Judge tells drug-busting cops to undergo retraining

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 1 December)– A regional trial court judge in North Cotabato has urged policemen, especially those involved in the campaign against illegal drugs, to undergo a retraining on the handling of evidence.

Judge Laureano Alzate, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 22 in Kabacan town, said the refresher course would help ensure that those charged by the police of selling or using illegal drugs would be convicted.

Alzate stressed that he had dismissed all the drug-related cases filed in his courtroom due to the violation of the “chain of custody rule.”

The rule, he explained, is on the handling of evidences by the policemen who conducted buy-bust raids or search operations against suspected drug couriers or users.

“[During] the time the drug suspect is arrested, the apprehending officer who confiscated the drugs must do some markings.  But to whom did the policeman turn over that piece of evidence?  Where did he turn over the shabu afterwards?  And so on and so forth… If you break the chain of custody, then there’s a problem.  That’s what the defense lawyers are doing.   They try to break the chain [of custody rule],” Alzate explained.

“I suggest the policemen undergo a re-training in handling drug arrests so as to help them preserve the integrity of the evidences they would soon present in court,” Alzate said.

Because of technicalities, at least 30 inmates at the Cotabato district jail in Kidapawan City accused of violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act were released from detention.

The police considered Kabacan town as the transhipment point of illegal drugs in Southwestern Mindanao.

In May this year, the Kabacan police organized an anti-drug task force as part of its intensified anti-illegal drug crackdown, especially in villages where illegal drug trading is rampant.

Children aged 10 years or so are believed involved in the illegal drug trade as runners, police said.

Unfortunately, many of the arrests made by the police failed to result in convictions, Alzate said, adding he should not be blamed.

“Many of the cases I tried were dismissed because of lack of evidences.  If you convict a person, it should be beyond reasonable doubt,” the judge stressed.

Alzate was one of the six trial judges in North Cotabato who participated in the enhanced Justice on Wheels of the Supreme Court held last Monday in Kidapawan City.

Of the 180 cases that were heard using the mobile courts, 111 were dismissed. A total of 79 prisoners were freed, 12 of them under the sala of Alzate. (Malu Cadelina Manar)