QC court junks Parojinog bid to dismiss drug case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2020 05:59 PM

MANILA - A Quezon City court has junked former Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog’s bid to dismiss the drug case against her.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 228 Judge Mitushealla Manzanero-Casiño denied Parojinog’s demurrer to evidence -- a motion to dismiss a criminal case due to insufficiency of evidence – citing lack of merit.

“Given the sufficiency of the testimonial and documentary evidence against petitioner, it would, therefore, be premature at this stage of the proceedings to conclude that the prosecution’s evidence failed to establish the commission of the crime charged and that the accused appears to be the perpetrator thereof,” the court said in its resolution dated Feb. 3, 2020.

Parojinog is facing charges of illegal possession of drugs after authorities recovered some 677 grams of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride from a cabinet in her house during a raid on July 30, 2017.

The controversial raid killed 16 people including her father, former Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who had been included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug matrix.

In seeking the dismissal of the drug case, Parojinog claimed the service of the search warrant against them was illegal, which meant that the evidence against her is inadmissible and should be excluded.

Parojinog also claimed there was a break in the chain of custody of the evidence against her. 

She alleged that the patrolwoman who testified to having retrieved the drugs was not the same person who marked the evidence.

Evidentiary rules require that the prosecution must prove that the evidence presented in court is the same evidence recovered during police operations. This is done by showing how the custody of the evidence was transferred from one police officer to another.

But the court rejected Parojinog’s arguments.

The court faulted her for not questioning the supposed invalidity of her arrest before her arraignment and sided with the police in saying there was “no basis to conclude that the search warrant was not properly implemented.”

It also cited previous Supreme Court decisions, which ruled that the integrity of the evidence was not affected even though another police officer marked the evidence and despite the marking being done outside the crime scene.

The court also brushed aside the absence of an elected official and Department of Justice representative during the marking and inventory of evidence, despite the requirement under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, citing an August 2018 Supreme Court case which ruled that failure to comply with the chain of custody rule would only affect the weight given to the evidence and not result in their exclusion.

CHAIN OF CUSTODY

In September 2018, however, the high court came out with a ruling in People vs. Romy Lim stressing strict compliance with chain of custody requirements.

Penned by now Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, the SC decision required apprehending or seizing officers to explain under oath non-compliance with the chain of custody requirements, giving the court discretion either to dismiss the case or refuse to issue a commitment order or warrant of arrest in the absence of sworn statements from the authorities.

Since then, the Supreme Court has dismissed several drugs cases for failure to strictly comply with the chain of custody requirements and to prove the integrity of the evidence.

It is not immediately clear if the Quezon City court considered the People vs. Lim ruling, but it was not mentioned in the discussion.

With the dismissal of Parojinog’s demurrer, the Quezon City court directed her to present evidence in her defense starting March 17, 2020 at 8:30 a.m.

Parojinog has filed another demurrer for the illegal possession of firearms case in another Quezon City court.