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G.R. No.

185383

September 25, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GIOVANNI OCFEMIA y CHAVEZ, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
For review is the Decision1 dated May 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.
C. No. 0248l, which affirmed the Decision2 dated August 31,2006 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 13, of the City of Ligao in Criminal Case No. 4594, finding accused-appellant
Giovanni C. Ocfemia guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal sale of dangerous drugs,
defined and penalized under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known
as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
In the Information dated April 14, 2003, accused-appellant was charged before the RTC as
follows:
That at or about eight thirty o'clock in the morning of February 21,2003, at Barangay San
Rafael, Municipality of Guinobatan, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction
of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, having in his possession, custody and
control methamphetamine hydrochloride commonly known as "shabu," did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell one piece of transparent plastic sachet weighing
0.0953 gram of shabu, a prohibited drug, to a poseur-buyer in consideration of the amount
of Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00), without any authority or permit from the concerned
government agency to possess and sell the same.3
Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on May29, 2003. 4
The prosecution presented the testimonies of Police Superintendent(P/SUPT) Lorlie Nilo
Arroyo (Arroyo),5Forensic Chemist of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Crime
Laboratory Office at Camp GeneralSimeon Ola in Legaspi City; Police Officer (PO) 2 Martin
Benedict Aldea (Aldea);6 and PO3 Emerito Zamora (Zamora).7 The prosecution also
proffered documentary and object evidence consisting of the Request for Laboratory
Examination8 of the "one (1) pc. transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline
substance, a suspected shabu," prepared by Police Senior Inspector (PS/INSP) Dennis
Ariston Vargas (Vargas) of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Albay
Provincial Office; the Chemistry Report No. D-067-2003 9dated February 21, 2003 issued by
P/SUPT Arroyo; three plastic sachets10 of varying sizes inside the small plastic sachet was
a smaller plastic sachet, and inside the smaller plastic sachet was the smallest plastic
sachet, containing white crystalline substance; and two pieces of P100.00 marked bills.11
The entirety of the evidence for the prosecution presented the following version of events:

Based on a tip from a confidential informant, a team, headed by PS/INSP Vargas and
composed of PO3 Zamora, PO2 Aldea, and other agents/officers from PDEA and the PNP
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), conducted a buy-bust operation against
accused-appellant in San Rafael, Guinobatan, Albay, on February 21, 2003. PO2Aldea was
designated to act as the poseur-buyer and was given five marked P100.00 bills to be used
as buy-bust money.
Around 8:00 in the morning, the team, together with the informant, proceeded to accusedappellants residence in San Rafael, Guinobatan, Albay. The team members strategically
positioned themselves within the vicinity of accused-appellants residence right before the
informant and PO2 Aldea transacted with accused-appellant. The informant called out to
accused-appellant who came out of his house. The informant then introduced PO2 Aldea to
accused-appellant as a buyer of shabu. PO2 Aldea handed the five marked P100.00 bills to
accused-appellant. Accused-appellant went inside his house and came back a few minutes
later to hand a heat-sealed small plastic sachet of shabu to PO2 Aldea. After examining the
purchased item, PO2 Aldea took off his cap from his head, the pre-arranged signal for the
rest of the team that the transaction had been consummated.PO3 Zamora and the other
team members rushed to the scene, apprised accused-appellant of his constitutional rights,
and apprehended accused-appellant. Incidental to accused-appellants lawful arrest, PO3
Zamora bodily frisked accused-appellant and was able to retrieve only two of the five
marked P100.00 bills from accused-appellants possession. Thereafter, accused-appellant
was brought to the police station.
At the police station, PO2 Aldea marked with his initials the sachet of shabu sold to him by
accused-appellant. PO2 Aldea then submitted the said sachet of shabu to their crime
laboratory, together with PS/INSP Vargass letter-request for chemical analysis of the same.
P/SUPT Arroyo conducted the chemical examination of the submitted specimen which
tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride.
The defense presented the testimonies of accused-appellant 12 and his spouse, Daisy
Ocfemia (Daisy),13 and the transcript of the preliminary examination conducted by Judge
Antonio C. Bagagan (Bagagan) of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Guinobatan, Albay,
on February 21, 2003.14
Daisy testified that her husband, accused-appellant, was engaged in the business of buying
and selling of fighting cocks. Accused-appellant would usually leave their house at 6:00 in
the morning and return at around 10:00 in the morning. Accused-appellant would leave
again at around 3:00in the afternoon and come home at around 9:00 or 10:00 in the
evening. At around 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning of February 21, 2003, accused-appellant
returned home, after accompanying their daughter to school, with two companions aboard a
tricycle. Accused-appellants companions introduced themselves as Captain Vargas and
PO3 Zamora and they informed Daisy that accused-appellant would go along with them to
Camp General Simeon Ola because a certain Cardona wanted to talk with accusedappellant. After that, Captain Vargas and PO3 Zamora left with accused-appellant. The
following day, Daisy found out that accused-appellant was already locked up in prison
allegedly for the illegal sale of shabu.

When accused-appellant took the witness stand, he denied the charge against him and
claimed that he was framed-up by the police.
Accused-appellant averred that he was an "asset" of the police, having once joined the
police in an entrapment operation in Legaspi City. On February 21, 2003, he joined the
police in another buy-bust operation. Ataround 7:00 in the morning of the said date,
PS/INSP Vargas, Senior Police Officer (SPO) 4 Fernando Cardona, and PO3 Zamora
dropped by accused-appellants house to ask accused-appellant to accompany them to
Iriga City. Accused-appellant assented to the police officers request and on their way to
Iriga City, the police officers briefed accused-appellant about the operation. The police
officers told accused-appellant that the suspect was a certain Danny Contreras (Contreras)
and that accused-appellant would act as the poseur-buyer.
Accused-appellant went on to narrate that upon meeting Contreras at the latters residence
at around noontime, he handed P1,000.00 to Contreras. Contreras, in turn, instructed
accused-appellant to wait in front of the Park View Hotel, which was about 10 meters from
where PS/INSP Vargas, SPO4Cardona, and PO3 Zamora positioned themselves. Moments
later, Contreras met accused-appellant in front of the said hotel and handed to accusedappellant the shabu. At this point, the police officers arrested Contreras and brought him to
Camp General Simeon Ola. Accused-appellant then turned over the shabu to SPO4
Cardona.
Accused-appellant related further that at Camp General Simeon Ola,urine samples were
taken from him and Contreras. Thereafter, accused-appellant was escorted by PO3 Zamora
to the PDEA to talk to PO2 Aldea.PO2 Aldea disclosed to accused-appellant that accusedappellant would be charged with illegal sale of shabu; that PO2 Aldea would claim to be the
poseur-buyer at the purported buy-bust operation against accused-appellant; and that PO2
Aldea would testify against accused-appellant. When accused-appellant protested, PO2
Aldea simply replied that it was an order from the latters superior which could not be
refused. Subsequently, accused-appellant was brought to Judge Bagagans office in
Guinobatan, Albay.
According to accused-appellant, Judge Bagagan conversed first with PS/INSP Vargas,
SPO4 Cardona, and PO3 Zamora. When Judge Bagagan talked to accused-appellant, the
Judge said that he had already signed a document and there was nothing more he could
do. Thereafter, accused-appellant was requested to immediately leave Judge Bagagans
office, giving him no opportunity to ask what document the Judge had signed.SPO4
Cardona approached accused-appellant, asking the latter to please understand ("Pare,
pasensiya na.") for he "did not want this to happen, it was them," 15 referring to the other
police officers.
The prosecution presented Judge Bagagan, already retired by that time, as rebuttal
witness. Judge Bagagan confirmed on the witness stand that in the evening of February
21, 2003, he conducted the preliminary investigation in accused-appellants case and that
based on the evidence presented before him, he found probable cause to indict accusedappellant. Judge Bagagan also recalled that after the preliminary investigation, accusedappellant confided that he was a police asset and that he was just being framed-up. Judge

Bagagan, however, brushed aside accused-appellants claim believing that the same was
already a matter of defense best threshed out during the trial.
On October 13, 2005, the RTC, then presided by Acting Presiding Judge William B. Volante
(Volante), considered the case submitted for decision. 16
In the meantime, the Court en banc approved on June 8, 2004Administrative Matter (A.M.)
No. 04-5-19-SC, entitled " Resolution Providing Guidelines in the Inventory and Adjudication
of Cases Assigned to Judges who are Promoted or Transferred to Other Branches in the
Same Court Level of the Judicial Hierarchy," which was reiterated and disseminated by the
Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to all trial judges for their proper observance
through OCA Circular No. 90-2004. Pertinent provisions of the Resolution read:
3. A judge transferred, detailed or assigned to another branch shall be considered as
Assisting Judge of the branch to which he was previously assigned. However, except
as herein below provided, the records of cases formerly assigned to him/her shall
remain in his/her former branch.
4. The judge who takes over the branch vacated by a transferred/detailed/assigned
judge shall, upon assumption of duty and within one (1) week, conduct an inventory
of all pending cases in the branch. The inventory shall state the docket number, title
and status of each case. The inventory shall be submitted to the Office of the Court
Administrator within five (5) working days from completion thereof.
5. Should any case be left undecided by the transferred/detailed/assigned judge, the
judge conducting the inventory shall cause the issuance to the parties of a notice of
transfer/detail/assignment of the judge to which the case had been assigned, with a
directive for the plaintiff/s to manifest, within five (5) days from receipt of such notice,
whether or not he/she desires that the transferred judge should decide the case. The
desire of the plaintiff, who may opt to have the case decided by the new judge, shall
be respected. However, should the defendant oppose the manifestation of the
plaintiff, the new judge shall resolve the matter in accordance with these Guidelines.
Should the plaintiff fail to submit such manifestation within the said 5-day period, the
presumption is that he/she desires that the case be decided by the transferred judge.
6. The manifestation of the plaintiff that the case should be decided by the
transferred judge shall be forwarded to the Office of the Court Administrator which,
upon receipt thereof, shall issue the proper directive. A directive requiring the
transferred judge to decide the case immediately shall state any of these conditions:
a) If the new station of the transferred judge is within the province of the
judicial region of his/her former station, the case shall be decided in such
station by the transferred judge who shall adjust his/her calendar to enable
him/her to dispose the undecided case at his/her own expense without
sacrificing efficiency in the performance of his/her duties in his/her new
station.

b) If the new station of the transferred judge is outside of the province in the
judicial region of his/her former station, there cords of the undecided case
shall be delivered either by personal service or by registered mail, to the
transferred judge and at his/her own expense.
In either case, the Office of the Court Administrator shall furnish the parties to the
case with a copy of such directive and the transferred judge shall return to his former
branch the records of the case with the decision that the new judge shall promulgate
in his stead.
7. Should a motion for reconsideration of the decision or for new trial be filed by any
party, the transferred judge shall resolve the same. However, if a motion for new trial
is granted by the transferred judge, the new judge shall preside over the same,
resolve the motion, and see to its final disposition. (Emphasis supplied.)
In an Order dated June 6, 2006, the RTC notified the parties that Acting Presiding Judge
Volante had already been replaced by Presiding Judge Angeles S. Vasquez (Vasquez) and
directed the parties to manifest within five days from notice whether they want the case to
still be decided by Judge Volante, otherwise, it would already be decided by Judge
Vasquez.17 While the prosecution did not submit such a manifestation, accused-appellant
filed his Manifestation18 on July 13, 2006 informing the RTC that he wished for Judge
Volante to decide the case.
On August 31, 2006, the RTC promulgated its Decision, penned by Judge Vasquez,
convicting and sentencing accused-appellant of the crime charged, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the Court having been convinced of the guilt of the accused, Giovanni
Ocfemia, beyond reasonable doubt hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of LIFE
IMPRISONMENT and a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) with
subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
The accused is likewise ordered to suffer the accessory penalties as provided for by law.
The prohibited drug known as Shabu is ordered confiscated in favor of the government and
the same is ordered destroyed by the PDEA in accordance with the existing regulation. 19
Accused-appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that:
I
The Honorable Judge who penned the assailed Decision did not observe the guidelines laid
down in A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC contained in OCA Circular No. 90-2004, hence, he has of
doubtful authority to render and promulgate the same. The result is a denial of due process.
II
The prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt the" corpus delicti." It was
error on the part of the trial court to convict the accused.

III
The trial court erred in giving credence to the testimony of Martin Benedict Aldea and
Ernesto Zamora, by misapplying the rule that public officers are presumed to have regularly
performed their functions.
IV
The court erred in not giving credence to the defense that there was no buy-bust operation
that took place in Guinobatan, Albay, on February21, 2003, but instead, accused was used
a[s] poseur-buyer in a buy-bust operation in Iriga City on the same date.
V
The prosecutions evidence fell short of the required quantum of proof that the guilt of the
accused must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. 20
Following an exchange of Briefs by the parties, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision
on May 27, 2008, with the following dispositive portion:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision dated August 31, 2006 of the Regional
Trial Court of Ligao City, Branch 13 in Criminal Case No. 4594 is hereby AFFIRMED. 21
Accused-appellant comes before this Court seeking the reversal of his conviction.
At the outset, accused-appellant posits that he was effectively denied due process of law.
Accused-appellant points out that plaintiff-appellee failed to file its manifestation as directed
in RTC Order dated June 6, 2006,giving rise to the presumption that it preferred Judge
Volante to decide the case. In his own Manifestation dated July 13, 2006, accused-appellant
expressed his desire that the case be decided by Judge Volante for it was said Judge who
received the evidence of the parties. Under A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC, Judge Vasquez should
have endorsed the case to the OCA for appropriate action, yet said Judge still proceeded to
decide the case without even giving any explanation for his non-observance of the
guidelines.
The Court is not persuaded.
Preceding A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC was Re: Cases Left Undecided by Judge Sergio D.
Mabunay, RTC, Branch 24, Manila,22 in which the Court first laid down the rules on cases
left behind by a trial court judge:
Basically, a case once raffled to a branch belongs to that branch unless reraffled or
otherwise transferred to another branch in accordance with established procedure. When
the Presiding Judge of that branch to which a case has been raffled or assigned is
transferred to another station, he leaves behind all the cases he tried with the branch to
which they belong. He does not take these cases with him even if he tried them and the
same were submitted to him for decision. The judge who takes over this branch inherits all
these cases and assumes full responsibility for them. He may decide them as they are his

cases, unless any of the parties moves that his case be decided by the judge who
substantially heard the evidence and before whom the case was submitted for decision. If a
party therefore so desires, he may simply address his request or motion to the incumbent
Presiding Judge who shall then endorse the request to the Office of the Court Administrator
so that the latter may in turn endorse the matter to the judge who substantially heard the
evidence and before whom the case was submitted for decision.
This will avoid the "renvoir" of records and the possibility of an irritant between the judges
concerned, as one may question the authority of the other to transfer the case to the former.
If coursed through the Office of the Court Administrator, the judge who is asked to decide
the case is not expected to complain, otherwise, he may be liable for insubordination and
his judicial profile may be adversely affected. Upon direction of the Court Administrator, or
any of his Deputy Court Administrators acting in his behalf, the judge before whom a
particular case was earlier submitted for decision may be compelled to decide the case
accordingly.
We take this opportunity to remind trial judges that once they act as presiding judges or
otherwise designated as acting/assisting judges in branches other than their own, cases
substantially heard by them and submitted to them for decision, unless they are promoted to
higher positions in the judicial ladder, may be decided by them wherever they may be if so
requested by any of the parties and endorsed by the incumbent Presiding Judges through
the Office of the Court Administrator. The following procedure may be followed: First, the
Judge who takes over the branch must immediately make an inventory of the cases
submitted for decision left behind by the previous judge (unless the latter has in the
meantime been promoted to a higher court).
Second, the succeeding judge must then inform the parties that the previous judge who
heard the case, at least substantially, and before whom it was submitted for decision, may
be required to decide the case. In this event, and upon request of any of the parties, the
succeeding judge may request the Court Administrator to formally endorse the case for
decision to the judge before whom it was previously submitted for decision. Third, after the
judge who previously heard the case is through with his decision, he should send back the
records together with his decision to the branch to which the case properly belongs, by
registered mail or by personal delivery, whichever is more feasible, for recording and
promulgation, with notice of such fact to the Court Administrator.
Since the primary responsibility over a case belongs to the presiding judge of the branch to
which it has been raffled or assigned, he may also decide the case to the exclusion of any
other judge provided that all the parties agree in writing that the incumbent presiding judge
should decide the same, or unless the judge who substantially heard the case and before
whom it was submitted for decision has in the meantime died, retired or for any reason has
left the service, or has become disabled, disqualified, or otherwise incapacitated to decide
the case.
The Presiding Judge who has been transferred to another station cannot, on his own, take
with him to his new station any case submitted for decision without first securing formal

authority from the Court Administrator. This is to minimize, if not totally avoid, a situation of
"case-grabbing."
In the same vein, when the Presiding Judge before whom a case was submitted for
decision has already retired from the service, the judge assigned to the branch to take over
the case submitted for decision must automatically assume the responsibility of deciding the
case. (Emphases supplied.)
Eventually, the Court observed in the Whereas Clauses of A.M. No.04-5-19-SC that despite
existing administrative circulars and its Resolution in Mabunay, "judges who are promoted
or transferred to other stations leave many undecided cases, thereby unfairly creating
additional workload for judges who are subsequently appointed thereto," hence, the Court
resolved to adopt guidelines under which "cases assigned to judges who have been
transferred, detailed or assigned to any branch within or outside the judicial region of the
same court or promoted to a higher court shall be managed and decided."
It is clear from the foregoing that the reason behind A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC is primarily
administrative, i.e., to establish an orderly system for the management and disposition of
cases of a trial court in the event of transfer, reassignment, or promotion of its presiding
judge. It intends to prevent conflict between the transferred judge and the new judge, and
confusion as to when, where, and how case records shall be transferred and decisions shall
be promulgated in such cases. It does not touch upon any jurisdictional issue and, in
general, does not have any effect on the validity of the decision or resolution of either the
transferred judge or the new judge.
A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC actually recognizes that both the transferred judge and the new judge
can decide the case but gives consideration to the preference of the parties. Indeed, Judge
Volante was the presumed choice of plaintiff-appellee and the expressed option of accusedappellant to decide Criminal Case No. 4594. Under A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC, Judge Vasquez
should have endorsed the case to the OCA, which, in turn, would have authorized Judge
Volante to decide the case. Nonetheless, while Judge Vasquez may face administrative
liability (after appropriate administrative proceedings) for his failure to comply with A.M. No.
04-5-19-SC, his Decision dated August 31, 2006 in Criminal Case No. 4594 is completely
valid absent any showing that it had been rendered without or in excess of jurisdiction or in
violation of accused-appellants constitutional right to due process.
Contrary to accused-appellants averment, he was not denied due process of law just
because of Judge Vasquezs lapses in the observance of A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC. Worth
reproducing herein are the pronouncements of the Court of Appeals on the matter:
Contrary to accused-appellants argument, it bears to stress that he was not at all denied of
due process. As held by the Supreme Court, due process means giving every contending
party the opportunity to be heard and the court to consider every piece of evidence
presented in their favor (Co vs. Calimag, 334 SCRA 20, 26 [2000]). When a party has been
afforded a chance to present his or her own side, he cannot feign denial of due process
(Pascual vs. People, G.R. No. 160540, March 22, 2007).As in this case, accused-appellant
was sufficiently given the opportunity to be heard, to defend himself and to confront his
accusers on the offense hurled against him. Hence, due process was not denied to the

accused-appellant by the mere issuance of a judge of a decision based on the records


despite the fact that said judge was not the one who conducted the trial and receive the
evidence of the parties.23
Furthermore, the situation wherein the judge rendering the decision in a case was not the
same judge who heard the case and received evidence from the parties is not new or
unique. In
People v. Paling,24 the Court upheld the validity of such a decision, ratiocinating that:
The fact that the trial judge who rendered judgment was not the one who had the occasion
to observe the demeanor of the witnesses during trial but merely relied on the records of the
case does not render the judgment erroneous, especially where the evidence on record is
sufficient to support its conclusion. Citing People v. Competente, this Court held in People v.
Alfredo:
"The circumstance that the Judge who rendered the judgment was not the one who heard
the witnesses, does not detract from the validity of the verdict of conviction. Even a cursory
perusal of the Decision would show that it was based on the evidence presented during trial
and that it was carefully studied, with testimonies on direct and cross examination as well as
questions from the Court carefully passed upon." (Emphasis in the original.)
Further, "it is not unusual for a judge who did not try a case in its entirety to decide it on the
basis of the records on hand." This is because the judge "can rely on the transcripts of
stenographic notes and calibrate the testimonies of witnesses in accordance with their
conformity to common experience, knowledge and observation of ordinary men. Such
reliance does not violate substantive and procedural due process of law." Considering that,
in the instant case, the transcripts of stenographic notes taken during the trial were extant
and complete, there was no impediment for the judge to decide the case. (Citations
omitted.)
Upon review, the Court concludes that the factual findings of RTC Judge Vasquez, as
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are sufficiently supported by the evidence on record.
In the prosecution for the crime of illegal sale of prohibited drugs, the following elements
must concur: (1) the identities of the buyer and seller, object, and consideration; and (2) the
delivery of the thing sold and the payment thereof. What is material to the prosecution for
illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually occurred,
coupled with the presentation in court of the substance seized as evidence. 25
The prosecution herein was able to duly establish all the essential elements of the crime
charged against accused-appellant. First, it was sufficiently shown that the PDEA and the
PNP-CIDG jointly conducted a legitimate buy-bust operation against accused-appellant on
February 21,2003. PO2 Aldea, as the poseur-buyer, paidP500.00 to accused-appellant,
who, in turn, handed to PO2 Aldea a small heat-sealed plastic sachet containing 0.0953
grams of shabu. Second, the very same sachet of shabu sold by accused-appellant to PO2
Aldea was presented as evidence by the prosecution during trial.

