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House approves bill presuming guilt for drug suspects

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the measure which aims to strengthen drug prevention and control, amending Republic Act 9165.

Voting 188-11-9, the lower chamber of Congress approved House Bill 7814 or An Act Strengthening Drug Prevention and Control Amending For The Purpose Republic Act 9165, As Amended, Otherwise Known As The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The bill aims to provide for a legal presumption on who is considered an importer, financier, and protector or coddler of narcotics.

In several passages of the bill, it is stated that a suspect is presumed to be any of the above, "unless proven otherwise."

No votes

ACT Teachers partylist Representative France Castro voted no on the measure, saying it may invalidate the presumption of innocence until proven guilty among the public.

"Sa panukalang batas na ito, mas binibigyang diin ang presumption of guilt kahit wala pang due process, investigation o hearing," Castro said.

"Tulad na lang ng scenario na may nakitang droga sa iyo, pwede ka na agad makasuhan na presumed importer, exporter, o seller ng hindi pa nagkakaroon ng masusing imbestigasyon at maaari naman ito ay planted evidence," she added.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, who is also against the measure, echoed Castro's sentiments.

"Ayon sa Section 14 ng Bill of Rights, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. Ngunit sa pamamagitan ng presumptions na ito, binabaliktad natin ito," he added.

"Kinakailangang patunayan ng akusado na siya ay inosente sa halip na ang nag-akusa ang dapat magpatunay na tunay siyang nagkasala," he added.

Bill details

The bill states that in importation and exportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals, a person, who is found to have in his/her possession or under his/her direct or indirect control any document, purchase order, memorandum receipt, delivery receipt, bill of lading, or any written matter containing information related to or in connection with dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals is, until proven otherwise, presumed to have imported or exported dangerous drugs, precursors and essential chemicals.

An individual could also be presumed as a financier if he/she causes the payment, raises, provides or supplies money for or underwrites the importation and exportation of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals.

Moreover, a person could be presumed as protector or coddler of an importer/exporter of dangerous drugs and essential chemicals if he/she knows the importer and exporter of narcotics and if he/she uses his/her influence to facilitate the escape of that importer/exporter.

If that person has knowledge or has reasonable ground to believe that the violator is indeed an importer/exporter of dangerous drugs and other essential chemicals, he/she can also be presumed as protector, unless proven otherwise.

Meanwhile, in selling drugs, an individual can be presumed as financier if he/she causes the payment for the sale, trading, and distribution of illegal drugs, controlled precursors and other essential chemicals.

He/She is presumed to be a protector or coddler if he/she knows the seller, trader and distributor of illegal drugs, the bill said.

When it comes to the manufacture of drugs, a person who is found or present within the premises of a clandestine laboratory or the area where illegal drugs are manufactured, produced, packed, is presumed to be involved in producing drugs, unless proven otherwise.

Another key provision is that it seeks penalty among "negligent" lessors of properties used as clandestine laboratories.

The bill stated that lessors of properties would be required to submit pertinent documents to avoid their properties being used for illegal drug purposes.

The measure also extends the criminal liability to the partner, president, director, manager, trustee, estate administrator, or officer of the corporation or partnership who tolerates the use of a property of the corporation or partnership as a den, dive, or resort to commit violations of RA 9165.— BM, GMA News