Accused Julian Ongpin has assailed the ruling of the Department of Justice on illegal drugs charges as he asked the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando City, La Union to defer the issuance of a warrant of arrest and suspend the proceedings on the illegal drugs case against him.
In a motion, Ongpin, through lawyer Dennis Manalo, pleaded with Judge Romeo Agacita Jr. of RTC Branch 27 to defer the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him.
He also asked to suspend the proceedings “during the period within which the accused may still file a motion for reconsideration or petition for review from his receipt” of the Department of Justice resolution recommending his indictment for alleged illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
Ongpin, son of billionaire businessman Roberto Ongpin, has been charged with violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Section 11, Article II of RA 9165 imposes a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million for possession of 10 grams or more of dangerous drugs such as cocaine.
Illegal possession of dangerous drugs of 10 grams or more is a non-bailable offense.
Ongpin also asked the lower court to refuse “to issue a commitment order (or warrant of arrest) and dismiss the case outright for lack of probable cause in accordance with Section 6, Rule 112, Rules of Court.”
“In the alternative and in view of the doubt on the existence of probable cause, the Honorable Court orders the DOJ to present additional evidence within five days from notice to establish probable cause against the accused."
Besides being an accused in an illegal drugs case for possession of cocaine, Ongpin was a person of interest in the death of his companion, artist Breana “Bree” Jonson, who was found dead in a La Union hostel on September 18. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
He was initially arrested by the La Union police for alleged possession of more than 12 grams of suspected illegal drugs, which was later confirmed as cocaine following a laboratory examination.
However, in his motion, Ongpin stressed that he only learned through online news portals that the DOJ issued a resolution recommending the filing of the information against him for violation of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
"While the DOJ has been quick to inform the media about this case, it has yet to furnish accused his copy of the said resolution," Ongpin's motion stated.
"Consequently, the accused is still unable to avail himself of his remedies therefrom one of which is to file a motion for reconsideration within the period of fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof under the DOJ rules for preliminary investigation, or to file a petition for review with the office of the Secretary of Justice," it said.
"The DOJ's resolution and its supporting evidence, as filed before the Honorable Court, clearly failed to establish probable cause to arrest the accused since they were anchored on mere speculations and erroneous inferences that accused violated [the law]," it added.
According to Ongpin, the drugs mentioned in the case were not found in his possession, but in the bag of Jonson.
"The DOJ resolution and the evidence relied upon only proves that the pouch where the [alleged] cocaine was recovered was placed on the second bed," Ongpin claimed.
The young Ongpin asserted that "the DOJ should not have easily been swayed to accept the justification given the high possibility of planting, tampering or alteration of the evidence on account of the absence of the accused in the crime scene during the conduct of the physical inventory and photographing of the subject drugs."
He also alleged that the authorities broke the “chain of custody” rule under RA 9165 as there was even no attempt at all "to summon the accused or any of the other possible mandatory witnesses such as an elected public official, a representative of the National Prosecution Service or representative from the media."
"In fact, their signatures do not appear in the memorandum dated 18 September 2021 containing the list of the recovered pieces of evidence," Ongpin's motion pointed out.
Ongpin's case has been raffled off to Judge Romeo Agacita Jr. of RTC Branch 27, who was the same magistrate who issued a precautionary hold departure order against Ongpin when the charge for illegal possession of dangerous drugs was under preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice.
Under the rules, Judge Agacita must determine if there is probable cause for the issuance of an arrest order.
The police recovered 12.6 grams of cocaine inside the room the couple occupied. Ongpin was arrested. The police report stated that both Ongpin and Jonson tested positive for cocaine use.
The Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of La Union started the investigation of Julian on police’s charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
Later, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the transfer of the preliminary investigation to the DOJ in Manila. A panel of prosecutors conducted the probe and issued a resolution finding probable cause to indict Ongpin with illegal possession of dangerous drugs.