MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a non-bailable criminal case of possession of dangerous drugs against Julian Ongpin at the San Fernando City, La Union Regional Trial Court, the Office of the Prosecutor General said.
An arrest warrant has yet to be issued but the precautionary hold departure order (PHDO) against Ongpin issued by a La Union judge on October 8 remains "valid until lifted by the court," said Prosecutor Honey Delgado, spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General.
A PHDO prevents a person suspected of committing a crime from leaving the country.
On Monday, the DOJ indicted Ongpin, scion of one of the country’s tycoons, for violation of section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, after 12 grams of cocaine were recovered from a La Union hostel room he was staying in last month.
The Philippine National Police said Ongpin's indictment "shows that the justice system in the Philippines is working and that the rule of law applies to all."
Under the law, possession of 10 grams of cocaine or more is punishable by life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.
Ongpin is also being investigated over the death of his girlfriend, artist Bree Jonson, as he was the last person seen with her when her lifeless body was found on September 18 at the same hostel.
He said Jonson committed suicide but her family is contesting the claim.
Police said Jonson died of asphyxia and tested positive for cocaine.
Jonson's family welcomes the development and hopes that a separate case for murder or homicide can be filed, according to their lawyers.
"Bree's family is happy that a case will finally be filed against Julian Ongpin on his drug possession charge. They are looking forward to the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Julian for this case," the Sunga Salandanan and Ampuan Law Offices said in a statement.
"They are likewise hopeful that the NBI's Investigation on Bree's death will be over soon so the legal team, in collaboration with the NBI, can move forward with the filing of a separate case for murder/homicide."