Robredo: Who’s to blame for snafu in drug case?
MINALIN, Pampanga—Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo wants to know who mishandled the evidence in the drug case filed against the so-called Alabang Boys, two of whom were acquitted and released Friday due to technical lapses in the investigation.
“It is important to clarify accountability. Where was the mistake? Who made the mistake?” Robredo said on Saturday.
Robredo was here as a guest during the declaration of the Sta. Monica Church as a national cultural treasure.
Robredo, who has administrative control over the Philippine National Police, was concerned with the repercussions of sloppy evidence handling and investigation.
“We cannot just forget the case. What might happen now every time there is drug case, it is possible to intentionally bungle the process even if there is enough evidence. They would disregard the procedures so the case would be dismissed,” he said.
He said the mishandling of evidence and misconduct in the investigation were not expected because the protocols were clear and strict, citing the requirement that village officials and media representatives should be present during the serving of arrest warrants.
In the Alabang Boys’ case, Robredo said the “procedural flaws” should be studied.
He noted that the judge did not say whether the accused were innocent or guilty. “What the judge said was there was an error in the process of handling the evidence,” he said.
PDEA beseeches Congress
To avoid the same mistake, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is pushing for amendments to the antidrug law to do away with impractical demands on law enforcers in the safekeeping of seized evidence.
PDEA Director General Jose Gutierrez Jr. said he hoped Congress would enact changes to certain provisions of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
In particular, he cited Section 21 that provides for the proper “custody and disposition of confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment.”
In a briefing on Friday, Gutierrez said PDEA agents had found it hard to comply with some of the requirements, including one that obligates them to conduct an inventory of the seized items or paraphernalia at the crime scene.
“Sometimes you can’t avoid transferring them (to another site) because it is not safe there,” Gutierrez told reporters.
“We’re not saying we want shortcuts. It’s just that we find it difficult to comply with the requirements,” he said.
Gutierrez also wants to amend the provision which requires the presence of a representative of the justice department, and village officials during drug raids.
Early morning raid
“What if the operation is done early in the morning or before dawn? It would be difficult to have those people present,” Gutierrez said.
“I hope the amendments would be pushed in Congress,” he said.
He expressed regret over the decision of a Muntinlupa court absolving Richard Brodett and Jorge Joseph on drug charges due to the PDEA’s supposed mishandling of evidence.
The PDEA arrested the two, as well as a third man, Joseph Tecson, in 2008 for the alleged possession and sale of 60 “Ecstasy” tablets.
Brodett and Joseph were arrested in Ayala Alabang subdivision in Muntinlupa, while Tecson was arrested in a separate operation at Araneta Center in Quezon City and is being tried separately.
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