SC bars Northern Samar mayor from office, says condonation doctrine applies only when invoked

SC blames gov’t refusal to go after ‘big fish’ for acquittal of small-time pushers

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The Supreme Court (SC) has again called on the government to focus more on going after the “big fish” in the illegal drug trade, finding that law enforcers have become incompetent and unable to successfully prosecute even small-time pushers because they have been spread themselves so thin.

This came as the SC 3rd Division reversed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) 2015 decision to uphold the conviction of alleged pusher Lahmodin Ameril, alias Amor/Mhong—yet another case of law enforcers’ incompetence and unprofessionalism bungling the case.

In acquitting Ameril, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen reiterated his August 2014 ponencia in the case of People v. Holgado, which appealed for the government to step up its game.

“Both law enforcers and prosecutors should realize that the more effective and efficient strategy is to focus resources more on the source and true leadership of these nefarious organizations,” read the decision.

“Otherwise, all these executive and judicial resources expended to attempt to convict an accused for 0.05 gram of shabu under doubtful custodial arrangements will hardly make a dent in the overall picture,” it added. “It might in fact be distracting our law enforcers from their more challenging task: to uproot the causes of this drug menace.”

In Ameril’s case, the SC acquitted him because authorities failed to comply with the chain of custody mandated by the law to preserve the integrity of evidence—a constant issue that has yet to be firmly addressed.

The information alleged that Ameril was caught selling three transparent plastic sachets of shabu marked “LAA,” “LAA-2” and “LAA.”

But, the sachets presented in the court were actually marked “LLA-1,” “LLA-2” and “LLA,” casting doubt on whether these were indeed the drugs supposedly seized from the suspect.

There were also procedural lapses, as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent who seized the shabu sachets merely submitted the contraband to the Forensic Chemistry Division without identifying the person who received the item.

“The totality of the evidence presented shows that the arresting officers who conducted the buy-bust operation were remiss in the performance of their official functions,” the decision said.

“Again, it must be emphasized that the seized illegal drugs constitute the corpus delicti of the illegal sale of dangerous drugs. Its identity must be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the SC noted. “When there is doubt on its identity, conviction cannot be sustained.”

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