Pending the release of the results of the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) autopsy on 23 September on the death of 30-year-old female visual artist Bree Jonson, a question lingers: Why was Julian Ongpin released from police custody?
Ongpin, 29 — reportedly Jonson’s boyfriend who was with her when she died on 18 September in a beach hostel in San Juan, La Union — was arrested and charged with possession of 12.6 grams of cocaine after Jonson’s body was retrieved in the room they were occupying.
He was released, police said, pending investigation.
The NBI’s autopsy was the second one performed on Jonson; the first was by the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center which said Jonson died of asphyxia or loss of oxygen due to strangulation.
Jonson’s mother, Sally, who flew to the Philippines from her residence in Canada upon learning of her daughter’s death, noted significant details in the first autopsy via a media statement from Jonson’s legal team.
In the statement, the legal team pointed out that the first medico-legal report “showed signs of struggle. There were bruises found in some parts of Breanna’s (Bree’s full name) body other than her neck.”
Which necessitated the NBI autopsy.
Though police said Ongpin was cooperating with the investigation of the case, the fact that he has been charged with a serious drug offense makes his release questionable.
Section 11 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs) of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, carries a penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the degree of purity thereof:
(1) 10 grams or more of opium;
(2) 10 grams or more of morphine;
(3) 10 grams or more of heroin;
(4) 10 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride;
(5) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu”;
(6) 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil;
(7) 500 grams or more of marijuana; and
(8) 10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDA) or “ecstasy”, paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD), gamma hydroxyamphetamine (GHB), and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements, as determined and promulgated by the Board in accordance to Section 93, Article XI of this Act.
The Rules of Court say it’s a non-bailable offense when “evidence of guilt is strong.” Ongpin has been charged with Section 11’s item no. 4 — since the substance was found on the bed of the room he and Jonson were staying in.
It’s still too early to conclude whether or not Ongpin had a hand in Jonson’s death, but it’s also obvious that he was caught red-handed with possession of “plenty of cocaine,” as police described it.
Ongpin and Jonson both tested positive for the use of the prohibited drug.
On national TV, Sally Jonson issued an appeal to Ongpin’s father, prominent businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin: Kung may kasalanan ang anak mo, ipag-panagot mo sa kanya ‘yon (If your son is guilty, let him answer for it).