THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has acquitted a Filipina whom a trial court had sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal drug possession, as it faulted the police for mishandling evidence.

In a 12-page resolution written by Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, the tribunal reversed Jamalia Sultan Mala’s life sentence issued by a Butuan trial court on July 6, 2018, saying police had failed to follow protocol in processing the seized 26.6 grams of crystal meth.

“All told, the failure of the police officers to observe the rule on the chain of custody of the seized items compels this court to find that the guilt of Mala… is doubtful,” it said. “The presumption of innocence in her favor must stand.”

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165) requires the presence of third-party witnesses as early as the time of the arrest.

The arresting officers in the case of Ms. Mala were found to have started contacting witnesses after the completion of the buy-bust operation, failing to satisfy the requirement that the insulating witnesses must be accessible to witness the inventory of the seized items.

“To this end, this Court has often held that failing to prove the integrity of the corpus delicti renders the evidence for the state insufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, and hence, warrants an acquittal,” the decision said. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana