MANILA Three men who were arrested in a drug operation and subsequently convicted by a lower court in 2015 have been ordered released by the Supreme Court (SC) following findings that law enforcers made shortcuts in the disposition of evidence.
In a 13-page decision dated January 7, written by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the High Court acquitted Emmanuel Oliva, Bernardo Barangot, and Mark Angelo Manalastas, citing the failure of prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, three years after they were arrested in a buy-bust operation in 2015.
Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Andres Reyes, Ramon Paul Hernando, and Rosmari Carandang concurred in the decision that reversed the decision handed down by the Makati Regional Court Branch 65 against the three accused on Oct. 28, 2015.
"The rules require that the apprehending officers do not simply mention a justifiable ground, but also clearly state this ground in their sworn affidavit, coupled with a statement on the steps they took to preserve the integrity of the seized item," the SC said.
"A stricter adherence to Sec. 21 (of Republic Act No. 9165) is required where the quantity of illegal drugs seized is miniscule since it is highly susceptible to planting, tampering and alteration," the court noted.
The three men were arrested in an operation of the Makati Police Station Anti-Illegal Drugs - Special Operations Task Force (SAID-SOTF) on Jan. 23, 2015 against a certain "Manu" in Barangay Cembo. The buy-bust operation was led by PO3 Luisito Marcelo.
In their appeal, the suspects pointed out that the arresting officers failed to immediately conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph the same in the presence of the accused, their representative or counsel, mediamen or authorized representative of the Department of Justice.
The SC upheld their claim that the oversight proves the prosecution failed to establish every link in securing the chain of custody of the seized items as required by law. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency