Court acquits 5 accused drug dealers at Closeup concert
MANILA, Philippines – A Parañaque court acquitted five individuals accused of manufacturing and selling ecstasy at a 2016 Closeup concert where five young concert-goers died of possible drug overdose.
Branch 196 of the Parañaque City Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted their appeal in a ruling dated August 31, 2018. This was around four months after Branch 259 of the same court sentenced two of them to life imprisonment and three of them to at least 20 years in prison.
Judge Brigido Artemon Luna II of Branch 196 cleared Marc David Deen, Seergeoh Villanueva, Erika Dianne Valbuena, Thomas Lee Martin Halili, and Martin Angelo Dimacali of various drug-related charges filed in 2016.
In his ruling, Luna scored the prosecution for their quality of evidence. In particular, he cited “material inconsistencies in the testimonies by the witnesses, illegality and shortcomings to the conduct of the buy-bust, and/or the warrantless entry to a closed residence to say the least, and the deficiency to the inventory of the object evidence.”
“In violation of any provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Law, an acquittal comes in order for any of accused,” Luna said.
In an earlier ruling issued in April 2018, Parañaque RTC Branch 259 Judge Danilo Suarez had found Deen and Villanueva “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of illegal drug possession. The two were also ordered to pay P5 million each.
Their three co-accused – Dimacali, Halili, and Valbuena – faced at least 20 years in prison and were ordered to pay P500,000 each.
Suarez charged the five suspects for several violations of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The National Bureau of Investigation nabbed the suspected drug dealers in June 2016 for selling ecstasy during the Closeup concert held the month before, where five young concert-goers died.
Initial police and NBI probes showed victims Bianca Fontejon, 18; Ariel Leal, 22; Lance Garcia, 36; Ken Migawa, 18; and Eric Anthony Miller, 33, all died of possible drug overdose. (READ: Music, drugs, and alcohol: Do young Filipinos party to get high?)
Autopsy results of four of the victims showed they suffered from heart failure despite their young age. They had blackened hearts and watery fluid in their internal organs, and suffered from internal bleeding.
Since the incident, the organizers stopped holding what used to be the annual Closeup concert. – Rappler.com