Court clears FlipTop rapper Loonie, 3 others of drug charge
This undated photo release shows FlipTop rapper Loonie.

Court clears FlipTop rapper Loonie, 3 others of drug charge

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - June 23, 2021 - 5:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — A Makati court has junked the drug case against FlipTop rapper Loonie whose real name is Marlon Perroramas and three others after it found that required witnesses were not present during the buy-bust operation in September 2019.

The Makati Regional Trial Court 64 granted Perroramas’ demurrer to evidence and junked the illegal drug trading case filed against him, his sister Idyll Liza, and two of their staff.

A demurrer to evidence is a legal challenge to the sufficiency of prosecution evidence that paves the way for the dismissal of the case halfway through the trial.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Peroramas said he and his sister "are now consulting with their lawyers of an option to file counter charges against individuals who planted evidences [sic] during the supposed buy-bust operation."

Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos, in a ruling dated June 22, held that the chain of custody rule in the case was not followed.

“While it is true that a buy-bust operation is a legally effective and proven procedure, sanctioned by the law, for apprehending drug peddlers and distributors, the law nevertheless also requires strict compliance with procedures laid down by it to ensure that rights are safeguarded,” the court said.

No witnesses

In the case at hand, the only witness the prosecution presented admitted that the elected official and media representative—required witnesses under Section 21 of Republic Act 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs ACT—were not present during the buy-bust operation on Sept. 18, 2019.

The court pointed out that a buy-bust operation, a planned activity, gives arresting officers sufficient time to secure the presence of witnesses.

“Their presence only during the inventory several hours later serves absolutely no purpose, at all, as the evidence would have long been in the possession of the operatives at that time. In other words, the buy-bust team has enough time and opportunity to bring with them said witnesses,” the ruling read.

Citing People v. Tomawis, the Makati court noted that the presence of three witnesses, from the justice department, media and public elective office, at the time of seizure “would belie any doubt as to the source, identity and integrity of the seized drug” and controvert the defense of frame-up.

Not bringing witnesses to the time of arrest and calling them in for the inventory does not achieve the purpose of the law in having the witnesses to prevent or insulate against the planting of drugs, it added.

“It is incumbent upon the prosecution to account for these witnesses’ absence by presenting a justifiable reason therefor or, at the very least, by showing that genuine and sufficient efforts were exerted by the apprehending officers to secure their presence,” the ruling read.

The court said that in the present case, there was no evidence presented or even attempt to justify the absence of an elected official or DOJ representative during the operation.

“In view of this unjustified deviation from the chain of custody rule, the court in therefore constrained to conclude that the integrity and evidentiary value of the item purportedly seized the accused, which consequently warrants the dismissal of the case,” it also said.

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