Trio acquitted of drug raps due to defective case, incoherent witness

The Regional Trial Court has dismissed separate criminal cases filed against a female drug personality and two male companions arrested during a buy-bust in July 2021 after it found fatal defects in the case aside from an incoherent police witness.

Last week, RTC Branch 42 Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada threw out twin raps against Norlina Aiza Chio, 35, for the sale and possession of dangerous drugs, and separate possession raps against her boyfriend, Mark Anthony “Men-Men” Yacat, 29, and companion tricycle driver Bernard ”Kalag” ldea Zafe, 46.

“At bottom, the prosecution in these cases failed to ensure the effectiveness of its charges against the accused so as not to cast doubt,” the Court said, adding that every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt.

It may be recalled that on July 21, 2021, the Virac police station’s Drug Enforcement Unit, the Provincial Intelligence Unit and the Regional Police DEU, confiscated 22 sachets of shabu weighing an estimated 70 grams with a street value of P476,000.00 from the trio in a buy-bust operation in the house occupied by Zafe in Palnab del Norte.

According to the Virac police, the arrest of the trio came after more than two months of surveillance on the suspects who were said to be selling shabu as per reports from citizens and a complaint filed through the “Isumbong Mo Kay Tsip ng Virac MPS” hotline.

With the sale arranged through a confidential informant, the policeman posing as the buyer went to the house together with the CI and knocked on the gate five times as arranged.

Chio opened the door but asked them to get inside the house due to the dogs’ barking.

The police claimed that when the undercover lawman handed over the P4,000 buy-bust money to Chio, she handed him two sachets of shabu from her purse and asked Yacat and Zafe to give her two more, to which the two men complied.

At once, the policeman removed his hat to signal that the transaction had been consummated but, unsure that he was seen from outside the house, shouted, “Pulis ini! Dakop kamo!”

The poseur-buyer collared Chio while two lawmen who saw the signal rushed in and arrested her companions upon the former’s information that the duo conspired with Chio.

Scrutinizing the information, the Court, however, found that the information in the case against Chio for the sale of dangerous drugs suffered from fatal defects.

It noted that while the information alleged that the buyer bought P1,000 worth of shabu from Chio, the prosecution’s evidence as well as the policeman’s testimony showed that P4,000 worth was bought from the accused, while the information was unclear as to the weight of the shabu in the four sachets sold to the poseur-buyer.

Judge Gapas-Agbada stressed that the prosecution clearly failed to establish with moral certainty all the elements of the illegal sale of the shabu, as there is doubt as to identity of the material elements in the transaction of illegal drugs.

“To be sure, the prosecution was unable to properly inform the accused of the nature of the accusation against them in Criminal Case No. 8148,” the Court said.

On the alleged conspiracy of Yacat and Zafe with Chio, it pointed out that the premise was based merely on the patrolman’s account of his transaction with Chio.

The Court found the police witness’ testimony “incoherent, detract from the essential, and intrinsically unbelievable.”

It cited as dubious his claim that Chio did not know how much shabu he would buy, when the drug deal was already arranged beforehand in the amount of P4,000.00.

With the crime of sale of dangerous drugs not proven beyond reasonable doubt, the drug items seized during the buy-bust operation and subsequent search of the three accused are inadmissible evidence as “fruits of the poisonous tree,” Judge Gapas-Agbada stressed.

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