Cops’ procedural lapses lead to release of 2 drug suspects

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    THE Supreme Court has acquitted two women from Binangonan, Rizal on drug-related charges because the arresting officers disregarded proper procedures in handling the suspected illegal drugs seized from them.

    In a December 2, 2020 ruling made public only last January 21, the SC’s First Division ordered the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City to immediately release Rosalina Manzanilla and Arlene Anonuevo, who were nabbed in a buy-bust operation in 2012.

    Manzanilla and Anonuevo were convicted by the Binangonan, Rizal Regional Trial Court in 2013 and were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined P500,000 each.

    They were arrested on April 23, 2012 in Binangonan, with police officers seizing from them a plastic sachet containing 0.08 grams of suspected shabu. The two denied the charges and said they were framed up by the cops.

    In May 2015, their conviction was sustained by the Court of Appeals which ruled that the “chain of custody of the evidence cannot be said to have been interrupted as to taint or create a doubt as to its integrity.”

    But the SC, in its ruling, said the policemen failed to justify why they disregarded the procedures for handling the evidence as stipulated under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

    Under Section 21, Article II of RA 9165, cops are required to make a proper inventory of the seized items, the inventory must be done in the presence of the accused or his counsel, an elected public official, representative from the media or the Department of Justice, and that the seized drugs must be turned over to a forensic laboratory within 24 hours from confiscation.

    The SC said strict compliance with those requirements is necessary to protect the integrity of the evidence “without which the crime of the illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

    While there was an elective official who signed the inventory receipt, the SC said the official testified that she did not personally witness the inventory and signed the inventory receipt a day after the buy-bust operation. – With Christian Oineza