Court frees Sons of slain suspected drug lord
ILOILO CITY—A petition for habeas corpus, which President Duterte wanted to suspend in connection with the war on drugs, led to the release of two of three sons of slain suspected drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr.
A court here granted the habeas petition of the lawyer of Odicta siblings Darryl, 32, and Michael Kevin, 27.
In her ruling, Judge Maria Theresa Enriquez-Gaspar, of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 33, said there was no legal ground to keep the siblings in jail.
Their elder brother, Melvin Jr., remains in jail, however.
Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) arrested the Odicta siblings at a raid on the family compound in the village of Malipayon on Dec. 8.
They were accused of conspiracy to maintaining a drug den after 19 packs of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (“shabu”) were allegedly found in their residence.
Four of their employees and house helpers were also detained.
Melvin Jr., 36, was charged with possession of illegal drugs.
In the habeas corpus petition, lawyer Isagani Pilaspilas said the arrest and detention of Darryl and Michael Kevin were illegal because the search warrant being enforced by the narcotics agents covered only Melvin Jr.
Pilaspilas, in the petition, also said while the warrant specified shabu, it did not declare the Odicta residence as a drug den.
A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that mandates authorities to present a detained person in court and justify the legality of the person’s detention.
The regional office of PDEA alleged that Melvin Jr. had taken over the operations of his father’s drug group after his father was killed with wife Meriam on Aug. 29 as they disembarked from a ship at the Caticlan port in Malay town, Aklan province.
The regional PDEA office and Philippine National Police have tagged Melvin Sr. as leader of one of two main drug groups operating in Western Visayas.
Investigators had said they believed the killing of the Odicta couple was drug-related, but no suspect had been arrested or identified three months after their deaths.
Darryl and Michael Kevin denied involvement in the drug trade, saying they had inherited the legitimate businesses of their father—a taxi fleet and a restaurant.
The Western Visayas office of PDEA also came under fire from lawyers’ groups for the arrest of a lawyer of the Odicta family, Marbehn Lumbo, during the enforcement of the search warrant that led to the arrest of the Odicta siblings.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Western Visayas and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Panay decried what they said was “high-handed” treatment of Lumbo.
They said Lumbo was just doing his job as a lawyer.
Pilaspilas said he would use the grant of the habeas writ to petition for the dismissal of the criminal complaint filed at the city prosecutor’s office against Darryl and Michael Kevin.
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