Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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SC releases guidelines on plea bargaining involving drug cases

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The Supreme Court on Friday issued guidelines for plea bargaining involving illegal drugs cases.

In Plea Bargaining Network, there shall be no plea bargaining in cases where the penalty is life imprisonment or life imprisonment to death.

Furthermore, the SC disclosed that there is no plea bargaining under Section 5 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which penalizes sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of all kinds of dangerous drugs.

Under the new framework, only those charged with violation of Section 11 of RA 9165 for possession of illegal drugs where the quantity is less than five grams (in case of shabu, opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine, and less than 300 grams in case of marijuana) with a penalty of 12 years and one day to 20 years in prison and a fine ranging from P300,000 to P400,000 can plea bargain to violation of Section 12 that carries a penalty of six months and one day to four years in prison and a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000.

Also the SC mandated that a drug dependency test is required to all cases regardless of the penalty.

“If accused admits drug use, or denies it but is found positive after drug dependency test, he/she shall undergo treatment rehabilitation for a period of not less than six month,” the high court said.

On the other hand, if the accused is charged with possession of shabu, opium, morphine, heroin, and cocaine of more than five grams but not exceeding 10 grams, or with marijuana of 300 grams but not more than 500 grams (Section 11), the accused can enter into a plea bargain to violation of Section 11 (less than five grams in case of shabu, etc. and less than 300 grams of marijuana) to lower the penalty from 20 years to life imprisonment and fine ranging from P400,000 to P500,000, to 12 years and one day to 20 years prison term and fine ranging from P300,000 to P400,000.

If an accused is charged with possession of equipment, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs under Section 12, he or she can plea bargain to violation of Section 15 or use of dangerous drugs to lessen the penalty from six months and one day to four years in prison and fine from P10,000 to P50,000, to six months treatment and rehabilitation if he or she admits drug use or is found positive after drug use/dependency test.

For violation of Section 14 for possession of equipment, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings or meeting, he or she can plea bargain to violation of Section 15 on use of dangerous drugs to lower the penalty from a maximum or four months in prison to six months of treatment and rehabilitation.

The guidelines was issued following its ruling in the case of Salvador Estipona versus Legaspi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 Judge Frank Lobrigo where SC declared as unconstitutional the prohibition against plea bargaining in Republic Act 9165.

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