MANILA - The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the plea of Chinese businessman Chen Julong alias "Richard Tan" for the dismissal of drug charges against him in connection with the P6.4-billion "shabu" shipment that slipped past the Bureau of Customs in May 2017.
In a 17-page decision dated August 31, penned by Associate Justice Ramon Garcia, the appellate court’s Eleventh Division upheld the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46’s denial of Chen’s motion to quash his indictment for importation of dangerous drugs.
The appellate court ruled there is “no compelling reason” to reverse the lower court’s ruling, even as it stressed the petition had to be outrightly dismissed for Chen’s failure to file a motion for reconsideration before the RTC.
“[T]he instant petition for certiorari merits an outright dismissal for the failure of the petitioner to file a motion for reconsideration of the assailed order dated February 22, 2018 before the [Manila RTC],” the CA decision read.
“The rule is well-stated that the failure to file a motion for reconsideration before resort to the special civil action for certiorari is a fatal infirmity. Such motion is indispensable in order to afford the tribunal, board or office, or in this case, the court a quo (Manila RTC), to pass upon and correct its mistakes if there is any,” it added.
The CA further said it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC. “Instead, it appears that public respondent judge had painstakingly went over the facts and the law upon which her ruling was based upon.”
In his petition, Chen accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of forum shopping for refiling the criminal case before the Manila RTC after the Valenzuela RTC Branch 171, where the case was first filed, dismissed the charges.
The appellate court explained that the Valenzuela RTC junked the case merely for lack of jurisdiction.
“[I]t was only proper for the prosecution (DOJ) to refile the same with the court which actually has jurisdiction thereof, which in this case is the [Manila RTC].”
The 604-kilogram "shabu" haul from China was recovered at the Hong Fei Logistics warehouse in Valenzuela City on May 26, 2017. Chen is one of the owners of the company.
The illegal shipment was investigated by Congress, and led to the resignation of top BOC officials, including customs chief Nicanor Faeldon.
Apart from Chen, the other accused in the criminal case are Eirene Mae Tatad, owner of EMT Trading, the reported consignee of the shipment; customs fixer Mark Ruben Taguba II; Li Guang Fe alias "Manny Li," Dong Yi Shen Xi alias "‘Kenneth Dong" or Yi Shan Dong; customs broker Teejay Marcellana; Che I-Min; Jhu Ming Jyun; Chen Rong Huan; "John Doe," "Jane Doe," and "George Doe."