Tourist sealed conviction of 11 men in shabu lab case

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Saturday, February 25, 2012


CEBU CITY -- The “positive and categorical declaration” of state witness Hung Chin Chang, a British tourist known also as Simon Lao, doomed the “Shabu Lab 11.”

Former judge and now Associate Justice Marilyn Lagura-Yap considered the testimony of 47-year-old Lao as a “direct, personal and positive declaration of the roles” of the 11 men she convicted of running one of the largest shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) factories in the country.

“Based on the testimony of (Hung Chin) Chang, the prosecution was able to establish the participation of the other accused in the operation of the shabu laboratory inside the Caps R Us warehouse,” Yap’s 277-page judgment read.

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For his testimony, Lao was ordered released after about eight years in prison.

The court, however, sentenced Filipino-Chinese businessman Calvin de Jesus Tan and 10 others to life imprisonment and a fine of P10 million each.

Tan’s counsel, Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu, will file a motion for reconsideration. She said the court fully relied on the testimony of the state witness, even if he was the “most guilty” among the accused.

The defense has 15 days to file their motion for reconsideration.

Alex Tolentino, counsel for Lao, said his client will stay for the meantime inside the provincial jail while his passport and other travel documents are being processed.

Yap, in her ruling, pointed out that Lao was discharged as an accused and considered as a witness for the prosecution pursuant to Sec. 17 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedures.

The provision says the accused, after been discharged as an accused and deemed a state witness, has a legal obligation of providing government prosecutors with “material evidence.”

Proof

But before the court can declare the accused a state witness, the prosecution needs to file a pleading, along with supporting evidence, and convince the judge of the need for its proposed state witness.

The state witness cannot be held criminally liable unless he fails to perform his legal obligation to testify against his co-accused.

During the trial of the eight-year-old mega shabu laboratory, the prosecution presented 16 witnesses, while the defense offered 22 witnesses, including Tan.

Lao, in his testimony, narrated how he met Tan in 2003.

Lao said he was introduced to Tan, whom he called “ahwai” or “boss.” Tan told him about his plan to put up a warehouses in Barangays Umapad and Paknaan in Mandaue City for the manufacture of shabu.

Lao and Tan then met several times, from January to June 2003, in Macau, where they tackled the machines and ingredients to be used in the factory and the manpower needed in Cebu.

In September 2003, Tan introduced Lao to Joseph Yu, a co-accused, who was tasked to facilitate the factory operations in Cebu.

Yu was also tasked to pay for the rentals of the warehouse, labor and materials.

Lao said Yu rented the warehouse in Barangay Umapad, where the shabu was supposed to be manufactured.

Tan told Lao he would send the machines to be used for the manufacture of shabu from Manila.

‘Tourists’

The two other Chinese nationals, Tao Fei and Liu Bo, assembled the machines inside the warehouse.

In September 2004, Chinese tourists Bao Xiafu, Wu Tyao Yi, and Lin Li Ku; and Malaysian nationals Siew Kin Weng and Liew Kam Song arrived in Cebu.

When they then began “cooking” shabu on Sept. 19, 2004, several armed government operatives barged into the warehouse and arrested the accused.

Yap, in her ruling, pointed out that the connivance of the nine foreigners and two Filipinos, who were caught while “performing” their assigned roles when authorities raided the warehouse, was “crystal-clear.”

The convicts actually rented three warehouses. The Caps R Us warehouse in Barangay Umapad was the production area, court records showed.

The rented warehouse in Barangay Paknaan was used as a drying area of the shabu.

A third warehouse in Barangay Looc served as a packaging and storage area, before the illegal drugs would be sold to the public.

Yap said the conversations between Lao, Tan and Yu are “clear evidence of a chain of conspiracy.”

‘He lied’

Yap said Tan’s denial of the allegations was not convincing.

“He called (Hung Chin) Chan a liar for pinpointing him as the financier of the shabu laboratory but he could not give a reason why the latter would identify him as such,” the court ruling said.

Court records also showed that Tan had also been convicted by a court in Hong Kong for illegal possession of ecstasy tablets.

He was sentenced to six months in jail. After serving his jail term in Hong Kong, customs police brought Tan to Cebu to face his drug case in 2005.

Yap said Tan’s mere denial of the charge that he funded the shabu laboratory in Mandaue City cannot overturn the “positive and categorical declaration” of the state witness.

Court records showed Tan’s mother is a Filipina and his father is a Chinese national.

Born in Cabanatuan City, Tan managed a textile factory in the country. But he sold it in 1998 and used the proceeds to operate a disco and a garment store in Macau. (GMD of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 25, 2012.

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