ANTI-NARCOTICS agents cried foul over the release of a former Misamis Oriental mayor accused of drug trafficking following the dismissal of the case by the Misamis Oriental Provincial Prosecutor's Office.

The prosecution, however, insisted last Friday's release of former Balingoan town mayor Edgar Santos can be attributed to the "inconsistencies" of the accounts given by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents in Northern Mindanao, who acted as complainants in the case.

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One of the two agents in the case said he was unaware of Santos's release from the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail, and was shocked when he learned the case had been dismissed.

"Nakurat gud ko pagkahibalo nako kay wala mi nakadawat og resolution or bisan sa release order nga kami man ang complainant," the PDEA agent told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Thursday. He requested anonymity for security reasons.

PDEA agents arrested Santos last May in a buy-bust operation in his residence in Balingoan, where four sachets of crystalline substances believed to be "shabu" were recovered from his possession.

Anti-narcotics agents also presented as evidence the P500 bill use as marked money during the operation.

Santos was charged with illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs under Sections 5 and 11, Article II of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The case is not bailable. However, the Misamis Oriental Provincial Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case last July for lack of probable cause.

The decision was affirmed by the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor (ORSP) last Wednesday, two days before Santos obtained his freedom, as drugs cases are subject for automatic review.

Regional State Prosecutor Jaime L. Umpa said his office affirmed the dismissal based on the merits of the case.

The accounts given by the two PDEA agents regarding the operation were replete with "serious inconsistencies," said Prosecutor Umpa.

During the July 1, 2010 preliminary investigation, Umpa said the two agents issued statements that contradicted their original testimonies.

Contradictions

In a four-page ruling, a copy of which was furnished to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, ORSP cited one of the agent's affidavit, which claimed she gave two P500 bills to Santos as drug payment and, upon receiving the money, Santos then pulled a sachet of what was believed to be 'shabu' from the right pocket of his shorts.

It noted, however, that in the preliminary hearing, the agent claimed she gave Santos one P500 bill. She also said that after the arrest, the second agent searched Santos's body while standing and recovered one P500 bill from his pocket.

However, when the second agent was examined during the preliminary hearing, he stated that he recovered two P500 bills from Santos's possession while lying on the ground.

The first agent also declared that the four sachets of shabu were recovered in a sling bag carried by Santos during the buy-bust operation. This contradicted the claim of the second agent, who stated that the illegal drugs were recovered in the right pocket of Santos's short pants, including some shabu paraphernalia.

Umpa said this and other contradictions compelled them to dismiss the case.

"Bakit hindi magkatugma ang kanilang mga statements sa preliminary hearing. Who's telling the truth?" Umpa added.

The PDEA agents, he said, appeared to have bungled the case based on these inconsistencies.

Umpa also noted the PDEA agents did not present their pre-operation report to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office despite a request.

Umpa said the PDEA can still file a motion for reconsideration to the ORSP ruling, a possibility that PDEA Regional Director Edwin Layese is looking into.

Layese also promised to investigate whether his own agents were responsible for bungling the case.

Four Cagayan de Oro policemen are currently facing criminal and administrative case for allegedly bungling a drug case intentionally. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)