By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
A police officer, his wife, and his nephew who were found with illegal drugs in their house in 2016 were recently released from prison after a Manila court dismissed the drug charges filed against them.
In his decision dated Feb. 11, presiding Judge Daniel Villanueva of the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 49 acquitted Cpl. Jolly Aliangan, his wife Ronalie Aliangan, and his nephew and driver Jeffrey Gutierrez after it was found that operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) failed to comply with Section 21 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor, a barangay chairperson, and representatives from the media all testified that they were not present during the simultaneous search led by the NBI agents at Aliangan’s residence in Sampaloc, Manila in May 2016.
They were only told to sign affidavits as a formality, they added, which Villanueva said is a violation of the law.
“Section 21 was written into RA 9165 due to the past experience of rampant, notorious planting of evidence by anti-narcotics enforcers. It was incorporated into the law not for ornamental or public relations purpose,” the 42-page decision read.
“Time and again, the Supreme Court had ruled that its observance is not to be taken lightly, certainly not in a cavalier fashion,” it added.
Villanueva also questioned whether the NBI operatives properly implemented the search warrant, as well as the inventory and change of custody of the seized illegal drugs.
“There was [a] violation of chain of custody rules involving confiscated drugs. Documented movement and custody of all seized items from the houses to NBI, to forensic chemist, and finally to the court was lacking. There were persons who took custody of the seized items who were not properly authorized. Such actions were not properly recorded,” he said in his decision.
“In sum, there was no substantial compliance with Section 21. As such, and taking into consideration other factual circumstances, as summarized and discussed, the Court can never be certain that the alleged drug contraband and paraphernalia were indeed found in the actual and/or constructive possession of the three accused,” he added.
In 2016, NBI operatives raided Aliangan’s house, where they reportedly retrieved some illegal drugs and P6.9 million in cash. His wife was also accused of trying to flush suspected shabu (crystal meth) down the toilet.