MANILA, Philippines — The lawyers of art patron Julian Ongpin — accused of illegal drugs possession following the death of his girlfriend, Bree Jonson — have asked the Department of Justice to dismiss the charges against him, saying authorities violated rules in handling the evidence being cited against him.

Lawyers Dennis Manalo and Roberto Francisco Beltran said in their Nov. 3, 2021 petition that police failed to observe rules covering the handling of evidence in the wake of the incident at the the Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel in La Union last Sept. 18, 2021.

They said that police personnel who responded to a report of a dead body being found in one of the establishment’s rooms violated the “chain of custody rule”, which requires the presence of either the accused, their representative or counsel; an elected public official; a representative of the National Prosecution Service; or a media representative when processing the crime scene.

In particular, the lawyers for the son of billionaire businessman Roberto Ongpin said in their petition that investigators from the police’s Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) unit failed to observe this rule when they marked, physically inventories and photographed the seized drugs without the required witnesses.

“This is the exact situation that the Chain of Custody Rule prohibits, that is, an investigation with the high possibility of planting, tampering or alteration of the subject drugs on account of the absence of the accused and other essential witnesses during the processing of the crime scene,” the lawyers said.

“Consequently, there is no admissible evidence of the corpus delicti in this case, which in People v. Rolando Salenga, the court explained to be necessary to establish the four factors of integrity of the confiscated drugs.”

They are the nature of the substances or items seized; their quantity; the relation of the items seized to the incident; and the relation of the seized items to the person alleged to have been in possession of or pending them.

“The error of the [prosecution] panel in ignoring the chain of custody rule in this case is highlighted by the glaring absence of any attempt on record to even summon [Ongpin] or any of the other witnesses to the crime scene during the marking, physical inventory and photographing of the subject drugs,” the lawyers said.

“In fact, their signatures do not appear on in the memorandum dated Sept. 18, 2021 containing the list of recovered pieces of evidence,” they added.

In their petition to have the charges dismissed, the lawyers maintained that the cocaine that was found in the room occupied by Ongpin and Jonson were not in the former’s possession and were instead found in a bag that contained medication and other personal belongings of the latter.


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