Wednesday 14 November, 2018
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SC acquits drug suspect over police lapses, chides lower courts for laxity

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The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted a Mandaluyong City drug suspect over the police’s lapses in handling the evidence—and rebuked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) for being lax regarding the issue.

In a recent 12-page decision, the SC 3rd Division set aside the CA’s March 2007 decision and acquitted Leonardo Casona of possession of illegal drugs.

It said the police failed to abide by the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act’s requirement to conduct a physical inventory of seized drugs in the presence of the suspect, or a representative of the media or the Department of Justice (DoJ).

It was also not established by the records that the police marked the seized shabu at the crime scene in Casona’s presence.

“Despite the blatant lapses in the compliance with the statutory safeguards, the records do not contain any explanation offered by the State for the lapses. The non-compliance with the affirmative safeguards thus rendered the evidence of the corpus delicti open to doubt,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.

The SC said the RTC and the CA should not have “assumed the responsibility of explaining the lapses, even by inference from the record, for their doing so would slacken the safeguards and tolerate the noncompliance by the arresting lawmen at the time of the seizure.”

“The Court cannot ignore the very palpable permissiveness on the part of the RTC as the trial court and of the CA as the intermediate appellate court in enforcing the statutory safeguards put in place by no less than Congress… Such permissiveness was contrary to the letter and spirit of the law, and should be rebuffed by not letting the unworthy conviction stand,” read the decision.

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