Valenzuela court junks raps in P6.4-B shabu smuggling; DOJ appeals ruling

January 7, 2018 - 10:02 AM
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Screenshot of the August 2017 "ILBO" (immigration lookout bulletin order) issued by the DOJ against suspects in the P6.4-B shabu smuggling case. A Valenzuela court threw out the criminal charges, prompting prosecutors to warn that they might flee the country, as one of them - Chen Min - tried to do a few months ago.

MANILA – The Department of Justice has asked the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court (RTC) to reconsider the dismissal of the criminal case against Chinese businessman Richard Tan and several others in connection with the P6.4-billion shipment of illegal drugs last year.

The DOJ prosecutors filed a 17-page motion for reconsideration dated Dec. 27, 2017 asking Valenzuela City RTC Branch 171 presiding Judge Maria Nena Santos to reverse her ruling dismissing the criminal case against Chen Julong, also known as Richard Tan or Richard Chen; Li Guang Feng, also known as Manny Li; Dong Yi Shen Xi, also known as Kenneth Dong Yi or Yi Shan Dong; Mark Ruben Taguba II; Eirene Mae Tatad; Teejay Marcellana; Chen I-Min; Jhu Ming Jyun; Chen Rong Huan; and three other still unidentified respondents.

The Valenzuela court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In its plea, the DOJ panel of prosecutors, led by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes, said the Valenzuela RTC has clear jurisdiction to try the cases even if the drug shipment entered Manila first.

The prosecutors argued that the crime of drug importation “was not yet fully consummated” as it was not yet known, at that time, that the contents of the container van were dangerous drugs worth P6.4 billion.

Besides granting their motion for reconsideration, the DOJ prosecutors also asked Judge Santos to deny the omnibus motions filed by some of the respondents, “being without basis and by reason of the afore-stated grounds and arguments”.

FLIGHT RISKS

The DOJ motion for reconsideration also requested that the court comply with the provisions of Section 5, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure and issue warrants for the arrest of all the accused within 10 days from the filing of the information, considering that most of them are flight risks.

It may be recalled that last Nov. 29, 2017, Chen attempted to leave the country through China Eastern Air Flight no. 5046 bound for Shanghai Pudong, via the Diosdado Macapagal International Terminal (DMIA) in Pampanga.

“This is clearly an act of bad faith that tramples upon our legal processes and upon the authority of this Honorable Court which should not be countenanced,” the DOJ added.

The DOJ explained that it was “misplaced and erroneous” to believe that when the shipment of illegal drugs that was placed inside container no. MCLU6001881 and arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last May 15, 2017, the crime of importation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals was already consummated.

And that the information that the shipment was later delivered to a warehouse located at (Hongfei Warehouse) no. 5510 Aster St. De Castro Subdivision, Valenzuela City is immaterial in the charge for importation of illegal drugs.

“In the present case against Chen Julong and his above-named co-accused, while it may be true that the act of entry or the act of bringing into the country the dangerous drugs initially occurred at the MICP on 15 May 2017 yet the place where the contents of which was discovered, learned and confirmed to be dangerous drugs occurred in Valenzuela City,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ prosecutors pointed out that the Valenzuela RTC has jurisdiction over the case because:
• first, acts which are essential and material to the said crime were committed in the said city;
• second, the court already acquired jurisdiction over the case when it issued an order dated Nov. 24, 2017 for the conduct of an ocular inspection of the illegal drugs mentioned in the case.

The ocular inspection took place at 2 p.m. of Nov. 27, 2017 at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Taft Avenue, Manila City.

Two of the accused, Li and Dong, voluntarily submitted themselves to the court’s jurisdiction when they filed their omnibus motions, and the entry of appearance of their respective counsels are not with caution or by way of special appearance.

INGREDIENT OF DISCOVERY

The DOJ also explained that when the reported drug shipment arrived at the MICP it “was not yet fully consummated” because it was not yet known, at that time, that the contents of the container van were dangerous drugs.

“The ingredient of discovery, which is clearly material, relevant and which consummated or accomplished the crime of illegal importation of dangerous drugs in this case occurred in Valenzuela City,” it said.

The illegal drugs, concealed inside metal cylinders, were found inside the Hongfei Warehouse located in Valenzuela City.

The DOJ also cited a Supreme Court (SC) case which stated that “the court wherein any of the crime’s essential and material acts have been committed maintains jurisdiction to try the case; it being understood that the first court taking cognizance of the same excludes the other.”

“The ingredient of discovery, which is clearly material, relevant and which consummated or accomplished the crime of illegal importation of dangerous drugs in this case occurred in Valenzuela City,” it said.

Santos issued a ruling on Dec. 12 ordering the dismissal of the cases due to jurisdiction issues after the respondents filed their respective motions to quash the charges.

In her dismissal order, Santos explained that the crime of importation of dangerous drugs was already consummated when the drug shipment arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on May 15.

She also granted:
• the omnibus motion to quash information and defer the issuance of warrants of arrests or recall/quash warrants if already issued that was filed by Li as adopted by Dong;
• omnibus motion to quash information and to hold in abeyance/recall the issuance of the warrant of arrest filed by Chen; and
• the omnibus motion to quash the information and to hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants of arrest or recall of warrants of arrest (if already issued) filed by Taguba and Marcellana.