Discrepancy in weight of shabu earns man release from prison
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has ordered a convicted drug pusher imprisoned since 2004 freed after the supposed shabu (metamphetamine hydrochloric acid) seized from him by the police and presented to the trial court as evidence turned out to be short of 0.1796 grams.
The high court’s Third Division, in a five-page ruling dated Oct. 2, refused to accept the “theories” offered by the prosecution as to how the 0.4 grams of shabu seized from Jovi Pornillos turned into only 0.2204 grams when presented to the Iriga City Regional Trial Court.
“Speculations cannot overcome the concrete evidence that what was seized was not what was forensically tested. This implies tampering with the prosecution evidence. The court cannot affirm the conviction of Pornillos on compromised evidence,” read the decision written by Justice Roberto Abad.
Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., division chair, and members Justices Diosdado Peralta, Bienvenido Reyes and Marvic Leonen concurred in acquitting Pornillos on the ground of reasonable doubt.
The suspect had long claimed that he had been set up by police. He was arrested in May 2004 at his house in Nabua, Camarines Sur. The police claimed Pornillos had sold a sachet of shabu worth P1,000 to an undercover policeman. He was brought to the local Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency office, whose laboratory confirmed that the substance seized from him was shabu.
Pornillos, however, insisted that he was asleep when he was awakened by his wife, who told him there were policemen inside his house. He said the policemen accused him of being a drug pusher and asked him his source of shabu.
When he could not give them a name, Pornillos recounted, he was handcuffed and one policeman took P1,000 from his wallet.
Pornillos said that he, his wife and child were brought to Camp Simeon Ola, where he was again asked by a policeman to name his shabu dealer. He denied owning the sachet of shabu and said one police officer demanded P80,000 for his release.
The Iriga court, however, dismissed Pornillos’ denial and claim of a frame-up, proclaiming him guilty of drug pushing in September 2007 and sentencing him to life imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a P500,000 fine.
The Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence, saying that the testimony of the police was worthy of belief and that the prosecution established all the elements of the offense.
The Supreme Court, however, said the appellate court erred in ruling that the chain of custody of the seized drugs was unbroken, noting that while the booking sheet, arrest report, certificate of inventory and laboratory examination request all listed the seized shabu as weighing 0.4 grams, the forensic chemist testified that the police actually submitted only 0.2204 grams for laboratory testing.
“[T]he percentage of loss was not that small. The content of the sachet suffered a loss of 45 percent or nearly half of the original weight,” the high court said.
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