Accused-appellant though protests that the prosecution failed to prove with moral certainty
that the sachet of shabu presented before the RTC was the same one he allegedly sold
during the buy-bust operations since the police officers who had initial custody and control
thereof neither showed an inventory nor a photograph taken of the same; and that
assuming it was marked, the marking was not immediately done after its seizure and
confiscation at the place where he was apprehended. Accused-appellant contends that the
police officers disregarded Section 21(1) of Republic Act No. 9165 which requires that the
drugs seized must be physically inventoried and photographed immediately after seizure
and confiscation in the presence of the accused or his representative or counsel, a
representative from the media, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public
official. On that premise, accused-appellant additionally argues that the prosecution cannot
rely on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties by the police
officers.
Accused-appellants assertions are bereft of merit.
Jurisprudence has already decreed that the failure of the police officers to make a physical
inventory, to photograph, and to mark the shabu at the place of arrest do not automatically
render it inadmissible in evidence or impair the integrity of the chain of its custody.26 Of
particular significance to the present case is the following discussion of the Court on Section
21(1) of Republic Act No. 9165 in People v. Resurreccion 27:
Jurisprudence tells us that the failure to immediately mark seized drugs will not
automatically impair the integrity of chain of custody.
The failure to strictly comply with Sec. 21(1), Art. II of RA 9165does not necessarily render
an accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible. What is
of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the
seized items, as these would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the
accused.
As we held in People v. Cortez, testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard
because it is almost always impossible to obtain an unbroken chain. Cognizant of this fact,
the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165 on the handling and disposition of
seized dangerous drugs provides as follows:
"SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered
Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential
Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall
take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or
laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in
the following manner:
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in
the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or
seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the

Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign
the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; Provided, that the physical
inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is
served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further,
that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the
integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody
over said items x x x."
Accused-appellant broaches the view that SA Isidoros failure to mark the confiscated shabu
immediately after seizure creates a reasonable doubt as to the drugs identity. People v.
Sanchez, however, explains that RA 9165 does not specify a time frame for "immediate
marking," or where said marking should be done:
"What Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 and its implementing rule do not expressly specify is the
matter of "marking" of the seized items in warrantless seizures to ensure that the evidence
seized upon apprehension is the same evidence subjected to inventory and photography
when these activities are undertaken at the police station rather than at the place of arrest.
Consistency with the "chain of custody" rule requires that the "marking" of the seized items
to truly ensure that they are the same items that enter the chain and are eventually the
ones offered in evidence should be done (1) in the presence of the apprehended violator
(2) immediately upon confiscation."
To be able to create a first link in the chain of custody, then, what is required is that the
marking be made in the presence of the accused and upon immediate confiscation.
"Immediate confiscation" has no exact definition. Thus, in People v. Gum-Oyen, testimony
that included the marking of the seized items at the police station and in the presence of the
accused was sufficient in showing compliance with the rules on chain of custody. Marking
upon immediate confiscation contemplates even marking at the nearest police station or
office of the apprehending team. (Emphases supplied, citations omitted.)
In this case, the chain of custody of the sachet of shabu sold by accused-appellant could be
continuously traced from its receipt by PO2Aldea, the poseur-buyer, during the buy-bust
operation; its transfer to the police laboratory for examination; it being kept in police custody
while awaiting trial; and its presentation as evidence before the RTC. PO2 Aldea himself
marked the said sachet of shabu with his initials upon arriving at the police station with the
arrested accused-appellant. He also personally submitted the same sachet of shabu to the
PNP crime laboratory for forensic examination. When he testified before the RTC, PO2
Aldea identified the sachet of Shabu and confirmed his initials thereon. P/SUPT Arroyo was
the forensic officer who conducted the chemical examination of the contents of the sachet
bearing PO2 Aldeas initials and she confirmed on the wit stand that the said contents
tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. Thus, the integrity and evidentiary
value of the sachet of shabu presented in evidence against accused-appellant was properly
preserved in substantial compliance with Section 21(1) of Republic Act No.9165.

Lastly, accused-appellant attempts to raise doubts on the veracity of the prosecution


witnesses testimonies. He calls attention to alleged inconsistencies between the narratives
of PO2 Aldea and PO3 Zamora as to the details of the buy-bust operation, such as who
actually marked and gave the five P100.00 bills used in the said operation to PO2 Aldea or
who were their companions in their respective vehicles on the way back to Camp General
Simeon Ola after the operation. Also cause for suspicion, according to accused-appellant,
was PO3 Zamoras purported statement, during the preliminary investigation conducted by
Judge Bagagan, that he could not even recall the name of the poseur-buyer. In contrast,
accused-appellant proffers his clear and consistent defenses of denial and frame-up. He
explains that he could hardly be expected to provide evidence that he was merely an
informant and poseur-buyer during the buy-bust operation against Contreras since such
evidence is precisely in the possession of the police. Accused-appellant argues that the
RTC erred in giving credence to the evidence of the prosecution rather than that of
accused-appellant; and the Court of Appeals similarly erred when it simply relied on the
assessment of witnesses credibility by the RTC, because the jurisprudential doctrine that
factual findings of the trial court are binding upon the appellate courts does not apply when
the trial court judge who decided the case was not the same judge who held trial and heard
the testimonies of the witnesses.
1wphi1

Once more, the Court is not swayed by accused-appellants arguments.


The inconsistencies alluded to by accused-appellant in the prosecution witnesses
testimonies are trifling and pertain to minor details which do not affect any of the elements
of the crime charged. Inconsistencies and discrepancies in the testimony referring to minor
details and not upon the basic aspect of the crime do not diminish the witnesses credibility.
Moreso, an inconsistency, which has nothing to do with the elements of a crime, is not a
ground to reverse a conviction.28
In addition, accused-appellants defense of frame-up cannot prevail over the prosecution
witnesses positive testimonies on the conduct of a legitimate buy-bust operation against
accused-appellant, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti. The
testimonies of police officers, who caught accused-appellant in flagrante delicto, are usually
credited with more weight and credence, in the absence of evidence that they have been
inspired by an improper or ill motive, as compared to the accused's defenses of denial and
frame-up, which have been invariably viewed with disfavor for the same can easily be
concocted. In order to prosper, the defenses of denial and frame-up must be proved with
strong and convincing evidence,29 which accused-appellant failed to produce in this case. As
aptly pointed out by both the RTC and the Court of Appeals, accused-appellant could have
bolstered his defenses by presenting witnesses who could attest that he was, in fact, a
"confidential informant" or an "asset" of the police, or who could corroborate the existence
of Danny Contreras. Accused-appellant's assertion that all evidence to exculpate him is in
the custody of the police is only too convenient and fails to convince the Court to waive
away the requisite burden of evidence. There is absolute lack of reason or motive for the
police, and even Judge Bagagfian, to turn against accused-appellant, an alleged police
informant/asset, and launch a concerted and elaborate plan to put accused-appellant in jail.

In consideration of all the foregoing, the Court finds no cogent reason to deviate from the
judgment of conviction rendered against accused-appellant by the RTC and affirmed by the
Court of Appeals.
The penalty for illegal sale of shabu, regardless of the quantity and purity involved, under
Article II, Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165, shall be life imprisonment to death and a fine
ranging t1om Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million Pesos
(P10,000,000.00). Hence, the imposition by the RTC of the penalty of life imprisonment and
a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) upon accused-appellant, likewise
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, is correct.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated May 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.H.C. No. 02481 is AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE*
Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN**


Associate Justice
C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the
above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
*

**

Per Special Order No. 1537 (Revised) dated September 6, 2013.


Per Special Order No. 1545 (Revised) dated September 16, 2013.

Rollo, pp. 2-29; penned by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. with Associate
Justices Noel G. Tijam and Ramon M. Bato, Jr., concurring.
1

CA rollo, pp. 28-47; penned by Judge Angeles S. Vasquez.

Records, p. 25.

Id. at 41-42.

TSN, October 2, 2003.

TSN, January 30, 2004 and February 4, 2004.

TSN, May 5, 2004.

Records, p. 181.

Id. at 182.

10

Exhibits B-4 and B-5; Left in the custody of the RTC.

11

Records, p. 7.

12

TSN, August 10, 2005 and October 6, 2005.

13

TSN, July 13, 2005.

14

Records, pp. 17-21.

15

TSN, August 10, 2005, p. 18.

16

Records, p. 243.

17

Id. at 248.

18

Id. at 249.

19

CA rollo, p. 47.

20

Id. at 59-60.

21

Rollo, p. 28.

22

354 Phil. 698, 704-706 (1998).

23

Rollo, p. 17.

24

G.R. No. 185390, March 16, 2011, 645 SCRA 627, 636-637.

25

People v. Castro, G.R. No. 194836, June 15, 2011, 652 SCRA 393, 408.

26

Imson v. People, G.R. No. 193003, July 13, 2011, 653 SCRA 826, 834.

27

G.R. No. 186380, October 12, 2009, 603 SCRA 510, 518-520.

28

People v. Villahermosa, G.R. No. 186465, June 1, 2011, 650 SCRA 256, 275-276.

29

People v. Lazaro, Jr., G.R. No. 186418, October 16,2009, 604 SCRA 250, 269.

http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/sep2013/gr_185383_2013.html

Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION
PEOPLE OF
THEPHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee,

- versus -

G.R. No. 192261


Present:

VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson,


PERALTA,

GARET SALCENA Y
VICTORINO,
Accused-Appellant.

ABAD,
PEREZ, and

MENDOZA, JJ.
Promulgated:
November 16, 2011

x ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the February 9, 2010 Decision [1] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 02894, which affirmed the July 10, 2007
Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 103, Quezon City, (RTC) in
Criminal Case No. Q-05-134553, finding accused Garet Salcena y
Victorino (Salcena) guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of life
imprisonment and ordering her to pay a fine of 500,000.00.
In the Information[3] dated May 24, 2005, Salcena, together with a certain
Arlene Morales Armas (Armas), was charged with illegal sale of shabu, the
accusatory portion of which reads:
That on or about the 19th day of May, 2005, in Quezon City,
Philippines, the said accused, conspiring together, confederating with and
mutually helping each other, not being authorized by law to sell, dispense,
deliver, transport or distribute any dangerous drug, did then and there,
willfully and unlawfully sell, dispense, deliver, transport, distribute or act
as broker in the said transaction, zero point zero four gram (0.04) of
Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.

When arraigned, both Salcena and Armas entered a plea of NOT


GUILTY[4] to the offense charged. After pre-trial was terminated, trial on the merits
ensued. The prosecution presented the testimonies of Barangay Security
Development Officer(BSDO) Ronnie Catubay (Catubay), the poseur buyer; BSDO
Elmer Esguerra (Esguerra); and Forensic Chemist Filipinas Francisco
Papa (Papa). The defense, on the other hand, presented the lone testimony of
Salcena.
The Version of the Prosecution
The Peoples version of the incident has been succinctly recited by the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG) in its Brief[5] as follows:
In the afternoon of May 19, 2005, an informant reported to the
barangay tanods of Barangay San Antonio, SFDM,Quezon City, namely,
Ronnie Catubay and Elmer Esguerra, that appellant Garet was selling
illegal drugs. Responding to the report, the barangay tanods met in the
afternoon and plotted an entrapment against appellant. Barangay tanods
Catubay and Esguerra were assigned to act as poseur buyer and given a
marked 100.00 bill by the barangay chairman. Thereafter, at around 5:20
p.m., the team proceeded to No. 23 Paco Street, SFDM, Quezon City.
Upon arriving at the entrapment place, Catubay and Esguerra went
to appellant and asked if they could buy shabu. Appellant handed to
Catubay a plastic sachet containing shabu and in return received the 100
marked money. At this point, Catubay immediately arrested appellant and
recovered from her the marked money. Just as appellant was
apprehended, another woman (identified in court as Arlene M. Armas),
ran from the scene, prompting the tanods to arrest her. The two women
were brought to the BSDO office of the barangay hall of Barangay San
Antonio for recording purposes. After which, they were taken to the PNP
Headquarter in Camp Karingal in Quezon City.
Forensic Chemist Filipinas Francisco Papa of the CPD Crime
Laboratory conducted the test on the specimen submitted and the result
yielded positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride.[6]

After the prosecution had formally offered its evidence and rested, coaccused Armas filed a demurrer to evidence anchored on the ground that the

evidence adduced by the prosecution failed to meet that quantum of proof


necessary to support her criminal conviction for the offense charged. On March 15,
2006, the RTC granted the demurrer and dismissed the charge against Armas.[7]
The Version of the Defense
In her Brief,[8] Salcena denied that she was caught, in flagrante, selling shabu and
claimed that she was just a victim of a frame-up. Her version of the events that
transpired in the afternoon of May 19, 2005 is diametrically opposed to that of the
prosecution. Thus:
On May 19, 2005, at around 10:00 oclock in the morning, GARET
SALCENA and Arlene Armas were on board a tricycle en route to
Pantranco. Before they were able to reach their destination, two (2)
barangay tanods stopped their tricycle and asked them to step out.
Subsequently, the duo were invited to the barangay hall where they
were bodily frisked by a female barangay tanod. After they were frisked,
the lady tanod said, negative ito. Despite this, however, a male tanod said,
kahit na negative yan, positive yan.
Consequently, a plastic sachet was taken from the table of one of the
tanods and planted as evidence against the accused. The duo was
subsequently brought to the Camp Karingal police station.
She vehemently denied the accusations against her. [9]

The Decision of the RTC


On July 10, 2007, the RTC rendered judgment convicting Salcena for illegal
sale of 0.04 gram of shabu. The trial court rejected her defenses of denial and
frame-up and accorded weight and credence to the collective testimonies of
barangay tanods, Catubay and Esguerra. The decretal portion of the RTC Decision
reads:
ACCORDINGLY, judgment is rendered finding the accused GARET
SALCENA y VICTORINO GUILTY of violation of Section 5 of R.A. 9165
(for pushing shabu) as charged and she is sentenced to suffer a jail term of
LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay a fine of 500,000.00.

The shabu in this case weighing 0.04 gram is ordered transmitted


to the PDEA thru DDB for disposal as per RA 9165.
SO ORDERED.[10]

The Decision of the CA


On appeal, the CA affirmed the conviction of the accused on the basis of the
testimonies of Catubay and Esguerra which it found credible and sufficient to
sustain the conviction. The CA was of the view that the presumption of regularity
in the performance of official duty in favor of the barangay tanods was not
sufficiently controverted by Salcena. It stated that the prosecution was able to
establish the elements of the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs as well as the
identity of Salcena as its author. The appellate court rejected the defense of frameup for her failure to substantiate the same.
Moreover, the CA held that the apprehending team properly observed the
procedure outlined by Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 and that the integrity and
evidentiary value of the subject shabu was duly preserved. The appellate court also
sustained the RTC in holding that Salcenas constitutional right to counsel was
never impaired as she was adequately represented and assisted by a counsel at all
stages of the trial proceedings. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision
dated February 9, 2010 reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appealed Decision
dated July 10, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
103, Quezon City in Criminal Case No. Q-05-134553 convicting accusedappellant of the violation of Section 11, article II of R.A. No. 9165 and
sentencing her to Life Imprisonment and to pay a fine of 500,000.00 is
hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.[11]

On February 22, 2010, Salcena filed a Notice of Appeal[12] which the CA


gave due course in its Minute Resolution[13] datedMarch 17, 2010.

In the Resolution dated July 2, 2010, the Court required the parties to file
their respective supplemental briefs. The parties, however, manifested that they had
exhausted their arguments before the CA and, thus, would no longer file any
supplemental brief.[14]
The Issues
Insisting on her innocence, Salcena ascribes to the RTC the following errors:
I
THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED THE
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO COUNSEL.
II

ACCUSED-APPELLANTS

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN RENDERING A VERDICT


OF CONVICTION DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE GUILT OF THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT.
III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RENDERING A JUDGMENT OF
CONVICTION DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE CHAIN OF CUSTODY
OF THE ALLEGED SHABU WAS NEVER ESTABLISHED.

Salcena contends that the prosecution failed to prove her guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. She avers that both the RTC and the CA were mistaken in giving
undue credence to the testimonies of Catubay and Esguerra as well as in upholding
the validity of the alleged buy-bust operation. She decries that she was a victim of
a frame-up claiming that a barangay tanod merely planted the subject shabu on her
for the purpose of harassing her. She adds that the omission of the two barangay
tanods to observe the procedure outlined by Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 impaired
the prosecutions case. She assails the prosecution for its failure to establish the
proper chain of custody of the shabu allegedly seized from her. Also, she submits
that her acquittal is in order in the light of the denial of her basic constitutional
rights to counsel and to due process.

The OSG, on the other hand, counters that the culpability of Salcena for the
crime of illegal sale of shabu was proven beyond reasonable doubt. It alleges that
contrary to her stance, she was afforded with adequate and effective legal
representation at all stages of the trial. It avers that there was proper coordination
with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) before the buy-bust
operation was conducted, and that the prosecution was able to establish an
unbroken and cohesive chain of custody of the confiscated narcotic substance.
The Courts Ruling:
The foregoing assignment of errors can be synthesized into: first, the core
issue of whether there was a valid buy-bust operation; and second,
whether sufficient evidence exists to support Salcenas conviction for violation of
Section 5, Article III of R.A. No. 9165.
Prefatorily, it must be emphasized that an appeal in a criminal case throws
the whole case open for review and it is the duty of the appellate court to cite,
appreciate and correct errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned
or unassigned.[15]
After a meticulous review and examination of the evidence on record, the
Court finds merit in the appeal.
True, the trial courts assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their
testimonies, as a rule, is entitled to great weight and will not be disturbed on
appeal. This rule, however, does not apply where it is shown that any fact of
weight and substance has been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied by the
trial court.[16] The case at bar falls under the above exception and, hence, a
deviation from the general rule is justified.

Jurisprudence has firmly entrenched that in the prosecution for illegal sale of
dangerous drugs, the following essential elements must be proven: (1) that the
transaction or sale took place; (2) the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented
as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and seller were identified. [17] Implicit in all these
is the need for proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with
the presentation in court of the confiscated prohibited or regulated drug as
evidence.
An assiduous evaluation of the evidence on record in its totality exposes
flaws in the prosecution evidence which raises doubt as to its claim of an
entrapment operation. Not all the elements necessary for the conviction of Salcena
for illegal sale of shabu were clearly established in this case.
A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment, which in recent years has been
accepted as valid and effective mode of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs
Law.[18] It has been proven to be an effective way of unveiling the identities of drug
dealers and of luring them out of obscurity.[19] To determine whether there was a
valid entrapment or whether proper procedures were undertaken in effecting the
buy-bust operation, it is incumbent upon the courts to make sure that the details of
the operation are clearly and adequately established through relevant, material and
competent evidence. The courts cannot merely rely on, but must apply with studied
restraint, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty by law
enforcement agents. Courts are duty-bound to exercise extra vigilance in trying
drug cases and should not allow themselves to be used as instruments of abuse and
injustice lest innocent persons are made to suffer the unusually severe penalties for
drug offenses.[20]
The prosecution seeks to prove the entrapment operation through the
testimonies of barangay tanods Catubay and Esguerra. Accordingly, the innocence
or culpability of Salcena hinges on the issue of their credibility. In determining the
credibility of prosecuting witnesses regarding the conduct of a legitimate buy-bust
operation, the objective test as laid down in People v. De Guzman[21] is utilized.
Thus:

We therefore stress that the objective test in buy-bust operation


demands that the details of the purported transaction must be clearly and
adequately shown. This must start from the initial contact between the
poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer for purchase, the promise or
payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the
delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. The manner by which the
initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer to
purchase the drug, the payment of the buy-bust money, and the delivery of
the illegal drug, whether to the informant alone or the police officer, must
be the subject of strict scrutiny by courts to insure that law-abiding
citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense.

