The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said there had been a total of 22 guilty pleas out of the 40 drug cases handled by the Attorney General’s office since January 2017.

In a press statement sent to the Times, the MOJ said that defendants of two drug cases filed in 2016 had already been sentenced in 2017 and one defendant of a 2016 drug case was also sentenced last year.

There had also been three guilty verdicts by the jury – one of which had been set aside after a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal was filed while three drug cases were dismissed and others still pending trials.

The data also revealed that there were 17 drug cases filed in 2017 while 16 drug cases were also filed last year.

Based on the recent information as of July 2019, there had only been four drug-related cases filed at the AG’s office this year which involved four defendants respectively.

“The report shows that since the creation of the Narcotic Enforcement Agency (NEA), to become a separate Bureau within the Ministry of Justice in 2017, with Ismael Aguon as Director and police officers dedicated to enforce drug laws, much progress has been achieved with the Republic’s fight against importation, trafficking, use and possession of illegal drugs,” the MOJ stated.

The MOJ said that this report is a clear indication of the “increasing success in Palau’s officially declared ‘War on Drugs.’”

The ministry, however, admitted that they faced challenges in their crackdown on drugs, particularly in the need to strengthen existing laws.

It added that a legislation increasing the amount of bail for drug offenders to a minimum of $50,000 had been passed by the Congress recently and is being reviewed by President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

The ministry also urged the public to become “part of the solution” by reporting any suspicious acts related to illegal drug activities. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)