passed third reading last week, would unduly disadvantage people accused of drug crime because of 30 legal presumptions identified in the measure.
“To make arrests and file cases based on these numerous presumptions is to tread on dangerous ground. One misstep could mean violation of our people’s right to be presumed innocent,” the former justice secretary said.
“The use of presumptions is especially worrisome in cases where the penalty is life imprisonment because bail is not a matter of right in such cases,” he said.
Such presumptions “would practically render a simple landowner or a janitor guilty of being a drug protector or coddler unless they are able to prove their innocence while they are locked away in prison,” Drilon said.
“They will be guilty in the eyes of the law, so the burden to prove they are innocent lies now in their own hands, not in the prosecution,” he said.
Accused presumed innocent
Drilon cited Article 3, Section 14 of the Constitution stating that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.”
The Supreme Court has also ruled that “presumptions should be taken with caution especially in light of serious concerns that they might water down the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt. As special considerations must be given to the right of the accused to be presumed innocent, there should be limits on the use of presumptions against an accused.”
The bill requires Senate concurrence to be passed into law.
The House bill sets certain conditions that allow authorities to impute criminal acts to people under presumption of being importers, financiers, protectors or coddlers of illegal drugs.
For instance, anyone in possession of documents pertaining to the shipment of illegal drugs shall be “presumed to have imported or exported” the contraband.
“Any person found or is present within the immediate vicinity” of an illegal drug transaction is presumed to be involved in it, the bill states.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, is confident that the senators will eventually concur with the bill. INQ
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