SC assigns additional 240 courts to handle drug cases

DRUG CASES. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te announces the designation of additional courts to handle drug cases on July 19, 2016.

Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – At least 240 more trial courts nationwide have been assigned to handle drug-related cases, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday, July 19.

In a press briefing, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the rise of drug-related incidents under the Duterte administration prompted the Court to designate additional trial courts to handle cases involving violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002.

Citing SC data, Te said there are 128,368 drug-related cases pending in 715 regional trial courts that are already designated to hear such cases.

"By its action today, the Court has effectively authorized all the 955 organized trial courts across the country to hear, try and decide drug cases," Te said.

The additional courts should also cause the assignment of more prosecutors from the Department of Justice as well as public defenders from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), according to Te.

Te said Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has encouraged Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to appoint more prosecutors and PAO lawyers to prevent delays in the resolution of drug cases. 

Te said guidelines on the speedy resolution of drug-related cases will be released soon.

The Duterte administration is waging a campaign against illegal drugs, but various sectors have accused it of resorting to extrajudicial killings to address the problem.

On July 18, the International Commission of Jurists urged President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate and stop the "recent wave of unlawful killings" in the country. – Rappler.com