MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered lower court judges handling drug cases to immediately inspect and order the destruction of the seized or surrendered illegal drugs held as a piece of evidence.
In Circular 118-2020, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said regional trial court (RTC) judges are mandated under Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to conduct ocular inspections of the seized dangerous drugs within 72 hours from the filing of a criminal complaint in court.
They are also mandated to issue a destruction order within 24 hours after the ocular inspection.
This came as Marquez met with some judges and Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, who raised that seized or surrendered dangerous drugs remain in the custody of law enforcement agents due to the delays in the issuance of court orders for their destruction.
In cases where the seized dangerous drugs are physically brought to the court, the court shall issue the order of destruction of the drugs “within 24 hours therefrom”, Marquez said.
Under Marquez’s directive, courts with pending drugs cases where the seized dangerous drugs amount to more than five kilograms, which have not yet conducted the necessary ocular inspection of the seized drugs and issued orders for their destruction “shall immediately conduct the ocular inspection and within 24 hours therefrom, issue the destruction orders after retaining the required representative samples thereof.”
Section 21(4) of RA 9165 provides that after the filing of a criminal case, “the court shall, within 72 hours, conduct an ocular inspection of the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment, and through the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency shall within 24 hours thereafter proceed with the destruction or burning of the same, in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice, civil society groups and any elected official… provided that a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained.” (PNA)