Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sotto seeks to plug loophole in anti-illegal drug law

MANILA-Far too many illegal drug cases have been dismissed in court because of a weakness in the law, allowing those behind the drug trade to continue with their maleficent operations.

Anti-illegal drug advocate Senator Vicente C. Sotto III said the loophole can be traced to Section 21 of RA 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002,  which has been often cited by lawyers of drug traffickers to get their clients off the hook.

“Let’s amend Sec. 21 of the law because it has been misinterpreted to keep the drug lords and traffickers behind bars,” Sotto said.

Section 21 (1) of the law states that the inventory of illegal drugs should be done immediately upon seizure and confiscation at the place where the search or buy-bust operation was conducted and in the presence of persons who are required to attend in the inventory and photograph of seized illegal drugs.

But in reality, Sotto said drug traffickers, who are usually highly-organized, well-funded and backed up by powerful local and international syndicates, have the capacity to launch a counter-assault, making the implementation of Sec. 21 of the law impractical, if not unsafe, for law enforcers to comply with.

This possibility of counter-assault makes the place of seizure extremely unsafe for the proper inventory of the seized illegal drugs, Sotto said.

In seeking the amendment of Section 21, Sotto said it will address the foregoing situation where the safety of the law enforcers and other persons required to be present in the inventory and photograph of seized illegal drugs and the preservation of the very existence of seized illegal drugs itself are threatened by an immediate retaliatory action of drug syndicates at the place of seizure. 

In his proposed amendment, Sotto suggests that the inventory of the seized illicit drugs may be allowed to be conducted in a safe environment that is secured from extreme danger.

The inventory can take place at “the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable; provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items,” Sotto said in his proposed amendment.

Sotto pointed out that the arrest and trial of suspected drug traffickers did not fully stop the proliferation of illegal drug distribution in the country because only a few drug traffickers were convicted in courts.

“Many manufacturers and peddlers of illegal drugs were freed based on technicality for alleged failure of law enforcers to secure the integrity of the seized drugs after a search or buy-bust operation” Sotto said. 

“Operation of illegal drug trade is contributing to more incidents of drug abuse which are strongly connected to the commission of other heinous crimes,” Sotto explained.
Many drug cases have been junked, dismissed or dropped by the court due to the alleged failure of law enforcers to secure the integrity of the seized illegal drugs.

Congress vows to provide higher benefits to barangay officials

MANILA-Barangay officials and workers will get more benefits once the various measures that seek to give them additional remunerations, particularly the granting of retirement pensions and loan packages, are passed into law, according to Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

Speaking before delegates of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas - Bulacan Provincial Chapter Convention held at Davao City, the Senate leader said that the leaderships of the Senate and the House have agreed to work on expanding the coverage of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to include the country’s barangay officials.

“We in Congress recognize the barangay leaders’ contribution to the community as front-liners of government service, so it is high time that we accord them the recognition and benefits the state is supposed to give to its workers,” Drilon said.

In the Senate, Drilon is the author of Senate Bill No. 467, which seeks to “amend Presidential Decree No. 1146, as amended, to expand and increase the coverage and benefits of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to include elected and appointed barangay officials.” A similar version of the bill was also filed by the senator in the previous 15th Congress. Last Tuesday, the bill was tackled by Senate Committee on Finance.

Once the bill is enacted, the barangays officials from almost 42,000 barangays in the country  can qualify for retirement benefits and other kinds of loans such as housing, salary, education and calamity loans, among others which the insurance agency is providing to state workers, explained Drilon.
He said that the inclusion is only warranted, due to the crucial part played by barangay officials play in addressing the everyday needs of their constituents, and in their role as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community level. 

However, despite their “evident importance,” Drilon observed that the officials of the barangay have not been recognized as government employees, particularly when membership in the GSIS is concerned.

“The allowances and benefits being given to barangay leaders do not commensurate with the quality of service and assistance they are extending to the community as well as to the government,” he said.

Under the bill, the compensation, honoraria and other emoluments being received by the barangay officials will be the basis in computing their contributions to GSIS.

This, Drilon hopes, will incentivize efficient performance among barangay officials, saying that these “benefits should inspire exacting efficient and effective results among public servants in the barangay level.”
The proposed measure also instructs the GSIS to work with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the national league of barangay captains and officials to formulate the necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the act. 


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