Cops to appeal junking of drug raps vs Ongpin
DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan, Philippines — The Ilocos Police Regional Office will ask the La Union Regional Trial Court (RTC) in San Fernando City to reconsider its decision clearing the son of Marcos-era trade minister Roberto Ongpin of drug charges.
In a 12-page order on Monday, Judge Romeo Agacita Jr. of RTC Branch 27 dismissed the drug charges against art patron Julian Ongpin on Nov. 15, citing lack of probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest.
The judge said the police did not comply with the requirements of Section 21, Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), particularly the handling of the evidence found in a hostel room in San Juan, La Union, where the younger Ongpin and his girlfriend, painter Breanna “Bree” Jonson, were staying on the day the latter died on Sept. 18.
Agacita also lifted and set aside the precautionary hold departure order issued against Ongpin.
Ongpin was arrested at Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel on Sept. 18 and was first taken by policemen to a hospital for medical examination. He was detained at the local police station but was released two days later upon the order of the inquest prosecutor despite testing positive for drug use.
Jonson, according to initial police reports, was found “unconscious” in the room and was later declared dead at Ilocos Training and Medical Center in San Fernando City, also in La Union.
In a statement on Tuesday, the regional police assured the family of Jonson that they “investigated the case professionally and impartially with no attempt to cover or favor anybody.”
The regional police said it would “exhaust all possible legal remedies to attain true justice.”
But Jonson’s mother, Salome, was furious after learning of the court decision. She asked: ‘Who can we trust now?’
“Totally unacceptable,” she said in a social media post. “Selective justice. What happened to the war on drugs?”
“Nakakapangamba, nakakagalit (We are fearful, this is infuriating),” Salome said.
The Ilocos police said the operation was based on a telephone call the local police received from the resort after Jonson was found unconscious in one of the hostel rooms, adding that the recovery of 12.6 grams of cocaine was just “incidental” since it was not a drug operation.
“Unfortunately, the RTC did not consider these circumstances that led to the dismissal of the drug case. This is a very uncommon or peculiar case,” it added.
The judge said policemen who responded to the scene failed to strictly follow the procedures in the chain of custody in handling confiscated drugs, which rendered the evidence inadmissible in court.
Agacita said the cocaine was not immediately marked during the seizure.
The regional police, through its regional legal service, said it was closely coordinating with the Department of Justice for the filing of a motion for reconsideration as it “commits full support [for] this legal remedy.”
A case review to determine the lapses committed during the investigation of the incident would be done by the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division, it said.
“We take the decision of the RTC as a learning lesson to the whole PNP (Philippine National Police) organization,” it added.
Selective justice. What happened to the war on drugs?
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