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Handling of illegal drugs seized during a buy-

bust operation

Dear PAO,
My brother, Martin, was arrested in a buy-bust operation in Valenzuela City for allegedly selling
one kilogram of shabu (metamphetamine). The police officers who arrested my brother were
neither armed with a warrant of arrest or a search warrant when they arrested my brother. After
his arrest, the police officers brought him to the Makati City Police Station where the marking,
inventory and the taking of photographs of the shabu allegedly sold by my brother were
conducted in his presence and six police officers. He was charged with sale of illegal drugs.
Could the actions of the police officers be considered legal under the law? I will wait for your
advice.
Sincerely yours,
Chari

Dear Chari,
To address your concern, we shall refer to Republic Act (RA) 10640, otherwise known as “An
Act to Further Strengthen The Anti-Drug Campaign of the Government, Amending for the
Purpose Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165,” otherwise known as the “Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.” This law provides for the proper manner of disposition of
confiscated and seized illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. Pertinent to your concern, this law
states:
“Section 1. xxx The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation conduct a physical inventory of the
seized items and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, with an elected
public official and representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media who shall be
required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the
physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is
served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team,
whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures: Provided, finally, that noncompliance
of these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of
the seized items are properly preserved, by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void
and invalid such seizures and custody over said items. xxx”
It is thus clear in the above-stated provision that the marking, physical inventory and the taking
of photographs of the illegal drugs such as shabu should be done at the nearest police station in
case of warrantless seizures and in the presence of an elected barangay (village) official and a
representative from the Department of Justice or the media.
Your brother was arrested in Valenzuela City and was brought to the Makati City Police Station.
The marking, taking of photographs and physical inventory of the shabu allegedly sold by your
brother took place without the presence of the third party witnesses mentioned in Section 1 of
RA 10640. Given the flagrant procedural lapses the police officers committed against your
brother, their acts could not be considered as legal and in accordance with the law.