MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted a peanut butter vendor on drug charges citing irregularities in the case against her.

In a notice published online on Sept. 29, the high court cleared Ken Cola Ali after it noted a lapse in the case when the officer who allegedly had contact with the informant which prompted the entrapment operation against the accused was not presented as a witness.

Ali has been convicted by a Kidapawan court for selling PHP500 worth of shabu to police in plain clothes on April 10, 2017, during a buy-bust operation following information received by local police from a confidential asset of the alleged activities of a certain “Tomboy”.

The accused claimed that she had been called by a friend to meet at a road to pay for items the latter purchased a week before.

Ali claimed that when she was arrested, the police allegedly planted incriminating evidence in her bag which contained her jars of peanut butter. Her conviction was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals (CA).

In taking her case to the SC, Ali questioned why Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) Rogelio T. Ybañez, Jr. of the Kidapawan City police, who supposedly received the information from an informant, was not presented as a witness by the prosecution.

The defense claimed that since the officer who received the information from the informant was not presented, “the prosecution failed to present evidence as to the veracity of the allegation that she was involved in the sale of illegal drugs” and said “it is incumbent upon law enforcers to show legal or reasonable justification before embarking on a buy-bust operation”.

The court said while buy-bust operations are legal, the testimony of PO2 Rhino Ramos, the police officer who effected the actual arrest, is not sufficient.

“The manner by which the initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer to purchase the drug, the payment of the buy-bust money, and the delivery of the illegal drug, whether to the informant alone or the police officer, must be the subject of strict scrutiny by courts to insure that law-abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense,” the SC said.

“The details that led to such exchange must be clearly and adequately accounted for. Failing in which will certainly cast a doubt on the veracity of the whole buy-bust operation.” the tribunal added. (PNA)