THE Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the decision issued by the Office of the Secretary of Justice reversing the dismissal by the City Prosecutor of Olongapo on the P6.2-billion drug complaint filed against the alleged members of a big-time drug syndicate operating in Subic.
In a 10-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the Court’s Second Division junked the petition filed by Rudy Chua and Cai Changcheng, two of the accused in the drug complaint, seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision dated July 17, 2012 and resolution dated November 14, 2012.
The appellate court, in the said rulings, found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Secretary of Justice in reversing the City Prosecutor’s dismissal of the complaint and ordering the filing of information for violation of Section 4 (Importation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals) and Section 5 (Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemical) under Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 against Chua, Changcheng and several others.
“The Court of Appeals correctly found that respondent Secretary of Justice did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause against petitioners. Respondent Secretary of Justice’s Resolution finding probable cause was reasonably based on available evidence,” the SC ruled.
It can be recalled that on May 25, 2008, a security guard of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) flagged down a Mitsubishi Outlander with Plate No. RAE 615 driven by Anthony “Anton” Ang, part owner of import-export firm Hualong International Inc. (Hualong).
During inspection, the driver failed to show documents authorizing them to bring out cargoes, which were earlier seen being unloaded from a docked Chinese-registered cargo ship FIB Shun Fa Xing.
Ang was then brought to the office of Internal Affairs General Assignment Service for investigation.
When questioned, Ang refused to open the boxes and claimed that they merely contained sensitive computer parts.
Ang was later allowed to leave the office after committing to produce the cargoes’ necessary documents, but he failed to return.
When the boxes were opened, they were found to contain 40 transport plastic packs containing white crystalline substance and weighing 81.95 kilos, which later tested positive for shabu, a dangerous drug.
On May 28, 2008, two bags containing 10 vacuum sealed packs of the same substance were recovered by divers of the Subic Dry Dock, which later yielded positive results for shabu with a weight of 20.49 kilos.
On the same day, operatives of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group-Task Force Subic received information that a dark blue Toyota Hi-Ace with plate number UKU-699 parked inside a warehouse owned by Anglo Asia Commodity Corp. (Anglo Asia) contained similar boxes as those earlier seized.
The operatives proceeded to the warehouse and confiscated 60 boxes containing five packs of shabu weighing 612.22 kilograms.
Enrique L. Ong, manager of Anglo Asia, admitted that he was instructed by Ang and Ang’s wife Estrella Ang, operations manager of Hualong, to allow Rolando Labandelo, the driver of the vehicle, to park inside the warehouse.
It was also revealed during the investigation that Estrella notified the Seaport Department of SBMA of the arrival of the cargo vessel FB Shun Fa Xing, which was loaded with dangerous drugs that were later seized.
On June 13, 2008, the Task Force Subic operatives filed drug complaint before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Olongapo City against Enrique Ong, manager of Anglo-Asia Commodity Corporation; Harry Yao, owner of Anglo-Asia; Robert Lee, an incorporator of Anglo-Asia; Ang and Labandelo.
The complaint against Ang was eventually filed with the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court and a warrant of arrest was issued against him but he could no longer be located.
The complaint against Lee and other incorporators of Hualong identified as Anton Go, Cai Wengcong, Yao, Chua, and Changcheng was dismissed by the City Prosecutor of Olongapo.
But, then Justice Secretary, the late Raul Gonzalez Sr., reversed and set aside the City Prosecutor’s resolution maintaining that Chua and the other incorporators and directors of Hualong, must assume criminal liability.
Chua and Changcheng denied having knowledge or participation in the illegal importation of shabu as well as the lease agreement between Hualong and Anglo Asia.
This prompted Chua et al. to file a petition before the CA, seeking the reversal of the DOJ’s ruling but it was denied.
Thus, Chua and Chengcheng elevated their appeal before the SC.
However, the Court held that the evidence presented by the petitioners should be examined in a full-blown trial.
“If petitioners want to raise their arguments, the most appropriate recourse would be to proceed to trial and raise their defenses. The finding of probable cause is not a pronouncement of guilt, and a preliminary investigation does not require a full and exhaustive presentation of the parties’ evidence. Precisely, there is a trial to allow the reception of evidence for both parties to substantiate their respective claims,” the SC said.