Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Q&A on Drugs

Answers to questions you’d like to ask regarding the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents

(Reprinted from War Against Drugs)


What is drug dependence?

Based on the World Health Organization definition, it is a cluster of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena of variable intensity, in which the use of psychoactive drug takes on a high priority thereby involving, among others, a strong desire or a sense of compulsion to take the substance and difficulties in controlling substance-taking behavior in terms of its onset, termination, or level of use.


What is a drug dependent?

It refers to a person suffering from drug dependence.


What is meant by voluntary submission of a drug dependent for confinement, treatment, and rehabilitation?

A drug dependent may, by his or her own choice or through his or her parent, spouse, guardian or relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, apply to the Dangerous Drugs Board or its duty recognized representative, for confinement, treatment, and rehabilitation of the drug dependency.


What happens to the application?

The Board shall bring the matter to the court which shall order that the applicant be examined for drug dependency. If the examination by a Department of Health (DOH) accredited physician results in the issuance of a certification that the applicant is a drug dependent, he or she shall be ordered by the court to undergo treatment and rehabilitation in a center designated by the board for a period of not less than six months: Provided, that the drug dependent may be placed under the care of a DOH-accredited physician where there is no Center near or accessible to the residence of the drug dependent or where said drug dependent is below 18 years of age and is a first-time offender, and non-confinement in the center will not pose a serious danger to his or her family or community.


If the person was found out to be drug dependent, how long would the confinement be?

It shall not exceed one year, after which time the court, as well as the Board, shall be appraised by the head of the treatment and rehabilitation center of the status of said drug dependent and determine whether further confinement will be for the welfare of the drug dependent and his or her family or the community.


What effect has the voluntary submission of a drug dependent for treatment and rehabilitation on his or her criminal liability?

When finally discharged from confinement, he or she shall be exempted from the criminal liability under Section 15 of the Act subject to the following conditions: (a)
he or she complied with the rules and regulations of the center, the applicable rules and regulations of the Board, including the aftercare and follow-up program for at least 18 months following temporary discharge from confinement in the center or, in the case of a drug dependent placed under the care of the DOH-accredited physician, the aftercare program and follow-up schedule formulated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and approved by the board: Provided, that capacity building of local government social workers shall be undertaken by the DSWD; (b) he or she has never been charged with or convicted of any offence punishable under the Act, the Dangerous Act of 1997, or Republic Act of 6425, as amended; the Revised Penal Code, as Amended; or any special penal laws; (c) he or she has no record of escape from a Center: Provided, that had he or she escape, he or she surrendered by himself or herself or through his or her parent, spouse, guardian or relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, within one week from the date of the said escape; and (d) he or she poses no serious danger to himself or herself, his or her family, or the community by his or her exemption from criminal liability.


How may a person, committed voluntarily to a Center, be temporarily released? What about his or her aftercare and follow-up treatment?

Upon the Center’s certification, the court shall order his or her release on condition that said drug dependent shall report to the DOH for aftercare and follow-up treatment, including urine testing, for a period not exceeding 18 months under such terms and conditions that the court may impose. If during the period of aftercare and follow-up, the drug dependent is certified to be rehabilitated, he or she may be discharged by the court, subject to the provisions of Section 5 of the act, without prejudice to the outcome of any pending case filed in court.


What if the DOH finds that during the initial aftercare and follow-up program of 18 months, the drug dependent requires further treatment and rehabilitation in the Center?

The drug dependent shall be recommitted to the Center for confinement. Thereafter, he or she may again be certified for temporary release and ordered released for another aftercare and follow-up program pursuant to this section.
The DOH shall formulate standards and guidelines, in consultation with the Board, for aftercare and follow-up treatment wherein the following provision, among others, shall be incorporated: (a) The DOH-accredited physician can recommend to the court the release of a drug dependent at least 45 days after initial admission to a facility; and,
(b) The physician should likewise prescribe a comprehensive aftercare and follow-up program which the drug dependent should adhere to in order to complete at least 18 months, depending on the assessment and evaluation of the physician and subject to the approval of the court.


What if the drug dependent escapes and needed recommitment for confinement and rehabilitation under the voluntary submission program?

He or she may submit himself or herself for recommitment within one week there from, or his or her parent, spouse, guardian, or relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity may, within said period, surrender him for recommitment, in which case the corresponding order shall be issued by the Board.
Should the escapee fail to submit himself or herself or be surrendered after one week, the Board shall apply to the court for a recommitment order. Upon proof of previous commitment or his or her voluntary submission by the Board, the court may issue an order for recommitment within one week.
If, subsequent to a recommitment, the dependent once again escapes from confinement, he or she shall be charged with violation of Section 15 of the Act and be subjected under Section 61 of the Act, either upon order of the court, as the case may be.


What is the nature of the judicial and medical records of a drug dependent?

The said records shall be confidential and shall not be used against him for any purpose, except to determine how many times, by himself or herself or through his or her parent, spouse, guardian, or relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, he or she voluntarily submitted himself or herself for confinement, treatment, and rehabilitation or has been committed to a Center under this program.


What if the drug dependent is not exempt from criminal liability under Section 55 of the Act, or when he or she is not rehabilitated under the voluntary submission program, or when he or she escapes again from confinement after recommitment?

