MANILA, Philippines — At least two senators on Tuesday warned the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that the pending destruction of tons of illegal drugs in its inventory could trigger a “temptation to recycle” among law enforcement agents.
Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised concerns over PDEA’s “huge inventory of confiscated drugs” during the Senate hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of the agency.
Upon the questioning of Drilon, PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva said the agency has 2.82 tons of illegal drugs in its present inventory, 1.867 tons of which are methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).
“We always ask this question because we are concerned about the huge inventory of confiscated drugs,” Drilon said.
Lacson, meanwhile, said: “That’s a very valid concern aired by the Senate minority leader kasi dito nagsisimula yung (because this triggers the) temptation to recycle because this involves big amounts of money.”
According to Villanueva, PDEA destroyed 2.1 tons of shabu worth an estimated P13.36 billion in August.
PDEA is scheduled to destroy another 300 kilograms of shabu in November, he added.
Villanueva said they are still awaiting a court order that would allow them to destroy the said volume of shabu.
“We are still awaiting the order of the court. This is still pending, yung (the) case in court,” the PDEA chief said.
But Drilon, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the “pendency of the case is not a justification for not implementing the law.”
Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the court should conduct an ocular inspection of confiscated illegal drugs and paraphernalia within 72 hours. Consequently, PDEA should proceed with the destruction of the seized evidence within 24 hours.
Further, Drilon said the Supreme Court had earlier initiated a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with PDEA “in order to facilitate the burning of this inventory of illegal drugs.”
“It is not correct that you are waiting for the order of the court to implement this because there is already an order from the court administrator to facilitate this,” the minority leader said.
Drilon then recalled an incident involving the “recycling” of narcotics, which eventually led former Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, who was then the Pampanga police chief, to relinquish his post.
“We do recall the famous Pampanga episode, which somehow dragged the name of Gen. Albayalde,” the senator said.
“A good number of kilos of illegal drugs disappeared after it was confiscated by the raiding team…This is the reason why we are particular about implementing this provision of the law, which requires the destruction of the contraband,” he added.
Lacson, who presided over the hearing, advised Villanueva to inform PDEA’s agents on the ground about the MOA between the Supreme Court and the agency in order to expedite the destruction of seized drugs.
In response, Villanueva committed to the immediate destruction of illegal drugs stored in its inventory.
“We will be writing to all the lower courts who have the jurisdiction of the dangerous drugs and ask for the destruction para sumabay sa (so we can include this in) November. That’s what we will do,” the PDEA chief also said.
‘Rumors of recycling’
Drilon, likewise, asked Villanueva if “recycling” activities among law enforcers is still a problem within the agency.
“We raised this every budget time, but in fairness, I have not heard in the news about the recycling business of law enforcement officers as we have seen before and is that a correct assumption? That we don’t have that much, recycling is not that much of a problem today?” Drilon asked.
Responding to this, Villanueva said PDEA has been strict when it comes to this issue, saying that even rumors of “recycling” within the agents are being looked into.
“Talagang mahigpit tayo. Ang PDEA is mahigpit talaga right now as far as recycling. Kahit yung tsismis lang ng recycling ay talagang pinu-pursue natin yung information,” he said.
(We are really strict. PDEA is really strict when it comes to recycling. Even rumors of such activities, we will pursue the information and look into it.)
“Right now, wala kaming naririnig ng something about recycling of dangerous drugs,” Villanueva added.
(Right now, we have not heard something about recycling of dangerous drugs.)
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