Judge asked to void ruling dismissing case vs Taguba
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked a Valenzuela City judge to annul his decision dismissing the charges against customs fixer Mark Taguba and several others in connection with the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth).
In a 19-page motion for reconsideration, DOJ prosecutors accused Judge Arthur Melicor of the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 284 of basing his April 23 resolution on a “mistaken reliance” on Taguba’s arguments and a “misapprehension of facts.”
“Needless to mention, the subject order harmfully affects the antidrug campaign of the present administration which is a matter of national interest,” the state prosecutors said in their May 8 appeal.
The DOJ prosecutors, led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rassendel Rex Gingoyon, argued that Melicor erred in ruling that the filing of two separate cases against Taguba, et al. in courts in Manila and Valenzuela regarding the same act of importing illegal drugs was tantamount to forum-shopping.
Distinct, separate offenses
They stressed that the case pending in the Manila RTC Branch 46 was in relation to the importation of 603 kilograms of shabu which slipped past the Bureau of Customs. On the other hand, the case filed before Melicor was in connection with the actual transportation of the contraband from the Manila port to a warehouse in Valenzuela City.
In fact, the unlawful acts of importing narcotics and transporting these were separately defined under Sections 4 and 5, respectively, of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, they explained.
“The mere filing of two or more cases based on the same incident does not necessarily constitute forum-shopping,” the DOJ prosecutors stressed.
“Moreover, the crimes of importation of dangerous drugs and transportation of dangerous drugs [have] distinct and separate elements,” they said.
In granting the motions of Taguba, Chinese businessman Richard Chen and Teejay Marcellanas to dismiss the charges of drug transportation and delivery against them, Melicor said the DOJ’s decision to lodge separate cases “clearly [bore] the hallmarks of forum-shopping, betraying the prosecutors’ intent to secure favorable judgment from different courts.”
“[Splitting] the act of importation in this case into two
offenses—importation and delivery/transportation—violates the well-honored policy against multiplicity of suits,” the judge said.
Original case dismissed
In November, Valenzuela RTC Branch 180 Judge Nena Santos dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the drug importation case originally filed by the DOJ against Taguba and his eight coaccused.
Santos had pointed out that the importation was consummated in the port of Manila and not in Valenzuela, leading the DOJ to refile the case in the Manila RTC.
Later on, the DOJ filed another case against the accused, this time for drug transportation and delivery, in the Valenzuela RTC.
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