Turon vendor meted 2 life terms P1-M for shabu sale, possession

TURON VENDOR Coleen Mae Sarmiento, with live-in partner Ardee Arcilla, during their arrest on Nov. 22, 2021 in a buy-bust operation that yielded not only the sachet of shabu sold to an undercover PDEA agent but also a package of about 50 grams of shabu sent as cargo through an RSL cargo bus.

A turon vendor caught with P408,000 worth of shabu in a buy-bust operation in November last year has been found guilty of the illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs.

The Regional Trial Court sentenced Coleen Mae “Korenai” dela Cruz Sarmiento, 32, to life imprisonment for each of the two cases filed against her and to pay a total of P1 million in fines.

Her co-accused, live-in partner Ardee Sarmiento Arcilla, 35, was freed last Aug. 15, 2022 after the Court granted his demurrer to evidence and dismissed the cases against him as the prosecution was not able to prove that there was conspiracy between the couple despite his presence at the scene and his relationship with Colleen.

It may be recalled that on Nov. 22, 2021, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Catanduanes, together with the Virac police station, the Catanduanes Police Intelligence Unit (PIU) and the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit (RPDEU), used a female police officer to set up a transaction with the couple.

The sale was to go down at the vicinity of the RSL bus terminal in front of the DOLE provincial office.

At 12:50 PM, Sarmiento and Arcilla arrived on board a motorcycle, with Colleen signaling the poseur buyer and the confidential informant to wait as she entered the RSL compound.

She came out five minutes later with a parcel wrapped with brown tape and then called the agent and informant. With Sarmiento at her side, she handed to the agent a plastic sachet containing white crystalline granules and was given the buy-bust money in return.

As soon as the transaction was consummated, the agent announced herself and signaled the rest of the team, with Coleen tossing to the ground the buy-bust money and the parcel.

Aside from the small sachet, the police found a large sachet containing suspected shabu inside the bottom pocket of a jacket that was the content of the parcel.

Laboratory examination later confirmed the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total weight of 51.3469 grams.

The package’s waybill stated that it originated from the cargo bus company’s terminal at EDSA Cubao last Nov. 20. 2021, with Sarmiento was the sender and a certain Mike Dimabayao as the receiver.

In her defense, Coleen Mae alleged that she was at the terminal to claim the package she ordered online and, on her way out, she was followed by a man in white shirt.

As she was near the gate, a woman in black shirt asked her if she had change for a P500 bill. When she answered she had none, the man following her suddenly held her nape and told her to drop on the grouns, with the woman placing a P500 bill beside her.

In her Oct. 10, 2022 decision, RTC Branch 42 Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada said the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the drug transaction actually took place.

She likewise ruled that the 50 grams of shabu in the parcel is admissible in evidence as the seizure was based on a search incidental to the lawful arrest of the accused.

The Court described Sarmiento’s plain denial of the crime charges as unsubstantiated by any credible and convincing evidence, with her court testimony regarding the man in white T-shirt and women in black shirt as a mere afterthought, as it was not even mentioned in her counter-affidavit.

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