Applying this objective test, the Court is of the considered view that the
prosecution failed to present a complete picture of the buy-bust operation
highlighted by the disharmony and inconsistencies in its evidence. The Court finds
loose ends in the prosecution evidence, unsupported by coherent and rational
amplification.
First, there are marked discrepancies between the Joint Affidavit of
Arrest[22] dated May 21, 2005 (Exh. B) executed by the barangay tanods, Catubay
and Esguerra, and their testimonies before the RTC, relative to matters occurring
prior to the buy-bust operation. The Joint Affidavit states that a confidential
informant (CI) came to the Barangay Security and Development Office(BSDO) at
around 8:00 oclock in the morning of May 19, 2005 to inform Barangay Captain
Martin Dino (Dino) about the illegal drug trade activities of Salcena and her
companion, Arlene Armas; that Salcena asked the CI to look for buyers of her
shabu; that Dino coordinated with the Chief of DAID-SOTG, Police
Superintendent Gerardo Ratuita (P/Supt. Ratuita), who immediately formed a team
to conduct a buy-bust operation against Salcena and Armas composed of a certain
Police Inspector Alberto Gatus(P/Insp. Gatus) as team leader, BSDO Catubay as
poseur- buyer while BSDO Esguerra and the rest of the members, who were police
officers, would serve as members of the back-up team; that upon arrival of the team
at the agreed meeting place in front of Palamigan store, Barangay San Antonio, the

CI and Catubay waited for Salcena and Armas while Esguerra and the other team
members monitored the process of entrapment from a viewing distance.
Catubays testimony, however, was in stark contrast to the above declaration.
Thus:
Fiscal Gibson Araula
(On Direct Examination)
Q: Mr. Witness, do you remember where were you in the morning of May
19, 2005?
A: I was at the Barangay Hall
Q: What barangay is that?
A: Barangay San Antonio, District 1.
xxx
Q: How about in the afternoon of May 19?
A: In the afternoon the informant arrived at the barangay office.
Q: Can you tell this Honorable Court what information that informant
relayed to your office?
A: According to the informant si Garet raw po ipapaano roon, nagbebenta.
Q: What do you mean by Nagbebenta?
A: Nagbebenta ng droga.
Q: Who received that information?
A: I and my colleague BSDO by the name of Elmer Esguerra.
xxx
Q: What was the action taken by you and your companion with respect to
that information?
A: We went to the place pointed out by the informant somewhere near San
Antonio, Sto. Nio Street.
Q: What time was that?
A: About 5:30 in the afternoon .
Q: Who were with you when you went there?
A: Elmer and I, sir.[23]
[Emphases supplied]

During cross-examination, Catubay maintained that he and Esguerra (not the


barangay chairman) were the ones informed by the CI about the drug pushing
activities of Salcena in the afternoon (not 8:00 oclock in the morning) of May 19,
2005 and that they were the only ones who went to the place named by the CI for
the conduct of the alleged buy-bust operation without the aid and support of any
police operative.
Atty. Concepcion
(Cross-examination)
Q: YOU SAID ON May 19, 2005 in the afternoon, you and certain BSDO
Elmer received information from confidential informant that Garet is
selling shabu, mr. witness?
A: Yes sir.
Q: You and Elmer proceeded to the place where that confidential informant
was telling this Garet is selling shabu, mr. witness?
A: Yes sir.
Q: With no other companion, no police officer, you conducted the buy bust
operation, mr. witness?
A: Yes sir.
xxx
Q: When you decided, you and Elmer decided to conduct the buy bust
operation, what preparation did you made, mr. witness?
A: We have a briefing sir.
Q: Can you tell us what the briefing all about between you and Elmer, mr.
witness?
A: Ako ang bibili at siya ang huhuli po.[24]
[Emphases supplied]

What then happened to the entrapment team which was supposedly formed for the
purpose of arresting Salcena red-handedly, and whose members were individually
named and enumerated in the Pre-Operation Report [25] (Exh. H)? They seemed to
have suddenly vanished into thin air when the operation was about to be set into
motion. Was an entrapment team really organized?

Second, Catubay and Esguerra made it appear in their joint affidavit that it
was the CI who had access to Salcena and who was tasked by the latter to look for
prospective buyers and to arrange for the sale and delivery of the shabu. While at
the witness stand, however, these two barangay tanods claimed that they directly
approached Salcena and bought shabu from her without the intervention and
participation of the CI. Should it not have been the CI, who was the conduit to the
pusher, who should have arranged for such a meeting?
The Court finds it hard to believe that these two barangay tanods were able
to pick the propitious time to be in front of the Palamigan store, Barangay San
Antonio, to consummate the alleged sale with Salcena who conveniently appeared
thereat. It must be stressed that neither Catubay nor Esguerra testified that the CI
arranged the time of the meeting with the alleged drug pusher and, yet, they
astoundingly guessed the time that Salcena would turn up on the scene.
Third, another slant that nags the mind of the Court is the confused narration
of prosecution witness Catubay anent how the sale occurred. The Court finds it
hard to believe the testimony of Catubay on the transaction he had with Salcena:
Fiscal Araula:
(On Direct Examination)
Q: When you arrived at that place what happened there?
A: I myself was intending to buy from Garet.
Q: Where?
A: Sa harap ng palamigan doon sa No. 32 yata.
Q: Where you able to talk to that person at that time?
A: I did not, I was not able to talk to her.
Q: You were not able to talk to her at that time?
A: Yes, sir.
xxx
Q: When the two of you were not able to talk to Garet, what did you do, if
any?

A: I was intending to buy shabu.


Q: To whom?
A: Garet and I did not talk to each other since I was buying shabu
nagkaabutan lang ho kami.
xxx
Q: In other words you were able to talk to Garet?
Court:
Abutan lang daw, walang usapan.
xxx
Q: How about the money you mentioned between the two of you that
person you mentioned Garet, what is the first, the money you gave to
Garet or Garet gave you the shabu?
A: Garet first gave the shabu and I gave her the money.
Q: Now when you said that you received the shabu in exchange to (sic)
P100.00 bill, what did you do after?
A: After I got the shabu we immediately arrested Garet.[26]
xxx
Q: Now, you said that you arrested Garet at that time, how about your c0BSDO officer, where was he?
A: In my right side.[27]
[Emphases Supplied]

Not even the barest conversation took place between the poseur-buyer and
the alleged drug peddler. Catubay, along with Esguerra, approached Salcena and
then the latter instantly handed over to him a small heat-sealed transparent plastic
containing suspected shabu. In turn, Catubay gave Salcena a 100.00 bill.
Thereafter, the barangay tanod arrested Salcena. The situation was simply
ludicrous.
The Court is not unaware that drug transactions are usually conducted
stealthily and covertly and, hence, the parties usually employed the kaliwaan
system or the simultaneous exchange of money for the drugs. Still, it baffles the
mind how Salcena knew exactly who between Catubay and Esguerra would buy

shabu, and how much would be the subject of the transaction despite the absence of
an offer to purchase shabu, through words, signs or gestures, made by either of the
two tanods. Evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the mouth of a
credible witness but it must also be credible in itself such that common experience
and observation of mankind lead to the inference of its probability under the
circumstances.[28] Catubays story of silent negotiation is just not credible. It simply
does not conform to the natural course of things.
Fourth, equally damaging to the cause of the prosecution is the confusion
that marks its evidence as to who confiscated the buy-bust money and from whom
it was seized. It was stated in both the Investigation Report [29] submitted by P/Supt.
Ratuita and the Joint Affidavit of Arrest that it was Esguerra who confiscated the
buy-bust money from the right palm of Armas because, allegedly, immediately
after receiving the 100.00 bill, Salcena passed the money to Armas. Catubay,
however, claimed that he recovered the buy-bust money from Salcena herself.
Q: Likewise when you arrested Garet where was the buy-bust money,
the 100.00 bill?
A: I also got the money from Garet.
Q: Where in particular, what part of her body?
A: Right pants pocket of her pantalon.
Court:
You mean to say you put your hand inside her pocket?
A: Yes, your Honor.[30]

The foregoing conflicting narrations and improbabilities, seemingly trivial


when viewed in isolation, cast serious doubt on the credibility of the prosecution
witnesses when considered together. Unfortunately, they were glossed over by the
RTC and the CA invoking the presumption that barangay tanod Catubay and
Esguerra were in the regular performance of their bounden duties at the time of the
incident. It should be stressed, however, that while the court is mindful that the law
enforcers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties,
this presumption cannot prevail over the constitutional right of the accused to be

presumed innocent and it cannot, by itself, constitute proof of guilt beyond


reasonable doubt.[31] The attendant circumstances negate the presumption accorded
to these prosecution witnesses.
Viewed vis--vis the peculiar factual milieu of this case, it is pertinent to
mention the ruling in the case of People v. Angelito Tan[32] that courts are mandated
to put the prosecution evidence through the crucible of a severe testing and that the
presumption of innocence requires them to take a more than casual consideration of
every circumstance or doubt favoring the innocence of the accused. In the case at
bench, the prosecution evidence, when placed under severe testing, does not prove
with moral certainty that a legitimate buy-bust operation was conducted against
Salcena.
Moreover, the Court finds the prosecution fatally remiss in establishing an
unbroken link in the chain of custody of the allegedly seized shabu. Thus, doubt is
engendered on whether the object evidence subjected to laboratory examination
and offered in court is the same as that allegedly sold by Salcena.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt demands that unwavering exactitude be
observed in establishing the corpus delicti the body of the crime whose core is the
confiscated illicit drug.[33] Hence, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must
be established. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it
ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
removed.[34]
In People v. Kamad,[35] the Court enumerated the links that the prosecution
must establish in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation to be as follows: first,
the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the
accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized
by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the
investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory

examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug
seized from the forensic chemist to the court.
These links in the chain of custody were not adequately established by the
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the documentary records of the
case. It is significant to note that the testimonies of poseur-buyer Catubay and his
back-up, Esguerra, lack specifics on the post-seizure custody and handling of the
subject narcotic substance. Although Catubay testified that he seized the small
plastic sachet containing the suspected shabu from Salcena and brought it to the
BSDO office, he never disclosed the identity of the person/s who had control and
possession of the shabu at the time of its transportation to the police station.
Neither did he claim that he retained possession until it reached the police station.
Furthermore, the prosecution failed to supply vital details as to who marked
the sachet, where and how the same was done, and who witnessed the marking.
In People v. Martinez,[36] the Court ruled that the "marking" of the seized items, to
truly ensure that they were the same items that enter the chain and were eventually
the ones offered in evidence, should be done (1) in the presence of the apprehended
violator; and (2) immediately upon confiscation in order to protect innocent
persons from dubious and concocted searches and to shield the apprehending
officers as well from harassment suits based on planting of evidence and on
allegations of robbery or theft.
Records show that both the RTC and the CA agreed in holding that it was
Catubay who marked the plastic sachet containing the subject shabu. The RTC
wrote:
x x x. In passing, the court is satisfied that the plastic sachet at
bench was properly identified. Tanod Esguerra said he saw Tanod Catubay
put markings thereon and remembers the letters RC which letters appear
on the sachet. Tanod Catubay recalls that he marked the sachet but could
not remember if it is RC or GV.[37]

Excerpts from the assailed CA Decision on this score is hereto quoted, to


wit:
xxx. Esguerra remembered that Catubay marked the plastic sachet
with the initials RC and Catubay, on the other hand, cannot remember if
the markings he made is GB or RC.[38]
xxx. In the instant case, it was shown to the satisfaction of the Court
that when the sale transaction was consummated, the shabu was first
handed-over to the poseur-buyer, who placed the necessary markings in
the confiscated items.[39]

A perusal of the pertinent Transcript of Stenographic Notes, however, shows


that these observations are not reflected. Contrary to the findings of the RTC and
CA, there is nothing on record that Esguerra made a categorical declaration that he
saw Catubay put the marking RC on the plastic sachet. All that he testified to was
that he could identify the subject shabu because it had the marking RC. [40] Neither
was there any statement from Catubay that he placed markings on the plastic
sachet of shabu right after seizing it from Salcena. In fact, Catubay claimed that he
could not remember whether the marking was RC or GV. Thus:
Atty. Concepcion:
(On Cross- Examination)
Q: You identified the buy bust money because of the initial GB, am I
correct to say that, Mr. witness?
A: I could not recall if it is RC or G[V] sir.
Q: Why cant you remember, RC or G[V], what is the relation, Mr. witness?
A: RC refers to Ronnie Catubay sir.
Q: G[V]?
A: I dont know what it means sir. [41]

Verily, the records of the case do not provide for the identity of the officer
who placed the marking RC GVS 5-19-05 on the plastic sachet containing the

allegedly confiscated shabu and whether said marking had been done in the
presence of Salcena.
It is likewise noteworthy that the prosecution evidence is wanting as to the
identity of the police investigator to whom the buy-bust team turned over the
seized item; as to the identity of the person who submitted the specimen to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory; as to whether the forensic
chemist whose name appeared in the chemistry report was the one who received
the subject shabu when it was forwarded to the crime laboratory; and as to who
exercised custody and possession of the specimen after the chemical examination
and before it was offered in court. Further, no evidence was adduced showing how
the seized shabu was handled, stored and safeguarded pending its offer as evidence
in court.
While a perfect chain of custody is almost always impossible to achieve, an
unbroken chain becomes indispensable and essential in the prosecution of drug
cases owing to its susceptibility to alteration, tampering, contamination and even
substitution and exchange.[42] Accordingly, each and every link in the custody must
be accounted for, from the time the shabu was retrieved from Salcena during the
buy-bust operation to its submission to the forensic chemist until its presentation
before the RTC. In the case at bench, the prosecution failed to do so.
Lastly, the subject 0.04 gram of shabu was never identified by the witnesses
in court. Neither BSDO Catubay nor BSDO Esguerra was confronted with the
subject shabu for proper identification and observation of the uniqueness of the
subject narcotic substance when they were called to the witness stand because at
that time, the subject shabu was still in the possession of the forensic chemist as
manifested by Assistant City Prosecutor Gibson Araula, Jr.[43] They were not given
an opportunity to testify either as to the condition of the item in the interim that the
evidence was in their possession and control. Said flaw militates against the
prosecutions cause because it not only casts doubt on the identity of the corpus

delicti but also tends to discredit, if not negate, the claim of regularity in the
conduct of the entrapment operation. The records bare the following:
Fiscal Gibson Araula
(On Direct Examination)
Q: If the transparent plastic sachet is shown to you, can you identify that
transparent plastic sachet?
A: Yes, sir. That is the one we got from her so we can remember it.
Q: Other than that you mentioned the one that you recovered, you cannot
identify the shabu other than what you mentioned now?
A: Makikilala po.
Q: How will you know that that is the shabu?
A: I knew it yun ang nahuli naming.
Fiscal Araula:
By the way your Honor the shabu was in possession of the chemist. Im
going to reserve the right to identify the shabu, your Honor.
Court:
Okay, granted.[44]

x x x.
Esguerra testified on this matter, as follows:
Q: The two accused were arrested at that time. What happened after that?
A: We brought them to Camp Karingal and turned them over together with
the evidences.
Q: You said you were able to turn over the shabu and the money. Can you
identify that shabu and the money?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Why?
A: Because it has a marking, sir.
Q: What was the marking there that your companion was able to buy shabu
from Garet at that time, what marking was placed?

A: RC
Q: How about the money?
A: RC din po sir.
Fiscal Araula: Your Honor, may we reserve the right to present the
transparent plastic sachet?
Court: Okay, granted.[45]

Despite the reservation of the right, the prosecution never presented the
transparent plastic sachet for identification by the two barangay tanods.
In view of the loopholes in the prosecution evidence as well as the gaps in
the chain of custody, there is no assurance that the identity and integrity of the
subject narcotic substance has not been compromised. In Catuiran v. People,[46] the
Court held that the failure of the prosecution to offer the testimony of key
witnesses to establish a sufficiently complete chain of custody of a specimen of
shabu, and the irregularity which characterized the handling of the evidence before
the same was finally offered in court, fatally conflicted with every proposition
relative to the culpability of the accused.
The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until
the contrary is proved. Concededly, the evidence for the defense is weak and
uncorroborated and could even engender belief that Salcena indeed perpetrated the
crime charged. This, however, does not advance the cause of the prosecution
because its evidence must stand or fall on its own weight and cannot be allowed to
draw strength from the weakness of the defense. [47] The prosecution has the burden
to overcome the presumption of innocence and prove the guilt of an accused
beyond reasonable doubt.
In the light of the failure of the prosecution evidence to pass the test of moral
certainty, a reversal of Salcenas judgment of conviction becomes inevitable. Suffice
it to say, a slightest doubt should be resolved in favor of the accused.[48] In dubio
pro reo.[49]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The February 9, 2010 Decision


of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 02894 is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, accused Garet Salcena y
Victorino is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged against her and ordered
immediately RELEASED from custody, unless she is being held for some other
lawful cause.
The Superintendent of the Correctional Institution for Women
is ORDERED to forthwith implement this decision and toINFORM this Court,
within five (5) days from receipt hereof, of the date when Salcena was actually
released from confinement.
SO ORDERED.

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA ROBERTO A. ABAD


Associate Justice Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

AT T E S TAT I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts
Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

Designated as additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, per Special Order No. 1152
dated November 11, 2011.
[1]
Rollo, pp. 2-20.
[2]
Penned by Judge Jaime N. Salazar, Jr.; CA rollo, pp. 12-16.
[3]
Records, pp. 1-2.
[4]
Id. at 38.
[5]
CA rollo, pp. 57-75.
[6]
Id. at 62-64.
[7]
Records, pp. 72-74.
[8]
CA rollo, pp. 29-46.
[9]
Id. at 34.
[10]
Id. at 16.
[11]
Id. at 99.
[12]
Id. at 100-101.

[13]

Id. at 104.
Rollo, pp. 30-36.
[15]
People v. Balagat, G.R. No. 177163, April 24, 2009, 586 SCRA 640, 644-645.
[16]
People v. Baga, G.R. No. 189844, November 15, 2010, 634 SCRA 743, 749.
[17]
People v. De la Cruz, G.R. No. 177222, October 29, 2008, 570 SCRA 273, 283.
[18]
People v. Agulay, G.R. No. 181747, September 26, 2008,566 SCRA 571, 594.
[19]
People v. Concepcion, G.R. No. 178876, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 421, 439.
[20]
Valdez v. People, G.R.No. 170180, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 611, 633.
[21]
G.R. No. 151205, June 9, 2004, 431 SCRA 516, citing People v. Doria, 361 Phil. 595, 621 (1999).
[22]
Records, pp. 6-7.
[23]
TSN, November 30, 2005, pp. 3-7.
[24]
TSN, December 14, 2005, pp. 5-7.
[25]
Records, p. 14.
[26]
TSN, November 30, 2005, pp. 8-12.
[27]
Id. at 14.
[28]
People v. Manambit, 338 Phil. 57, 91(1997).
[29]
Records, pp.4-5.
[30]
TSN, November 30, 2005, pp. 14-15.
[31]
People v. Magat, G.R. No. 179939, September 29, 2008, 567 SCRA 86, 99.
[32]
432 Phi. 171, 198 (2002).
[33]
People v. Pagaduan, G.R. No. 179029, August 9, 2010, 627 SCRA 308, 322.
[34]
People v. De Leon, G.R. No. 186471, January 25, 2010, 611 SCRA 118, 132.
[35]
G.R. No. 174198, January 19, 2010, 610 SCRA 295, 307-308.
[36]
G.R. No. 191366, December 13, 2010, 637 SCRA 791, 818.
[37]
CA rollo, p. 16.
[38]
Id. at 84.
[39]
Id. at 97.
[40]
TSN, November 30, 2005, p. 36.
[41]
TSN, December 14, 2005, p. 8.
[42]
People v. Almorfe, G.R. No. 181831, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 52, 61-62.
[43]
TSN, November 30, 2005, p. 19 and 37.
[44]
Id. at 15-19.
[45]
Id. at 35-37.
[46]
G.R. No. 175647, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 567, 580.
[47]
People v. Santos, G.R. No. 175593, October 17, 2007, 536 SCRA 489, 505.
[48]
People v. Milan, 370 Phil. 493, 506 (1999).
[49]
Latin legal maxim which literally means when in doubt, for the accused.
[14]

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2011/november2011/192261.htm

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817. June 8, 2005]

P/SR. SUPT. ORLANDO M. MABUTAS, Regional Director, Philippine


Drug
Enforcement
Agency,
Metro
Manila
Regional

Office, complainant, vs. JUDGE NORMA C. PERELLO, Presiding


Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 276, Muntinlupa
City, respondent.

