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Davao judge explains to JBC high rate of acquittal in drug cases

MANILA, Philippines – Davao Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge Rowena Apao Adlawan defended her court's acquittal of suspects in illegal drug cases, as she stressed that she remains supportive of the government's crackdown against illegal drugs.

Adlawan faced the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Wednesday, November 16, for the public interview for the post to be vacated by retiring Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Jose Perez.

JBC member Toribio Ilao Jr asked Adlawan about her current case load, noting that Adlawan has 1,844 cases as of June 30, 2016, and that she has disposed of 50% of the cases in the past 5 years.

Asked about her rate of acquittal, Adlawan said that she has acquitted 7 out of 10 in the drug cases in her court.

"Handling drug cases is a technical case, not everyone can understand why a case is being admitted or dismissed," she said.

"While we have so many drug cases in my court as one of the exclusive drugs courts in Davao, I have also a lot of dismissal and acquittal of the accused based merely on the technical aspects, like failure of policemen to observe the chain of custody rule," she added.

Adlawan emphasized that she supports the Duterte administration's war against drugs, but stressed that she was "not ready to trample on the rights of the accused."

"For as long as the search warrant is not effectively implemented or chain of custody is broken, or many doubts to entertain that the accused be acquitted, then I will do so," she said.

Earlier, JBC member Maria Milagros N. Fernan-Cayosa asked Adlawan about her views on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs')

Adlawan said she does not believe the President had anything to do with the killings, and that legally, there are no cases of EJKs.

"Legally, there is no EJK in our country because when we say EJK, it's a state-sponsored killing. The President says he's against killing extrajudicially, and he's for upholding the rule of law," she said. – Rappler.com