CEBU CITY -- A criminal case for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act was filed Friday against former Cebu vice governor John Gregory "John-John" OsmeÃ±a for his alleged involvement in the importation of a shabu ingredient in 2004.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez confirmed the filing of the charge in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, even though officials from both the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Criminal Division and the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor have withheld the document.
Gonzalez said the Department of Justice (DOJ) will issue a formal statement on Monday, including who else were impleaded in the case and why.
The filing of the case, almost four years and two months after the issue broke out, caught the vice governor's camp in apparent surprise.
Lawyer Edgar Gica, counsel for the former vice governor, said the last time he heard from the state prosecutors handling the preliminary investigation on the case was two years back.
"The last pleading I filed was a memorandum in support of our prayer for dismissal. See how justice is dispensed by them?" he said. "I can only say that the case of John-John is seasonal and the elections are just around the corner," he added.
But Gonzalez, in the interview, said the department was very thorough in the preliminary investigation and maintained that this was among the reasons it took them years to issue a resolution.
"They know what is the basis for the resolution," he said, referring to the OsmeÃ±a camp.
Two justice department officials flew to Cebu City Friday morning and hand-carried the thick records of the case for filing before the RTC criminal division.
State Prosecutor Llena Ipong-Avila said the same officials later took the 7 p.m. flight to Manila.
The DOJ, not the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor who otherwise had jurisdiction over the issue, conducted the preliminary investigation on the complaint.
In turn, the investigation stemmed from a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 fact-finding probe.
The probe centered on who was behind the March 5, 2004 entry of some 60 drums of a drug precursor to the Cebu International Port.
The shipment, believed to be worth over P3 million in 2004, was brought into the country by the firm Chifeng Arker Pharmaceutical Technology Co. Ltd., via the MV Intra Bhum.
The consignee was one Michael Cummings and his Coastside Ventures Inc., located at Unit E-19, King's Warehouse Plaza, Hernan Cortes St. in Mandaue City.
Law enforcement investigation subsequently traced the company to one Joebert Cuesta, Rorela Villegas and Ma. Rowena Roldan, all employees of the then incumbent vice governor.
Cuesta, who then sat as the vice governor's chief of staff, was identified as the former president of Coastside Ventures while Villegas represented the firm in a lease contract for a warehouse in Mandaue City where the shipment was to be delivered.
Roldan, on the other hand, was identified as one of Coastside's stockholders.
Article 2, Section 4 of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, penalizes the importation of any "controlled precursor or essential chemical." It provides an imprisonment lasting between 12 to 20 years.
A fine costing between P100,000 and P500,000 is likewise provided.
At the fact-finding stage, Gica submitted to NBI 7 a copy of the original articles of incorporation of Coastside Ventures Inc. showing no names of OsmeÃ±a's staff members as incorporators.
Only an amended version, per Securities and Exchange Commission records, mentioned two members of the vice governor's staff-Cuesta as president and Roldan as an incorporator.
Cuesta, in his affidavit, said he doesn't know why his name appeared on some Coastside documents. (KNR of Sun.Star Cebu)