Actor Mark Anthony Fernandez walked out a free man from the Pampanga provincial jail on Friday last week after a judge acquitted him of transporting a kilogram of dried marijuana.
Judge Ireneo Pangilinan Jr. of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 said he had to release Fernandez, 38, due to “procedural breaches” committed by Angeles policemen in handling the evidence against the actor, son of actress and politician Alma Moreno and the late actor Rudy Fernandez.
Fernandez was detained on Oct. 3 last year after policemen discovered a marijuana brick in his car that was flagged down as he drove through a police checkpoint at Barangay Virgen delos Remedios in Angeles. Fernandez was initially stopped because his vehicle did not have a license plate.
Fernandez sped away, prompting policemen to give chase, finally catching the actor at Barangay Saguin in this Pampanga capital. Police found two packs of marijuana weighing 786 grams and 7.108 grams.
But the court said the police broke the chain of custody of evidence, weakening the prosecution’s case against Fernandez.
The inventory of the marijuana was not conducted in the presence of representatives of the media, the Department of Justice and an elected barangay official as required by the rules. The inventory was instead conducted at Police Station 6 in Angeles and not at Barangay Saguin here, where Fernandez was arrested.
The evidence was also marked at the police station and not immediately after seizure in the presence of Fernandez.
“All told, the prosecution failed to prove that accused [Fernandez] is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of transportation of dangerous drugs. The plurality of procedural breaches, without plausible explanation, for noncompliance by the police officers with the rule on chain of custody, warrants the acquittal of the herein accused,” Pangilinan said in a 24-page resolution issued on Dec. 21.
by:T. OREJAS, INQ