The village chief of Barangay Ermita in Cebu City and members of his council were accused before the Office of the Ombudsman for refusing to cooperate with operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during a raid on drug dens in their area.
PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña identified the village officials as Barangay Chairman Felicisimo Rupinta; and Councilmen Marky Rizaldy Miral, Antonieto Flores, Ryan Jay Rosas, Alio Tamundo, Domingo Ando, Maria Buanghug and Wilbert Flores.
Lapeña said the entire barangay (village) council is facing criminal and administrative cases after PDEA filed a complaint against them before the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) in Guadalupe, Cebu City.
The agency through Regional Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz of PDEA Regional Office 7 (PDEA RO7), according to the PDEA chief, filed the case against the village officials for violation of Article 233 (Refusal of Assistance) of the Revised Penal Code.
“Barangay Ermita officials were charged on the grounds of gross misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service after they failed to lend cooperation toward the administration of justice,” Lapeña said.
On November 6, 2016, members of PDEA RO7 served two search warrants to residences doubling as drug dens in Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita that led to the arrest of its maintainers Richard Canete, alias Tata/Opaw and Josephine Cuyno, alias Nanay and several others who were caught in the act of sniffing shabu inside the drug dens.
PDEA RO7 agents then proceeded to the barangay hall, about 500 meters away from the area, to request Rupinta or any councilmen to be present and witness the search and inventory of seized drug evidence, in compliance with Section 21, Article II of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, as amended by RA 10640.
RA 10640 states, “The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media, or from the National Prosecution Service [NPS], and any elected official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.”
The barangay public safety officers (BPSO) or barangay tanod (village watchmen) on duty called Rupinta over the phone to relay the request.
No Rupinta or any of the councilmen, however, appeared after two hours of waiting, prompting PDEA RO7 to request two media representatives to serve as witnesses.
Considering the security risk involved, PDEA RO7 operatives withdrew from the place since one PDEA agent was shot in the very same area during an anti-drug operation in 2011.
“The failure of Rupinta and his council members to witness the physical inventory of the search, despite pressing demand from the operating unit, resulted in serious damage to the interest of the public and the prosecution of the case, in particular the required witnesses mandated under the law, and endangering the lives of the operating team while waiting for them to arrive,” the PDEA chief said.