State witness in mega shabu lab case ordered to pay P187,000 for overstaying in PHL

April 4, 2012 10:10 pm 

CEBU CITY, April 4 – The state witness whose testimony led to the conviction of the “Shabu Lab 11” who operated a mega shabu laboratory in Mandaue City cannot leave the country yet.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said the British tourist Hung Chin Chang, also known as Simon Lao, needs to pay P187,500 for staying beyond what his visa allowed.

Immigration officials said Lao has been overstaying in the country for more than seven years since Aug. 25, 2004.

Alex Tolentino, counsel for Lao, said they asked the immigration bureau and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to waive the fees, since he even testified for the government.

Besides, Lao was “not enjoying” his stay in the country for seven years and five months, he said.

Last Feb. 23, then Regional Trial Court Judge Marilyn Lagura-Yap found Filipino-Chinese businessman Calvin de Jesus Tan and 10 others guilty of manufacturing shabu. Yap is now an associate justice of the Court of Appeals.

She sentenced the group to life imprisonment and ordered them to pay a fine of P10 million each. Tan and the 10 other convicts are challenging the court ruling.

Yap, however, acquitted Lao and ordered his release from jail.

In her 27-page judgment, she noted that the testimony of 47-year-old Lao was a “a direct, personal and positive declaration of the roles” of the convicted nine tourists and two Filipinos in the illegal manufacture of shabu.

”Based on the testimony of Hung Chin Chang, the prosecution was able to establish the participation of the other accused in the operation of the shabu laboratory inside the Caps R Us warehouse,” Yap’s ruling read.

In his letter dated April 2 to BI Commissioner Ricardo David Jr., Tolentino said they were informed that Lao cannot yet leave the country until he settles his overstaying fees.

Lao was detained a month after his arrival on Aug. 25, 2004 until Feb. 26. 2012.

Under Sec. 17 and 18, rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court, Lao was subsequently acquitted after he became a state witness.

Now, he “cannot afford to pay these insurmountable overstaying fees. Since he was imprisoned, he has not had any visitor except his lawyer and the consul for the British “embassy,” said Tolentino, who added that his client underwent a divorce while in jail.

”He has no means to raise this amount. In fact, he is merely living upon the goodness of his few remaining friends and some relatives,” said Tolentino.

He has, however, obtained a new passport. (PNA) RMA/EB/re

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