Posted on March 08, 2021
INCITEGov, a community of advocates who firmly believe in the democratic process and the rule of law as the bedrock of Philippine society, joins the growing voices of opposition against House Bill No. 7814 (HB 7814) which amends Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
This bill, passed by the House of Representatives on March 2, 2021, is unconstitutional for its provisions denying the basic right to due process of law and its outright presumption of guilt for persons suspected to be involved in the illegal drug trade. Clearly, HB 7814 violates international human rights standards and the general protection to due process of law provided in Section 1 and particularly, Sections 14.1 and 14. 2 of the Philippine Constitution's Article III - Bill of Rights which enshrine every citizen's right to life, liberty, or property, to due process of law, and presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
HB 7814 also sneaks in the reimposition of death penalty and we denounce this vigorously and without reservation. The death penalty is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. It is unfair and inequitable, and it has proven to be ineffective in deterring criminality. We reiterate that the right to life is not merely a moral value but a legal principle guaranteed in our Constitution and upheld in the various treaties, conventions, and protocols to which the Philippines is a state party within the international community.
In our view, this bill shows this administration's contempt for human rights and the rule of law. Its preference for punitive rather than public health responses to the drug problem contravenes international conventions which recognize the use of dangerous drugs as a health issue rather than a criminal offense. We express great concern that a law based on this bill will turn President Duterte's bloody War on Drugs into an even more tragic bloodbath that disproportionately affects the poor. HB 7814's legal presumption that is too broad and triggered with only the flimsiest of evidence is invalid against Constitutional standards, but if made into law, can only result in a 'tokhang'-like anti-drug operations where suspects are sentenced to death by the barrel of the police's gun. This bill is even more sinister as bystanders in the vicinity of an illegal drug transaction can be presumed guilty as an accomplice. The questions left by the performance of law enforcement in the recent shootout between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police give little assurance nor comfort to the innocent.
We appeal to the members of the Senate to reject this bill and instead work with the House of Representatives towards a more holistic and public-health-based law that will measure up to Constitutional standards and sustainably address the country's drug problem. We also remind all our elected representatives that the COVID-19 pandemic remains to be an existential threat that needs a sharper and more focused response. Legislations that will address its economic, social, and health impacts are more urgent and necessary.
LET US UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION AND THE RULE OF LAW.
LET US FOCUS ON COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTIONS TO THE DRUG PROBLEM.
LET US PRIORITIZE SOLUTIONS TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
TERESITA QUINTOS DELES
Chairperson, Board of Trustees
MA. CLEOFE GETTIE C. SANDOVAL
Lead, Working Group on the Rule of Law
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