DOJ to prioritize drug-related cases after Duterte order for prompt drug destruction

Robie de Guzman   •   October 7, 2020   •   321

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said it will issue a memorandum circular directing prosecutors handling drug-related cases to prioritize its resolution.

The move is meant to support the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to promptly destroy seized illegal drugs within a week.

“In accordance with the president’s directive, the DOJ will issue a memo circular to all prosecutors investigating drug cases to give top priority to the resolution of the same, to file the information ASAP, and to move for a court order to conduct ocular inspection of and destroy the seized drugs, precursors, etc. within the time specified in RA 9165,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

Duterte on Monday ordered authorities to destroy by next week all confiscated illegal drugs and to only retain specimens. He said the eradication of seized dangerous drugs would prevent these from being “stolen, used, or recycled,” and would “better protect” Filipinos.

Guevarra said that under the Section 21(4) of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, trial courts are required to conduct an ocular inspection of the illegal drugs, precursors, paraphernalia, and other items within 72 hours from the filing of the criminal information.

“The President’s directive to immediately destroy illegal drugs seized or confiscated by law enforcement agents should be taken in the context of Sec. 21(4) of the comprehensive dangerous drugs law which requires the trial courts, within 72 hours from the filing of the criminal information, to conduct an ocular inspection of the illegal drugs, precursors, paraphernalia, etc, and thereafter proceed to burn or destroy the same, thru the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), within 24 hours after the inspection,” he said.

“A representative sample of the seized drugs will be retained for use during the trial of the case,” he added.

With these provisions, Guevarra stressed that “law enforcement agents must file the criminal complaints immediately so that the destruction of the seized drugs could proceed as early as possible.”

Prior to Duterte’s order, the Supreme Court in July directed trial court judges handling illegal drug cases to immediately conduct inspections and order for its destruction in compliance with the law.

If full compliance is not possible, priority should be given to illegal drugs weighing at least five kilograms, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez said in OCA Circular 118-2020.

The circular was issued after then Philippine National Police chief General Francisco Gamboa informed the high court that seized drugs from various operations remain in the custody of law enforcement agents due to the delayed issuance of court orders for its destruction as required by the law. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ orders NBI to probe PNP-PDEA ‘misencounter’

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own probe into the shooting incident that transpired between members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Wednesday night.

The shooting incident between operatives of the PNP and PDEA occurred near a mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

“This is separate and distinct from the probe to be conducted by an ad hoc joint PNP-PDEA board of inquiry earlier announced by PNP chief Debold Sinas,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“I gave them (NBI) 10 days to submit a report,” he added.

Sinas earlier said that a joint PNP-PDEA Board of Inquiry has been created to determine what transpired and who should be held liable for the incident.

The PNP chief appointed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) as the lead investigating body, while the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) has been designated “to speak on any updates from the PNP in order to keep the public updated with accurate and relevant information.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Up to NBI to include Mon Tulfo in probe on use of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine, DOJ says

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

Special Envoy to China Ramon Tulfo

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will leave it to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decide on whether to include special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo in its ongoing probe on the alleged illegal inoculations of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

Tulfo earlier admitted that he was administered last year with Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which is still unregistered in the Philippines.

“I do not dictate upon the NBI as to how it should conduct its investigation. I will leave it to the NBI to determine if it’s necessary or relevant to invite Ramon Tulfo to shed light on the matter,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters on Wednesday, February 24.

Guevarra earlier directed the NBI to conduct a probe into the alleged importation, entry, sale, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines that are not authorized by or registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

He also ordered the agency “to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act” in connection with the matter.

According to the DOJ chief, the NBI has yet to submit a report about its investigation.

“I have no info on whether the NBI has in fact completed its probe; that’s why I’m asking for a progress report,” he said.

Guevarra earlier said that a private person who voluntarily agrees to be inoculated with an unregistered vaccine is answerable only to himself.

But a higher sense of ethical responsibility is demanded of a public officer who is expected not only to follow but also to uphold the law, he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ may adjudicate on UP-DND Pact termination – Guevarra

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) may end up adjudicating on the ongoing dispute between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) relating to the abrogation of an agreement that has, for decades, barred the entry of government troops into UP campuses without prior coordination, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

In a message to reporters, Guevarra said this is pursuant to Presidential Decree (PD) 242, which prescribes the procedure for administrative settlement or adjudication of disputes, claims, and controversies between or among government offices, agencies, and instrumentalities, including government-owned and -controlled corporations.

“The ongoing dispute between the UP and the DND, both national government agencies/instrumentalities, regarding the cancellation or abrogation of their 1989 agreement may end up with the DOJ for administrative adjudication pursuant to PD 242 (which remains good law),” Guevarra said.

Because of this, the Justice secretary said he will decline to state his stance on the matter.

“It will therefore be premature for the DOJ to make any comment on the dispute at this time,” he said.

The DND unilaterally ended the 31-year-old agreement with UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier explained that the deal is ‘obsolete’ and that UP has become “a breeding ground” and “a safe haven for enemies of the state.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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