Press Release
March 6, 2021

De Lima rejects House bill presuming guilt of drug suspects

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has opposed the House of Representatives' passage of a bill providing legal presumptions on drug-related offenses which essentially presumes guilt on drug suspects.

While the intentions of House Bill No. 7814 are generally good, De Lima said certain provisions in the proposed amendatory bill to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act are "patently offensive to the Bill of Rights."

"If the laws are not just, the rule of law falls," said De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion and the staunchest critic of the administration's failed war on drugs, in her Dispatch from Crame No. 1040.

"The bill creates presumptions which, when uncontroverted, would allow the courts to convict the accused without the prosecution having to present evidence," she added.

Last March 2, lawmakers voted 188-11, with nine abstentions, to approve HB No. 7814, which includes legal presumptions on who are to be considered as importers, financiers, protectors or coddlers of illegal drugs, among others.

The measure, intended to strengthen the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, was approved just days after the shootout between agents of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Citing a particular provision of the measure which she finds to be alarming, De Lima stressed that Section 3 states that "anyone spotted in the place where the sale, trading, marketing, dispensation, and delivery or distribution of drugs happen is presumed to be involved in these illegal operations unless proven otherwise."

"Legal presumptions are a means to expedite trials by shifting the burden of proof from complainant to defendant under situations in which the allegations appear to be likely correct. In this situation, the court makes an inference, given a set of facts, which the defendant is given the opportunity to refute by presenting evidence against it," she said.

"While it is very useful in civil cases, mandatory presumptions have no place in criminal law. The primordial presumption that governs all others when it comes to criminal law is the presumption of innocence. Anything contrary to that is unjust, invalid and unconstitutional. 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved...' (Art. III, Sec. 14 [2], 1987 Constitution)," she added.

If the Filipinos see that the Congress passes unjust laws, De Lima warned that they will cease to follow and believe in the country's justice system which could result to a rise rise in criminality, which in turn poses a danger to our country and our democracy.

"Sa ilalim ng ating Saligang Batas, trabaho ng prosecution na magpakita ng ebidensya na gumawa ng krimen ang isang akusado. Hindi ang akusado ang kailangan magpatunay na siya ay inosente," said the former justice secretary.

"Itong panukalang batas na isinusulong ng Kongreso ay labag sa ating Konstitusyon kaya hindi siya dapat maisabatas. Kung maisabatas ito, binigyan na rin natin ng lisensya ang gobyerno na mandamay, manggipit at magpakulong ng inosenteng tao," she added.

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