A Viga resident and his live-in partner were cleared of separate charges that they maintained a drug den in their house in 2013 after the Regional Trial Court ruled there was no evidence of their involvement.
RTC Branch 42 Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada acquitted both Santiago “Agoy” Valderrama III and Maria Amy Alcomendas of the crime of maintaining a drug den for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
It may be recalled that on Aug. 17, 2013, the police raided the suspects’ house at sitio Macium, barangay Del Pilar and recovered from the premises a big sachet of shabu weighing 4.112 grams and two small sachets of the same illegal drug weighting 0.029 gram and 0.018 gram, respectively.
Also seized as evidence were a piece of used rolled aluminum foil, 48 pieces of small rolled aluminum foil, a bulb, nine used glass pipes, three lighter, six pieces of used aluminum foil, and four other rolled foils in a matchbox.
Aside from the drug den raps, Valderrama was also charged with illegal possession of dangerous drugs, illegal possession of drug paraphernalia, illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, while Alcomendas was charged with illegal possession of dangerous drugs and illegal possession of drug paraphernalia.
They pleaded not guilty to all charges but later agreed to a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution by pleading guilty to lesser offenses in five of the cases.
This left the case for maintenance of a drug den, which the Court defined as a lair or hideaway where prohibited or regulated drugs are used in any form or are found.
“Its existence may be proved not only by direct evidence but may also be established by proof of facts and circumstances, including evidence of the general reputation of the house, or its general reputation among police officers,” Judge Gapas-Agbada stated, citing a Supreme Court ruling.
It stressed that to convict an accused under Sec. 6 of RA 9165, the prosecution must show that the place he is maintaining is a den, dive, or resort where dangerous drug is used or sold in any form.
“It is not enough that the dangerous drug or drug paraphernalia were found in the place,” the Court noted. “More than a finding that dangerous drug is being used thereat, there must also be a clear showing thata the accused is the maintainer or operator or the owner of the place where the dangerous drug is used or sold.”
The Court pointed out that the prosecution relied merely on the evidence consisting of the seized shabu sachets and drug paraphernalia while its witnesses merely testified that they entered the accused’s house and after a search, found the drug and drug paraphernalia inside the house.
“Not one police officer of the MPS Viga, Catanduanes, especially an intelligence operative or the applicant of the search warrant, testified that they have concrete proof that the house that was searched was used as a drug den…,” the ruling stated.
There was nothing in evidence that the searchers and arresting police officers had seen that dangerous drugs were being sold and/or used at the house during the search, especially since only the accused and their two minor children were present at the house at the time the search warrant was implemented and none other, it added.