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Drug suspect detained for five years without case

/ 05:16 PM May 10, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Lawyers of a drug suspect urged the Court of Appeals to nullify the case filed against their client more than five years after she was arrested.

During a hearing Friday, the Office of the Solicitor General said a complaint for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 has been filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against Joanne Urbina on Thursday, May 9, 2013.

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Urbina’s lawyer, Siddharta Penaredondo III, told the appeals court that the information is null and void on its face.

“Look at the date when it was filed. The information should have been filed on Jan. 25, 2008 pursuant to Section 90 of RA 9165…Filing of the information is a violation of the Constitution. It should be stricken down. It is not valid,” Penaredondo said.

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Section 90 of RA 9165 provides that “when a preliminary investigation is conducted by a public prosecutor and a probable cause is established, the corresponding information shall be filed in court within 24 hours from the termination of the investigation…”

Urbina, together with a certain Ben Ryan Chua, were arrested by the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force on Dec. 14, 2007. Urbina was then 25. On Jan. 25, 2008, the case against Chua was dismissed. Urbina was left detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame for five years, four months and 15 days.

Urbina was brought to court by her PNP custodian. Associate Justice Noel Tijam asked Urbina if she’s enjoying her stay in detention to which she said “No.”

During last Wednesday’s hearing, Tijam said a delay of five years “by any stretch of imagination is not reasonable, not even lawful.”

The government lawyer, again failed to explain why the Department of Justice was not able to file a case against Urbina.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano who appeared before the appellate court explained that the case was elevated to the DoJ on automatic review.

“But the Department Order [of the DoJ] did not allow or authorize them [prosecutors] to stay the filing of the information. Filing of an appeal will not stay the filing of the information [in court],” Penaredondo said.

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Urbina filed with the appeals court a petition for certiorari and a petition for habeas corpus asking them to declare that the DoJ gravely abused their discretion which led to the violation of her constitutional rights and to order her immediate release.

The appeals court gave both parties—Urbina and the DoJ– up to May 17 to submit a memoranda and a formal offer of evidence.

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TAGS: Court of Appeals, drugs case, illegal detention, News
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