The appellate court has affirmed a lower court's decision imposing life sentences on a former Quezon town mayor and an ambulance driver for transporting more than 500 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) in 2001.
In a 23-page decision, the Court of Appeal's 14th Division denied ambulance driver Javier Morilla's petition seeking to reverse the Quezon City Regional Trial Court's ruling, which held that he conspired with former Panukulan Mayor Ronnie Mitra to transport some 503 kilograms of shabu from Quezon to Manila.
Mitra was driving a van with 6 sacks of shabu while Morilla was driving an ambulance with 10 sacks of shabu when intercepted by police anti-narcotics operatives in Barangay Kiloloran, Real town last Oct. 31, 2001.
Morilla, in his appeal, claimed that he thought he was just transporting wooden tiles and he only learned of the shabu shipment when they were intercepted by police.
The court held that Morilla's insistence that he had no knowledge of the true nature of the contents of the sacks is "incredulous" and "is not a valid defense."
"When accused-appellant drove the ambulance to carry the sacks containing the subject regulated rug, his act was part of the process of transporting said contraband. The mere commission of such act constitutes the offense and is sufficient to validly charge and convict a person committing the same, regardless of criminal intent," the appellate court said.
"Accused-appelant's intent, motive, or knowledge thereof need not to be shown. The lack of knowledge of the existence of the dangerous drug inside the vehicle is not a defense," the court added.
The appellate court added in the decision that the ambulance driver could not act as if he was ignorant of the contents of the sacks considering the noticeable differences in shape, size and volume of a wooden tile from a white crystalline substance.
It also said that Morilla also committed a violation when he used a government ambulance for a purpose other than to carry patients.