Department of Justice

DOJ charges Julian Ongpin with non-bailable drug possession

Lian Buan

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DOJ charges Julian Ongpin with non-bailable drug possession

CHARGED. A file photo of Julian Ongpin which was taken when he was initially arrested – but was later released - in La Union on September 18.

Courtesy of PNP PRO1

(1st UPDATE) It's now up to the judge in La Union to issue an arrest warrant against him – or not

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged Julian Ongpin, son of Marcos-time trade secretary and business tycoon Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin, with possession of cocaine.

“The criminal information against Mr. Ongpin will be filed at the Regional Trial Court, San Fernando City, La Union. The same information also states that the offense is non-bailable,” said the DOJ in a press briefer sent on Monday, October 18.

It’s now up to the judge in La Union to issue an arrest warrant against him – or not. If he is arrested, Ongpin will not be allowed to post bail for the duration of his trial, according to the rules.

PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar welcomed Ongpin’s indictment. 

“We welcome this significant development in the criminal complaint filed against Ongpin. This shows that the justice system in the Philippines is working and that the rule of law applies to all. Lahat ay pantay-pantay sa ilalim ng batas kahit pa ang akusado ay mula sa maimpluwensyang pamilya (Everyone’s equal under the law even if the accused is from an influential family),” the PNP chief said in a statement on Tuesday, October 19.

Ongpin is being implicated in the September 18 death of artist Bree Jonson, his girlfriend, in a hostel in San Juan, La Union, a surf town hours away from Manila. Jonson’s death is still under investigation, with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) doing a second autopsy.

A precautionary hold departure order (PHDO) was earlier issued by a La Union judge against Ongpin over the drug offense, said the DOJ. This bars him from leaving the country. A PHDO is a faily recent new rule that allows prosecutors to seek an HDO even before the filing of charges in court.

A few hours after Jonson’s death was discovered, Ongpin was caught in the same room by the La Union police with more than 12 grams of cocaine, which is a non-bailable offense under Republic Act 9165. Caught in the act – or in this case, catching someone in possession of the drugs – is an element of a valid warrantless arrest.

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But local prosecutors released Ongpin after inquest, a move that raised questions about preferential treatment for the Ongpin scion.

The DOJ main office later took the case from the La Union provincial prosecutors and had state prosecutors resolve it, which resulted in this indictment. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.