PDEA eyes better laboratory next year in Region 12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 November)– In a bid to improve its operations, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Region 12 is pushing for the upgrading by next year of its drug testing and analytical laboratory here.

Aileen Lovitos, PDEA Region 12 director, said they are targeting to acquire additional equipment that would allow its laboratory to conduct confirmatory tests on illegal drug samples that are seized or recovered in the area.

She said the regional laboratory, which is situated at the PDEA-12 compound in Camp Fermin Lira here, hosts a modified thin layer chromatography system or equipment for analysis of basic, acidic and neutral drugs.

It has standard drug testing equipment and could detect, identify as well as analyze various illegal drug substances but is not capable of conducting confirmatory testing, she said.

Lovitos said evidences or samples that are seized in the region are initially processed at the facility and submitted later on to the PDEA laboratory in Region 11 based in Davao City for the required confirmatory tests.

She said that in the entire Mindanao, only the PDEA laboratory in Davao City is equipped with the Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometry or GCMS.

The PDEA central office said a confirmatory test using the GCMS is an accepted method for establishing the validity of drug evidences in local courts.

Prior to the installation of the GCMS equipment at the PDEA-11 laboratory, Lovitos said regional offices were required to submit the seized drug samples to their main or central laboratory in Manila for the confirmatory testing.

“Our operations will significantly improve if we will have our own GCMS equipment as it will speed up our investigations and the filing of charges against drug suspects,” she said in a media forum.

Aside from the upgrading of their laboratory, Lovitos said they are working on the hiring of additional personnel for the facility, which formally opened in early September.

The PDEA central office initially delivered some basic equipment worth P280,000 that can be used in analyzing the presence of amphetamines and tetrahydrocannabinol that are found in methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and marijuana samples, respectively.

It is being manned by two licensed chemists who were earlier trained at the PDEA central office’s laboratory.

Lovitos earlier said the establishment of the laboratory was pursued by their office to facilitate the proper handling of drug samples and other evidences recovered during their anti-drug operations.

She said the agency previously relied on the Police Regional Office 12’s crime laboratory here for the testing, analysis and storage of recovered drug samples.

Under Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act, the PDEA is mandated to take charge and have custody of “all dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals seized, confiscated or surrendered to any national, provincial or local law enforcement agency.” (MindaNews)