A man who reportedly worked as a pedicab driver was sentenced to life imprisonment plus another 12 to 14 years in jail and told to pay a combined P800,000 in fines last week after being found guilty of sale and possession of dangerous drugs.
The Regional Trial Court found Raul Icaro Pante, a resident of Napo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of selling a small sachet of shabu to a policeman who posed as a buyer during a drug sting on Aug. 29, 2019. For this he was meted life in jail plus a P300,000 fine.
For another small sachet of shabu found in a search of his body, Pante was given an additional stay in jail of 12 to 14 years and to pay another P300,000 fine.
The prosecution’s evidence showed that prior to the operation against the accused, he was already included in the list of Persons Who Used Drugs (PWUDs) and engaged in selling illegal drugs. When a validation turned out positive, Pandan PNP officer-in-charge Maj. Jim Jeremias coordinated with other police units for a possible entrapment operation.
The buy-bust mission unfolded sometime after 12 noon of Aug. 29, 2019 when Pante arrived on board a motorcycle at barangay Libod and then handed a small sachet of shabu to Pat. Rey Resare.
As soon as the undercover cop gave the P1,000 payment to Pante and then removed his ball cap as a covert signal, other law enforcers hidden around the area arrested the suspect. Another sachet was found in his back pocket.
The laboratory test on the contents of the two sachets proved positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total weight of 0.128 gram.
In his defense, Pante claimed he was a “padyak” driver who was hired to bring students to and from Pandan Central Elementary School.
On said day, he had just brought a child to the school when his way was blocked by policemen, who told him to drop to the ground and then handcuffed him.
He claimed civilian witnesses were not present during the body search and that the item that the police showed him was not his.
Pante also alleged that one of the lawmen, Donald Caballero, told him, “Pasensiya ka na dahil kailangan kasi naming ng accomplishment baka isipin niya patulog tulog lang kami ditto.”
On the other hand, the other defense witness asserted that she had known Ruel for 20 years as he was their neighbor and that she did not believe that he was involved in illegal drugs as he was well provided by his parents and siblings who built a house for him.
RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras, however, dismissed Pante’s claim that he was a victim of a staged drug operation and that he simply happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the contrary, the judge stated, it was a planned operation, citing the steps taken by the Pandan police.
In saying that Pante was wanting of credibility, the Court noted that although he claimed to be a “padyak” driver, he used a motorcycle in bringing a child to school before he was arrested.
His allegation that barangay officials were not present during the search was belied by three photographs clearly showing Libod barangay Concordio Icawat Jr. and other barangay officials appearing in four photos taken during the operation.
The Court also found it unthinkable for Pante to have simply forgotten to mention in his counter-affidavit if indeed police officer Caballero uttered the words to him regarding the police’s need to have an accomplishment in the anti-illegal drug campaign.