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MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Monday, March 30, that he had allowed prosecutors to release seized medical items so they could be used by hospitals as they struggled with supplies in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.
Seized items are usually preserved as evidence in trial, but given the public health emergency, there has been a demand to cut through the judicial protocol and get hospitals the much-needed supplies.
“Our prosecutors, pending investigation, will allow the release of seized and impounded medical supplies to the frontline agencies (such as the Department of Health) for proper disposition, without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation,” Guevarra told reporters on Monday.
“We’ll just retain representative samples as part of the evidence,” said Guevarra.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) alone had confiscated over 1,500 thermal scanners and millions worth of face masks “from sellers who face chargers of hoarding, over pricing and price manipulation, among others.”
DOJ spokesperson Undersecretary Markk Perete said to comply with the Price Act, the seized items would still have to be put on auction, but that government would be given priority in the bidding.
“Government will be given preference in the auction, as government needs these for distribution to hospitals and medical facilities,” said Perete.
“The proceeds of the auction will be placed in escrow. If the suspect is acquitted, the proceeds of the auction will be given to him or her; if convicted, the proceeds accrue to the government,” said Perete. – Rappler.com