[A.M. No. RTJ-04-1820. June 8, 2005]

CITY PROSECUTOR EDWARD M. TOGONONON, complainant, vs.


JUDGE NORMA C. PERELLO, respondent.
RESOLUTION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Subject matters of the present administrative cases are two complaints against
respondent Judge Norma C. Perello, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court
(Branch 276) of Muntinlupa City.
Admin. Matter No. RTJ-03-1817
This case originated from a letter of Police Senior Supt. Orlando M. Mabutas,
Regional Director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Metro Manila Regional
Office. P/Sr. Supt. Mabutas complained of certain irregularities committed by
respondent Judge in the grant of bail to accused Aiza Chona Omadan in Criminal Case
No. 03-265. Omadan was charged in an Information, dated April 21, 2003, with Violation
of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002, for the possession, custody and control of 57.78 grams of Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride (shabu), with no bail recommended.
P/Sr. Supt. Mabutass complaint was based on the memorandum submitted by
Police Inspector Darwin S. Butuyan, who stated in his report, as follows:
In the evening of May 5, 2003, a colleague notified him of a scheduled preliminary
investigation of Omadans case on the following day (May 6). When P/Insp. Butuyan,
together with PO2 Saturnino Mayonte and PO2 Allan Lising, went to the Office of the
City Prosecutor, Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Florante E. Tuy merely asked them to
sign the minutes of the preliminary investigation. Omadan and her counsel were not
around, and the police officers were not furnished with a copy of Omadans counteraffidavit.
On May 8, 2003, someone handed P/Insp. Butuyan a subpoena for the arraignment
of Omadan on May 9, 2003. During the scheduled arraignment, they were surprised
when ACP Vicente Francisco called PO2 Mayonte to the witness stand. Apparently,
Omadan filed a petition for bail and it was being heard on the same day. PO2 Mayonte

and PO2 Lising asked ACP Francisco for a rescheduling of the hearing because they
were not prepared to testify but the former declined, saying that it is just a motion for
bail. After PO2 Mayonte testified, PO2 Lising asked ACP Francisco to present him as
witness but again, the former declined since his testimony would only be corroborative.
ACP Francisco also presented two (2) barangay tanods.
On May 12, 2003, P/Insp. Butuyan went to deliver a communiqu to ACP Francisco
from P/Sr. Supt. Mabutas requesting that in the event bail was granted, its
implementation be held in abeyance so that the police authorities may file the necessary
motion, and in order to prevent Omadan from escaping. Since ACP Francisco was not
around, they went to Branch 276 to secure a copy of the motion for bail. However, the
police officers were shocked to learn that Omadan has already been released on
a P1,000,000.00 bail on May 9, 2003, which was a Friday. Court personnel also
informed them that they spent overtime work for the processing of the release papers.
They asked for a copy of the transcript of stenographic notes of the hearing held on May
9, 2003, but it was not available.
Respondent Judges Order dated May 9, 2003, granting Omadans petition for bail,
reads in part:

Clearly, the evidence of guilt is not very strong for the denial of the bail. It was not
proven that the object that SPO1 Mayonte allegedly saw wrapped in a tissue paper
was indeed methamphetamine hydrochloride. He is not very sure if the specimen was
in fact subjected to an analysis to determine what it was. There is also no specifying
the quantity of the item.
There also seem to be an irregularity in the service of the search warrant for it was
NOT witnessed by two disinterested persons. Admittedly two Barangay Tanods were
brought to the residence of accused, but they never witnessed the search because when
they arrived the search had already been completed. The wife of the owner of the
residence was allegedly found in the house but she was not made to go with the
searching team to witness the search. An evaluation of the record of the search, it
appears also the search warrant, showed some material defect, because no witness
who appeared to have personal knowledge of the illegal activities of the accused and
husband, executed an Affidavit before the officer who issued the search warrant. In
fact the searching questions were conducted on the applicant but not on the
confidential informant, who alone had the personal knowledge of the alleged illegal
activities in the vicinity. No deposition was taken of the applicant. Only the applying
officers executed an affidavit, yet had no personal knowledge of the crime as they
were only told by his confidential informant. No copy of the deposition is attached to
the application. Although this court has no jurisdiction to hear the MOTION TO
QUASH the search warrant however this fact are [sic] taken into consideration for the
petition to bail if only to show the strength or weakness of the prosecution evidence,
to ascertain if Prosecution have [sic] a witness who has personal knowledge of the

alleged illegal activities of the accused in her home. There is none. Even the Barangay
policemen Arturo Villarin, cannot tell with certainty if drugs were indeed found in the
residence of the accused.
Bail is therefore allowed in the sum of ONE MILLION PESOS (Php 1,000,000.00)
which accused AIZA CHONA OMADAN may post in cash, by property or thru a
reputable bonding company, and under the additional condition that her counsel, Atty.
GENE CASTILLO QUILAS guarantees her appearance in court whenever so
required.
It is SO ORDERED.

[1]

Admin. Matter No. RTJ-04-1820


This case proceeded from a letter of Prosecutor Edward M. Togononon of
Muntinlupa City, accusing respondent Judge of partiality, serious misconduct in office
and gross ignorance of the law, concerning the latters grant of bail in four criminal cases
for Violations of R.A. No. 9165 pending before her.
In Criminal Case No. 03-065, entitled, People of the Philippines vs. Rosemarie
Pascual y Mozo @ Rosema, for Violation of Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165, accused
Pascual was charged with selling, trading, delivering and giving away to another 0.20
grams of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), with no bail recommended.
Pascual filed, on February 5, 2003, a motion for bail on the grounds that the quantity
ofshabu involved is minimal and the imposable penalty is likewise minimal in degree;
and that she is nine months pregnant and due to give birth anytime.
[2]

[3]

On the day of arraignment, February 7, 2003, respondent Judge issued an order


granting Pascuals motion for bail without hearing, which reads:

The MOTION FOR BAIL filed by Accused through counsel is granted on the reason
cited thereat.
Accordingly, Accused ROSEMARIE PASCUAL Y MOZO may post her bail in the
amount of P200,000.00 in cash or thru a reputable bonding company, or by property
bond for her provisional liberty.
It is SO ORDERED.

[4]

ACP Francisco filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that since the crime
charged against Pascual is a capital offense, bail is not allowed as a matter of right, and
a hearing is indispensable. Respondent Judge denied the motion in her Order dated
March 12, 2003, which reads, in part:

...
This Court is immediately appalled and shocked by the thirst for blood of these
officials, were selling shabu in the quantity of 0.20 gram, they would put the accused
to DEATH. It seems that, to these officials LIFE IMPRISONMENT and DEATH is
the only solution to this problem, without considering the intended provision of the
law, and the possible dislocation that the death of the accused will cause to his family
and even to society itself. The prosecution and some City Officials have distorted the
provision of the law by considering shabu as a dangerous drug, in the category of
opium puppy (sic) or morphine. They cannot be more wrong!
In the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol,
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride is NEVER considered as dangerous drugs to come
under the provision of the first paragraph of Sec. 5, Republic Act No. 9165. The
definition of dangerous drugs under Sec. 3, letter J of the said law, specifies those
considered as dangerous drugs. Instead Methamphetamine Hydrochloride is
considered as a controlled precursor or essential chemical, which is found and listed in
No. 7, LIST OF SUBSTANCES in SCHEDULE NO. 111 of the 1971 United Nations
Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Therefore, Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride is a chemical substance or psychotropic substance and NOT a
dangerous drug.!
Since the quantity is very much less than a gram of this essential chemical, is
punishable with imprisonment of only 12 years, as paragraph 2 of Sec. 5, R.A. 9165
provides. There is no law, statute, or jurisprudence that classifies 12 years
imprisonment as a capital punishment, and non-bailable. Only bloodsuckers who thirst
for blood will consider death for these offenders for this kind of offense!
Prosecution will probably argue that this drug is considered dangerous under Sec. 11,
R.A. 9165, but this section does not define what are dangerous drugs, and the term is
used generally to encompass all drugs. Still, this section only shows that for
possession of certain quantities of shabu, is punishable with 12 years imprisonment
only, NEVER DEATH!
This Court has no quarrel with the Prosecutors if the drugs accused is pushing or
found in the custody of accused are of large volume, for then they would really
deserve to DIE! Then be richer by several millions, and foster a society of drug
abusers yet! But this Court cannot agree with Prosecutors when the quantity that is
peddled is not even enough to put body and soul together of accused. Foisting death
on these kind of offenders, is death itself to him who imposes such a penalty! This
court cannot be that unjust and unfeeling, specially as the law itself does not so allow!

The prosecutors are also reminded that the grant of bail to all offenses is
constitutionally guaranteed. Even those punishable with death or capital offenses, only
the EXCEPTIONS! It is never the rule.
...
Perhaps if these questioning individuals will provide employment to their
constituents, the latter will not engage in this kind of trade to survive.
[5]

In Criminal Case No. 03-082, entitled, People of the Philippines vs. Rolando Uy y
Manata @ Nono, for Violation of Section 5, paragraph 1 of R.A. No. 9165, accused Uy
was charged with selling, trading, delivering and giving away to Philippine National
Police (PNP) operatives after a buy-bust operation 0.12 grams of Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride (shabu). ACP Romeo B. Senson recommended no bail. Uy filed a petition
for bail cum motion to suppress prosecution evidence on February 18, 2003, alleging,
among others, that the arrest was illegal as no buy-bust operation happened, and the
shabu confiscated was planted on him. Without hearing, respondent Judge granted Uys
petition for bail since the quantity of drug allegedly pushed is only 0.12 grams Uy was
released on a P200,000.00 bail. The motion for reconsideration filed by ACP Francisco
remains unresolved.
[6]

The antecedents of Criminal Case No. 03-265 entitled People of the Philippines vs.
Aiza Chona Omadan y Chua and John Doe, for Violation of Section 11 of R.A. No.
9165, are set forth and dealt with in Admin. Matter No. RTJ-03-1817.
In Criminal Case No. 03-288 entitled People of the Philippines vs. Mary Jane
Regencia y Mozo @ Grace, for Violation of Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165, accused
Regencia was charged with selling, delivering, trading and giving away to another 0.07
grams of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu). Respondent Judge likewise granted
Regencias motion for bail without hearing, on the ground that the quantity of shabu
involved is minimal and the imposable penalty is also minimal.
[7]

Respondent Judge was required to comment on these two complaints.


In Admin. Matter No. RTJ-03-1817, respondent Judge contends that P/Sr. Supt.
Mabutass charges against her are baseless; that the preliminary investigation
conducted on Omadans case was outside her jurisdiction; that she did not have any
hand or influence in ACP Franciscos handling of the hearing on the petition for bail as it
is within the latters control and supervision; that she denies that there was undue haste
in the grant of bail in Omadans favor; and that bail was granted because the
prosecutions evidence of Omadans guilt was not strong.
[8]

In Admin. Matter No. RTJ-04-1820, respondent Judge explains that she did not
conduct any hearings on the motions/petitions for bail filed in the criminal cases subject
of the complaint because the crimes charged are not capital offenses as the quantity
of shabu involved therein was minimal. Criminal Case Nos. 03-065, 03-082, and 03-288
all involve selling of less than 5 grams of shabu. Respondent Judge believes that under
R.A. No. 9165, shabu is not a dangerous drug but merely a controlled precursor, in

which the selling of less than 5 grams is punishable only with imprisonment of 12 years
to 20 years. Such being the case, respondent Judge maintains that bail is a matter of
right and a hearing is not required.
[9]

The two complaints were consolidated and referred to Court of Appeals Associate
Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. for investigation, report, and recommendation.
After due proceedings, the Investigating Justice submitted his Report and
Recommendation, with the following findings and conclusion:

The charges arose out of the same set of facts and are interrelated and will be
discussed together.
Before proceeding further, the investigating justice will first dispose respondent
judges assertion that the complaints should be dismissed outright claiming that where
sufficient judicial remedy exists, the filing of administrative complaint is not the
proper remedy to correct actions of a judge citing the case ofBarbers vs. Laguio, Jr.
(351 SCRA 606 [2001])
Anent the charge of partiality and serious misconduct, the investigating justice notes
that these particular charges were not touched upon in the testimony of any of the
witnesses presented by the complainants. Therefore, the investigating justice finds that
no evidence as to partiality nor serious misconduct exists and these charges should be
dismissed for lack of evidence.
The investigating justice will now therefore tackle only the charge of gross ignorance
of the law against respondent judge.
A close scrutiny of the said Barbers case shows that it is not applicable in the present
administrative complaints because in the said case it was clear that complainantspetitioners were not merely concerned with the alleged act of the judge of rendering
an unjust judgment but was also seeking the reversal of the judgment of acquittal.
They had even filed an appeal from the judgment therein of respondent judge. Thus,
the Supreme Court held:
It has been held that the pendency of an appeal from a questioned judgment renders
the filing of administrative charges premature. Where a sufficient judicial remedy
exists, the filing of an administrative complaint is not the proper remedy to correct the
actions of a judge.
In the present administrative complaints, it was not shown that an appeal or any other
proceeding had been filed to reverse the respondent judges orders granting bail. It had
not been shown that the present administrative complaints had any purpose other then
seeking administrative sanctions against respondent judge.

Turning now to the merits of the administrative complaints, the primordial issue is:
Whether or not there is an ambiguity in the law as to the classification of
methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Under Section 3(x) of the R.A. No. 9165 the substance was defined as:
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or commonly known as Shabu, Ice, Meth, or by its
any other name. Refers to the drug having such chemical composition, including any
of its isomers or derivatives in any form.
It can be noted that nothing in this provision indicates the classification of the
substance either as a dangerous or regulated drug.
It is respondent judges position that shabu is not expressly classified as a dangerous
drug under Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165 and should therefore be considered merely as a
chemical precursor, to wit:
...
For clarity, the UN Single Convention was referred to in Section 3 of R.A. No. 9165
in relation to the definitions of dangerous drugs and controlled precursors, to wit:
(h) Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. Include those listed in
Tables I and II of the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances as enumerated in the
attached annex, which is an integral part of this Act.
...
(j) Dangerous Drugs. Include those listed in the Schedules annexed to the
1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972
Protocol, and in the Schedules annexed to the 1971 Single Convention on
Psychotropic Substances as enumerated in the attached annex which is an
integral part of this Act.
It should be noted, however, that by the plain wordings of R.A. No. 9165 dangerous
drugs are not limited to those substances listed in the schedules attached to the 1961
United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs because of the use of the word
include. That is, there are other substances which may be considered dangerous drugs
even if not listed in the above-mentioned schedules.

It is also worth noting that under Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165, Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride was specifically mentioned as a dangerous drug, to wit:
...
(5) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu;
...
It is clear, therefore, that the lawmakers intended to classify Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride or shabu as a dangerous drug. Moreover, it would be absurd to
consider methamphetamine hydrochloride a dangerous drug under Section 11 of R.A.
No. 9165 and merely a precursor under Section 5 of the same law.
In fine, there is no question that methamphetamine hydrochloride is classified as a
dangerous drug.
Having made the foregoing findings, the next issue that calls for resolution is the
penalty imposable to the criminal cases under consideration. This is necessary in order
to determine if the accused are entitled to bail. Under Section 13 of Article III of the
1987 Constitution, an accused shall be entitled to bail as a matter of right unless
charged with an offense punishable with a capital penalty.
The Court notes that the criminal cases under consideration can be grouped into two
(2): A) Crim. Case No. 03-065 (against Rosemarie Pascual, Crim. Case No. 03-082
(against Rolando Uy), and Crim. Case No. 03-288 (against Mary Jane Regencia),
which involve selling, trading, delivering or giving away Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride; and B) Crim. Case No. 03-265 (against Aiza Chona Omadan) which
involve possession of the said substance.
The investigating justice would first discuss Crim. Case No. 03-265 where the
accused was charged with possession of 57.78 grams of Methemphetamine
Hydrochloride. Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165 provides that the penalty imposable is
life imprisonment to death. Therefore, in the Crim. Case No. 03-265 accused therein is
not entitled to bail as a matter of right. Rightly so, a hearing was conducted before the
bail was granted.
The investigating justice, after a careful consideration of the evidence presented by
the complainants, opines that there is insufficient evidence to support the allegation
that bail was hastily granted to accused Aiza Chona Omadan. Therefore, the charge of
gross ignorance in relation to this case should be dismissed for lack of factual basis.

The investigating justice will now tackle the other set of cases (Crim. Case No. 03065; Crim. Case No. 03-082; Crim. Case No. 03-288). Under the law, these are
punishable with penalty ranging from life imprisonment to death. Pertinent portions of
Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165 reads:
...
As held in Managuelod vs. Paclibon, et al. (A.M. No. RTJ-02-1726, March 29, 2004).
It is imperative that judges be conversant with basic legal principles and possess
sufficient proficiency in the law. In offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua or
death, the accused has no right to bail when the evidence of guilt is strong.
Respondent Judge Go should have known the procedure to be followed when a
motion for admission to bail is filed by the accused. Extreme care, not to mention the
highest sense of personal integrity, is required of him in granting bail, specially in case
where bail is not a matter of right. The fact that the provincial prosecutor interposed
no objection to the application for bail by the accused did not relieve respondent judge
of the duty to set the motion for bail for hearing. A hearing is of utmost necessity
because certain guidelines in fixing bail (the nature of the crime, character and
reputation of the accused, weight of evidence against him, the probability of the
accused appearing at the trial, among other things) call for the presentation of
evidence. It was impossible for respondent judge to determine the application of these
guidelines in an ex-parte determination of the propriety of Palacols motion for bail.
Thus, for his failure to conduct any hearing on the application for bail, we hold
respondent Judge Go guilty of gross ignorance of the law justifying the imposition of
the severest disciplinary sanction on him. (Emphasis supplied)
It is clear, therefore, that as to said criminal cases the accused were likewise not
entitled to bail as a matter of right, hence, a hearing for the grant of bail should have
been conducted. However, in this last instance, no such hearing was conducted.
In fine, respondent judge erred in granting bail to the accused in Crim. Case No. 03065, Crim. Case No. 03-082, and Crim. Case No. 03-288 without hearing because the
crime charge carries with it capital penalty.
As to Crim. Case No. 03-065, Crim. Case No. 03-082, and Crim. Case No. 03-288,
the next issue to be resolved is: whether or not the mistake amounted to gross
ignorance of the law which would justify an administrative sanction against
respondent judge.
Respondent judge, naturally, argued that she cannot be held liable asserting that to be
held guilty of gross ignorance, the error must have been gross, deliberate and

malicious (Rollo, RTJ-04-1820, p. 74) and in absence of fraud, dishonesty, or


corruption that judge cannot be held liable (Rollo, RTJ-04-1820, p. 75).
However, the Supreme Court does not always require the presence of malice to find
erring judges liable for gross ignorance.
In the above-cited Managuelod case the Supreme Court held that failure to hold a
hearing before granting bail in crimes involving capital punishment constitutes gross
ignorance of the law, thus:
. . . Thus, for his failure to conduct any hearing on the application for bail, we hold
respondent Judge Go guilty of gross ignorance of the law justifying the imposition of
the severest disciplinary sanction on him.
The same should hold true in the present administrative cases considering that the
criminal cases involved drugs, a major problem of the country today.
In conclusion, the investigating justice finds respondent judge guilty of gross
ignorance of the law in relation to the granting of bail without hearing in Crim. Case
Nos. 03-065, 03-082 and 03-288 and exonerate her as to the charge in relation to
Criminal Case No. 03-265.
...
The next issue then is the penalty imposable on respondent judge. In Mupas vs.
Espanol (A.M. No. RTJ-04-185014, July 14, 2004) the Supreme Court enumerated the
proper penalty for gross negligence (sic), thus:
Under Section 8 of A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC amending Rule 140 of the Rules of Court on
the Discipline of Justices and Judges, which took effect on October 1, 2001, gross
ignorance of the law is classified as a serious charge which carries with it a penalty of
either dismissal from service, suspension or a fine of more than P20,000.00 but not
exceeding P40,000.00.
[10]

Based on the
recommendation:

foregoing,

the

Investigating

Justice

made

the

following

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that


respondent Judge Norma C. Perello be DISMISSED on the ground of gross ignorance
of law in relation to the grant of bail in Criminal Case No. 03-065, Criminal Case No.
03-082, Criminal Case No. 03-288.
[11]

The issue in these administrative cases is whether respondent Judge may be


administratively held liable for the grant of bail in the particular criminal cases subject of
the complaints. As earlier stated, the criminal cases subject of the present
administrative complaints all involve violations of R.A. No. 9165, or the Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Admin. Matter No. RTJ-03-1817 particularly relates to Criminal Case No. 03265 (People of the Philippines vs. Aiza Chona Omadan), involving the possession,
custody, and control of 57.78 grams of shabu, punishable under Section 11 thereof,
which reads:

SEC. 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs.-- The penalty of life imprisonment to death
and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million
Pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who unless authorized by
law, shall possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the
degree of purity thereof:
...
(5) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or
shabu; (Emphasis supplied)
...
Under the foregoing provision, possession of 50 grams or more of
methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is punishable by life imprisonment to death;
hence, a capital offense. As such, bail becomes a matter of discretion. In this regard,
Rule 114, Sec. 7 of the Rules of Court states:
[12]

No person charged with the capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion


perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when the evidence of guilt is
strong, regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution.
This provision is based on Section 13, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, which
reads:

All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion


perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by
sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The
right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.
The matter of determining whether or not the evidence is strong is a matter of
judicial discretion that remains with the judge. Such discretion must be sound and
exercised within reasonable bounds.
[13]

[14]

Under the present rules, a hearing on an application for bail is mandatory.


