THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency yesterday welcomed a legal opinion of the Department of Justice which maintained the Agency remains the sole repository of all pieces of drug evidence seized by different government law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Customs.
PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña said this after Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II issued its view on the matter in response to the confusion arising from the application of Section 21 of Republic Act 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in relation to RA 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) by the Bureau of Customs (BoC).
“According to the DoJ, there is no conflict of authority between PDEA and BoC relative to the custody and disposition of confiscated illegal drugs. The categorical command of Section 21 of RA 9165 says that PDEA shall remain the custodial authority over drug evidence seized even if it is an anti-drug operation conducted by BoC,” Lapeña said.
“In fact, the CMTA has confirmed and strengthened PDEA’s authority on the custody of seized dangerous drugs,” he added.
Lapeña said BoC has violated operational protocols by turning over the seized shabu to the NBI instead to PDEA.
“They did not even bother to coordinate with us immediately upon learning the shabu shipment in the first place,” he said.
The BoC also has received flak for mishandling procedures and contaminating the evidence that was meant for a possible controlled delivery operation, an investigative technique of allowing an unlawful consignment of dangerous drugs and substances to be tracked, leading to the identification and arrest of the intended receiver.
“The law, given its literal meaning, is very clear. PDEA shall take charge and have custody and disposition of all dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals and laboratory equipment confiscated in anti-drug operations,” the PDEA chief said.
“The CMTA provision, however, provided for an exception when other existing laws can be relevant. In this case, the provision of Section 21 of RA 9165 will be applied. This means that PDEA has the sole custodial authority of confiscated dangerous drugs,” Lapeña said.
With Hector Lawas