Man gets life term for using house in San Fernando town as drug den

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Saturday, August 16, 2014


THE Supreme Court (SC) upholds a lower court's decision to imprison for life a drug den owner in the southern Cebu town of San Fernando.

The SC also affirmed the Regional Trial Court's order that Andrew Lopez pay a fine of P500,000.

"We find no error on the part of the RTC (Regional Trial Court) or the CA (Court of Appeals) in finding appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of maintenance of a drug den," the high court said in its resolution dated July 23.

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The police raided Lopez's house in Barangay South Poblacion, San Fernando on May 21, 2003 on suspicion that it was being used as a place to sell illegal drugs.

The San Fernando town police conducted a surveillance on Lopez's house and noticed people coming in and out of the house, most of them staying inside for five to 10 minutes.

The police later conducted a test-buy through a civilian asset, who was able to buy shabu from Lopez. The police later obtained a search warrant and raided Lopez's house.

During the raid, the police seized 26 plastic packets of shabu and drug paraphernalia.

Government prosecutors then charged Lopez with violation of Section 6, Article 2 of Republic Act 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Lopez denied the charges, saying he lived in Liloan town, not in San Fernando. He said the house that police searched was owned by his mother and leased to a certain Wengweng.

In October 2007, the trial court found Lopez guilty of maintaining a drug den, sentenced him to life imprisonment and ordered him to pay a fine of P500,000.

The trial court dismissed Lopez's defense. It said Lopez's defense was "self-serving" and "unworthy of belief."

It pointed out that a civilian asset was able to buy shabu directly from Lopez.

Lopez did not present any witness to support his defense.

In July 2011, the appeals court affirmed the trial court's ruling.

The SC's First Division affirmed the appeals court's ruling. The high court also dismissed Lopez's defense that the police failed to observe the statutory requirements in the proper handling and custody of the seized items.

It pointed out that the 26 packs of shabu seized from Lopez were presented and identified in court during trial. GMD

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 16, 2014.

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