It’s final: SC allows plea bargaining in drug cases
Drug offenders can now enter in plea bargain deals in their cases.
This after Supreme Court (SC) ruled with finality on Tuesday that the provision under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act or R.A. 9165 disallowing plea bargaining agreement to drug suspects is unconstitutional.
SC spokesperson Theodore Te said the SC en banc denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed in connection to the case of Salvador Estipona Jr. versus Legaspi City Regional Trial Court Judge Frank Lobrigo.
The high court upheld its decision last August that declared Section 23 of R.A. 9165 as unconstitutional.
“The Court’s decision of 15 August 2017 struck Section 23 of RA 9165 (which had prohibited plea bargaining in all proceedings involving the violation of the Dangerous Drugs Law) as unconstitutional for being contrary to the rule-making authority of the Court,” Te said in a press briefing.
The high court ruled in favor of Salvador Estipona Jr., who argued in his petition that “those accused of other heinous crimes such as murder, some acts of rape, and other crimes where the maximum imposable penalty is either life imprisonment, reclusion perpetua, or death, are allowed into plea bargaining under Section 1, Rule 118 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.”
Estipona, who is charged with possession of 0.084 grams of crystal meth (shabu), has filed motions for plea bargain but was junked twice by Lobrigo, citing the now-unconstitutional provision.
Under the law, plea bargaining means an accused will plead guilty to a lesser offense with the consent of the prosecutor.
The SC upheld its earlier decision that Section 23 of RA 9165 was contrary to Article 8, Section 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution giving the high court the authority to allow plea bargaining.
The said provision stated that any person charged under any provision of law – regardless of the imposable penalty – shall be denied plea bargaining or pleading guilty to a lesser offense with the consent of the prosecutor.
It guarantees “protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the integrated bar and legal assistance to the underprivileged.”
The Public Attorney’s Office, Estipona’s legal counsel, lauded the SC’s ruling and can help the thousands of drug suspects rotting in prisons.
“The 10,000 capacity-rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija can now be filled up with positively-identifed contaminated inmates,” PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said.
Acosta said that in 2016, there are about 82,000 drug suspects are detained in different jails nationwide. /je
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