MANILA — A Makati court has dismissed the drug case against a rapper, his sister and a staff filed by the Makati police in 2019 because of the police’s failure to secure the presence of the required witnesses during the arrest.
Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 64 granted the demurrer to evidence, essentially a motion to dismiss due to insufficiency of evidence, filed by Marlon Peroramas, more popularly known as rapper Loonie.
Makati police caught Loonie in a buy-bust operation in the parking lot of a hotel in Makati City on September 18, 2019, supposedly selling 15 sachets of marijuana to a police poseur-buyer.
Arrested with Loonie were his sister Idyll Liza Peroramas and one of his staff, David Rizon.
They were charged with selling illegal drugs under Section 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165).
The Makati RTC, however, found that the police failed to strictly follow the chain of custody requirement under Section 21 of the law, which requires the presence of an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media, who will serve as witnesses.
“It is incumbent upon the prosecution to account for these witnesses’ absence by presenting a justifiable reason therefore or, at the very least, by showing that genuine and sufficient efforts were exerted by the apprehending officers to secure their presence,” Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos said in junking the case.
“In the case at bar, there was no evidence presented or there was even no attempt to justify the absence of an elected public official and a DOJ representative during the buy bust operation. In view of this unjustified deviation from the chain of custody rule, the court is therefore constrained to conclude that the integrity and evidentiary value of the item purportedly seized from the accused, which consequently warrants the dismissal of the case,” she said.
Chain of custody refers to the recorded movements of the seized drugs from the time of its seizure or confiscation until its receipt in the forensic laboratory either for safekeeping or destruction, which is important to ensure the identity of the drugs that later on will be presented in court.
RA 9165 requires that the chain of custody of the illegal drugs must remain unbroken, thus, the need for witnesses.
Police corporal Jan Kirby Vigilia, who allegedly transacted via text message with Loonie the sale of marijuana worth P100,000, admitted in court that the elected official and media representative were not present at the basement of a hotel in Makati during the buy-bust operation, the arrest of the accused and the confiscation of the dangerous drugs.
“There was sufficient time for the operatives to secure the presence of the required witnesses as the buy-bust operation is by its nature, a planned activity. Their presence only during the inventory several hours later serves absolutely no purpose, at all, as the evidence would have long been in the possession of the operatives at that time. In other words, the buy-bust team has enough time and opportunity to bring with them said witnesses,” the court said.
“Moreover, as correctly pointed out by the defense, none of the prosecution witnesses identified the drug evidence in open court as seized from the accused,” it added.
The court also noted inconsistencies in the testimony of Vigilia as to his claims that it was Loonie who gave him a SIM card and that he took a selfie with the rapper on August 31, 2019.
“The repeated attempts of the witness to tell the court that the picture was not on his smartphone because he ‘already passed it to someone else’ before finally giving in and admitting that he allegedly deleted the very important piece of evidence, clearly demonstrates the witnesses’ lack of respect to the court and the witnesses’ testimony under oath,” the court said.
Loonie, who had earlier been released on bail, is now studying the possibility of filing counter charges against the police involved in the drug operation, based on a post on his Facebook page.