The DOJ’s bombshell in the shabu lab case
posted 1-Dec-2018  ·  
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     Just when the Catanduanes public thought the case against those charged in the clandestine shabu laboratory case was about to begin in earnest at the Makati City Regional Trial Court, a bombshell is exploded by the Department of Justice.

     Last Nov. 14, 2018, DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar promulgated a resolution directing Senior State Assistant Prosecutor Alexander Suarez to include nine more persons in the list of those to be charged for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2012. Earlier charged were former NBI senior agent Augusto Eric Isidoro, farm caretaker Lorenzo Piñera, and several Chinese.

     It may be recalled that it was Suarez himself, in a joint resolution last February 2018, that dismissed charges against the NBI official’s spouse, Angelica; PBM Joseph Al-Randie Wong and his brother Jardin Brian; former Caramoan Mayor Constantino Cordial Jr.; trucking company owners Allan Ang Hung and Noel Sampag; the caretaker’s son, Bigik Pinera; Atty. Ulpiano Sarmiento III; former Albay PBM Snookie Imperial; and, banca operators Roel and Dennis Samonte.

     Usec. Villar’s decision finding probable cause against nine of those earlier cleared by Suarez, including the Wong brothers, the NBI agent’s wife, and cargo truck owner Ang Hung, as well as star witness Ernesto Tabor Jr., has shocked the families of those charged. Who would not feel horrified by the possibility of seeing a loved one behind bars?

     Even the Catanduanes police, which filed the charges on the basis of Tabor’s eyewitness account, fears he would flee rather than be detained at the Makati City jail where anything, including a rubout try, could happen.

     Villar, however, clarified that if Tabor will be used as a state witness for the prosecution of the other respondents in the case, then he must be discharged as an accused by order of the Makati RTC.

     Tabor himself has told the Tribune that he is not afraid of being charged for his participation in the operation of the shabu lab and accepts the reality that as the sole witness of the prosecution, he could be the target of any attempt to change his testimony or worse eliminate him altogether as a witness.

     Expectedly, the filing of charges against the Wong brothers has electrified the local political scene, as their mother, former Governor Araceli Wong, is considered a frontrunner for the congressional post along with Atty. Jorge Sarmiento.

     There may be nothing political behind the resolution of Usec. Villar, who is the daughter-in-law of Sen. Cynthia Villar, the chairman of the Nacionalista Party which counts the Wongs as members.

     Observers say majority of those accused in the new DOJ charges will ask the judiciary, through a special civil action of certiorari, to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the DOJ. This move will undoubtedly cost money. For those who are not wealthy enough, like Tabor and Bigik Piñera, they would likely be arrested and jailed before any motion or appeal is granted.

     Whatever happens in the next few weeks or months, the respondents and their families should rest on the assurance of a Supreme Court ruling that the probable cause  “does not mean ‘actual and positive cause’ nor does it import absolute certainty” that the respondent committed the crime.

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