Former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday said the junking of the drug case against Juan Roberto Ongpin for lack of probable cause was fair and meritorious.
Enrile said he learned about Ongpin’s case for alleged violation of Section 11 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act (Republic Act 9165) and that he “read thoroughly the decision” of presiding judge Romeo Agacita Jr.”
He said he agrees with Agacita of Branch 27 of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando City.
“I must say that Julian Roberto S. Ongpin was fortunate in having such a very judicious and capable judge to hear and try his case. The decision is very lucid and well-written,” Enrile said.
The former lawmaker said the judge “meticulously analyzed the case, step by step, according to existing and current precedents and jurisprudence, to arrive at his decision to dismiss it.”
“The decision of Judge Agacita Jr. is truly a meritorious act of justice,” Enrile added.
Agacita said he dismissed the complaint for lack of probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest against Ongpin “in view of the utter non-compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of RA 9165.”
Ongpin, the son of former trade secretary Roberto Ongpin, was charged by the police with drug possession following the death of his girlfriend, the artist Bree Johnson, in a La Union hotel.
Records of the case showed that on 18 September 2021, Ongpin told a security officer of the Flotsam Jetsam Hotel in Barangay Urbiztondo in San Juan, La Union that Johnson committed suicide in the room they rented.
Johnson was found unconscious and was later pronounced dead in the hospital where she was taken. The investigation into her death by the National Bureau of Investigation is still ongoing.
Ongpin was eventually indicted for alleged possession of 18 sachets of suspected cocaine.
But the court said it found that the sealed plastic sachets allegedly containing the white powdery substance were not marked at the time the police conducted an inventory.
Agacita said that the implementing rules and regulations on the chain of custody rule require that the apprehending officers “not simply mention a justifiable ground, but also clearly state their ground in their sworn affidavit, coupled with a statement on the steps they took to preserve the integrity of the seized item.”
He further held that “there were no earnest efforts on their (police) part to call through the phone nearby (village) officials, considering that the barangay hall of Barangay Urbiztondo is just a few meters from the place of incident.”
In its decision, the court also lifted the hold departure order it issued against Ongpin.
The court decision has earned the ire of netizens, many of whom expressed the position that Ongpin, being rich, had been given favorable treatment.
Poor citizens who get entangled in drug cases, on the other hand, go straight to jail, according to many social media commentaries.
Section 11 of RA 9165 sets the penalties, up to life imprisonment, for drug possession.
Section 21 of the same law, on the other hand, sets the regulations on the custody and disposition of confiscated and or surrendered illegal drugs.