Pandan Mayor Raul Tabirara last week shut the door on efforts to release on recognizance an abaca stripper arrested last year for possession of illegal drugs in an incident that led to the recovery of 71 “bulto” or large sachets of shabu buried in a family-owned farm.
Describing the bid as tantamount to tolerating the offense, Mayor Tabirara disapproved the Sangguniang Bayan resolution granting the Release on Recognizance (RoR) of Randy Paloma Eusebio, 34, who is the accused in Criminal Case No. 5495 for possession of illegal drugs now pending before Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 43.
It may be recalled that, using information provided by surrendered drug users under “Oplan Tokhang”, the police dug up the largest ever illegal drug cache in Balangonan, Pandan in July 2016.
Armed with a warrant issued by the court, policemen led by Senior Inspector Virgil Bibat searched Eusebio’s residence in barangay Libod on July 12, 2016 and recovered 12 small sachets of shabu inside a matchbox, as well as two touch-screen cellphones. He later told investigators that he had hidden packs of shabu in the family-owned farm in Balangonan, a coastal village about six kilometers away from the poblacion.
At 2 A.M. of July 14, Bibat and his men followed up Eusebio’s tip and used shovels in digging up the cache of illegal drugs buried beside an acacia tree. All told, the 71 “bulto” of methamphetamine hydrochloride has an estimated value of P30,000.00 per “bulto” or a total of P2,130,000.00.
Then Catanduanes police provincial director Senior Superintendent Jesus Martirez said Eusebio appeared to be the “bodegero” or the one entrusted to keep the drugs, repack and distribute them to local drug pushers.
Once the shabu granules are repacked into smaller quantities of about a gram each, these can be sold for P6,000 to the pushers. The payment, in turn, was sent by Eusebio to his Manila-based handler one at a time through Smart “padala” money remittance centers.
On the other hand, it is claimed, the drugs were sent by the supplier through unidentified couriers unknown to Eusebio, with instructions sent as SMS messages. The courier and Eusebio probably never met face to face, a source said, with the drugs picked up at a location known only to the two persons.
Eusebio was not charged for the 71 “bulto” of shabu due to procedural constraints, making his case bailable. But he apparently failed to come up with the bail money due to poverty, hence the motion for release on recognizance.
During its March 27 regular session, the municipal council headed by Vice Mayor Concordio delos Santos had received an order from the RTC directing it to comply with the requirements of Republic Act 10389 after the accused filed the RoR motion that was not opposed by the prosecutor.
Four of the councilors – including proponents Alfredo Trinidad and Nilo Abines - voted in favor of the grant, saying that Eusebio should be given a second chance at living a normal life with his family while three opposed the move. The resolution identified six local organizations who could be appointed by the Court as the accused’s custodian: the Parish Pastoral Council, Lectors and Commentators Association (LECOM), Basic Faith Community, New Evangelization Pastorale, and the Mother Butler’s Guild.
In refusing to sign the resolution, Mayor Tabirara noted that the priority thrust of the government to suppress the drug problem in the country by putting behind bars manufacturers, traffickers and peddlers of illegal drugs and by transforming drug users into productive members of society.
“It is public knowledge that the accused was in direct participation and in active involvement in drug business for some time, has victimized and ruined lives of many who was lured to drug use,” the chief executive stressed, adding that the applications for RoR filed by others accused of lighter offenses were to granted.
“It is a thrust under my governance that no one accused in drug-related cases will be released on recognizance under my administration,” Tabirara stated. “It is my belief that illicit drug trafficking is a crucial link to drug abuse that plays a major role in social problems such as violence, child abuse, crime, homelessness, poverty and many others.”
Signed into law in 2013, the Recognizance Act intends to promote restorative justice amid problems confronting the criminal justice system such as protracted trials, prolonged resolution of cases, inability to post bail bond, and congestion in jails.
As an alternative to posting bail, recognizance allows the release of the accused to the custody of the qualified member of the barangay or municipality, who will then have the responsibility of bringing the accused to court when his presence is required by such court. Only those not facing an offense punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment, are allowed to enjoy the aforementioned right.
Among the requirements for recognizance are: (a) a sworn declaration by the person in custody of his or her indigency or incapacity to post bail; (b) a certification issued by the head of the social welfare and development office of the municipality or city where the accused actually resides, that the accused is indigent; (c) the person in custody should have already been arraigned; (d) notification by the court of the application for recognizance on the city or municipal sanggunian where the accused resides; (e) proper documentation of the accused through photos of all sides of the face and fingerprinting; and (f) notification by the court on the public prosecutor of the date of hearing on the application within 24 hours from the filing of the application.