THE legal team of the family of 30-year-old visual artist Breanna Jonson, who was found dead last Saturday in a hotel room in San Juan, La Union, questioned on Thursday the order of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Agoo, La Union to release her boyfriend Julian Ongpin, son of billionaire Roberto Ongpin, from police custody despite being considered as a possible suspect in her death.

In its official statement posted in their Facebook account, the Sunga Salandanan and Ampuan law firm also countered initial reports coming out in various news reports and in social media alleging that Jonson may have committed suicide.

Police Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta, director of the Police Regional Office 1, said that based on the initial investigation, there were no signs or markings on the body of Jonson that would indicate physical confrontation with her boyfriend Julian Ongpin.

“Contrary to prior statements circulating on social media, the initial medico legal report of Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center showed signs of struggle. There were bruises found in some other parts of Breanna’s body other than her neck,” the law firm said.

It can be recalled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) told reporters that the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of La Union issued its inquest resolution last Monday on the drug complaint filed by the Philippine National Police in San Juan, La Union and deemed it proper to conduct a regular preliminary investigation of the case to give law enforcers the opportunity to submit additional evidence in connection with the possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 case  filed against Ongpin.

Ongpin was charged with possession of 12.6 grams of cocaine, a prohibited drug, which was reportedly recovered inside the hotel room of Ongpin and Jonson in Flotsam & Jetsam Resort in La Union where the latter was found unconscious and was later declared dead in a hospital.

Likewise, the DOJ said, the provincial prosecutor found the need to investigate further if there was “foul play” which may have resulted in the death of Jonson.

Pending the preliminary investigation proceedings and further investigation on the death of Jonson, the DOJ said the provincial prosecutor deemed it proper to order the release of Ongpin from police custody.

Reacting on Ongpin’s immediate release from police custody, Jonson’s legal team said: “Despite presence of the crime’s corpus delicti as well as availability of the only suspect for the death, the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Agoo, La Union, resolved to release Julian on the ground that his apprehension does not allegedly fall under any of the instances where warrantless arrest is allowed.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, declined to comment on Jonson’s camp statement “to avoid prejudging the case.”

Guevarra, however, disclosed that the possibility of transferring the conduct of the preliminary investigation of the case to the DOJ head office in Manila is now under consideration and might come out with a decision on Thursday.

Earlier, Guevarra said the justice department was just discussing the possibility of designating an acting prosecutor from another place to conduct the preliminary investigation where the offense was committed.

The DOJ secretary stressed,  “Jurisdiction lies in the place where the offense was committed.”

Guevarra also confirmed that a team of forensic experts from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted a second autopsy on Jonson’s body upon the request of her family.

The NBI team also proceeded to the hotel where Jonson’s body was found to conduct further investigation and to gather evidence.

It said the specimen taken from Jonson’s body would be subjected for laboratory examinations.

Jonson’s lawyers assured that they would exhaust all legal means to determine the truth behind the artist’s death.

“The family and the legal team will diligently undertake to uncover the truth, exhaust all remedies to secure justice for Breanna’s untimely demise, and find closure for the family, friends and loved ones of Breanna,” the law firm said.

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