The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued new rules on the conduct of automatic review of cases involving R.A. No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Department Circular No. 12 addresses the problem of delay in the disposition of drug-related cases and the prolonged detention of drug suspects while maintaining the process of automatic review to ensure that meritorious drug cases are duly prosecuted.
Under the Circular, automatic review shall be "without prejudice to the right of the respondent to be immediately released from detention pending automatic review, unless the respondent is detained for other causes". Previously, the release of a respondent in an illegal drugs case was held in abeyance until its dismissal was affirmed on automatic review. Under the new rules, a request may be made to order the release of a respondent.
"The issuance underscores the DOJ's commitment to improve the administration of justice by providing a just, speedy and effective means to resolve illegal drugs cases and at all tilnes respecting human rights", said Secretary Leila M. de Lima. The resolution of all illegal drugs cases on automatic review was shortened to thirty (30) days from the previous sixty (60) days.
The process of automatic review of illegal drugs cases was first instituted in 2003. The Circular continues to require automatic review of cases involving the maximum penalty of reclusion perperua or life imprisonment.