Whether bail is a matter of right or of discretion, the prosecutor should be given
reasonable notice of hearing, or at least his recommendation on the matter must be
sought. In case an application for bail is filed, the judge is entrusted to observe the
following duties:
[15]

1. In all cases, whether bail is a matter of right or discretion, notify the prosecutor of
the hearing of the application for bail or require him to submit his recommendation;
2. Where bail is a matter of discretion, conduct a hearing of the application for
bail regardless of whether or not the prosecution refuses to present evidence to
show that the guilt of the accused is strong for the purpose of enabling the court to
exercise its sound discretion;
3. Decide whether the guilt of the accused is strong based on the summary of evidence
of the prosecution; and
4. If the guilt of the accused is not strong, discharge the accused upon the approval of
the bail bond. Otherwise the bail should be denied.
[16]

Based on the above-cited procedure and requirements, after the hearing, the courts
order granting or refusing bail must contain a summary of the evidence for the
prosecution. A summary is defined as a comprehensive and usually brief abstract or
digest of a text or statement. Based on the summary of evidence, the judge formulates
his own conclusion on whether such evidence is strong enough to indicate the guilt of
the accused.
[17]

In this case, respondent Judge complied with the foregoing duties. A hearing was
held on the petition; the prosecution was given the opportunity to present its evidence in
support of its stance; respondent Judge based her findings on the prosecutions
evidence, namely, the testimonies of P02 Saturnino Mayonte and Arturo Villarin;
respondent Judges Order dated May 9, 2003 granting the accuseds petition for bail
contained a summary of the prosecutions evidence; and since it was her conclusion that
the evidence of accused Omadans guilt is not strong, the petition for bail was granted.
Respondent Judge did not violate procedural requirements. Records show that
respondent Judge afforded the prosecution ample opportunity to present all the
evidence it had and there was no protest from the prosecution that it had been deprived
of its right to present against the accused. Thus, the Court does not find any irregularity
in the grant of bail in Criminal Case No. 03-265 that would render respondent Judge
administratively liable.
[18]

It is noted that the other circumstances, complained of in this case, do not relate
solely to respondent Judges acts, but to the prosecutions conduct in handling the case.
Thus, P/Insp. Darwin S. Butuyan stated in his report that there is something wrong in
the procedures and circumstances adopted by the Office of the City Prosecutor of

Muntinlupa City and Branch 276, RTC, Muntinlupa City in handling the case leading to
the granting of bail to accused Aiza Chona Omadan y Chua.
[19]

The Court recognizes that the manner in which the strength of an accuseds guilt is
proven still primarily rests on the prosecution. The prosecutor has the right to control the
quantum of evidence and the order of presentation of the witnesses, in support of the
denial of bail. After all, all criminal actions are prosecuted under the direction and control
of the public prosecutor. It was the prosecutions judgment to limit the presentation of
evidence to two witnesses, as it felt that the testimonies of the other witnesses would be
merely corroborative. It is beyond respondent Judges authority to compel the public
prosecutor to exercise its discretion in a way respondent Judge deems fit, so long as
such exercise of discretion will not defeat the purpose for which the hearing was
held, i.e., to determine whether strong evidence of guilt exists such that the accused
may not be entitled to bail.
[20]

In any event, the complainant in this case had also filed a letter-complaint with the
Department of Justice against the concerned public prosecutors. Such matter is best
left handled by the Department, and the Court will not interfere on the matter.
[21]

Admin. Matter No. RTJ-04-1820, however, portrays an entirely different picture.


In this case, respondent Judge granted bail in Criminal Cases Nos. 03-065, 03-082,
and 03-288 without the requisite hearing. In so doing, it was respondent Judges
defense that under R.A. No. 9165, shabu is not a dangerous drug but merely a
controlled precursor, in which the selling of less than 5 grams is punishable only with
imprisonment of 12 years to 20 years, and as such, bail is a matter of right and a
hearing is not required. Respondent Judge argued that:

In determining whether methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is indeed classified


as a dangerous drug under the said Republic Act, undersigned exhaustively studied the
provision of this law and found that in Letter H, Art. 1, Section 3: Definition of Terms,
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride is listed in Table II, No. 12 of the 1988 UN
Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,
which list is attached annex, an integral part of this Act, Methamphetamine and is
listed as a CONTROLLED PRECURSOR or ESSENTIAL CHEMICAL. This is more
imperatively classified as a chemical, in Letter X of the Definition, Sec. 3, Art. 1,
where shabu is considered as such chemical. Therefore, under the definition by law
itself, shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride is classified as a controlled precursor
or essential chemical.
The definition of what are considered as DANGEROUS DRUGS, is (sic) those in
Letter J, Sec. 3, Art. 1 of R.A. 9165, listed in 1961 Singled Convention on Narcotic
Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, which list is again an integral part of this
Act. Methamphetamine is NOT one of the enumerations of dangerous drugs.
Therefore, the selling or trading of this substance in a quantity less than a gram is
punishable with an imprisonment of only twelve (12) years as provided by the second

paragraph of Section 5, Article II, is not on capital offense punishable with death or
life imprisonment, is bailable.
Section 11, Art. II, of the same Act, treats of POSSESSION NOT SELLING, where
possession of this substance is considered as a capital offense, punishable with death
or life imprisonment, only if the accused is in possession of it in the quantity of 50
GRAMS (50 grams), irrespective of the purity of the substance. It becomes a capital
offense only if it is in the quantity of fifty grams (50 GRAMS) under No. 5 of Section
11, Art. II. Corollarilly, if it is less than this quantity, possession of methamphetamine
hydrochloride is NOT punishable with a capital penalty, hence, bailable! To stress
POSSESSION of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride is considered as capital offense
punishable with capital penalty if the quantity is 50 GRAMS (50 GRAMS), (Sec. 11,
Art. II) while PUSHING of methamphetamine hydrochloride (Paragraph 2, Sec. 5) to
be punishable with capital penalty must be in the quantity of FIVE GRAMS (5
GRAMS), (Guidelines for RA 9165).
[22]

To justify her granting bail in the three criminal cases, respondent Judge insists that
she did so because of her belief that methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is
merely a precursor and therefore the sale thereof is not a capital offense. This opinion is
blatantly erroneous. One need not even go beyond the four corners of R.A. No. 9165 to
see respondent Judges palpable error in the application of the law.
Respondent Judge need not exhaustively study R.A. No. 9165, as she asserted, to
determine the nature of methamphetamine hydrochloride. A plain reading of the law
would immediately show that methamphetamine hydrochloride is a dangerous drug
and not a controlled precursor. If only respondent Judge prudently went over the
pertinent provisions of R.A. No. 9165, particularly Section 3, items (h) and (j), and
properly made the corresponding reference to the schedules and tables annexed
thereto, she would have easily ascertained that methamphetamine hydrochloride is
listed in the 1971 UN Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which are
considered dangerous drugs. It is not listed in the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit
Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, as respondent Judge stated.
[23]

Dangerous Drugs are defined by Section 3, paragraph (j) of R.A. No. 9165, as
including those in the Schedules listed annexed to the 1961 Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and in the Schedules annexed to the
1971 UN Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which were made an integral
part of R.A. No. 9165.
Under the foregoing section, dangerous drugs are classified into: (1) narcotic
drugs, as listed in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the
1972 Protocol; and (2) psychotropic substances, as listed in the 1971 UN Single
Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
For purposes of this case, the list of substances in Schedule II of the 1971 UN
Single Convention of Psychotropic Substances is hereby reproduced, to wit:

LIST OF SUBSTANCES IN SCHEDULE II


1.

AMFETAMINE (AMPHETAMINE)

2.

DEXAMFETAMINE (DEXAMPHETAMINE)

3.

FENETYLLINE DRONABINOL

4.

LEVAMFETAMINE

5.

LEVOMETHAMPHETAMINE

6.

MECLOQUALONE

7.

METAMFETAMINE
(METHAMPHETAMINE)

8.

METAMFETAMINE RACEMATE

9.

METHAQUALONE

10.

METHYLPHE NIDATE

11.

PHENCYCLIDINE (PCP)

12.

PHENMETRAZINE

13.

SECOBARBITAL

14.

DRONABINOL (delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol and its


stereochemical variants)

15.

ZIPEPROL

16.

2C-B (4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine)

It clearly shows that methamphetamine is a psychotropic substance, or a dangerous


drug.
On the other hand, under Section 3, paragraph (h) of R.A. No. 9165, controlled
precursors and essential chemicals, refer to those listed in Tables I and II of the 1988
UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,
which were likewise made integral part of R.A. No. 9165, to wit:
TABLE I

TABLE II

1.

ACETIC ANHYDRIDE

1.

ACETONE

2.

N-ACETYLANTHRANILIC ACID

2.

ANTHRANILIC ACID

3.

EPHEDRIN

3.

ETHYL ETHER

4.

ERGOMETRINE

4.

HYDROCHLORIC ACID

5.

ERGOTAMINE

5.

METHYL ETHYL
KETONE

6.

ISOSAFROLE

6.

PHENYLACETIC ACID

7.

LYSERGIC ACID

7.

PIPERIDINE

8.

SULPHURIC ACID

8.

3,4METHYLENEDIOXYPHENYL-2
PROPANONE

9.

NOREPHEDRINE

10.

1-PHENYL-2-PROPANONE

11.

PIPERONAL

12.

POTASSIUM PERMANGANATE

13.

PSEUDOEPHEDRINE

14.

SAFROLE

9.

TOLUENE

It readily reveals that methamphetamine is not one of those listed as controlled


precursor or essential chemical.
Given the foregoing, methamphetamine hydrochloride is a dangerous drug, and not
a controlled precursor or essential chemical. That methamphetamine and not
methamphetamine hydrochloride is the term specifically listed in Schedule II of the 1971
UN Single Convention of Psychotropic Substances does not detract from the fact that it
is a dangerous drug. Section 3, paragraph (x) of R.A. No. 9165, states that
methamphetamine hydrochloride is a drug having such chemical composition, including
any of its isomers or derivatives in any form.
This is further strongly manifest in Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165, wherein it is
specifically provided that the possession of dangerous drugs, such as
methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, is punishable with life imprisonment to death
and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million
Pesos (P10,000,000.00), if the quantity thereof is 50 grams or more. It would be absurd,
to say the least, that Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165 would qualify methamphetamine
hydrochloride as a dangerous drug, while Section 5 of the same law, penalizing the sale
thereof, would treat it as a controlled precursor.
Had respondent Judge been more circumspect in going over the pertinent
provisions of R.A. No. 9165, she would certainly arrive at the same conclusion. It does
not even take an interpretation of the law but a plain and simple reading thereof.
Furthermore, had respondent judge kept herself abreast of jurisprudence and decisions
of the Court, she would have been apprised that in all the hundreds and hundreds of
cases decided by the Court, methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu had always
been considered as a dangerous drug.
[24]

[25]

Given that methamphetamine hydrochloride is a dangerous drug, the applicable


provision in Criminal Case Nos. 03-065, 03-082, and 03-288 subject of Admin. Matter
No. RTJ-04-1820, is Section 5, paragraph 1 of R.A. No. 9165, which reads:

SECTION 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and


Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential
Chemicals. The penalty of life imprisonment to death and fine ranging from Five
hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be
imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer,
dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any
dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the
quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.
Regardless of quantity, the sale, trade, administration, dispensation, delivery,
distribution and transportation of shabu is punishable by life imprisonment to death.
Being a capital offense, it is incumbent upon respondent Judge to hold a hearing on the
petitions/motions for bail filed by the accused therein to determine whether evidence of
guilt is strong. To grant an application for bail and fix the amount thereof without a
hearing duly called for the purpose of determining whether the evidence of guilt is
strong constitutes gross ignorance or incompetence whose grossness cannot be
excused by a claim of good faith or excusable negligence.
[26]

In Gallardo vs. Tabamo, the Court rejected the defense that the judges failure to
apply the clear provisions of the law is merely an error of judgment, and the judge was
held administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law where the applicable legal
provisions are crystal clear and need no interpretation.
[27]

Moreover, such gross ignorance of law is in violation of Rule 3.01 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence.

The indispensable nature of a bail hearing in petitions for bail has always been
ardently and indefatigably stressed by the Court. The Code of Judicial Conduct
enjoins judges to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. A judge
is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and
procedural rules; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and
be aware of well-settled authoritative doctrines. He should strive for excellence
exceeded only by his passion for truth, to the end that he be the personification of
justice and the Rule of Law.
[28]

Although judges cannot be held to account or answer criminally, civilly or


administratively for every erroneous judgment or decision rendered by him in good faith,
it is imperative that they should have basic knowledge of the law.
[29]

Even if a judge acted in good faith but his ignorance is so gross, he should be held
administratively liable.
[30]

Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, which
took effect on October 1, 2001, gross ignorance of the law is classified as a serious
charge and is now punishable with severe sanctions, to wit:

Sec. 11. Sanctions. A. If the respondent is guilty of a serious charge, any of the
following sanctions may be imposed:
1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may
determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public
office, including government-owned or controlled corporations. Provided, however,
that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits.
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but
not exceeding six (6) months; or
3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.
In this case, the Investigating Justice recommended that respondent Judge be
dismissed from the service. The Court finds such penalty to be too harsh. In similar
cases, the Court imposed a fine on the respondents therein for gross ignorance of the
law for having granted bail to the accused without notice and hearing. However, the
Court takes judicial notice that this is not the first time that respondent Judge was
administratively fined. In A.M. No. RTJ-02-1686, a fine of P5,000.00 and a reprimand
was imposed on respondent Judge for dereliction of duty for her failure to act on Civil
Case No. 9-138 for three years. In A.M. No. RTJ-04-1846, respondent Judge was held
administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law, grave misconduct and oppression
for the delay of almost nine (9) months in the transmittal of the records of Civil Case No.
01-268 to the Court of Appeals, and was fined P20,000.00. Thus, the Court is imposing
a penalty more severe than a fine. Suspension from office for six (6) months in Admin.
Matter No. RTJ-04-1820, excluding Criminal Case No. 03-265(People of the Philippines
vs. Aiza Chona Omadan), is sufficient and reasonable.
[31]

[32]

[33]

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) also notes, in its Memorandum dated
November 22, 2002, that respondent Judge caused the release from the National Bilibid
Prison of several persons convicted of violation of the drugs law by granting the
petitions for habeas corpus filed in her court, i.e., Spl. Proc. Nos. 02-002, 02-008, 02-10,
98-023 and 98-048. The OCA further stated that in Spl. Proc. Nos. 98-023 and 98-048,
respondent Judge granted the petitions without determining the veracity of the
allegations therein; without any material evidence in support of her findings and
conclusion; and that at the time the petitions were granted, an appeal from the
convictions in these two cases is pending before the Court (G. R. Nos. 131622-23).
Thus, the OCA recommends that an investigation, report, and recommendation on
these two cases be made, and that it be authorized to conduct an audit on all the
petitions for habeas corpus in all the courts of the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa
City from 1998 to the present.
[34]

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:


(1) In Admin. Matter No. RTJ-03-1817, DISMISSING the complaint against
respondent Judge; and,
(2) In Admin. Matter No. RTJ-04-1820, finding respondent Judge Norma C.
Perello, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (Branch 276) of Muntinlupa
City GUILTY of gross ignorance of law, and she is hereby SUSPENDED for Six (6)
Months, with warning that a repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
AS TO OTHER MATTERS:
(a) The Court ORDERS the Office of the Court Administrator to initiate the
appropriate complaint for grave misconduct and/or gross ignorance of the law against
respondent Judge, insofar as Spl. Proc. Nos. 02-002, 02-008, 02-10, 98-023 and 98048 are concerned; and to conduct preliminary investigation and submit report thereon
within ninety (90) days from notice hereof.
(b) The Office of the Court Administrator is AUTHORIZED to conduct an audit and
submit a report within ninety (90) days from notice hereof, on all the petitions for habeas
corpus in all the courts of the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City from 1998 to
present.
SO ORDERED.
Callejo, Sr., Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), on official leave.

[1]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817, pp. 67-68.

[2]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1820, p. 22.

[3]

Id., p. 23.

[4]

Id., p. 27.

[5]

Id., pp. 35-36.

[6]

Id., p. 41.

[7]

Id., pp. 59, 60.

[8]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817, pp. 229-238.

[9]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1820, pp. 3-4.

[10]

Report and Recommendation, pp. 27-40.

[11]

Id., p. 40.

[12]

Rule 114, Section 6 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, defines a capital offense
as an offense which, under the law existing at the time of its commission and of the application for
admission to bail, may be punished with death.

[13]

Jamora vs. Bersales, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1529, December 16, 2004.

[14]

Basco vs. Rapatalo, A.M. No. RTJ-96-1335, March 5, 1997, 269 SCRA 220.

[15]

Ruiz vs. Beldia, A.M. No. RTJ-02-1731, February 16, 2005.

[16]

Te vs. Perez, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1286, January 21, 2002, 374 SCRA 130.

[17]

Docena-Caspe vs. Bugtas, A.M. No. RTJ- 03-1767, March 28, 2003, 400 SCRA 37.

[18]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817, pp. 66-68.

[19]

Id., p. 206.

[20]

Rule 110, Section 5, Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended by A.M. No. 02-2-07-SC.

[21]

TSN, July 16, 2004, Senior Superintendent Orlando Mabutas, p. 80.

[22]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817, pp. 290-291.

[23]

Rollo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1817, p. 290.

[24]

Lim vs. Dumlao, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1556, March 31, 2005.

[25]

People vs. Tang Wai Lan, G.R. Nos. 118736-37, July 23, 1997, 276 SCRA 24; People vs. Macalaba,
394 SCRA 478, G.R. Nos. 146284-86, January 20, 2003, 395 SCRA 461; People vs. Canton,
G.R. No. 148825, December 27, 2002, 394 SCRA 478; People vs. Corpus, G.R. No. 148919,
December 17, 2002, 394 SCRA 191; People vs. Medina, G.R. No. 127157, July 10, 1998, 292
SCRA 436.

[26]

Ypil vs. Vilo, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1457, August 11, 2004, 436 SCRA 62.

[27]

A.M. No. RTJ-92-881, June 22, 1994.

[28]

Docena-Caspe case, supra.

[29]

Guyud vs. Pine, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1469, January 13, 2003, 395 SCRA 26.

[30]

Gil vs. Lopez, Jr., A.M. No. MTJ-02-1453, April 29, 2003, 401 SCRA 635, 643.

