MANILA—More than a dozen measures have been filed at the Senate, seeking to reinforce the Duterte administration’s intensive campaign against hard drug trafficking, excluding those aimed at restoring the death penalty.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III previously said that unlike in the House of Representatives, restoring capital punishment would not be a priority measure in the Senate’s 17th Congress. Despite this, senators have made it a point to file measures to punish drug offenders, help drug dependents and boost the capabilities of law enforcement authorities.
Records obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) from the Senate Legislative Information System showed that more than a dozen anti-illegal drug measures have been filed at the Senate.
These measures are pending in different statutes in the Senate committees on health and demography, justice and human rights, national defense and security and public order and dangerous drugs. Below are some of them:
(1) Anti-Drug Penal Institution Act (SBN 1) – This measure was authored by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and is pending at the committee level.
Sotto’s measure seeks to establish a detention program and facility for high-level drug offenders within the National Penitentiary System under the Bureau of Corrections.
“The purpose of this bill, other than to decongest existing penal institutions and accommodate the increasing number of inmates committed to the existing seven prison and penal farms, is to prevent the taking advantage of lax general rules for all inmates that allow high-level illegal drug offenders to continue their nefarious activities,” Sotto said in the bill’s explanatory note.
(2) Presidential Anti-Drug Authority (PRADA) Act (SBN 3) – This measure was also authored by Sotto and is pending at the committee level.
This measure seeks to amend Article IX of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, by creating the Presidential Anti-Drug Authority (PRADA) that will primarily be the supervising agency for the proper, more effective and efficient implementation of the law. The creation of PRADA shall dissolve the existing Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DBB).
“The purpose of this measure is to further strengthen our fight against illegal drugs by unifying the four major programs — enforcement, prosecution, prevention and rehabilitation into a single government agency… All these, so we may achieve a drug-free Philippines for the future generations.”
(3) Drug Rehabilitation Treatment for PhilHealth Beneficiaries (SBN 8) – This was also authored by Sotto and is pending at the committee level.
Sotto’s measure seeks to provide affordable drug rehabilitation treatment for Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PHIC) beneficiaries who are drug dependents and who submit to treatment and rehabilitation in an accredited health care provider.
”This is pursuant to the constitutional mandate, ‘that the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development, which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost’,” Sotto said in his explanatory note.
(4) Public Health Intervention for Drug Use Act of 2017 (SBN 1313) – This measure was authored by neophyte Senator Risa Hontiveros and is also pending at the committee level.
Hontiveros’ measure seeks to mainstream the public health approach to the Philippine Drug Policy by establishing and implementing community-based programs and strategies for drug-related issues and concerns. It also prohibits harmful and discriminatory interventions and practices.
“Drug use remains to be a public health issue. That is why institutionalizing public health interventions for drug use is necessary for an effective drug policy… We should explore alternatives beyond Oplan Tokhang and compulsory rehabilitation,” Hontiveros said in the bill’s explanatory note.
(5) Expanded Anti-Wire Tapping Act of 2016 (SBN 1210) — This measure was authored and sponsored by Senator Panfilo Lacson and is pending second reading.
Lacson’s measure seeks to expand the coverage of exemptions to wiretapping to include cases involving coup d’état, conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’état, robbery in a band, highway robbery, violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and Violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001. However, a court order is required before wiretapping is permitted.
“The proceeds of judicial wiretapping will definitely strengthen the evidence against apprehended criminals when they are brought before the bar of justice,” Lacson said in his sponsorship speech.
(6) An Act Amending Sec. 35 of RA 6975 or the PNP Reorganization Act (SBN 1239) – This measure was filed by Lacson and was approved on third and final reading last January 30. It is pending at the House of Representatives.
Lacson’s measure seeks to allow the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director and deputy director to issue subpoenas on cases under investigation. It noted that the Philippine Constabulary and the Integrated National Police were merged to establish the current PNP under RA No. 6975, otherwise known as the “DILG Act of 1990”. Most of the powers due the agency were carried over except for the subpoena powers.
“It seems absurd that the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU), now known as the CIDG, with a mandate to undertake monitoring, investigation and prosecution of all crimes of such magnitude and extent as to indicate their commission by highly-placed or professional syndicates and organization, has lost its subpoena powers,” Lacson, a former PNP chief, said in his sponsorship speech.
(7) An Act Amending RA No. 6975 or the Internal Affairs Service of the PNP (SBN 1310) – This measure was also filed by Lacson and is pending at the committee level.
Lacson wants to make the IAS more effective and efficient in light of efforts to cleanse the police ranks by allowing the IAS to conclude its investigation within 30 days, after which appropriate administrative and/or criminal charges will be filed immediately. The IAS has up to 30 days to resolve an administrative case against an erring PNP member.
“In order for IAS to fulfill said functions, it is crucial that the pertinent provisions of the law guarantee that the organization is capacitated and empowered in instilling discipline and enhancing performance of personnel and units of the police force at all levels of its command,” the senator said in his explanatory note.
(8) An Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Act (SBN 45) – This measure was filed by Lacson and is now consolidated in a committee report.
Lacson’s bill expands the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) such as casinos, real estate brokers, and dealers of artworks and motor vehicles. It noted that money launderers now use such businesses and professions to cover their illegal transactions, with the casino industry seemingly attractive for those undertaking money-laundering activities.
“While the contributions of the (casino) industry are acknowledged, it is also understood that casinos are equally exposed to the raging threats of money laundering,” Lacson said in his explanatory note.
These are only some of the legislation aimed at giving more teeth to the war on illegal drugs. With or without the passage of the death penalty measure, senators have vowed to pass other measures to help the anti-illegal drugs campaign in other ways.
Pimentel, in several interviews, said the Senate would continue working overtime to fast-track the enactment of laws that improve the lives of Filipinos and address their most pressing concerns..