THE hearing on the mega shabu laboratory case was postponed again yesterday, prompting Sen. Vicente Sotto III to call it “longest dragging case in Philippine history.”

Sotto said he will present to the senate his observation on the case during the hearing on the proposed establishment of special drug courts in all cities and provinces of the country.

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The hearing was all set for decision yesterday but the counsel of accused Calvin Tan failed to submit a formal offer of documentary evidence within the given time, saying “their secretary left the documents on the table.”

“Due to mere inadvertence, the documents were left at the table of the secretary, (a) human error,” Atty. Jay Pujanes, who attended on behalf of his associate Atty. Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu, said in yesterday’s hearing.

Regional Trial Court Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap later gave State Prosecutors Archimedes Manabat and Juan Pedro Navera 20 days to comment on the formal offer when it was received.

Sotto, who attended the hearing, said he was no longer surprised by the cause for the delay.

“By the time you know it, two months had again passed,” he said.

The senator said during the hearing he attended before the May 10 elections, the defense had asked for a postponement.

Yesterday, Yap briefed the state prosecutors on the security status of the shabu laboratories in Barangays Umapad, Looc and Paknaan.

Yap said the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) lack personnel to guard the equipment inside the laboratories, so authorities are asking the help of the local barangays and the local government unit in securing the laboratories.

When asked after the hearing if the loss of any of the equipment will affect the case, Manabat said they submitted to the court the photographs of equipment.

However, the equipment can still be used to manufacture shabu, he said.

On the possibility of another hearing, City Prosecutor Ferdinand Peque said state prosecutors, after careful study of the formal offering, will determine if there is a need to present their rebuttal witnesses.

Navera said they also have documents, which include receipts of chemical companies where the ingredients were bought, that are either machine copies or written in Chinese.

Navera said delay in the filing of the formal offer by the defense panel also delayed their presentation of rebuttal witnesses.

“Which makes us wonder if they really are after the early disposition of the case,” he said.

In September 2004, police and PDEA teams arrested Hung Ching Chang or Simon Lao and 10 others for allegedly operating a laboratory that produced methamphetamine or shabu in Barangay Umapad, Mandaue city.

Of the 10 suspects arrested, two are Filipinos and the rest are Chinese nationals.

When he applied to become a state witness, Lao testified he was only an errand boy of Tan, who he said was the financier.

Hong Kong police arrested Tan, who was later extradited to the Philippines.

Except for Tan, who is detained at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, the other suspects are detained at the Mandaue City Jail.