In a petition filed with the Supreme Court, the OSG, which represents the government in cases, asked that a recent Court of Appeals ruling ordering the release of Joan Urbina be reversed.
Urbina and her boyfriend Ben Bryan Chua were arrested in December 2007 for alleged use of illegal drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia, in violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
In January 2008, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the drug complaints against Chua for lack of evidence, while those against Urbina remained and were forwarded to the Department of Justice for automatic review. She was locked up at the Philippine Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
It took the DOJ five years to finally file a formal complaint at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court just last May 9.
In its ruling, the CA granted Urbina’s petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus and struck down the drug case filed against Urbina for being lodged way too late.
“The Information filed before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 227 is hereby declared null and void for having been filed way beyond the period prescribed under pertinent rules of the Department of Justice,” the CA said in its 18-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.
In its petition with the high tribunal, the OSG insisted that the drugs case filed with the Quezon City court should be considered a “supervening” factor that should make her continuous detention legal.
“Even if the arrest of a person is illegal, supervening events may bar his/her release or discharge from custody. What is to be inquired into is the legality of his detention as of, at the earliest, the filing of the application for a writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of some supervening events, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application,” the OSG said.
The OSG further argued that the five-year delay in the filing of criminal charges in court was “not inordinate” as this was brought about by the “sheer volume of cases” being handled by the Justice department. — DVM, GMA News