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CA clears Bren Esports CEO of drug-smuggling charges

The Court of Appeals has overturned the decision of the Manila City Regional Trial Court (RTC) that charged Bren Esports CEO Bernard “Bren” Chong for his alleged involvement in the botched drug smuggling at the Manila International Container Port.

In a 27-page decision, the Special 17th Division of the Court of Appeals has set aside the decisions made by the Manila City RTC, which named Chong as one of the accused and co-conspirators in the importation of dangerous drugs, punishable under Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022.

Chong filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Appellate Court, docketed under CA – G.R. SP No. 174135, on July 1, 2022. Manila RTC Branch 53 presiding Judge Reynaldo Alhambra was named as the respondent for grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when he refused to quash the warrant of arrest and dismiss the criminal charge.

Chong stated in the petition that the public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion when it failed to protect the petitioner, who was falsely accused of violating RA 9165, as amended. This offense is non-bailable, and Chong argued that the court should have protected him from the difficulties, expenses, and anxiety of a public trial.

“The petition is meritorious. In the Court’s power of judicial review, it is incumbent on the Court to ease the burden of the trial court in identifying the real culprits so that they may face the dictates of criminal justice,” Associate Justice Bonifacio Pascua stated in the order.

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Associate Justices Louis Acosta and Jennifer Joy Ong concurred with the order.

Pascua ordered the dismissal of the case concerning petitioner Lu Chong and quashed the issued warrant of arrest against the petitioner in connection with the aforementioned case.

Chong submitted a certification by a notary public, as well as the General Information Sheet and Board Resolution from June and July 2018, showing that he had assigned his shares of stocks to Fortuneyield President Jaymark De Vicente.

This demonstrates that Chong was no longer connected with Fortuneyiled long before the alleged importation of illegal drugs took place.

“Therefore, considering the aforementioned premises, the instant petition is granted. Accordingly, judgment is hereby rendered annulling and setting aside the assailed orders dated September 13, 2021; October 25, 2021; and April 29, 2022, issued by the RTC-Manila, Branch 53, in Criminal Case No. R-MNL-20-0002-CR,” Pascua ordered.

Chong, who is also an angel investor in many startup companies around the world, founded Bren Esports in 2017. The Filipino esports team made history three years ago by becoming the first Philippine squad to win the $300,000 Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championship title.

Chong’s Bren Esports also had competitive teams in CS:GO, PUBG, League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, Hearthstone, Clash Royale, Arena of Valor, Rules of Survival, and Tekken 7.

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