Responding to the passage of House Bill 7814 amending the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, where drug suspects would be presumed guilty until proven innocent, Section Director Butch Olano said:
“Exactly a week after the bloody shootout between PNP and PDEA agents, 118 representatives in the Lower House voted to pass a bill amending the Dangerous Drugs Act under alarming legal precedents that reflect a dangerous disregard for human rights guarantees under domestic and international law.
“Under the bill, individuals who allegedly committed or are committing illegal drug-related activities – including importing, financing, protecting or coddling drugs – shall be presumed guilty without due process, an obvious violation of the principle of presumption of innocence and fair trial guarantees enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the Philippines ratified in 1986. Arguments against the bill should have ended with the uniting principle of upholding due process and the right to equal protection of the law.
“HB 7814 further encourages arbitrary arrest and detention of drug suspects and will likely facilitate the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The lack of judicial supervision that the bill endorses would practically allow security forces to commit further human rights violations with increasing impunity.
“Like the government’s efforts to address terrorism, the ‘war on drugs’ has persistently evolved into a measure that limits basic procedural guarantees and other legal remedies that serve to protect the innocent, including those who are falsely accused or victims of mistaken identity. Given its implications, especially in the context where thousands upon thousands have already been killed in the ‘war on drugs’, this bill is an alarming knee-jerk reaction to the PNP-PDEA ‘mis-encounter’ that is more an issue of government intelligence-gathering and protocols than of the law.
“The country’s law enforcement problem demonstrates the state’s failure to ensure people’s protection from crimes, whether drug- or terrorism-related. Passing laws that institutionalize disregard for human rights only further inundates a population already exhausted by the impacts of the pandemic. Amnesty International Philippines strongly calls on Congress to withdraw HB 7814, and on the Senate to resolutely junk any proposal that violates basic rights guaranteed in the Constitution and enshrined in international human rights law and principles.”
On 2 March, House Bill 7814, seeking amendment to Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, was passed by Congress getting 188 affirmative votes, 11 negative votes and nine abstentions. A provision in the bill states that ‘Unless proven otherwise, a person who shields, harbors, screens, or facilitates the escape of, or prevents the arrest, prosecution, or conviction of the importer or exporter is presumed to have knowledge of, or has willfully consented to, the illegal importation or exportation and that he/she used his/her influence, power or position,” which may only be overturned “upon presentation of proof that the importation or exportation is authorized or valid.”
Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers, who chairs the House committee on dangerous drugs, earlier said the proposed amendments could have prevented the shooting incident between operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on 24 February, where four people died.