MISAPPROPRIATION or failure to account for confiscated drugs is a major offense punishable by life imprisonment and dismissal from the service, law enforcement and other public officials were reminded anew yesterday in the wake of the discovery of shabu and ‘tawas’ in the lockers of some Quezon City Police District personnel undergoing investigation for involvement in drug offenses.
Section 27 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is very strict when it comes to the ‘Criminal Liability of a Public Officer or Employee for Misappropriation, Misapplication or Failure to Account for the Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment Including the Proceeds or Properties Obtained from the Unlawful Act Committed.’
The law states that ‘the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000), in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office, shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee breaking the law.’
The Philippine National Police leadership headed by Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa issued the reminder yesterday amid the ongoing investigation on the discovery of shabu and around three kilograms of alum locally known as ‘tawas’ in the lockers of some QCPD personnel ordered relieved of their post amid charges they were involved in drug shenanigans.
Last Monday, QCPD director, Senior Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar reported that the bags of ‘tawas’ were found during a cleanup of the QCPD District Anti-Illegal Drugs’ barracks in Camp Karingal. The recovery of the ‘tawas’ fueled speculations that they are being used to ‘recycle’ confiscated shabu.
Prior to that, four plastic sachets said to be containing shabu were also discovered in the barracks formerly occupied by the DAID operatives.
Earlier, Eleazar, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1987, ordered the transfer of 35 DAID policemen to the QCPD District Headquarters Support Unit pending the results of an investigation into the activities of DAID official, Senior Inspector Ramon Castillo, who was killed in a shootout with his colleagues during a buy-bust operation late last month.
Castillo had been suspected of ‘recycling’ drugs confiscated in legitimate anti-narcotics operations by his team. Prior to the shootout, an undercover officer managed to buy five sachets of shabu from the officer. The successful ‘test-buy’ triggered the buy-bust operation which led to the killing of Castillo. Seized during the sting were 200 grams of shabu worth P1 million.
According to QCPD District Personnel and Human Resource Development Division chief, Supt. Nestor Abalos, he initially mistook the tawas for “shabu” but an examination conducted by the PNP Crime Laboratory showed they were alum.
Eleazar said they are still investigating why the owner of the locker is keeping alum although there were speculations that they could be used in ‘recycling’ drugs.
The QCPD director said they would be stricter in the handling of seized evidence. “We will remind all our operatives that all evidence, particularly illegal drugs, must be submitted to the Crime Laboratory immediately. To prevent similar incidents, we will also conduct surprise inspections,” he said.
Section 11 of RA 9165 also says ‘the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess 50 grams or more of shabu, 500 grams or more of marijuana and 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil.
Even possession of ‘equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs’ carries the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and a fine ranging from Ten thousand pesos (P10,000) to Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000).
Illegal possession of drugs and its paraphernalia is an offense considered as ‘serious irregularity in the performance of duty’ in the police force and would merit the administrative investigation of the concerned policeman and his immediate superior.