SC upholds life term for drug trafficker despite violation of his rights
The Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence meted out by a Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against a Chinese drug trafficker who tried to sneak in more than 31 kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 1991.
In a decision dated October 19, the high tribunal’s First Division threw out the petition for review filed by Ho Wai Pang questioning the decision of the Pasay RTC Branch 118 in April 1995, which found him guilty of violating Section 15, Article III, of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Although the justices agreed that the police had violated Ho’s rights, they said the prosecution still managed to prove the drug trafficker’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“Nothing else can speak so eloquently of his culpability than the unassailable fact that he was caught red-handed in the very act of transporting, along with his co-accused, shabu into the country,” said the ruling penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
It added that the lower court did not err when it accepted the testimony of customs examiner Gilda Cinco against Ho and five of his co-accused who were caught transporting 31.1126 kilos of shabu into the country.
It also affirmed the lower court’s order for Ho to pay the government a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.
The tribunal added: “We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that… constitutional provision prohibits as evidence… confessions and admissions of the accused against himself.”
In seeking a reversal of the guilty verdict, which the Court of Appeals also upheld in June 2006, Ho had argued that he should be absolved because the policemen who arrested him violated his constitutional rights during the custodial investigation.
According to him, the arresting officers did not inform him of his right to remain silent and did not allow him to choose his own lawyer.
Because of these circumstances, the lower court should not have admitted the evidence against him, he added.
Court records showed that Ho and his five companions were accosted by airport authorities for carrying illegal drugs placed inside several chocolate boxes shortly after they disembarked from their flight from Hong Kong.
The six were convicted for drug trafficking but only Ho appealed his case before the high court.
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