by Jimmy K. Laking
The Regional Trial Court in Baguio City has sentenced to life imprisonment a massage clinic and videoke bar manager for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 arising from a buy-bust operation in February 2012.
In an eight-page decision, RTC Branch 60 Presiding Judge Edilberto Claravall also ordered the accused, Gary Chua, to pay P500,000.
Chua, then listed No. 5 in a regional target list, was arrested in Feb. 17, 2012 after he handed over a plastic sachet containing 0.03 grams to SPO3 Raymundo Tacio who posed as a buyer.
Chua was identified as manager of the Baguio Massage Clinic and Videoke Bar located along Magsaysay Avenue. Tacio is a member of the Special Operating Unit-Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Group.
In court, Tacio, PO3 Christian Boado, and SPO3 Robert Sagmayao who were members of the buy-bust team testified against Chua and detailed the process that led to his arrest.
Chua denied the charges against him and told the court he did not know initially the reason behind his arrest. He denied selling shabu to Tacio.
City Prosecutor Ruth Bernabe testified she was present during the inventory of items seized from Chua and that she advised him to avail himself of a lawyer.
In arriving at his decision, Claravall assailed Chua’s testimony he was unlawfully accosted while on his way to the grocery as unbelievable at the very least and improbable at best.
The court was also convinced the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses dovetailed on material points even as they pointed to the fact that indeed the accused was arrested during a valid buy-bust operation.