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DOJ drops drug charges vs Marcelino, Chinese informant

Lian Buan
DOJ drops drug charges vs Marcelino, Chinese informant
(UPDATED) The justice department flip-flops on its earlier resolution and now says Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino and his informant were 'in performance of a lawful duty' when found in a shabu warehouse in January 2016

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped the drug charges against Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino, a former official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) who was arrested during a raid on a shabu warehouse in Manila in January 2016.

In a resolution promulgated on Wednesday, May 17, a copy of which was released to media on Thursday, May 18, the DOJ affirmed its own May 2016 findings and reversed the September 2016 findings that found probable cause to charge Marcelino and his co-accused, Chinese national Yan Yi Shou, before a Manila court.

Marcelino claimed he was doing covert operations for the military when PDEA agents found him in a shabu warehouse, during a drug bust that seized around P320 million ($6.675 million) worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in January 2016.

“Thus, to conclude, Lt Col Marcelino and Yan Yi Shou have sufficiently proven that they were in performance of a lawful duty when they were chanced upon by the PNP and PDEA joint team, negating the evidence of the complainant-appellees purportedly establishing they are probably involved in the manufacture of illegal drugs, conspiracy in the manufacture thereof, or illegal possession of the same,” the DOJ said in its latest resolution.

Yan, Marcelino’s informant, was with the military officer during the 2016 drug bust.

New findings 

According to the resolution signed by Undersecretary Deo Marco, the DOJ gave merit to the corroboration of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that Marcelino was indeed involved in anti-drug operations.

AFP Intelligence Chief Ronald Villanueva issued a certification in January 2017 that Marcelino is assigned as a Military Intelligence Group 4 commander.

Former NBI Director Virgilio Mendez said in a letter that Marcelino “is part of the on-going anti-illegal drugs effort undertaken by the Bureau.” 

Marcelino said Yan tipped him off on the abandoned shabu laboratory in Sta Cruz, Manila. Marcelino said he coordinated with PDEA Director Randy Pedroso who accompanied him when he checked the location.

However, a team from the PNP Anti Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) barged in and found Marcelino and Yan there.

Acording to Marcelino, former PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac did not listen to his explanation and immediately ordered his arrest.

The DOJ said that no drugs were found on Marcelino and Yan when they were subjected to a body search. They also  did not  do not have “constructive possession” of drugs, which is determined then the accused is found to exercise dominion and control over the place where iilegal drugs are found.

“From the facts of the case, accused-appellants did not have dominion and control over the dangerous drugs more so over the place where the same was found, since neither of them is the owner or tenant of the place,” the DOJ said. 

It added: “They were not seen at the townhouse or anywhere near it prior to and after the application for search warrant.”

Flip-flop

This would be the latest DOJ flip-flop on Marcelino’s case.

Marcelino was detained following his arrest over the January 2016 raid, but was freed in June the same year after the DOJ dismissed the case for lack of evidence.

Acting on an appeal from the Philippine National Police and PDEA, the DOJ, under Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, reconsidered and filed illegal possession charges against Marcelino and Yan in September 2016.

The two later filed a motion to dismiss the drug charges, but the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 17 rejected it.

Testify against De Lima?

As early as September 2016, Senator Leila de Lima had alleged that Marcelino was being pressured by the Duterte administration to testify against her. At the time, President Rodrigo Duterte had alleged that De Lima, now detained in Camp Crame on drug charges, was a key player in the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice chief. 

In a press conference at the DOJ on Thursday, Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta, who is Marcelino’s lawyer, said her client is ready to testify against De Lima.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Acosta clarified that Marcelino is just prepared to testify if ever he’s called by the court. 

Asked for Marcelinos’ relevance to the De Lima case, Acosta said, “Marami kasi siyang alam sa proliferation (He knows a lot about drug proliferation).”

Acosta said they have already filed a motion to withdraw the charges before the court.

She said Marcelino is set to be released on Thursday from Camp Aguinaldo where he’s been detained since January after the military asked for custody. Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.