Tamano: ‘It could be used to overturn drug cases’
MANILA, Philippines—The political opposition branded as “dangerous” the statement made by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez questioning the inclusion of military men in the fight against the drug menace.
“If Secretary Gonzalez is right, then it could be a basis for overturning all cases and convictions stemming from anti-drug operations,” opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano said.
If he were a defense lawyer in a drug case, he could use Gonzalez’s statement in asking that the case be dismissed “because the case is unconstitutional. So the statement of the secretary of justice is very dangerous,” Tamano said.
Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said Gonzalez had “sabotaged” the operations of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“In apparently spiting an agency he now considers a nemesis, he forgot his role in the fight against illegal drugs. With him at the justice department’s helm, PDEA’s operations have been neutered,” the lawmaker said.
After Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors dismissed the charges against drug suspects Richard Brodett Jr., Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson, the PDEA claimed that it had received information the prosecutors had been bribed.
The agency’s allegation triggered a word war between PDEA and justice officials.
Palace: Constructive opinion
But Malacañang does not find anything wrong with the statement of Gonzalez that Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino’s participation in operations of the PDEA is “unconstitutional.”
Marcelino is the head of the PDEA Special Enforcement Service that arrested the so-called Alabang Boys in separate buy-bust operations in September last year.
Anthony Golez, deputy presidential spokesperson, Thursday said Gonzalez’s opinion was “constructive” and in fact should prompt the PDEA to review its policy of tapping soldiers as narcotics agents.
Reacting to Gonzalez’s statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Marcelino’s assignment to the PDEA was covered by a circular and was in line with Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr., AFP spokesperson, said RA 9165 empowered the PDEA to enlist the support of government agencies and other offices, including the AFP, to support the agency’s drive against illegal drugs.
Covered by orders
A day after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered a ceasefire between the PDEA and the DOJ, Gonzalez came out swinging again, saying Marcelino had no business participating in the agency’s operations.
Gonzalez argued that as a soldier in active service, Marcelino was barred from holding another position in a civilian government agency.
Torres Thursday said the deployment of Marcelino to the PDEA was covered by appropriate orders, including a circular signed six years ago by then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Dionisio Santiago, now the PDEA chief.
The specific AFP regulations on the assignment of active officers to various government agencies have been incorporated into Circular No. 2 issued on March 12, 2003, according to Torres.
The circular prescribed that active officers could be detailed either as an aide-de camp, a security officer or a military assistant, Marcelino’s designation in the PDEA.
The circular described a military assistant as a commissioned officer of the AFP detailed to a civilian agency for “the purpose of lending professional or technical know-how regarding military matters.”
But not more than 0.5 percent of the total number of active officers and not more than 0.2 percent of the enlisted personnel corps could be deployed outside the military organization.
Soldiers deployed to civilian offices are placed under the AFP’s Headquarters Service Command, according to Torres.
“As far as the Armed Forces is concerned, our actions in detailing our personnel are covered by the circular,” he told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.
“So it means that the deployment of Major Marcelino and other officers is covered by a specific regulation of the military,” he said.
The circular, of which only the first page was provided to reporters, was signed by Santiago and then adjutant general, retired Capt. Cesar Carranza, as ordered by the defense secretary.
Torres pointed out that the 2003 circular was issued following the enactment of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Torres also cited other laws supporting the deployment of active military officers to government offices, which included President Ferdinand Marcos’ Executive Order No. 41 issued in 1966 and President Joseph Estrada’s memo issued in 1999.
The memo, dated Jan. 27, 1999, prohibited the assigning of military personnel outside the AFP without prior approval of the President.
Torres said the appointment of Marcelino to the PDEA post was approved by the President.
He added that it was either the President or the defense secretary who approved the assignment of active officers to various government offices.
Asked if Gonzalez’s comment on Marcelino compromised any legal action against the Alabang Boys, deputy spokesperson Golez said: “The justice secretary just aired his concern on that matter.”
“But in the meantime, government lawyers will be seriously studying the opinion verbally issued by the justice secretary,” he said.
Asked if Malacañang would censure Gonzalez for apparently violating the verbal truce, Golez said: “He knows what he’s doing.”
Drug czar for 2 weeks
Better coordination between the DOJ and the PDEA was among the marching orders of Ms Arroyo when she declared herself the country’s “drug czar” Tuesday until the bribery controversy was resolved.
Golez said Ms Arroyo would remain in that post for two weeks during which she would make sure that the “house is in order.”
“That is the most important thing,” he said, “for the law enforcers and prosecutors to make sure that they are in sync.” With reports from Alcuin Papa and Philip C. Tubeza