Supreme Court (File photo)

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted two men convicted of illegal drug charges by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in 2019 after finding lapses in the custody of evidence.

In its ruling published online on August 17, the SC reversed the RTC which convicted Jimmy Saavedra and Ohmar Li.

“Absent any evidence or stipulation on how the seized drugs were handled while the specimens were in the evidence room, the chain of custody could not be deemed established to a moral certainty,” the SC ruled.

“If the chain of custody procedure has not been complied with, or no justifiable reason exists for its noncompliance, it is the Court’s duty to overturn the verdict of conviction,” it added.

The police reported the two were caught red-handed during a buy-bust operation on May 7, 2019 at Saavedra’s residence in Barangay Unang Sigaw, following a tip from a confidential informant.

Undercover police said they were able to purchase PHP200 worth of shabu from Saavedra and Li.

The defense said the two were arrested separately -- Saavedra at Balintawak and Li on his way home.

The two said they were taken to a house where there were other suspects for detention and brought to the Quezon City Police District Station 3 in Novaliches the following day.

The SC said there were no safekeeping measures after the confiscated contraband was turned over.

The prosecution likewise failed to present testimony from the evidence custodian on measures undertaken to maintain the integrity of the seized items. (PNA)