By Ben Rosario
After deleting a provision for the restoration of death penalty, the House of Representatives finally approved on third and final reading the bill proposing amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
At the resumption of regular sessions Monday, House Bill 8909 was presented anew for final reading. The measure seeks to further strengthen drug prevention and control.
HB 8909 seeks to further strengthen drug prevention and control by providing legal presumption that will define who will be considered importer, and financier of illegal drugs and protector or coddler of those involved in the trade.
The bill had been passed on final reading as early as February but the approval was reconsidered after several solons protested the inclusion of a provision that restored the death penalty.
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was believed to be behind the bill’s recommitment to the committee level in order to delete reference to death penalty of the bill.
Arroyo is known to be an anti-death penalty advocate who “sacrificed” her position as deputy speaker when she voted against the bill reimposing the capital punishment in 2017.
The speaker and other oppositors of the death penalty were apparently oblivious that HB 8909 contained a provision that reimposed it.
Arroyo’s name, together with other death penalty advocates in the Lower House, was included as among those who voted to approve on final reading HB 8909when it was first presented for final reading last February.
The plenary voting result then was 172 affirmative and zero negative for approval of the measure on third and final reading.
Following a motion made by Asst. Majority Leader and Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter Palma, the House agreed Monday to invalidate the third reading approval of the measure and recommit HB 8909 to the Committee on Public Order and Security and on Dangerous Drugs.
Makabayan bloc leaders Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers Partylist) and Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist) admitted they were not aware House Bill 8909 proposing amendments to Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, contained a provision reimposing the death sentence in the country’s penal system.
Before the motion to recommit the bill, the two opposition lawmakers said they will manifest, either on the floor or by writing the House leadership, that they are against the bill if it contained the death penalty provision.
Makabayan bloc solons who are strongly opposed to the death penalty were present during the voting, indicating that they, too, were among those who registered affirmative votes for passage of HB 8909.
HB 8909 that sought to amend Republic Act 9165, the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, reimposed the death penalty in the country’s penal system, this time, providing for the capital punishment on persons found in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, and meetings.
HB 8909 consolidated many provisions of at least 15 bills seeking to amend the dangerous drugs law. Authors included Reps. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City); Winston Castelo (PDP-laban, QuezonCity); Alfredo Garbin and Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol Partylist) and former president and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, among others.
Section 13 of the bill penalizes a person found possessing any dangerous drug during a party or a social gathering or meeting attended by two or more individuals with life imprisonment or death. A fine ranging from P5 million to P10 million regardless of the amount of seized narcotics will also be imposed.
HB 8909 seeks to further strengthened rug prevention and control by providing legal presumption on those who are considered importer, financier and protector or coddler of illegal drugs.
Negligent lessors whose properties have been found have been turned into a drug laboratory, drug den and venue for other illegal drug activities are also penalized.
If a property is owned by a third person and is used as a den, dive, or resort to commit violation of the provisions of RA 9165, criminal liability will be extended to the partner, president, director, manager, trustee, estate administration or officer of the corporation or partnership who consents to or tolerates such violation.
The bill directs the Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission to investigate cases of acquittal of drug cases to determine whether or not these were bungled by the prosecutor, investigator or concerned arresting officers.
The bill also mandates professional and non-professional athletes to undergo mandatory drug tests at least twice a year. Those found positive of drug use will be suspended and subjected to further investigation by appropriate government agencies.
The proposed measure also grants immunity to state witnesses who appear to be the least guilty but can testify to personal knowledge and info necessary for the conviction of other drug suspects.
There is likewise a presumption of planting of evidence against lawmakers if the rules of procedure and/or engagement for arrest, search and seizure have not been complied with.
There is also a presumption of a person as financier if she or he causes the payment, underwrites and supplies the money for planting, maintenance and operation of marijuana plantation and drug laboratories.