Apr 15, 2021 @ 8:21

SC acquits ‘Al Pacino’ of drug charges over PDEA agents’ inability to follow rules

The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted an accused drug pusher named Al Pacino Pantin, citing the usual failure of authorities to follow the chain of custody procedure outlined in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

In a 16-page minute resolution on G.R. No. 231990, the SC 1st Division reversed the March 20, 2017 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA), which upheld Pantin’s April 23, 2013 conviction by the Cagayan de Oro City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 25.

Overturning Pantin’s life sentence for violation of Section 5 of the anti-drug law, the SC ordered his immediate release from detention.

The prosecution claimed Pantin sold a 0.11-gram sachet of shabu to a poseur-buyer at Front Street Grill before the sun rose on February 6, 2011.

Section 21 of the anti-drug law required the inventory of seized drugs to be witnessed by an elected public official, a Department of Justice (DOJ) representative, and a representative from the media.

However, the SC noted that the inventory form only provided two, not three, blanks for the signatures of witness. Only the media representative signed the form.

The SC also noted the admission of the arresting officers that they conducted the inventory at the local office of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), instead of doing it at the site of the buybust.

Worse, the policemen stopped by the Divisoria Police Station to record the incident in the blotter, before going to the PDEA office for the inventory.

“Clearly, the arresting team committed two major lapses which they must properly and satisfactorily justify, as these affect the integrity of the corpus delicti: 1) the inventory was not conducted immediately after the arrest; and 2) the inventory was witnessed and signed only by a media representative,” read the minute resolution signed by Division Clerk of Court Librada Buena.

Prosecution witnesses Intelligence Officers 2 (IO2) Remedios Patino and Vincent Cecil Orcales tried to excuse the lapses by claiming that Pantin was resisting arrest and they wanted to keep the operation discreet.

But, the SC stressed that “the possible existence of a commotion is insufficient justification for the failure to conduct the inventory at the place of seizure.”

It held that the prosecution failed to sufficiently show that these issues would be prejudicial to the case or the safety of the apprehending team. Pantin testified that all he did was shout to catch the attention of people out of fear that the arresting team would plant something on him.

“In view of the apprehending officers’ unjustified noncompliance with the requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, the prosecution’s case crumbles. Absent proof beyond reasonable doubt of the existence and identity of the narcotic substance allegedly confiscated from Pantin, his conviction cannot be sustained,” the SC concluded.

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