The La Union regional trial court is set to hold hearing on Dec. 3 on the motion filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking a reversal of the court’s decision dismissing the illegal possession of drugs case filed against Julian Roberto Ongpin, son of billionaire businessman and former trade and industry minister Roberto V. Ongpin.
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said on Friday the hearing was sought by the DOJ prosecutors in the motion that was filed last Thursday, Nov. 25.
“If allowed by the court, the panel (of prosecutors) will present evidence in support of the motion,” Malcontento said. A copy of the motion was not immediately available.
Last November 15, Judge Romeo E. Agacita Jr. of RTC, Branch 27, in San Fernando City, La Union issued an order that dismissed the case against Julian for alleged possession of dangerous drugs in violation of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2012. Agacita also ordered the lifting of the precautionary hold departure order (PHDO) that prevented Julian from leaving the country.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra stressed that the immigration look-out bulletin order (ILBO) issued against Julian has not been lifted because of the motion for reconsideration. With the ILBO, immigration officers monitor Julian’s presence in the country ports and airports.
Ongpin’s case arose from the 12.6 grams of cocaine, a prohibit drug, found by the police inside a San Juan, La Union hotel room where he and the late artist Breanna “Bree” Jonson checked in last Sept. 17.
In the morning of Sept. 18, Breanna was found “unconscious” and died thereafter. Julian became a person of interest in Breanna’s death. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), on orders of Guevarra, started a probe.
In dismissing the case, Agacita ruled that the policemen who arrested Julian failed to comply with the provisions of Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Section 21 of RA 9165 imposes a strict compliance with the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs.
The law requires that the seized dangerous drugs must be inventoried and photographed immediately after seizure or confiscation; the physical inventory and photographing must be done in the presence of the accused or his/her representative or counsel, an elected public official, a representative from the media, and a representative from the Department of Justice (DOJ), all of whom shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy of the same; and the seized drugs must be turned over to a forensic laboratory within 24 hours from confiscation for examination.”
In its numerous decisions, the Supreme Court (SC) had ruled that “strict compliance with the requirements is necessary in protecting the integrity and identity of the corpus delicti, without which the crime of the illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.”
According to the lower court, the processing of the evidence was not in the presence of Ongpin since at that time, he was brought by police officers to the hospital for medical examination.
Besides, the court lamented, there was even no earnest efforts on their part – not even attempts to call through phone call – nearby barangay officials, considering that the Barangay Hall of Barangay Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union is just a few meters from the place of incident.