[31]

Docena-Caspe vs. Bugtas, A.M. No. RTJ- 03-1767, March 28, 2003, 400 SCRA 37; Manonggiring vs.
Ibrahim, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1663, November 15, 2002, 391 SCRA 673; Panganiban vs. CupinTesorero, A.M. No. RTJ-1454, August 27, 2002, 388 SCRA 44; Tabao vs. Barataman, A.M. No.
MTJ-01-1384, April 11, 2002, 380 SCRA 396; Layola vs. Gabo, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-1524, January
26, 2000, 323 SCRA 348.

[32]

May 7, 2004.

[33]

January 31, 2005.

[34]

Rollo, Admin. Matter No. RTJ-04-1820, p. 11.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2005/jun2005/am_rtj_03_1817.htm

Drugs; buy-bust operation; proper


procedure for chain of evidence; accused
acquitted.

G.R. No. 185211

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Appellee,
- versus ARNEL BENTACAN NAVARRETE,

Appellant.

G.R. No. 185211


Present:
MORALES, J.,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
ABAD, and
VILLARAMA,
Promulgated:
June 6, 2011

x------------------------------------x
DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:


x x x.

Owing to the built-in dangers of abuse that a buy-bust operation entails, the
law prescribes specific procedures on the seizure and custody of drugs,
independently of the general procedures geared to ensure that the rights of
people under criminal investigation and of the accused facing a criminal
charge are safeguarded.[16]
[B]y the very nature of anti-narcotic operations, the need for entrapment
procedures, the use of shady characters as informants, the ease with which sticks
of marijuana or grams of heroin can be planted in the pockets or hands of
unsuspecting provincial hicks, and the secrecy that inevitably shrouds all drug
deals, the possibility of abuse is great. Thus, the courts have been exhorted to be
extra vigilant in trying drug cases lest an innocent person is made to suffer the
unusually severe penalties for drug offenses.[17](underscoring supplied)

The records of the case indicate that even the basics of the outlined
procedure in the custody of seized drugs was not observed. Consider the team
members Joint Affidavit executed and sworn to by them two days after the
operation or on March 14, 2005, viz, quoted verbatim:
xxxx
4. While positioning ourselves at a place where we can sufficiently see and
observed the movement of my poseur buyer we saw the latter approached an
amputated left arm man and after a brief transaction, the latter handed to our
poseur buyer a small transparent plastic sachet, containing white crystalline
substance, believed to be shabu, in exchange of our buy bust money;
5. At this instance, our poseur [buyer] quickly executed our pre-arranged signal by
placing his right hand on his head, prompting us to hurriedly rushed towards
them and placed Arnel Navarette under arrest and recovered from his
possession and control the buy bust money described above;
6. After apprising him of his constitutional rights, we brought Arnel Navarette to
our Station while the confiscated packet of white crystalline substance
which our poseur buyer bought from him was later submitted for
examination at the PNP Crime Laboratory 7.[18]

Consider too team member SPO1 Selibios testimony viz:


PROSECUTOR ALEXANDER ACOSTA:
Q: How far were you from the subject when you went to the place?
SPO1 WILLARD SELIBIO:
A: Approximately 8 meters.
Q: So you could see the subject?
A: Yes, sir.
xxxx
A: The confidential agent was already instructed that after the transaction is
completed the poseur buyer will have to place his right hand on the head
as pre-arranger signal.
Q: How did he approach the accused?
A: He went to the subject and the transaction was going on considering that there
was already an exchange of the buy bust money and the shabu.
xxxx
Q: After that pre-arranged signal, what happened next?

A: We rushed to the position of the subject then we arrested the said person after
we recovered the buy bust money from the accused.
xxxx
Q: What happened after that?
A: We confiscated the said shabu and the buy bust money.
Q: And then what happened?
A: We arrested the said person and informed him of his constitutional rights.
xxxx
Q: You said you got the items, to whom did you turn over the same?
A: It was turned over to SPO1 Abelgas for him to make some request to the Crime
Laboratory.
xxxx
Q: Showing to you Exhibit B one heat-sealed plastic pack, tell this Honorable
Court if this is the same shabu that was purchased at the time of the buy
bust operation?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: How did you [know] that this [plastic pack] is the one?
A: Because of the marked [sic].
Q: What was the marking?
A: Arnel B. Navarrete.[19] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

There was thus a blanket declaration that the team members confiscated
the shabu. The Public Prosecutor took pains to supply the vital detail
of who marked the initials ANB on the plastic sachet allegedly obtained by the
poseur-buyer from appellant. And when the marking of ANB was allegedly
affixed to the sachet before the sachet was sent for testing to the crime laboratory
was not indicated too.
Consider further the testimony of team leader SPO1 Abelgas:
PROSECUTOR ALEXANDER ACOSTA:
Q: After that what happened?
A: We rushed to the suspect and it was Selibio who recovered from the possession
of the suspect the buy bust money and after that we arrested him and
informed him of his constitutional rights and we brought him to the police
station including the shabu and submitted it to the PNP Crime Laboratory.
Q: You said the poseur buyer was able to purchased [sic] pack of shabu to whom
did the poseur buyer turn over the said shabu?
A: To Selibio.

Q: From the time of the arrest of the accused and the said shabu was turned over
to Selibio, who was then in possession of the shabu from the place where
you arrested the suspect up to your office?
A: It was Selibio.
Q: In your office what did you do then?
A: We prepared a request for PNP Crime Laboratory for examination.
xxxx
Q: How about the shabu that was purchased from the poseur buyer can you still
identify the same?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Showing to you this plastic pack, tell this Honorable Court if this is the same
shabu?
A: Yes sir, this is the same.
Q: How did you know that this is the same?
A: Because of the markings.
Q: What is the marking?
A: A N B
Q: Have you seen the markings?
A: Yes, sir.[20] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

PO2 Labiaga merely echoed that of SPO1 Abelgas.


Oddly, while SPO1 Selibio claimed at the witness stand to have marked the
sachet with ANB, not one of his team mates related having seen him mark
it.Serious doubts necessarily arise as to whether the sachet and its contents
submitted for laboratory examination werethe same as that claimed to have been
taken from appellant.
Non-compliance with the procedure laid down in Sec. 21 of the
Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 is not, of course, always fatal as the law admits
of exceptions:
Non-compliance by the apprehending/buy-bust team with Section 21 is not fatal
as long as there is justifiable groundtherefor, and as long as the integrity and
the evidentiary value of the confiscated/seized items, are properly preserved
by the apprehending officer/team. Its non-compliance will not render an
accused's arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible.
What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. [21] (citation omitted,
underscoring and emphasis supplied)

The apprehending team in the present case has not, however, shown any
justifiable ground to exempt it from complying with the legal requirements. To

impose benediction on such shoddy police work, absent exempting circumstances,


would only spawn further abuses.
In People v. Orteza,[22] the Court did not hesitate to strike down the
conviction of the therein accused for failure of the police officers to observe the
procedure laid down under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law, thus:
First, there appears nothing in the records showing that police officers
complied with the proper procedure in the custody of seized drugs as specified
in People v. Lim, i.e., any apprehending team having initial control of said drugs
and/or paraphernalia should, immediately after seizure or confiscation, have the
same physically inventoried and photographed in the presence of the accused, if
there be any, and or his representative, who shall be required to sign the copies of
the inventory and be given a copy thereof. The failure of the agents to comply
with the requirement raises doubt whether what was submitted for laboratory
examination and presented in court was actually recovered from appellant. It
negates the presumption that official duties have been regularly performed by the
police officers.
In People v. Laxa, where the buy-bust team failed to mark the confiscated
marijuana immediately after the apprehension of the accused, the Court held that
the deviation from the standard procedure in anti-narcotics operations produced
doubts as to the origins of the marijuana. Consequently, the Court concluded that
the prosecution failed to establish the identity of the corpus delicti.
The Court made a similar ruling in People v. Kimura, where the Narcom
operatives failed to place markings on the seized marijuana at the time the
accused was arrested and to observe the procedure and take custody of the drug.
More recently, in Zarraga v. People, the Court held that the material
inconsistencies with regard to when and where the markings on the shabu were
made and the lack of inventory on the seized drugs created reasonable doubt as to
the identity of the corpus delicti. The Court thus acquitted the accused due to the
prosecution's failure to indubitably show the identity of the shabu.

IN FINE, the unjustified failure of the police officers to show that the
integrity of the object evidence-shabu was properly preserved negates the
presumption of regularity accorded to acts undertaken by police officers in the
pursuit of their official duties.[23]
Appellants contention that the apprehending police officers were gravely
remiss in complying with the statutory requirements imposed under Section 21 is
thus well-taken.His acquittal, on grounds of reasonable doubt, must follow.
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. For failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt

beyond
reasonable
doubt,
appellant,
is ACQUITTED of the crime charged.

Arnel

Bentacan

Navarrete.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Director of the Bureau of


Corrections, Muntinlupa City, who isORDERED to cause the immediate release
of appellant, unless he is being lawfully held for another cause, and to inform this
Court of action taken thereon within ten (10) days from notice.
SO ORDERED.

* Additional member per Special Order No. 997 dated June 6, 2011.
[1] Penned by Associate Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, with the concurrence of Associate

Justices Franchito Diamante and Florito Macalino; CA rollo, pp. 73-83.


[2] Records, p. 1.
[3] TSN. October 18, 2005, pp. 2-5.
[4] TSN, November 8, 2005, pp. 2-13
[5] TSN, November 22, 2005, pp. 2-8; December 6, 2005, pp. 2-8.
[6] TSN, December 13, 2005, pp. 2-8; January 17, 2006, pp. 2-8.
[7] Exhibit D, records, p. 8.
[8] TSN, November 22, 2005, pp. 6-7.
[9] Exhibit A, records, p. 43.
[10] Records, p. 4.
[11] Exhibit C, id. at 44.
[12] TSN, March 14, 2006, pp. 1-12.
[13] Rendered by Judge Gabriel Ingles; records, pp. 53-56.
[14] Id. at 56.
[15] CA rollo, pp. 81-82.

[16] People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569 SCRA 194, 208.
[17] People v. Tan, G. R. No. 133001, December 14, 2000, 401 Phil. 259, 273, citing People

v. Pagaura, 334 Phil. 683 (1997) and People v. Gireng, 311 Phil. 12 (1995).
[18] Records, p. 4.
[19] TSN, November 8, 2005, pp. 5-7, 9.
[20] TSN, November 22, 2005, pp. 5-8.
[21] People v. Pringas, G.R. No. 175928, August 31, 2007, 531 SCRA 828, 842-843

citing People v. Sta. Maria, G.R. No. 171019, February 23, 2007, 516 SCRA 621.
[22] G.R. No. 173051, July 31, 2007, 528 SCRA 750, 758-759.
[23] People v. Santos, Jr., G.R. No. 175593, October 17, 2007, 536 SCRA 489, 505.

http://attylaserna.blogspot.com/2011/07/drugs-buy-bust-operation-proper.html

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 104044 March 30, 1993


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
-versusALEXANDER NAVAJA, accused-appellant.
The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Crispin Montejo Menchavez for accused-appellant.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:


Accused Alexander Navaja appeals from the decision 1 of
Branch 5 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu in Criminal
Case No. CBU-16994, finding him guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of selling a prohibited drug in violation of Section 4,
Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425, as amended,
otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act. The dispositive
portion of the decision reads in part as follows:
WHEREFORE, all the foregoing considered, this
Court finds accused Alexander Navaja guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violation (sic) of Sec. 4, Art. II, of
RA No. 6425, as amended, and absent any modifying
circumstances, hereby sentences said accused with
(sic) the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of
P20,000.00 and cost de oficio. 2
Judgment was promulgated on 14 October 1991. Thereupon, the
accused filed a Notice of Appeal 3 manifesting his intention to
appeal the said decision "to the Court of Appeals or to the
Supreme Court." The trial court gave due course thereto and
correctly ordered the transmittal of the records of the case to this
Court. 4
Accused was the object of a buy-bust operation conducted by
the
Anti-Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section (ANDDRUS) of
the Cebu City Police Station, Metropolitan District Command
on 30 August 1989 at sitio Tambisan, Salvador Extension,
Labangon, Cebu City. Unlike in other buy-bust operations where
the supposed seller of prohibited drugs is arrested immediately

after the transaction, Navaja successfully evaded arrest after the


consummation of the sale and just as the members of the buybust team were about to pounce on him. On 6 September 1989,
the ANDDRUS filed a complaint against the accused for the
violation of Section 4, Article II of R.A. No. 6425, as amended,
which was duly endorsed to the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Cebu City. 5 A preliminary investigation was conducted by the
latter without any controverting evidence having been offered by
the accused because of the non-submission of counter-affidavits.
On 23 October 1989, the Office of the City Prosecutor prepared
an Information against the accused for the violation of Section 4,
Article II of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. 6 The same was filed
on 13 November 1989 with the RTC of Cebu City; its
accusatory portion reads:
That on or about the 30th day of August, 1989, at
about 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, in the City of
Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the said accused, with deliberate
intent, did then and there sell and deliver, without
authority of law, one (1) line of marijuana dried
leaves, buds and seeds, approximately 100 grams, a
prohibited drugs, (sic) to a person who posted himself
as buyer, (sic) in Violation of Section 4, Art. II, RA
6425, as amended.
The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. CBU-16994 and
was raffled off to Branch 5 of the same court. In its Order of 28
February 1990, the trial court archived the case, as the accused
had not yet been arrested, and decreed the issuance of
an alias warrant of arrest. 7

On 10 May 1990, the accused was finally apprehended while


attending the hearing of a habeas corpus case filed by his
mother against the police officers stationed at Pahina Central or
Taboan Market, Cebu City in connection with a case of illegal
possession of firearms filed against him. 8 Consequently,
Criminal Case No. CBU-16994 was revived and arraignment of
the accused was set for 2 July 1990. Arraigned on said date, the
accused pleaded not guilty. 9
During the trial, the prosecution presented Pfc. Ranulfo Espina,
a member of the team which conducted the buy-bust operation;
Cesar Cagalawan, Regional Chemist of the NBI; and Myrna
Areola, Chief of the Chemistry and Physical Identification
Section of the PC/INP Crime Laboratory Service, Cebu City.
The last two testified that the pieces of evidence submitted to
them (Exhibits "A" and "B" to "B-62") were positive for
marijuana. The defense, on the other hand, presented Seno
Caedo, Joaquina Navaja (mother of the accused) and the
accused himself.
The facts, as proven by the prosecution and as summarized by
the trial court in its decision, are as follows:
Stripped to essentials, their testimonies disclosed that
on August 30, 1989 at around 8:00 o'clock in the
morning, Ranulfo Espina was on duty at ANDDRUS
(Anti-Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section],
Fuente Osmea, Cebu City. While there, together with
Pfc. Abraham Ocampo, Pfc. Milo Dagasdas, Pat.
Roseller Paler, their Chief of Office Lt. Fortunato
Quijon, and two agents, namely Belocura and
Camargo, a confidential informant arrived and

informed them that a certain Alex is engaged in the


selling marijuana (sic) at Sitio Tambisan, Salvador St.,
Cebu City. Their informant further told them that Alex
will not sell by joint but by line or kilo. That the first
time he heard of Alex was five days before, because
they received calls regarding his illicit trade.
Afterwards, Lt. Fortunato Quijon called them for a
briefing relating to a buy bust operation to be
conducted against Alex. In the briefing, Lt. Quijon
informed them that two poseur-buyers will be utilized
in the
buy-bust operation because Alex is a big time
marijuana pusher. They also supplied the informant
the marked money to be used in the buy-bust, one
P100.00 bill bearing serial number JR685858 and one
P50.00 bill bearing serial number HA483042.
At 12:30 noon of that same day, he, together with Pfc.
Abraham Ocampo, Pfc. Gualberto Gabales, Pfc. Milo
Dagasdas, Pat. Roseller Paler, and agents Belocura
and Camargo left their office to conduct the operation.
They arrived at sitio Tambisan, Salvador Ext. at
around 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon. Upon arrival,
they let the two poseur-buyers to walk [sic] ahead of
them, and tailing [sic] them secretly. At the target
place, for the buy-bust operation, they posted
themselves in different strategic places in order to get
a clear view of their poseur-buyers and the pusher.
That moments later, and from a distance of 8 to 10
meters, they noticed their poseur-buyers approached

by a person beside the chicken pens. After a short


conversation, they saw the person got [sic] something
wrapped in a sheet of newspaper under the galvanized
roof. The person then handed it to one of their poseurbuyers. The other poseur-buyer took the marked
money from his pocket and handed the same to the
pusher. After giving the money, the poseur-buyer
immediately gave the pre-arranged signal by combing
his hair. Instantly, they rushed to the place where Alex,
the pusher, was, but the latter ran upon noticing their
presence. That some of their comrades gave chase to
Alex but they failed to catch him. They failed also to
recover the marked money from Alex. However, they
recovered from their poseur-buyers the one line of
marijuana leaves, buds and seeds (Exh. A). They also
found a brown cigarette case (Exh. B) containing 62
sticks of handrolled marijuana cigarettes (Exhs. B-1 to
B-62) near the chicken pens. That when they inquired
from the neighborhood the [sic] name of the person
who sold the marijuana they were told that the man
was Alexander Navaja, alias "Sindak", the accused in
this case.
That they then submitted the evidence confiscated to
Lt. Quijon for a field test examination. That per
certification (Exhs. C, C-1, C-2 and C-3) issued by Lt.
Quijon, the evidence were [sic] found positive for
marijuana. After the field test examination, they sent
the evidence for laboratory examination to the PC
Crime Laboratory per letter-request (Exhs. E, E-1,
E-2, E-3) of Lt. Quijon. That per Chemistry Report

No. C-314-89 (Exhs. F, F-1, F-2, F-3) issued by


Myrna P. Areola, Chief of the Chemistry and Physical
Identification Section of the PC/INP Crime Laboratory
Service, Cebu City, the evidence submitted were [sic]
positive for marijuana. Furthermore, the evidence
confiscated from the accused were [sic] also submitted
to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for
examination, upon order of the court. That Dangerous
Drugs Report No. 90-DD-16309 (Exhs. D, D-1, D-2,
D-3) issued by Cesar Cagalawan, Regional Chemist of
NBI, Region 7, shows that the specimens submitted
were positive for marijuana. 10
The accused denied that he was at any time engaged in the
selling of marijuana or that he had ever smoked it. 11 He likewise
denied that he was caught selling the prohibited drug presented
as Exhibits "A" and "B" by the prosecution in a buy-bust
operation conducted on 30 August 1989. 12 All three (3) defense
witnesses testified that the accused has never been known as
"Sindak" and that the accused's namesake, Alexander Navaja
alias "Sindak," the son of Pepe Navaja, was the person selling
marijuana in the area; however, the said "Sindak" was killed in
January 1990 by his financier and associate, Oscar Parba. 13
Defense witness Seno Caedo also testified that he and the
accused were engaged in the buying and selling of fighting
cocks; on the day of the alleged buy-bust operation, they were in
Mantalongon, Dalaguete which is an hour's ride from Cebu City.
In convicting the accused, the court a quo relied on the
testimony of Pfc. Ranulfo Espina, thus:

Pfc. Ranulfo Espina made a positive identification of


the accused, Alexander Navaja, to be the same person
who sold and delivered 100 grams of dried marijuana
leaves, buds, seeds and stalks wrapped in a sheet of
paper to the poseur-buyers; the 100 grams of dried
marijuana leaves, buds, seeds and stalks were found to
be positive of [sic] marijuana by the findings of both
Lt. Myrna P. Areola and Mr. Cesar Cagalawan, the
Forensic Chemist of the PCCL and of the National
Bureau of Investigation, respectively.
xxx xxx xxx
Although the testimony of Pfc. Espina has not been
corroborated by any of his companions during the
buy-bust operation, he made a positive and affirmative
testimony [sic] how the operation was conducted,
where and when, and the identity of the person who
sold to the poseur-buyers the said marijuana leaves.
The defense have [sic] not produced any single
evidence of any improper motive on the part of Pfc.
Espina and other prosecution witnesses to prevaricate
and testify falsely against the accused. Accused
admitted that he had no misunderstanding with Pfc.
Espina and anyone of his companions in the buy-bust
operation. The filing of the instant case was wellahead of the filing of the habeas corpus petition
against another group of police officers headed by one
Pat. Raul Tumakay. As a matter of fact, accused was
arrested by virtue of the warrant issued in this case in
the course of the hearing of the petition for a writ

of habeas corpus, before the sala of Hon. Meinrado


Paredes. Definitely, it cannot be said that this case was
filed in retaliation and as leverage to the petition
for habeas corpus filed by the mother of the accused
against Pat. Raul Tumakay, et
al. 14
In his Appellant's Brief, accused interposes five (5) errors
allegedly committed by the trial court, hereby quotedverbatim:
ERROR NO. ONE
THAT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING
FULL CREDIT TO THE LONE WITNESS
RANULFO ESPINA WHO WAS AT A DISTANCE
OF FROM EIGHT [8] TO TEN [10] AWAY [sic]
FROM THE ALLEGED TRANSACTION AND
THERE WAS A FENCE SURROUNDING THE
HOUSE OF ACCUSED AND OBSTRUCTING THE
VIEW ASIDE FROM THE CHICKEN PENS.
ERROR NO. TWO
THAT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT
GIVING FULL CREDIT TO THE TESTIMONIES
OF ALL THE WITNESSES OF THE ACCUSED,
CONSIDERING THAT THE DISTANCE FROM
CEBU CITY TO MANTALONGON IS AROUND
EIGHTY [80] KILOMETERS AND IT IS A FACT
THAT TRANSPORTATION IN THE TOWNS OR IN
THE PROVINCES IS VERY HARD FOR MOST OF
THE BUSES ARE HEAVY LOADED WITH

PASSENGERS AND ONE IS LUCKY IF HE CAN


RIDE IMMEDIATELY ON THE FIRST BUS THAT
PASSED BY.
ERROR NO. THREE
THAT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT
ANALIZING [sic] THE ARREST MADE ON
ACCUSED ON MAY 10, 1990, IN COURT,
DURING THE HEARING OF THE HABEAS
CORPUS CASE FILED BY JOAQUINA NAVAJA,
MOTHER OF THE ACCUSED, AS THE MOTIVE
BEHIND THE CASE IN ORDER TO DEFEAT OR
WEAKEN THE HABEAS CORPUS CASE,
CONSIDERING THAT THE CASE WAS FILED IN
COURT ON OCTOBER 23, 1989, YET AND THE
ACCUSED [sic] RESIDENCE IS ONLY IN
TAMBISAN, LABANGON, CEBU CITY, YET NO
ARREST WAS MADE AFTER OCTOBER 23, 1989,
BUT ONLY ON MAY 10, 1990, DURING THE
TRIAL OF THE HABEAS CORPUS CASE, DUE TO
THE FACT THAT THE REAL ALEXANDER
SINDAC WHO IS THE ONE ENGAGED IN THIS
MARIJUANA BUSINESS IS DEAD AND IN
ORDER TO WEAKEN THE HABEAS
CORPUS CASE.
ERROR NO. FOUR
THAT THE ACCUSED WAS NOT PROPERLY
IDENTIFIED.

