THE Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the release of a man imprisoned for allegedly selling a small packet of marijuana to police, reversing his conviction for drug charges.
In the High Court decision signed by SC Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, the SC said that Rogelio Yagao has been acquitted “for failure to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the violation of Section 5, Article II, of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).” The SC also “reverses and sets aside” the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) from 2014 which upheld a 2011 conviction of Mr. Yagao by the Cagayan De Oro Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 25.
The SC has ordered the Davao Prison and Penal Farm to immediately release Mr. Yagao.
The decision reasoned that the police “did not establish the guilt of the accused-appellant for the crime with which he was charged.”
In 2006, Mr. Yagao was arrested during a buy-bust operation in Cagayan De Oro.
The High Court stated that police “failed to establish the essential element of delivery of the dangerous drug by the accused-appellant to the poseur buyer.” This was because the police who acted as the undercover buyer arrested Mr. Yagao before he could hand over the packet of 7.4 grams of dried marijuana. This meant that no sale of the marijuana transpired.
“This is precisely why the operation is aptly denominated as a ‘buy-bust.’ In this case, however, the operation was merely a ‘bust’ in view of the absence of a sale,” the SC added
The High Court also noted that the police did not follow procedure in the initial custody of the drugs seized. They said that “serious unjustifiable gaps broke the chain of custody of the confiscated marijuana.”
The police failed to mark the packet of marijuana following Mr. Yagao’s arrest even after they brought the accused to the police station. Inconsistencies in the police’s testimonies also played a part in failing to establish credibility in their chain of custody.
“Hence, their incrimination of the accused-appellant was fully discredited and should not be allowed to stand. As a result, we should doubt the stated reason for the arrest,” the SC decision said. — Gillian M. Cortez