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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Members of different municipal peace and order councils in North Cotabato worried on the proliferation of illegal drug trade in the province.

The reaction came after Judge Laureano Alzate of the Regional Trial Court Branch 22 in Kidapawan City released again four more drug traffickers caught “red-handed” in different buy-bust dragnets from 2003 to 2006.

Alzate has ordered the dismissal, in the past four months, of more than a dozen drug trafficking cases against detained notorious drug peddlers.

Records indicated that the freed suspects were arrested in buy-bust deals carried out after thorough surveillance on the illegal activities.

The latest drug traffickers Alzate set free were  Edgar Corpuz, arrested on Sept 15, 2003; Dodong Alon, who was nabbed June 4, 2004;  Lanie Alamada and Ben Langayen, booked on Sept.10, 2005 and July 27, 2006, respectively.

Alzate has been asserting that the policemen that arrested the suspects he released from detention broke the so-called “chain of custody rule” in enforcing the law-enforcement operations.

According to lawyers here, the “chain of custody” is the effective tracking of pieces of evidence that comes up in a court trial from the time it is collected until it is presented as evidence.

Asked for comment, members of the peace and order councils in North Cotabato’s adjoining Pikit, Midsayap, Aleosan and Pigkawayan towns said they are apprehensive that the recent releases of supposedly notorious drug traffickers would embolden drug syndicates.

“There is a need for a forum among policemen in the province, the judiciary and the prosecutors to discuss proper procedures in building air-tight cases against drug traffickers,” said a vice mayor, who asked not to be identified.

An Egyptian-trained Muslim cleric, Ustadz Omar Manisi, said their community is just as ready to help in educating worshipers during the Friday prayers on the need for them to help the police address the nagging drug problem besetting North Cotabato.=By John Unson