THE head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Northern Mindanao said the two anti-narcotics agents accused of deliberately bungling a drug case still enjoys his trust and confidence.
“By looking into their eyes, I know they’re not lying; they’re telling the truth,” said PDEA Director Edwin F. Layese, as he disclosed that they will formally ask prosecutors to reconsider the dismissal of a high-profile drug case later this week.
The case in question involves former Misamis Oriental town mayor Edgar Santos, who was arrested last May in a buy-bust operation in his residence in Balingoan municipality.
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) two weeks ago.
The two PDEA agents involved in the case, IO2 Vincent Pimentel and IO1 Liezel Baldomino, said there may be irregularities in the dismissal of the case.
Pimentel, in an earlier interview, said they were furnished with both the resolutions of the provincial and regional prosecutors dismissing the case.
They were not also afforded the chance to refute the alleged inconsistencies in their statements, he claimed.
Prosecutors anchored the dismissal of the case on the “inconsistencies" between Pimentel and Baldomino’s statements during the preliminary hearing.
However, Layese stood by his two agents, saying their record would prove that they had handled previous cases satisfactorily.
He did not also believe that Pimental and Baldomino had issued major contradictions pertaining to the case enough to cause dismissal.
He added that the resolution of the resolution of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office contained a lot of “inaccuracies.” He did not elaborate.
Regional State Prosecutor Jaime 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 Umpa.
During the July 1, 2010 preliminary investigation, Umpa said the two agents issued statements that contradicted their original testimonies.
In a four-page ruling, a copy of which was furnished to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, the ORSP cited Baldomino'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 Pimentel 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. (Annabelle L. Ricalde)