ERROR NO. FIVE


THAT THE ACCUSED WAS CONVICTED DUE TO
THE MERIT OF THE PROSECUTING FISCAL,
ATTY. VIRGINIA P. SANTIAGO AND NOT
BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED. 15
We shall take up these errors in the order they are presented.
In support of the first assigned error, accused contends that
while prosecution witness Ranulfo Espina had five (5) other
companions, none of them was presented as a witness;
moreover, their non-presentation was not sufficiently explained.
He concludes that the companions' testimonies would have been
adverse if they had been presented in court. He also faults the
trial court for relying on People vs. Ardiza; 16 he claims that the
said case is not applicable because two (2) peace officers had
testified therein. Besides, he argues that Ranulfo Espina, who
was eight (8) to ten (10) meters away, could not have fully seen
the accused and the poseur-buyers because the accused's house
is surrounded by a fence and chicken pens which supposedly
obstructed Espina's line of sight.
We are unable to agree. There is no rule of evidence which
requires the presentation of a specific or minimum number of
witnesses to sustain a conviction for any of the offenses
described in the Dangerous Drugs Act. It is the prosecuting
fiscal's prerogative to determine who or how many witnesses are
to be presented 17 in order to establish the quantum of proof
necessary for conviction. In this case, the prosecution deemed it
sufficient to present Pfc. Espina alone since any other testimony
which would have been given by the other members of the buy-

bust team would be merely corroborative in nature. The nonpresentation of corroborative witnesses does not constitute
suppression of evidence and would not be fatal to the
prosecution's case. 18 Besides, there is no showing that the other
peace officers were not available to the accused for the latter to
present as his own witnesses. The rule is settled that the adverse
presumption from a suppression of evidence is not applicable
when (1) the suppression is not willful, (2) the evidence
suppressed or withheld is merely corroborative or cumulative,
(3) the evidence is at the disposal of both parties and (4) the
suppression is an exercise of a privilege. 19
The court, for its part, is not precluded from rendering a
judgment of conviction based solely on the testimony of a single
witness as long as such testimony is found to be credible and
satisfies the court that the accused is guilty beyond any
reasonable doubt of the crime charged. 20
The accused was seen not caught as he had escaped in
flagrante as a result of the buy-bust operation. In such an
operation, what is important is the fact that the poseur-buyer
received the marijuana from the accused and that the same was
presented as evidence in court. 21 This Court has consistently
held in drug cases that absent any proof to the contrary, law
enforcers are presumed to have regularly performed their
duty. 22 In the instant case, there exists no such contrary proof.
Accused has not presented evidence of any ulterior motive that
could have moved Ranulfo Espina to testify against him. The
rule is also settled that in the absence of evidence that would
show why the prosecution witness would testify falsely, the

logical conclusion is that no improper motive existed and that


such testimony is worthy of full faith and credit. 23
Accused has misunderstood the case of Andiza wherein We held
that in a buy-bust operation where the peace officers had
witnessed the transaction between the seller and poseur-buyer,
the latter's testimony is not indispensable; the testimonies of the
peace officers who had witnessed the transaction would be
sufficient for conviction and would not constitute hearsay. That
two (2) peace officers testified in Andiza and only one (1) took
the witness stand in the instant case is of no moment since one
witness would be enough if he is credible and if his testimony
satisfies the mind of the court as to the guilt of the accused with
moral certainty.
The allegation that Ranulfo Espina could not have seen both the
accused and the poseur-buyers as they transacted business
because of the fence and the chicken pens, is not convincing at
all.
We have carefully read the transcript of the stenographic notes
of Pfc. Espina's testimony and find no reason to doubt his
positive identification of the accused. Although he was eight (8)
to ten (10) meters away from the spot where the transaction took
place, considering that the incident occurred in broad daylight
(1:00 o'clock in the afternoon) and, as admitted by the accused
in his Appellant's Brief, the said fence is a wire fence, 24 it could
not have been impossible for Pfc. Espina to see and recognize
the accused as the person with whom the poseur-buyers
transacted business. During the cross-examination of Pfc.
Espina, counsel for the accused did not even endeavor to show
the impossibility of the former's having been able to observe or

witness the transaction because of the alleged obstructions. Said


counsel only realized too well the risks of such further inquiry.
As regards the name of the person who sold marijuana leaves to
the poseur-buyers, Pfc. Espina also testified that after the
operation, they inquired front the neighbors and were informed
that the complete name of the person who had just escaped is
Alexander Navaja alias "Sindak." 25
The second assigned error is wholly unacceptable. Firstly, the
rule is well-settled that the issue of the witnesses' credibility is to
be resolved primarily by the trial court because it is in a better
position to decide the question, having heard such witnesses and
observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the
trial. Accordingly, the trial court's findings on the matter of the
credibility of the witnesses are entitled to the highest degree of
respect and would not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of
any showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied
some facts or circumstances of weight and substance which
would have affected the result of the case. 26 In the instant case,
We find no reason and the accused himself has not shown
any to depart from the said rule. Secondly, the accused failed,
either deliberately or through his counsel's sheer neglect, to
propound the appropriate questions to corroborate Seno
Caedo's testimony that on the date and hour of the alleged
illegal transaction, both he and the accused were in
Mantalongon, Dalaguete, Cebu, a place which is eighty (80)
kilometers from Cebu City. We find the failure of the accused,
the principal party involved in the case, to personally claim the
defense of alibi which Caedo testified on rather strange.
Thirdly, it was not shown by Caedo that the distance of eighty
(80) kilometers is such that it would have been impossible for

the accused to be at the scene of the buy-bust operation at the


time the same was conducted. It is a fundamental juridical
dictum that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive
identification of the accused.27 Furthermore, for this defense to
prosper, it is not enough to prove that the accused was
somewhere else when the crime was committed; it must likewise
be demonstrated that it was physically impossible for him to
have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its
commission. 28
The trial court correctly brushed aside the accused's allegation
that he was only prosecuted for the offense subject of this appeal
to weaken the habeas corpus case which his mother had filed
against certain policemen. 29 The records readily disclose that the
Information in this case was filed long before the accused was
arrested for the charge of illegal possession of firearms on 4
May 1990; it was this May arrest which brought about the filing
by the accused's mother of the habeas corpus case against the
police officers responsible therefor. As stated earlier, the
Information in this case was prepared on 23 October 1989 and
was filed in court on 13 November 1989. Thereupon, the case
was archived in the meantime because despite efforts to arrest
the accused, the latter always managed to elude his would-be
captors. Espina testified that they tried three (3) to four (4) times
to arrest the accused but were always informed that the latter
could no longer be found in that place. 30
As his fourth assigned error, accused claims that he is not the
Alexander Navajo, nicknamed "Sindak," who sold the
prohibited drugs to the buy-bust team on 30 August 1989, but a
mere namesake of the said drug-pusher. Accused avers that he is

known in the neighborhood as "Alex." He further relies on the


testimony of Seno Caedo that his (accused's) nickname is
"Alex" and not "Sindak." 31 This contention is absolutely without
merit. The party named as accused in the caption of the
Information in this case is "ALEXANDER NAVAJA @
SINDAK." The opening paragraph of the body thereof reads:
The undersigned 4th Assistant City Prosecutor of
Cebu accuses ALEXANDER NAVAJA @ SINDAK, of
the crime of VIOLATION OF SECTION 4, ARTICLE
II, RA 6425, AS AMENDED, committed as
follows: 32(italics supplied for emphasis).
At his arraignment, he voluntarily entered his plea without any
protest as to his alias or nickname. By failing to object thereto,
he thus admitted that his alias or nickname is, indeed,
"SINDAK."
Moreover, whether or not there lived another person with the
same name in the area where the buy-bust operation was
conducted is immaterial to the case at bar. The identity of the
accused as the person who sold marijuana to the poseur-buyers
was established by Pfc. Espina, a member of the buy-bust team
who saw the face of the seller. Espina positively identified the
appellant in court as the man who sold marijuana that day. Thus:
Q What happened to the two marked money
[sic] the P100 and the P50 bill?
A We were not able to recover it because the
pusher managed to escape.

Q By the way, what is the name of the seller


whom [sic] you have conducted a buy bust
operation?
A Alexander Navaja alias Sindak.
Q When for the first time did you know his
complete name?
A After the operation.
Q How did you come to know his complete
name?
A We asked from the neighbors during the
incident.
Q At the time the buy bust operation was
conducted wherein your poseur buyers was
[sic] approached by a person, how far were
you from the poseur buyers and the Seller?
A I was about 8 to 10 meters.
Q What was your position in relation to the
poseur buyers?
A I was fronting on [sic] his direction.
Q How about the Seller?
A The same.
Q With this position, you saw clearly the
face of the pusher?

A Yes.
xxx xxx xxx
Q How far were you from the two other
members of your group?
A Three or four arms length.
Q If Alexander Navaja alias Sindak is
present before this Court, will you please
point him out?
A (witness pointing to a man who answered
the name Alexander Navaja.) 33
The last assigned error is unworthy of any consideration. The
trial court did not render a judgment of conviction "due to the
merit of the prosecuting fiscal," but on the basis of the evidence
against the accused. It is evident that the latter, in raising the last
error, misread or misinterpreted the following statement in the
appealed decision:
Parenthetically, it may be worth to mention in passing,
that Asst. City Prosecutor Virginia P. Santiago, the
public prosecutor regularly assigned of [sic] this
branch of the court, is observed to be objective in the
prosecution of cases. She adheres to the two-fold
function [sic] of a public prosecutor; she would not
hesitate to stand up before this court to ask for the
dismissal of a case if on the basis of what she found or
discovered, further prosecution would result to
injustice to the accused. But she and this court are not

persuaded by the version of the accused in his


defense. 34
Prescinding from all the foregoing, the challenged decision
must, therefore, be affirmed.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of Branch 5 of the Regional Trial
Court of Cebu in Criminal Case No. CBU-16994 convicting the
accused ALEXANDER NAVAJA @ "SINDAK" of the crime
charged, is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs against the accused.
SO ORDERED.
Feliciano, Bidin, Romero and Melo, JJ., concur.
Gutierrez, Jr., J., is on leave.

# Endnotes
1 Original Records (OR), 41-53; Rollo, 13-25. Per
Judge Celso M. Gimenez.
2 Id., 53; Id., 25.
3 Original Records, 55.
4 Id., 56.
5 Id., 5.
6 Id., 1.

7 Id., 8.
8 TSN, 10 December 1990, 12.
9 Original Records, 11.
10 Original Records, 42-44; Rollo, 14-16.
11 TSN, 26 November, 1990, 3; TSN, 10 December
1990, 3, 15.
12 Id., 15-16.
13 TSN, 26 November 1990 3; TSN, 10 December
1990, 3, 15.
14 Rollo, 18-20.
15 Rollo, 36-37.
16 164 SCRA 642 [1988].
17 People vs. Ruedas, 194 SCRA 553 [1991]; People
vs. Gadiana, 195 SCRA 211 [1991]; People vs.
Mandapat, 196 SCRA 157 [1991].
18 People vs. Capulong, 160 SCRA 533 [1983];
People vs. Tangliben, 184 SCRA 220 [1990].
19 People vs. De Jesus, 205 SCRA 383, 391 [1992].
20 People vs. Rumeral, 200 SCRA 194 [1991]; People
vs. Javier, 182 SCRA 830 [1990], cited in People vs.
Babac, 204 SCRA 968 [1991].

21 People vs. Catan, 205 SCRA 235 [1992].


22 People vs. De Jesus, 145 SCRA 521 [1986]; People
vs. Claudio, 160 SCRA 646 [1988]; People vs. Khan,
161 SCRA 406 [1988]; People vs. Bati, 189 SCRA 97
[1990]; People vs. Fernandez, 209 SCRA 1 [1992].
23 People vs. Macalindong, 76 Phil. 719 [1946];
People vs. Borbano, 76 Phil. 702 [1946]; People vs.
Araja, 105 SCRA 133 [1981]; People vs. Campana,
124 SCRA 271 [1983]; People vs. Patog, 144 SCRA
429 [1986]; People vs. Simon, 209 SCRA 148 [1992].
24 Rollo, 40.
25 TSN, 18 September 1990, 8.
26 People vs. Demecillo, 186 SCRA 161 [1990];
People vs. Payumo, 187 SCRA 64 [1990]; People vs.
Manalansan, 189 SCRA 619 [1990]; People vs. Gupo,
190 SCRA 7 [1990]; People vs. Toring, 191 SCRA 38
[1990]; People vs. Felipe, 191 SCRA 176 [1990];
People vs. Tismo, 204 SCRA 535 [1991].
27 People vs. Mercado, 97 SCRA 232 [1980]; People
vs. Clores, 184 SCRA 638 [1990]; People vs. Arceo,
187 SCRA 265 [1990]; People vs. Beringuel, 192
SCRA 561 [1990].
28 People vs. Esmael, 37 SCRA 601 [1971]; People
vs. Diaz, 55 SCRA 178 [1974]; People vs. Turalba, 55
SCRA 697 [1974]; People vs. Baylon, 57 SCRA 114

[1974]; People vs. Dueo, 90 SCRA 23 [1979]; People


vs. Mercado, 97 SCRA 232 [1980].
29 TSN, 10 December 1990, 7.
30 TSN, 18 September 1990, 14-15.
31 TSN, 26 November 1990, 3; TSN, 10 December
1990, 15.
32 Original Records, 1.
33 TSN, 18 September 1990, 8-9.
34 Rollo, 23.

University of Santo Tomas, Faculty of Civil Law 2010 All


Rights Reserved.
http://www.ustcivillaw.com/Jurisprudence/1993/gr_104044_1993.php

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 105005 June 2, 1993

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


-versusJUANITA MARCELO y ANDRADE @ BABY
TSINA, accused-appellant.
The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Oscar B. Bernardo for accused-appellant.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:


This is an appeal from the decision of Branch 14 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, finding appellant
Juanita Marcelo y Andrade guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the violation of Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425 (the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972), as amended, in Criminal Case
No. 1188-M-91. 1
The appellant and one Danilo Sarmiento alias Mike were
originally charged with the violation of Section 16, Article III of
R.A. No. 6425, as amended, in Criminal Case No. 900-M-91
before Branch 14 of the court a quo. On 3 June 1991 and before
the arraignment of the accused, M/Sgt. Hernandez, the team
leader of the buy-bust operation conducted on 24 April 1991
which led to the apprehension of both accused, filed a motion to
defer arraignment and for leave to reinvestigate the case 2 on the
ground that "the prosecution witnesses were not able to present
fully their evidence during the preliminary investigation." The
trial court granted the motion. 3 As a result of the reinvestigation,
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Afable Cajigal rendered on 19
June 1991 a resolution wherein he recommended the filing of an

information for the violation of Section 15, Article III of R.A.


