SC wants gov’t comment on plea bargain deals on drug cases
The Supreme Court has ordered the executive department to comment on the bid of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to nullify a provision of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 which prohibits plea bargaining.
During Tuesday’s en banc session, the Supreme Court gave the executive department through the Office of the Solicitor General 10 days to comment.
Plea bargaining means an accused will plead guilty to a lesser offense with the consent of the prosecutor.
PAO, in its petition, said the prohibition under the law was the cause of congestion in prisons and loss of billions on the part of the government per year.
Under Section 23 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, “any person charged under any provision of [the Dangerous Drugs Act] regardless of the imposable penalty shall not be allowed to avail of the provision on plea-bargaining.”
“No reasonable classification exists to classify violators of the antidrugs law from violators of other criminal laws, be it offenses listed in the Revised Penal Code or other special criminal laws … are alleged violators of RA 9165 separate and distinct from persons accused of murder, rape, carnapping and so forth,” Acosta said in their petition.
She pointed out that those accused of murder, rape, car theft and other heinous crimes are allowed to enter plea bargain but violators of the Dangerous Drugs Act, especially the small time drug pushers and users, are prohibited from doing so.
“At the very least, if plea bargaining is indeed not allowable in violations of [the Dangerous Drugs Act], the prohibition should apply only to those drug offenses involving capital punishment,” Acosta said.
Acosta said over 82,000 small-time drug offenders had been rotting in jails.
She added that the government had been spending P1.5 billion a year to feed the inmates.
PAO took the issue to the Supreme Court after Legazpi City Regional Trial Court Branch 3 Judge Frank E. Lobrigo denied the request of Salvador A. Estipona Jr. to enter into a plea bargaining agreement, noting that the laws prohibited it.
Estipona was charged with violation of the Dangrous Drugs Act for possession of one sachet or 0.084 grams of “shabu.”/rga
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