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Heavier penalties sought for law enforcers using drugs

Use of narcotics and other addictive chemicals is a serious menace in the Philippines

Gulf News

Manila: Stating that high standards of discipline is expected from law enforcers, two Filipino lawmakers called on their colleagues to pass a measure imposing heavier penalties for persons in authority caught using illegal drugs.

“Law enforcers should uphold the law and not break it,” House members Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. and Vicente Belmonte stressed as they proposed amendments to the country’s law against illegal substance abuse, the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Like in most countries, use of drugs and other addictive chemicals is a serious menace in the Philippines, Bargaza and Belmonte said it does not help much if authorities themselves are caught breaking the law.

“The drug user is considered a victim of this plague but if the user has the responsibility to uphold the law, he/she should be criminally liable for violating the law,” according to the two lawmakers, who said they have sought an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Law through House Bill (HB) 3990.

“Law enforcers who use drugs should be meted heavier penalties and longer prison terms aside from dismissal from the service,” two senior lawmakers insist.

The measure seeks heftier fines and penalties for members of the military, police and other law enforcement agencies who use drugs.

“Drug use by an officer or members of law enforcement agencies creates a far reaching effect to public perception on the integrity of the entire law enforcement body tasked to protect the Filipino citizenry,” Barzaga said.

HB 3990 provides that “....that if the person caught using dangerous drugs is an officer and member of the military, police and other law enforcement agencies, he/she shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months and one day to four years, without the benefit of the probation law, and a fine ranging from P10,000 (Dhs 892.94) to P50,000 (Dhs 4464.71) shall be imposed. Provided, further, that the officer and member of the military, police and other law enforcement agencies caught using dangerous drugs shall undergo summary dismissal proceedings....”

If apprehended using dangerous drugs for the second time, penalties shall be imprisonment of from six year and one day to 12 years and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P200,000 (Dhs 17,858.84) among others.

The lawmakers recalled incidents where police officers were caught on video using banned substances. On June 19, 2004, PO1 Samuel Quiteves of the suburban Pasig Police Station was filmed using methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu.” To aggravate the situation Quiteves was in police uniform while he indulged in the use of prohibited drugs inside their police station.

“Cases have been filed against erring law enforcers but drug use among those in authority has not been fully addressed. Their numbers continue to pile up,” they lamented.

Aside from Quiteves’ case, another incident involved that of two members of the police, namely: PO1 Antonio Carmona and PO2 Richard Guiyab who were caught on video using prohibited drugs.

“Drug enforcer-violators cannot feign ignorance of the law because they were trained to comprehend and ensure the proper implementation of the law, including the Dangerous Drugs Act,” the authors insist.