Senate President Tito Sotto
By Junex Doronio
MANILA – Short of saying it is over-acting, former comedian actor and now Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said there is no need for an elected public official, a prosector or a member of the media to be physically present during an anti-drug operation.
“Requiring these witnesses to be present during the conduct of the anti-drug operations – buy bust or implementation of the search warrant, is misinterpreting the law” Sotto said on Friday during the Senate plenary session on the proposed 2021 budget.
Sotto, a non-lawyer, said that prosecutors have misinterpreted existing measures and required these witnesses to be present during an operation.
“It has come to my attention that the current practice of the prosecution now is to require the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) that the witnesses enumerated under Section 21 of Republic Act 10640… be present during the conduct of the anti-drug operations” Sotto said.
Senator Juan Edgard “Sonny” Angara, a lawyer, said the Department of Justice (DOJ) affirms Sotto’s interpretation of the law.
“The Supreme Court subsequently issued a clarificatory note on that to say that they don’t actually have to be present during the buy bust,” Angara further said.
He added that this was issued through a circular by the Office of the Court Administrator.
The Senate President introduced amendments to Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which was revised into Republic Act 10640, also known as the Sotto amendment to the anti-drug (SAD) law.
Sotto’s revised measure states that the accused or their representative, an elected official and a representative from the National Prosecution Service or a member of the media are to be physically present during the inventory of seized illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia after an anti-drug operation.
These three required witnesses are to sign copies of the inventory. (AI/MTVN)