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Focus on quality of drug cases – Sandigan Justice

MANILA, Philippines — Law enforcers should focus on quality operations in the campaign against illegal drugs after data showed that a majority of inmates detained on drug charges are considered street-level drug dealers and users, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Karl Miranda said yesterday.

Speaking in a news forum at the Dapo Restaurant and Bar in Quezon City, Miranda said that of the nearly 123,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), in detention facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), only 107 or 0.08 percent are on trial as manufacturers or producers of dangerous drugs.

Miranda said about 57,687 or 47 percent are detained on charges of selling, trading, distribution or transportation of illegal substances.

However, Miranda pointed out that most of them were caught with “minute” amounts of illegal drugs.

The same goes for the 49,200 other PDLs, or about 40 percent of the jail population who are on trial for possession and use of illegal drugs.

“Sabi nung iba para tayong takbo ng takbo trying to catch raindrops. Bakit hindi isarado ‘yung poso (Others say we are running around trying to catch raindrops. Why not turn off the faucet)?” he said.

The Justice Sector Coordinating Council – composed of the Supreme Court, Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government – will hold the National Jail Decongestion Summit on Dec. 6 to 7.

The BJMP said that of the inmates in their custody, 70 percent are facing trial on drug charges.

He said jails have a congestion rate of around 358 percent as BJMP prison facilities can only accommodate 56,000 inmates.

For Miranda, law enforcement agencies should focus not on the number of people they would arrest but on the quality of their operations, meaning those apprehended would have a high probability of getting convicted by courts.

“It goes back not to the quantity of arrests but the quality of arrests,” he said.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police are the government’s implementers of the anti-drug campaign.

Miranda clarified that his statement should not be misconstrued for law enforcers not to arrest street-level pushers and users.