The Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (CPADAO) shared the procedures of the plea bargaining agreement in drug cases during the week-long scorecard district conference of Sugbo Kontra Droga (Sukod) program held at the Capitol Social Hall on Wednesday, Feb 20.
CPADAO Chief Ivy Durano said that aside from orienting the members of the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (Madac) over the scorecard for the fifth year evaluation of Sukod, they also made effort to impart the salient features of the plea deal. This is in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court, following its ruling in the case involving Salvador Estipona versus Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Even before the extensive anti-illegal drugs campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, Cebu Gov. Hilario P. Davide III supported the CPADAO’s initiatives to strengthen its local campaign against the pervading illegal drug trade in Cebu Province.
“Those PDL (persons deprived of liberty) under BJMP in illegal drug cases, now have an option to plea bargain to lower their sanction once they will admit (to the crime),” Durano said.
Durano explained that the move, which stemmed from a framework released by the High Court, is important to enable drug offenders to avail themselves of the arrangement where they can lobby to lower their prison terms.
In the framework, according to Durano, states that if the accused was charged with violation of Section 11 of Republic Act (RA) 9165 for possession of dangerous drugs where the quantity is less than five grams of shabu with a penalty of 12 years and one day to 20 years in prison and a fine ranging from P300,000 to P400,000, the accused may plea bargain to a violation of Section 12 on possession of equipment, instrument, apparatus, etc. with a penalty of six months and one day to four years in prison and a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000.
This also applies to charges of possession of less than five grams cocaine, morphine, opium, heroin, and less than 300 grams for marijuana, Durano said.
However, the plea deal is not allowed under Section 5 of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act that penalizes the sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of all kinds of dangerous drugs.
Durano added that the plea bargaining agreement does not apply to illegal drug charges where the imposable penalty is life imprisonment or death.
Before the court grants discharge order to the accused over the plea arrangement, the Department of Health (DOH) will assess the level of the offender’s addiction under the health department’s drug dependency examination program. This will be done to determine whether the accused is a low, moderate or high-risk offender.
Once they are found to be under the “severe” level, Durano said the offender will be recommended to enroll in government rehabilitation centers.
“In Cebu Province, we have one in Argao and in Mandaue for severe or high-risk drug offenders,” Durano said.
As to low or moderate offenders, Durano said the court will endorse them under CPADAO.
Durano explained that once the offender is endorsed to her office, the CPADAO will hand him or her over to a barangay where the accused came from or to a local community-based drug rehabilitation center for intervention.
She said that CPADAO will then monitor the rehabilitation progress of the offender in coordination with the Madac and the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Badac).
The progress report, according to Durano, will become the basis of the court’s decision to release the offender.