Issue of December 2, 2012
     
NEWS
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Benguet
Mt. Province
 
OPINION
 

65th Courier Anniversary Issue
 
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PDEA’s non–compliance of rules absolves ‘shabu queen’
by Liza Agoot

The woman who was tagged as Baguio’s “shabu queen” by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been cleared of illegal drug charges.

Regional Trial Court Branch 3 Acting Presiding Judge Rose Mary Molina-Alim acquitted Brenda Alidem aka Brenda Singson citing the anti-drug agents who accosted her in a buy bust operation in 2009 failed to follow the chain of custody. 

The chain of custody is the procedural turn-over and documentation of evidences. “Considering the uniqueness in character of narcotic substances, which are not readily identifiable, the court cannot simply close its eyes to the possibility that the substance confiscated could have been subject to tampering, alteration or substitution.”

The court said failure to observe proper procedure negated the operation of presumption of regularity accorded to the apprehending officers. “This does not mean that Brenda Alidem did not do the act imputed upon her, but the invocation of presumption of regularity in the performance of duty by the apprehending officers cannot by itself overcome the presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

The court cited several Supreme Court decisions that emphasized compliance with the prescribed procedures. “From the exchanges during trial, there exists a missing procedure and the gaping hole in the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs. The missing link in the chain of custody of seized items cannot simply be brushed aside since the circumstances cast a doubt on the identity and integrity of the evidence before the court.”

The court said while the prosecution was able to establish the buy-bust operation, it noted that during cross examination, defense counsel Abelardo Estrada was able to show the absence of compliance to the procedure dictated under the Anti- Illegal Drugs law on the chain of custody requirement.

It said the testimony of the apprehending officers clearly showed procedures have not been complied with as there were no photographs taken during the inventory aside from the fact that the inventory was conducted more than seven hours after the arrest and confiscation. The court also mentioned the absence of documentation pertaining to the transfer of evidence from the evidence custodian to the crime laboratory.

The court said these requirements were put in place for the enforcers to comply with and iron out the integrity of the evidence that could pin down an accused.

“The testimonies of the apprehending officers are accorded full of faith and credence because of the presumption they have performed their duties regularly, but if such regularity is clouded with doubt for failure to comply with the procedure or guidelines specified, the same is effectively negated.”

The court added the defense’ evidence was weak but such weakness cannot be used to disregard the constitutional protection of innocence as against proof beyond reasonable doubt. “The failure of the prosecution to prove that the specimen submitted for laboratory examination was the same one allegedly seized from the accused caused a fatal blow in the prosecution’s case.”

Police Cordillera Director Benjamin Magalong said it is surprising that drug cases are dismissed because of technicalities and non-compliance to procedures. “Dapat magaling na ang mga drug enforcers natin dahil matatagal na sila diyan, dapat expert na sila.”

He said something is amiss in reaction to the dismissal of many cases attributable to the fault of the drug enforcers.


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