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Heavier penalties for drug offenses during pandemic, calamities sought

A HOUSE leader on Wednesday sought heavier penalties for drug offenses committed during a pandemic, a calamity or similar emergencies.

In his House Bill (HB) 8042, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said despite the raging health crisis, the drug problem in the country “still persists and could be considered to have worsened.”

Rodriguez cited data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showing that police forces conducted 3,413 anti-illegal drug operations from September 2 to 27 this year.

“A total of 4,354 drug offenders were arrested, and 2.2 kilos of shabu and 13.7 kilos of marijuana with a combined street value of P151 million were confiscated. Further, the Police Regional Office-Cordillera destroyed three marijuana farms worth P3.84 million in Kalinga,” Rodriguez said.

He said members of the country’s national police force, aside from having to fight possible new coronavirus infection, have to continue waging the war against illegal drugs.

“Thus, the need to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, to include a provision making the commission of any of the unlawful acts prescribed by the law during a pandemic or a state of calamity an aggravating circumstance, increasing the penalty one degree higher,” Rodriguez, a former law dean, said.

His bill adds a new Section 36 to RA No. 9165, which provides: “Aggravating Circumstance – The penalty one degree higher shall be imposed if any of the unlawful acts above is committed during an epidemic, pandemic, calamity, or a state of calamity as declared by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

RA No. 9165 imposes graduated penalties on drug-related crimes. The maximum is life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 to P10 million. It is imposable on serious offenses, including possession, importation, manufacture, and distribution. The lightest penalty is a prison term of one year and one day to six years, plus a fine of P10,000 to P50,000.