The records mentioned in the immediately preceding provisions, which are necessary for his or her conviction, may be utilized as evidence in court against him.


What happens if a drug dependent under compulsory confinement refuses to apply under the voluntary submission program?

Notwithstanding any law, rule, and regulation to the contrary, any person determined and found to be dependent on dangerous drugs shall, upon petition by the Board or any of its authorized representatives, be confined for treatment and rehabilitation in any Center duly designated or accredited for the purpose.


Who should file the petition for confinement, and where should it be filed?

It may be filed by any person authorized by the Board regional trial court of the province or city where such person is found.


What happens to the petition?

The court, by an order, shall immediately fix a date for the hearing, and a copy of such order shall be served on the person alleged to be dependent on dangerous drugs, and to the one having charge of him.
If, after such hearing and the facts warrant, the court shall order the drug dependent to be examined by two physician accredited by the Board. If both physicians conclude that the respondent is not a drug dependent, the court shall order his or her discharge. If either physician finds him to be dependent, the court shall conduct a hearing and consider all relevant evidences, which may be offered. If the court finds him a drug dependent, it shall issue an order for his or her commitment to a treatment and rehabilitation center under the supervision of the DOH. In any event, the order of discharge or order of confinement or commitment shall be issued not later than 15 days from the filing of the appropriate petition.


What is meant by compulsory submission of a drug dependent charge with an offense to treatment and rehabilitation?

If a person charged with an offense where the imposable penalty is imprisonment of less than six years and one day, is found by the prosecutor or by the court at any stage of the proceedings, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the court as the case may be, shall suspend all further proceeding, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the court as the case may be, shall suspend all further proceeding and transmit copies of the record of the case board.


What is the responsibility of the Board in the event it determines, after medical examination, that public interest requires that such drug dependent be committed to a center for treatment and rehabilitation?

It shall file a petition for his or her commitment with the regional trial court of the province or city where he or she is being investigated or tried: Provided, that where a criminal case is pending in court, such petition shall be filed in the said court. The court shall take judicial notice of the prior proceedings in the case and shall proceed to hear the petition.


What happens if the court finds him to be a drug dependent?

The court shall order his or her commitment to a Center for treatment and rehabilitation.


What is the responsibility of the Center?

The head of the Center shall submit to the court every four months, or as often as the court may require, a written report on the progress of the treatment. If the dependent is rehabilitated, as certified by the Center and the Board, he or she shall be returned to the court, which committed him, for discharged there from.


What happens to his or her prosecution for any offense punishable by law?

It shall be instituted or shall continue, as the case may be. In case of conviction, the judgment shall, if the accused is certified by the treatment and rehabilitation center to have maintained good behavior, indicated that he or she shall be given full credit for the period he or she was confined in the Center: Provided, however, that when the offense is for violation of Section 15 of the Act and the accused is not a recidivist, the penalty thereof shall be deemed to have been served in the Center upon his or her release there from after certification by the Center and the Board he or she is rehabilitated.


What is the suspension of sentence of a first-time minor offender?

An accused who is over 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense mentioned is Section 11 of the Act, but not more then 18 years of age at the time when judgment should have been promulgated after having been found guilty of said offense, may be given the benefits of a suspended sentence, subject to the following conditions: (a) he or she has not been previously convicted of violating any provisions of the Act, or of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended; or of the Revised Penal Code; or of any special penal laws; (b) he or she has not been previously committed to Center or to the care of a DOH-accredited physician; and (c) The Board favorably recommends that his or her sentence be suspended.
While under suspended sentence, he or she shall be under the supervision and rehabilitative surveillance of the Board, under such conditions that the court may impose for a period ranging from six months to 18 months.
Upon recommendation of the Board, the court may commit the accused under suspended sentence to a Center, or to the care of DOH-accredited physician for at least six months, with aftercare and follow-up program of not more than 18 months.
In the case of minors under 15 years of age at the time of the commission of any offense penalized under the Act, Article 192 of Presidential Decree No. 603, otherwise known as the Child Youth Welfare Code, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1179 shall apply, without prejudice to the application of the provisions of this Section.


How many times shall the privilege of suspended sentence be availed by a first-time minor offender?

It shall be availed only once by a first-time offender over 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the violation of Section 15 of the Act but not more than 18 years of age at the time when the judgment should have promulgated.


What happens to the promulgation of sentence for a first-time minor offender?

If the accused first-time minor offender violates any of the conditions of his or her suspended sentence, the applicable rules and regulations of the Board exercising supervision and rehabilitative surveillance over him, including the rules and regulations of the Center should confinement be required, the court shall pronounce judgment of conviction and he or she shall serve sentence as any other convicted person.


What is liability of one who violates the confidentiality or records?

The penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months and one day to six years and a fine ranging from P1,000 to P6,000 shall be imposed upon any person, who having official custody, or access to the confidential records of any drug dependent under voluntary submission programs, or anyone who, having gained possession of said records, whether lawfully or not, reveals their content to any person other than those charged with the prosecution of offenses under the Act and its implementation.


What is the liability of the parent, spouse, or guardian who refuses to cooperate with the Board or any concerned agency without valid reason or prevent or delay the aftercare and follow-up of the child or ward?

They may be cited for contempt of court.