A former vice mayor of Batuan town faces life in prison after he was found guilty of selling shabu in an entrapment operation conducted by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
In a 19-page decision promulgated by Regional Trial Court-Branch 4 Presiding Judge Sisinio C. Virtudazo, former Batuan town vice-mayor Jaime Ingles Decasa was found “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165, known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002”.
An agent of the NBI purportedly purchased 0.2313 grams of “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) from Decasa using a marked PhP1,000.00 bill.
But Decasa was left off the hook for possession of 353.248 grams of shabu after the court ruled that the subsequent search of the house of the accused after the buy-bust was illegal.
Judge Virtudazo meted Decasa the penalty of life imprisonment including a fine of PhP500,000.00. The decision likewise directed the immediate transfer of Decasa to the Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte.
Decasa, who is currently detained at the Bohol District Jail, has filed a motion for reconsideration.
The former vice mayor, together with Wilberto Jumamil and Mejamie Castro were allegedly caught red-handed by a team from the NBI in a drug buy-bust operation on March 11, 2014.
In a subsequent search, the NBI operatives also found Decasa in possession of 353.248 grams of “shabu” littered on a table in the living room on the second floor of his residence.
Jumamil and Castro were also found in the act of allegedly repacking and weighing on a digital weighing scale 96.7186 grams of shabu in a hut (kubo) inside Decasa’s compound after the buy-bust operation.
The total haul during the raid reached 449.9747 grams of shabu with an estimated street value of P3.7 million.
While the court found Decasa guilty of the charge for the illegal sale of shabu, the former vice mayor was acquitted of illegal possession of prohibited drugs.
The entrapment operation and the subsequent search were conducted inside the Decasa compound at F.R. Ingles corner M.H. del Pilar Sts. including the confiscation of alleged drug paraphernalia for dangerous drugs.
In the case of Decasa’s alleged possession of 353.0248 grams of shabu, the court found inconsistencies in the testimonies of the NBI agents and irregularities leading to the seizure of the items.
Also, Jumamil and Castro were allegedly found repacking and weighing 96.7186 grams of shabu inside a hut (kubo) after the buy-bust operation near Decasa’s residence.
Judge Virtudazo acquitted Decasa together with his co-accused Wilberto Jumamil and Mejamie Castro for possession of illegal drugs and paraphernalia (section 10, 11 and 12 of RA 9165).
Video footages saved the day for the three accused after the court ruled that the subsequent search after the buy-bust was “tainted with irregularities”.
But the court ruled that the “legality of the buy-bust operation should be upheld since the inconsistencies of the testimonies of the NBI agents and the irregularity of the search refer only to the events after the buy-bust.”
The court gave weight to the testimonies of three NBI agents that the buy-bust transaction against Decasa was successfully and legally carried out on March 11, 2014, at 10:30 AM at F.R. Ingles and M. Parras Sts., Tagbilaran City.
The entrapment operation was conducted upon orders by NBI Regional Director Atty. Antonio Pagatpat after surveillance and two test-buy missions confirmed the illegal drug activities of Decasa at his residence, according to the testimonies of the NBI raiding team.
But Decasa thru his counsel Atty. Brian Gaviola blasted the “buy-bust operation, seizure in plain view and flagrante delicto arrest by the NBI operatives as “nothing more than an illegal commando assault reminiscent of the martial law era.”
The decision of the court upheld the legality of buy-bust operations as “legally effective and proven procedure, sanctioned by law for apprehending drug peddlers and distributors” and was undertaken with due regard for constitutional and legal safeguards of the accused.
Judge Virtudazo exhorted the police, citing a Supreme Court decision to be “flexible in their operations to keep up with the drug pushers” who have become increasingly daring and blatantly defiant of the law.
The absence of fluorescent powder in the marked money is not indispensable in entrapment operations even as the use of initials to mark the money has been accepted by the court.
The court was also convinced that the “chain of custody” rule was strictly observed by the NBI from the time of the seizure of the drugs to the presentation in court preserving the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated drugs.
The court also did not believe that there was an ill motive on the part of the NBI agents to “concoct a wrongdoing” against the accused, as alleged by Decasa saying that testimonies of police officers as prosecution witnesses is given more weight based on the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties.
Following a search after the buy-bust operation, the NBI operatives claimed that they found several sachets of shabu littering the table inside the house of Decasa that was, later on, weighed at 353.0248 grams.
Jumamil and Castro, according to the NBI team were in possession of 96.7186 grams of shabu found inside a hut (kubo) in the Decasa compound.
A .45 caliber pistol and three magazines with live ammunitions were allegedly found in the possession of Castro, according to the NBI agents.
Throughout the trial, Decasa relied on “controverting footages” taken by two persons staying in a nearby rooming house using their smartphones which they transmitted to Corazon Decasa, sister-in-law of the accused.
The videos were recorded while they were witnessing the alleged buy-bust operation from doors and windows in their boarding house which Corazon uploaded to her Samsung Tab7.
The videos were identified as evidence by Decasa to debunked claims by
the NBI that a buy-bust and hot pursuit operation were set up prompting City Prosecutor Farah Parras-Matuod filed a Motion to Strike Evidence based on the “Rules of Electronic Evidence”.
According to court records, NBI Agent Edgardo Baldemos who posed as the poseur-buyer admitted that based on the video footages “showed an overkill” by the NBI team which the court “finds not necessary in the arrest of the accused.”
The court also found that “there was seeming violence” in the search after the buy-bust and that Decasa was “already subdued when the NBI went inside the rooms of the accused.”
The search after the entrapment was done without the presence of witnesses and was considered a violation of the basic rights of Decasa leading to the inadmissibility of the seized items, according to the court decision.
The inventory of the seized items was witnessed by Poblacion ll Punong Barangay Dr. Allan Real, DYRD reporter Rey Tutas, Department of Justice (DOJ) representative Zacarias Castro and Gemma Dolotina, an occupant of Decasa’s residence.
Jumamil, who was ordered released from custody by the court was represented by Atty. Florendo Columnas. (Chito M. Visarra)