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Amendment to law on drug seizure sought

NAGA CITY --- Using a case pending in court as an example, a Regional Trial Court judge here has called the attention of Rep. Gabriel H. Bordado of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur to consider -- as part of emerging law reform efforts regarding R.A. No. 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) -- possible amendments to Sec. 20, third paragraph thereof that would allow reasonable exceptions with safeguards and standards for the exercise of the sound discretion of the Court and that would deter any abusive or oppressive seizures of personal property or objects of lawful commerce, especially those belonging to third persons who are not liable for the unlawful act, in the course of an enforcement of R.A. No. 9165. The plea to Congress stemmed from a “Motion to Release Motorcycle” filed last March 20 by defense counsel Atty. Benito B. Nate for accused Jayson B. Roquid on the basis that the motorcycle seized from him as a result of the buy-bust operation is not his but that of his wife Myla R. Roquid, its registered owner, and is needed by their children in going to school. The public prosecutor ACP Ernesto F. Mendiola interposed an Opposition to the said Motion citing the existing jurisprudence on the point in the leading applicable and analogous case of PDEA vs. Brodett et al., G.R. No. 196390, September 28, 2011: “We rule that henceforth the Regional Trial Courts shall comply strictly with the provisions of Section 20 of R.A. No. 9165, and should not release articles, whether drugs or non-drugs, for the duration of the trial and before the rendition of the judgment, even if owned by a third person who is not liable for the unlawful act.” This, according to Judge Soliman Santos in whose sala the case is being resolved, reiterates as well as interprets the third paragraph Section 20 of R.A. No. 9165: “During the pendency of the case in the Regional Trial Court, no property, or income derived therefrom, which may be confiscated and forfeited, shall be disposed, alienated or transferred and the same shall be in custodia legis and no bond shall be admitted for the release of the same.” In a resolution penned by Judge Santos, he said, Dura lex, sed lex (The law is hard but that is the law.) “The only difference in the relevant factual situation of the case at bar and the (in)famous Brodett (“Alabang Boys”) case of a seized vehicle “owned by a third person [but close relative] who is not liable for the unlawful act” is that in the latter case the vehicle is a Honda Accord and the family of the accused is affluent, and can probably afford not using that particular car, having other cars to use. But the hard law is also to be applied equally to accused (and families) of economically poorer or less affluent circumstances like in the case at bar. The “Motion to Release Motorcycle” was, therefore, subsequently denied.

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