MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – A Muntinlupa Trial Court judge on Friday acquitted Richard Brodett and Jorge Joseph, two of the controversial “Alabang Boys”, of violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Judge Juanita T. Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 issued the verdict Friday morning.
In her decision, the judge said the prosecution failed to establish the links in the chain of custody of drugs taken from Brodett and Joseph during their arrest nearly 3 years ago. The judge also pointed out inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution witness.
Brodett and Joseph, both members of prominent families, were arrested by elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Special Enforcement Service in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa on September 20, 2008. Joseph Tecson was also arrested in a follow-up operation conducted in Quezon City.
Some 60 tablets of ecstasy, packets of marijuana and sachets were seized from the 3 during the operations.
The Alabang Boys case earlier grabbed headlines after Department of Justice prosecutors recommended the dismissal of the charges due to lack of probable cause. PDEA officials, however, revealed that a prosecutor was offered P50 million to dismiss the case, a charge that was denied by the DOJ.
Chief Inspector Ferdinand Marcelino, head of the PDEA special enforcement service, said he and his men were offered bribes of up to P20 million to drop the case. The bribe offers allegedly came from Joe Tecson, relative of Joseph Tecson.
'At least they were jailed'
For his part, former PDEA chief Dionisio Santiago defended the work of the agency despite the acquittal of the 2 drug suspects.
"Insofar as the agency is concerned, we feel we have done our best and even our prosecutor assured us we have a strong case," he said in an ABS-CBN News Channel interview.
"We are not saddened by [the verdict]. Hindi kami nalulungkot. At least nakulong. The family and the people know what they did. If they go out again and if they continue to do what they did before, it's their problem. The law enforcement people will be there to pounce on them even if I am no longer director of the agency."
Santiago denied that PDEA conducted improper of gathering of evidence especially since the 3 were arrested after an initial buy-bust operation in Ayala Alabang.
He also lamented difficulties in building up drug cases due to lack of government support. "Walang budget na binibigay ang gobyerno. Even our efforts are thwarted by human rights (groups). X-rays are the most effective tool against drug lords but we don't have the budget. We know the technology but we don't have the budget," he said.