Tricycle driver in 2019 buy-bust sentenced to life imprisonment

A tricycle driver who was caught in a buy-bust operation in Virac in September 2019 has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Regional Trial Court.

RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras also ordered Lucilo “Klit” Yuga Rojas III, a resident of Tagkalo St., Bigaa, to pay a fine of P500,000.

Records showed that in the afternoon of Sept. 9, 2019, a confidential informant of the Catanduanes police arranged the transaction with Rojas, with the deal to go down at about 6:30 P.M. that evening in barangay Capilihan near the RSL bus parking lot.

With a team of law enforcers already positioned around the area, the poseur-buyer waited in front of the parking lot and soon saw a yellow-colored tricycle coming from Virac proper.

The tricycle stopped at the side of the road about five meters away, with the driver alighting and nodding at the undercover cop.

Rojas walked towards him and handed to the lawmen a medium-sized sachet containing white crystalline substance. In turn, the police officer gave Rojas a genuine P500 bill and two fake ones, which the latter placed inside the right back pocket of his pants.

As soon as this happened, the law enforcer gave the signal to his companions in hiding and identified himself to the surprised tricycle driver.

Rojas tried to run away but the policeman chased him and grabbed at his shirt’s collar as his colleagues helped him subdue the suspect.

A laboratory examination of the contents of the sachet showed it was positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride with a weight of 0.052 gram.

In his defense, Rojas claimed that he was watching TV as his house in Cavinitan at 5 P.M. when a friend he identified as Reydante “Burukok” Abundo requested him through text message to accompany him to buy drugs, promising to give him money.

He acceded and went to Ibong Sapa where Burukok was working and shortly upon arrival, five persons alighted from a tricycle parked behind Rojas’ vehicle.

They told him, “Dakul ka ng naperwisyong tao,” grabbed him out of the tricycle, laid him on the ground and handcuffed him.

The men, he claimed, presented to barangay officials a board with plastic sachets.

Rojas told the Court that he became hysterical and angry since those sachets were not his.

The Court, however, pointed out that the statement that the five men allegedly said to him was not in his counter-affidavit, which did not also indicate his claim that he first saw the sachet when it was presented t to the witnesses.

As the prosecution’s rebuttal witness, Abundo denied having texted the accused and asking him to accompany him in buying shabu. At the time, he said, he could not leave his work as a private guard at the house of the governor, about four meters away from where the buy-bust operation happened.

In setting aside Rojas’ allegation that the entire incident was a frame-up, Judge Contreras pointed out that the accused never presented evidence of SMS messages he received from Abundo.

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