CCTV footage disproves PDEA narrative of Dumaguete drug bust
The court furnished a copy of the ruling to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Wilkins Villanueva for the purpose of launching an immediate investigation into the agents' administrative liabilities.
The STAR/File
CCTV footage disproves PDEA narrative of Dumaguete drug bust
Kristine Joy Patag ( - October 21, 2020 - 1:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — Footage from the local government’s closed-circuit television cameras showed that Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officers forcibly took five people instead of their claim that they were arrested in a drug bust, a Dumaguete court found.

Dumaguete Regional Trial Court Branch 34 Presiding Judge Amelia Lourdes Mendoza, in a 15-page order dated October 9, ordered police officers to release five people who were arrested on June 28 in what PDEA agents said was a buy-bust operation that was later shown have been staged.

PDEA agents  SI II Nelson Muchuelas, IO1 Mary Ann Carmelo, IO1 Jose Anthony Juanites, and IO1 Cheryl Mae Villaver, IO II Realyn Pinpin, Brgy. Official Sheila Mae Catada and media representative Juditho Fabillar will face contempt proceedings "for misleading the court, for making untruthful statements in their affidavits, and for directly impeding and degrading the administration of justice."

The Department of Justice and the city’s prosecutor office, and the PDEA are urged to conduct separate investigations to determine criminal and administrative liabilities, respectively, of the agents.

“This Court shall not shirk from this immense responsibility of protecting not only the individual rights of the accused in these cases, but more importantly, in ensuring the individual liberties are never sacrificed on account of expediency and efficacy of the war on drugs,” the court ruling read.

Fake drug busts, 'nanlaban', and illegal arrests in 'drug war'

This is not the first time that law enforcers implementing President Rodrigo Duterte’s 'war on drugs' have been found to have faked claims in their operations.

A National Bureau of Investigation probe showed that Bulacan cops killed two men in a fabricated drug bust. They are facing multiple criminal raps at the Department of Justice.

In 2017, 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos was arrested in a wave of anti-drug operations in Caloocan City and resisted arrest, prompting cops to fire back at him. But CCTV footage showed the cops in plain clothes dragging the teenager to a dark, trash-filled alley where he was later found dead in a kneeling position.

The Caloocan RTC Branch 125 convicted three Caloocan cops for murder in November 2018.

Staged drug bust in Dumaguete

The PDEA agents said an informant came to their office and accused one of the suspects of being engaged in illegal drug activities.

On June 28, an agent posed as a buyer and arrived at the house at around 2:20 in the afternoon. They said three of the suspects where in pot session, while another handed the shabu to the PDEA agent acting as poseur-buyer.

In their defense, the suspects presented government CCTV footage hours before the supposed drug bust. The videos showed people were forcibly loaded into a blue car from the roadside during the times they said they were abducted by PDEA agents.

All the accused were later led to the house where the supposed drug bust happened “and it was made to appear that this was the place of their actual arrest,” the court ruling read.

“The Court is convinced that the accused in these cases were arrested in places other than where the supposed buy bust operation took place at a much earlier time than that declared by the PDEA agents,” it added.

The judge said that while the CCTV footage only showed “outlines and figures of people without details,” the court does not need proof beyond reasonable doubt standards “to evaluate whether the persons in the videos are indeed the accused.”

The court also noted that the time stamps of the videos corroborate the allegations of the suspects, and the registration details of the blue car in the videos showed that it was registered with the PDEA.

“The Court cannot simply brush aside these glaring coincidences that are too patent to ignore. The Court concludes that accused were illegally arrested on June 28, 2020,” it added.

The court said that the arrest of the five accused did not fall under the Section 5, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure on warrantless arrests. “Their arrests were therefore illegal,” it said.

Judge Mendoza stressed: “[N]othing short than constant vigilance on the part of the courts is required to prevent our slippery slope towards contempt for the law and anarchy. The courts must step in and take cudgels for individual liberties, and in no other situation is this duty more critical and necessary than when the supposed protectors of law and order become the perpetrators themselves.”

RELATED: SC: Intrusive, warrantless searches of vehicles over anonymous tips are invalid

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