Released | Inquirer Opinion


/ 04:04 AM October 05, 2021

Another dead body found on a bed full of cocaine. An artist’s life ended with marks on her neck.

The last and only person seen with artist Breanna Patricia Jonson Agunod was her boyfriend, Julian Stone Ongpin. The incident happened in the wee hours of the morning after an argument. He tested positive for cocaine use and was soon released.


Whether this was a case of homicide or suicide, autopsies, testimonies, and crime scene investigations will ultimately paint the truth. For now, what is wrong with the picture?

First, a total of 12.6 grams of cocaine was found inside the hostel room. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the penalty of life imprisonment to death is imposable upon any person who shall possess any dangerous drug in the quantity of more than 10 grams of cocaine, regardless of the degree of purity. It is a non-bailable offense.


In the Philippines, one can be accosted for jaywalking or brought to detention for not wearing a face shield or using a face mask improperly. But the police and the prosecutor chose not to charge and hold Ongpin for the illegal drugs, for a court to determine the probability of guilt.

Two, the Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, a popular accommodation with an array of CCTVs, has chosen to take the “see no evil, hear no evil” stand, and its staff has disavowed any knowledge of anything. Jonson was as much a guest, and both she and Ongpin stayed under the management’s terms and conditions, which included the prohibition of bringing in and using illegal drugs in the premises. The owners and the staff bear civil and moral responsibility to find out: Is it possible for a person to hang herself in their bathrooms? Instead, the attitude of the hotel management has been hands off and evasive.

Three, at the hospital where Jonson was first brought to, the medical professionals who attended to her were in the best position to determine not only the medical cause of death but also the legal and proximate cause of death. Asphyxiation is the reason for physical death; suicide by hanging and killed by strangulation are the two possible immediate causes. Doctors swear to do no harm, and that vow must include the pursuit of the truth when a life is extinguished.

The autopsies can only confirm the former but can hardly conclude on the latter. The other telltale signs of injury or abuse will not be as readable as the first few hours after Jonson’s last breath. Were delays deliberate?

Fourth, the local police and the head of the national police have issued statements one after the other trying to explain the release of Ongpin—from the uncertainty of what had happened inside the room to the need for more investigation. Ongpin walked out to the whole, wide world without law enforcement authorities doing basic due diligence.

Fifth, it had to take the mother of Jonson to ask the Department of Justice to issue an alert order against Ongpin should he try to leave the country. The process is not automatic, to ensure that laws are respected. But that also makes it not a pro-active or caring system for victims’ families.

Sixth, the local prosecutor ruled that there was no basis for Ongpin being arrested without a warrant despite the circumstances. This is the final point which makes one ask — is there a different procedure for rich and powerful suspects?


Unsaid and unwritten in this series of unfortunate events is the fact that Ongpin is the son of a billionaire and a Marcos-era minister who owns private planes. Ongpin is a suspect who possessed cocaine and tested positive for drug use inside a room where he ended up with a dead woman with close, personal ties to him in the wee hours. He is a person of interest, a suspect, and a flight risk.

These questions illustrate the continuing failure of our criminal justice system, with the so-called rule of law observed in ways not consonant with prudence and common sense anchored on truth and justice.

* * * 

Geronimo L. Sy is a former assistant secretary of the Department of Justice.

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TAGS: Bree Jonson, Commentary, Geronimo L. Sy, Julian Ong
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