No. 6425, as amended, against appellant Juanita Marcelo. The
charge against Danilo Sarmiento was maintained. 4
On 27 June 1991, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Cajigal filed
an Information, 5 charging the appellant with the violation of
Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, allegedly
committed as follows:
That on or about the 24th day of April, 1991, in the
municipality of Marilao, province of Bulacan,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without
authority of law, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously sell, deliver, dispatch in
transit and transport the following, to wit:
One (1) plastic bag of metamphetamine hydrochloride
(shabu).
Four (4) grams, more or less of metamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu) which is regulated drug.
Contrary to law.
The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 118-M-91 and
raffled off to Branch 14 of the court a quo. The appellant
entered a plea of not guilty upon arraignment on 12 July
1991. 6
The witness presented by the prosecution were C1C
Buenaventura Lopez, M/Sgt. Lamberto Hernandez both
members of the buy-bust team and Lt. Daisy Babor, Forensic

Chemist at Camp Olivas, Pampanga. The appellant was the sole


witness for the defense.
On 12 February 1991, the trial court promulgated its
decision 7 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered, finding the
accused Juanita Marcelo Y Andrade alias Baby Tsina,
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Violation of Sec. 15 Art. III of Republic Act 6425, the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 as amended, the court
hereby imposed (sic) upon the accused the penalty
ofReclusion Perpetua or Life Imprisonment and a fine
of Twenty Thousand (P20,000.00 ) pesos. With costs.
The facts as established by the prosecution are summarized in
the decision as follows:
The evidence in the record shows that prior to April
24, 1991, the NARCOM Agents assigned at
Meycauayan, Bulacan detachment received reports
from their confidential agents and concerned citizens
of Nagbalon, Marilao, Bulacan, that the accused
Juanita Marcelo Y Andrade alias Baby Tsina, is
engaged in selling Metamphetamine Hydrochloride
known as shabu. Operation casing and surveillance
was conducted by the Agents on the activities of the
accused and their surveillance gave positive results.
A team was organized by the Commander of the Unit
composed of C1C Buenaventura Lopez, M/Sgt.
Lamberto Hernandez, Staff Sgt. Maong and C1C

Efren Labios, to conduct a buy-bust operation at


Nagbalon, Marilao, Bulacan where the accused resides
to entrap and arrest her. That Lopez was to act (sic) as
the poseur- buyer to whom M/Sgt. Hernandez gave the
One Hundred (P100.00) peso marked money to buy
the stuff.
At 4:30 in the afternoon on April 24, 1991, the team
riding in a jeep proceeded to Nagbalon, upon arriving
at the place C1C Lopez was dropped by his
companions at the corner of Zulueta Street where
Lopez saw the accused and one alias Mike in front of
the residence of the former. Then Lopez walked
casually towards the accused and Mike, while the
other team members positioned themselves in strategic
places. When Lopez had approached the two he asked
the accused if she have (sic) the stuff and the accused
asked him how much he would buy and he replied.
One Hundred (P100.00) pesos then the accused gave
the stuff to Mike who in turn gave it to Lopez then he
gave the One Hundred (P100.00) pesos, marked
money, to the accused. (Mike is the alias of Danilo
Sarmiento). Then Lopez gave the pre-arranged signal
to his companions by scratching his head and they
came out of their places and introduced themselves to
the accused as NARCOM Agents then they arrested
the suspects. According to Hernandez he talked to the
accused after her arrest and she admitted that she still,
have (sic) in her possession shabu which confiscated
weighing 4 grams contained in a plastic bag (Exhibit

K). The shabu which Lopez bought from the accused


is also contained in a plastic bag (Exhibit J).
After the accused and Mike were arrested, they were
brought to the NARCOM Headquarters at Camp Alejo
Santos, Malolos, Bulacan, where they were
investigated inside the Office of the NARCOM in the
presence of Sgt. Hernandez, Lopez, Sgt. Paras and
Capt. Huevos. During the investigation, the accused
were not assisted by a counsel, this fact was admitted
by C1C Lopez and Sgt. Hernandez, the investigating
officer. In the course of the investigation, Sgt.
Hernandez prepared Exhibit C, the list of the property
seized and confiscated from the accused, the document
was signed by the accused without the assistance of a
counsel. The list mentions one small plastic bag of
metamphetamine hydroc(h)loride (shabu) buy-bust,
more or less 4 grams and metamphetamine
hydroc[h]loride (shabu) confiscated. One Hundred
(P100.00) pesos marked money bearing Serial No.
CT751335 Exhibit D.
The specimen[s] were submitted to Camp Olivas for
laboratory examination to determine whether the
specimen[s] are positive for shabu. As per report of Lt.
Alma G. Dumalaog Technical Report No. NB-235-91
dated April 30, 1991, Exhibit H, the One (1) small
plastic bag containing another one (1) small bag with
white crystalline substance 0.35 gram and the one (1)
small plastic bag containing white crystalline
substance weighing 2.4 grams are positive and

contained metamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) a


regulated drug.
During the trial Lt. Dumalaog failed to appear in Court
to testify and identify Exhibit H because she was
attending a seminar, upon motion of the prosecution
the Court ordered the re-examination of the specimen
by Lt. Daisy P. Babor, a forensic chemist at Camp
Olivas. The results of the examinations of Lt. Babor
appears on the Technical Report No. NB-235-91 she
submitted in Court marked Exhibit L which confirms
that the specimen, one small plastic bag with white
crystalline substance weighing 0.30 grams and one
plastic bag containing white crystalline substance
weighing 2.35 grams are positive for metamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu) a regulated drug. 8
The defense's version of the incident is condensed by the trial
court in this wise:
DEFENSE EVIDENCE
JUANITA MARCELO Y ANDRADE an unwed
mother, beautician, operator of a Carinderia and
residing at Poblacion, Zulueta St., Marilao, Bulacan
testified: that she is the accused Juanita Marcelo y
Andrade but not Baby Tsina and she does not know
why she was given the alias "Baby Tsina"; that it was
Capt. Huevos who gave her the alias "Baby Tsina"
because Capt. Huevos would want to use that alias in
his intended film depicting his life story where she
would be represented by another woman as an extra in

the said intended film; that Capt. Huevos is the


Commanding Officer of the NARCOM in Bulacan
whose office is at Camp Alejo Santos, Malolos,
Bulacan. That her house is located at Zulueta St.,
Marilao, Bulacan her mother has also a house located
in the same place.
That on April 24, 1991 at around 4:00 o'clock in the
afternoon she was in the house of her mother sleeping;
that she was awakened by one of her children who
informed her that their Kuya Mike (referring to Danilo
Sarmiento) arrived looking for her; that she woke up
and asked Mike Sarmiento what he needed and
Sarmiento asked her to loan him P5,000.00 but she
told Sarmiento she does not have that amount; that
while they were talking to each other, five (5) persons
whom she does not know arrived and begun to search
the house of her mother, so she told the intruders that
is not her house and the said persons identified
themselves as NARCOM Agents whom she identified
as Dondon Lopez or C1C Lopez, one alias Dabo,
Efren and Joel; that the agents tried to bring her along
to their detachment at Meycauayan, Bulacan but she
refused because the agents were not armed with a
warrant of arrest so the agents handcuffed her hands
and when she resisted C1C Lopez boxed her on the
stomach; that she stayed at the NARCOM Detachment
at Meycauayan the whole night on April 24, 1991 until
the following day April 25, 1991 then she was brought
to the NARCOM Office at Camp Alejo Santos,
Malolos, Bulacan, together with Mike Sarmiento; that

inside the Office of the NARCOM Agents she was


made to sign Exhibit "C" in the presence of M/Sgt.
Lamberto Hernandez, Capt. Huevos and C1C Lopez;
that she signed Exhibit "C" because Sgt. Hernandez
promised that she will be released if she signs the
documents; that at the time she signed Exhibit C she
was not assisted by a counsel neither was she
informed of her constitutional rights; that she can not
see her signature on Exhibit D the marked P100.00
peso bill; that she denied one (1) plastic bag
containing shabu was confiscated from her; that Lopez
and Hernandez did not seize Exhibits J and K from her
but they recovered something from Mike; that she was
detained at Camp Alejo Santos for less than one (1)
month; that she was examined by Dr. Emilia Sacdalan
at the Bulacan Provincial Hospital on May 29 to 31,
1991 for the injuries she suffered when she was boxed
by C1C Lopez at Marilao on April 24, 1991; that the
findings of Dr. Sacdalan is shown on Exhibit I-B
"findings Abortion Completed by DNC"; that perhaps
her abortion was due to the punch inflicted upon her
by C1C Lopez; that her live-in-partner or common law
husband told her he will file a complaint with the
Commission on Human Rights for the injuries she
sustained, against the military but she prevented him
from filing the complaint because her case might get
worse as it is hard to go against the military; that
before the incident she did not have any untoward
incident with the military (tsn p. 26 Oct. 21, 1991) that
she was accused of the instant criminal case a serious
crime, perhaps, because the military came to know

that her husband would file a complaint before the


Commission on Human Rights, against Capt. Huevos;
that she signed Exhibits J and K because she was
intimidated by Lopez. 9
Immediately after the promulgation of the sentence, the accused
filed a notice of appeal. 10 This Court accepted the appeal on 13
July 1991.
In this appeal, the appellant raises the following assignments of
errors:
1. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY
ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THERE IS
EVIDENCE OF ILLEGAL DRUG TRANSACTION
AGAINST THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
2. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY
ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THERE WAS
MATERIAL VARIANCE BETWEEN
ALLEGATIONS OF CRIMINAL INFORMATION
AND OFFERED TESTIMONIES OF THE
PROSECUTION AGAINST THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANT.
3. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO ERRED IN
BELIEVING THE
ABSENT/UNKNOWN/ALLEGED INFORMER'S
HEARSAY INFORMATION ABOUT THE DRUG
SALE IN QUESTION.
4. THE HONORABLE LOWER COURT
GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN ADMITTING THE

ALLEGED PRE-MARKED P100 PESO BILL IN


EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANT.
5. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT
GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN ADMITTING
EVIDENCE OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF THE
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANT.
6. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY
ERRED IN GRANTING REINVESTIGATION OF
THE CASE UPON SOLE (sic) EX PARTE MOTION
OF PROSECUTION WITNESS WHO IS NOT A
GOVERNMENT PROSECUTOR.
7. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY
ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE
PROSECUTION FAILED TO PROVE THE GUILT
OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT. 11
Under the first assigned error, the appellant cites several points
which the trial court allegedly failed to consider and which, if
considered, would not have led it to conclude that the accused
had engaged in an illegal drug transaction as contended by the
prosecution. First, it was unnatural for her, if she was indeed an
illegal drug dealer as the prosecution pictured her to be, to enter
into a shady deal with the NARCOM agents using layman's
language; the Court may take judicial notice of the fact that
genuine drug pushers and true drug buyers, including poseurbuyers, transact with the use of their own "drug language."

Second, in the joint affidavit of arrest (Exhibit "A"), prosecution


witness Lopez asserted that he dealt with a certain alias Mike
and not with the appellant; however, during the trial, he
maintained that the appellant was the seller of the regulated
drug. Third, the inconsistent testimony of C1C Lopez as to when
the sketch illustrating the place of transaction (Exhibit "F") was
prepared: he first declared that he prepared it "after the arrest of
the appellant (TSN, Aug. 9, 1991, p. 19)," then later on he said
that the sketch was made before the team-members proceeded to
the target area. Fourth, if it was true that M/Sgt. Hernandez was
present when the transaction was going on, he would have
testified that he saw the transfer of the shabu and the marked
money instead of merely saying that he saw "something" pass
from the hands of Baby Tsina to Mike and finally to C1C Lopez
and another "something" pass from C1C Lopez, the prearranged signal was to scratch his head twice, but in open court,
he demonstrated the same by scratching his head several times.
All these points which trial court allegedly failed to consider are
directed at the credibility of the main prosecution witnesses,
C1C Lopez and M/Sgt. Hernandez, and the veracity of their
claim that the appellant was caught while selling the regulated
drug commonly known as "shabu."
When the issue of credibility of witnesses is raised, appellate
courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court,
considering that the latter is in a better position to decide the
question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed
their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial, unless
certain facts of substance and value have been plainly
overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the

case. 12 This is the settled rule. We have no reason to depart


therefrom in this case, for We do not doubt the findings of the
trial court that the members of the NARCOM conducted the
buy-bust operation on 24 April 1991 to entrap the appellant, and
that the latter was caught in flagrante selling shabu, a regulated
drug. The principal prosecution witnesses are all law enforcers
and are presumed to have regularly performed their duty in the
absence of proof to the contrary. 13 The appellant failed to show
that these NARCOM agents were actuated by any improper
motive in testifying against her. Where there is no evidence, and
nothing to indicate, that the principal witnesses for the
prosecution were actuated by improper motives, the presumption
is that they were not and their testimony is entitled to full faith
and credit. 14
In any event, the points raised by the appellant do not impress or
convince this Court. Whether the appellant and prosecution
witness Lopez used "drug language" or not during the
transaction is entirely irrelevant. What is important is that such a
transaction took place. This court cannot take judicial notice of
the "drug language" of during pushers and drug buyers for none
has been shown to exist. The suggestion of the appellant that this
Court ought to, may only indicate her familiarity with what she
claims to be "drug language" or passwords between drug
pushers and drug buyers. Moreover, it has not been established
that there is a fixed rule among drug dealers, for their security, to
deal only with customers who use "drug language."
The appellant's assertion that C1C Lopez and M/Sgt. Hernandez
had stated in their Joint Affidavit of Arrest that they dealt only
with Mike is misleading. This is what they stated therein:

. . . The male factor (sic) (Alias Mike) handed to C1C


Lopez the one plastic bag of shabu . . . and in turned
(sic) he (C1C Lopez) handed to Alias Mike the one
Hundred pesos marked buy money (sic) bearing serial
number CT751335 to alias Mike (sic) and the male
factor (sic) immediately gave it (marked money of
P100.00) to the woman (alias Baby Tsina). . . . 15
Although the said affidavit imprecisely pictured the role of the
appellant in the said incident, this may be excused since
affidavit are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate,
sometimes from partial suggestion, or for want of suggestions
and inquiries. 16
What is decisive is the testimony of the said witnesses regarding
the participation of the appellant in the transaction. Thus, Lopez
declared:
Q You said that you were dropped at corner
Zulueta Street, which leads to the residence
of the accused whom according to you was
then in front of a residence, what happened
when you saw the accused in front of her
residence?
A After that, then I already approached the
two (2) suspects which is (sic) Alias Baby
Tsina and Alias Mike.
Q What happened when you approached
these two (2) accused?

A When they were standing in front of the


residence, I talked to Alias Baby Tsina, sir.
Q You said you talked to Baby Tsina, what
did you tell her?
A I asked Baby Tsina if she has the stuff
which is shabu, sir.
Q What was the reply of Baby Tsina?
A She answered yes.
Q By the way, if this Baby Tsina whom you
asked for shabu is inside the court room,
will you please point her to us?
A There, sir. (WITNESS POINTING TO A
WOMAN WHO STOOD UP AND GAVE
HER NAME AS JUANITA ANDRADE Y
MARCELO).
Q After the accused Juanita Andrade
Marcelo replied in the affirmative, what
happened next?
A After that, sir after she answered yes, she
asked me if (sic) how much I would like to
buy the shabu. I answered P100.00 bill (sic),
sir.
Q And after you answered that, that you
were buying shabu worth P100.00 bill (sic),
what happened next?

A After that alias Baby Tsina gave the stuff


to alias Mike, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
Q After the accused Juanita Andrade
Marcelo handed the stuff to Danilo
Sarmiento alias Mike, what happened next?
A After that, alias Mike gave me the stuff
coming from alias Baby Tsina, sir. 17
On cross-examination, he further clarified that the marked
P100.00 bill used to pay for the shabu was, in fact, thereafter
seized from the appellant:
Q Who confiscated this P100.00 bill?
A M/Sgt. Hernandez, sir.
Q From whom it was (sic) confiscated?
A In the possession of Juanita Andrade,
sir. 18
Prosecution witness Hernandez also testified on direct
examination thus:
Q How far were you from Lopez and these
two persons whom he conversed at the time
when you saw C1C Lopez and these two
whom you identified to be Juanita Marcelo
and Danilo Sarmiento at the time that they

were conversed (sic), how far were you from


them?
A I was to (sic) the distance of 8 to 10
meters, away, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
Q While C1C Lopez and Danilo was
conversing with Juanita Marcelo and Danilo
Sarmiento, what else did you see if you saw
anything?
A A Baby Tsina was giving something to
Mike and Mike was giving something to
C1C Lopez. 19
Therefore, even if the first joint affidavit was not precise in
describing the participation of the appellant in the transaction,
the testimonies of the above prosecution witnesses indubitably
show her as a seller of the regulated drug. Between the joint
affidavit and the testimony given in open court, the latter
prevails because affidavits taken ex-parteare generally
considered to be inferior to the testimony give in open court. 20
Appellant deliberately misleads this Court in asserting that on
page 19 of the transcript of the stenographic notes of Lopez's
testimony taken on 9 August 1991, Lopez declared that he
prepared the sketch (Exhibit "F") after the arrest of the
appellant. On the contrary, Lopez categorically stated that he
prepared the same before they proceeded to the target area:

Q How many days after the arrest of the


accused was affected (sic) did you prepare
this sketch?
A I make (sic) that sketch after the
Confidential Informant gave me the
information, sir.
Q That was before proceeding to the target
area at Nagbalon?
A Yes, sir. 21
We find nothing unusual or alarming in the fact that Hernandez
did not categorically state in his testimony that what he saw
were the shabu and the marked money. He was at a distance of
eight (8) to ten (10) meters from where the transaction was
actually taking place. From that distance, he could only see the
motions of the suspects and the poseur-buyer and could not
exactly see that it was shabu and the marked money which
changed hands. When he thus testified that what he noticed from
that distance was "something" handed to Mike by the appellant
and "something" handed by Mike to Lopez, he was just being
candid and truthful. These somethings were, however, proven to
be the shabu and the marked money. In any event, the testimony
of Hernandez merely corroborated that of the principal witness
the poseur-buyer, C1C Lopez. It was the latter's testimony
that established the selling transaction which, coupled with the
presentation in court of the corpus delicti, was sufficient proof
of the commission of the offense. 22

The matter of whether the pre-arranged signal consisted of only


two (2) or of more scratchings of the head is too trivial to affect
the credibility of C1C Lopez.
In the second assigned error, the appellant submits that there was
a material variance between the information and the testimonies
of the witnesses in court.
The information states that the appellant "without authority of
law, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell,
deliver, dispatch in transit and transport the following, to wit:
one (1) plastic bag of metamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
and Four (4) grams, more or less of metamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu), which is a regulated drug," while the
evidence of the prosecution shows that there was only one (1)
plastic bag containing shabu (Exhibit "J") which the appellant
sold to C1C Lopez. The other four (4) grams of shabu (Exhibit
"K") were not part of the "stuff" sold to Lopez but were
recovered from the appellant when she was apprehended. This
variance, however, did not alter the substance of the charge
against her. The appellant, under these circumstances, can still
be validly convicted for violation of Section 15, Article III of
R.A. No. 6425, as amended, since all the elements of the offense
charged in the information were proven in court. As in the
offense of illegal sale of marijuana, a prohibited drug, what is
required is the consumption of the transaction. The important
fact is that the poseur-buyer received the shabu from the
appellant and the same was presented in court. 23 The quantity of
the regulated drug sold is not material. It may be pointed out that
she could have been separately prosecuted for illegal possession
of the four (4) grams of shabu found in her possession after her

arrest under Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as


amended. 24
There is, as well, no unexplained gap in the chain of custody of
the drugs (Exhibits "J" and "K") as alleged by the appellant. The
same was kept by M/Sgt. Hernandez and delivered by him
personally to Sgt. Mones of the PNP Crime Laboratory Service
at Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga on 29 April 1991 for
examination. Exhibit "E" of the prosecution which is the request
for examination, shows that the drugs taken from the appellant
was conceived by Sgt. Mones of the PNP Crime Laboratory
from M/Sgt. Hernandez himself. The latter explained that it took
him five (5) days after the arrest to submit the same for
examination because there was no other person who could do it
as all their agents were on a mission. 25 Lt. Babor, on the other
hand, received the same for examination upon order of the court
on 13 September 1991 from Lt.
Dumalaog 26 who conducted the examination of the specimen on
30 April 1991 but whose findings had to be re-confirmed by Lt.
Babor because Lt. Dumalaog was on schooling and could not be
presented in court at the time of the trial. 27
Under the third assigned error, the appellant contends that the
trial court erred in (a) believing the claim of the prosecution
witnesses that they acted on a tip from an informant who,
however, was not presented in court thus raising the
presumption that evidence wilfully suppressed would be adverse
if produced; and in (b) denying the appellant's right to meet the
accuser and to have him examined.
This assigned error is without merit. Informers are never
presented in court because of the need to preserve their

invaluable service to the police. 28 Moreover, the testimony of


the informer is not essential to this case because the said
informer was not present during the buy-bust operation and had
no participation therein or in the entrapment of the appellant.
Under the fourth assigned error, the appellant claims that the
evidence concerning the making of the P100.00 bill is
unsatisfactory, hence, the trial court should not have admitted it
in evidence. This is incorrect. Lopez satisfactorily identified this
piece of evidence as the buy-bust money. Besides, its
presentation in evidence was not even indispensable as the
consummation of the sale was sufficiently established by the
testimony of Lopez, the poseur-buyer.
The fifth assigned error, which assails the court a quo for
admitting evidence in violation of the appellant's constitutional
rights, is misplaced. The trial court convicted the appellant on
the basis of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the
presentation in court of the shabu taken from her during the buybust operation. No extrajudicial admission or confession in
violation of her constitutional rights was considered by the trial
court. As a matter of fact, the trial court even disregarded
Exhibit "C," the list of property seized from her, thus:
The court disregarded Exhibit C and its (sic) submarkings because the document, an extra-judicial
admission, was signed in violation of the
constitutional right of the accused to be assisted by a
counsel. However, the disregarded and inadmissibility
of Exhibit C did not create a gap on the chain of
evidence against the accused.

In the last assigned error, the appellant faults the trial court for
allowing the reinvestigation of the case upon the motion of a
mere witness, M/Sgt. Hernandez. Citing Caes vs. Intermediate
Appellate Court, 30 she contends that the police officer cannot, in
behalf of the prosecutor, particularly when the case is already
pending in court, move for reinvestigation without the
conformity of the prosecutor. While the appellant has a strong
point here since the complainant in a criminal case is merely a
witness and not a party to the case and cannot, by himself, ask
for the dismissal or the reinvestigation of the case after the
information had been filed in court the proper party for that
being the prosecutor who has the control of the prosecution of
the case 31 the matter is already moot and academic. She is
now estopped to question the propriety of the grant of the
motion by the trial court. She did not object to the motion, the
reinvestigation and the filing of a new information against her.
She voluntarily entered a plea of not guilty to and was tried
under the new information. Moreover, the appellant has not
shown that any of her rights had been prejudiced by the
reinvestigation.
The decision appealed from must then be affirmed. However,
the term "reclusion perpetua" in the dispositive portion of the
decision should be deleted. The penalty should be life
imprisonment. We have pronounced in several decisions
thatreclusion perpetua is not synonymous with life
imprisonment. The latter is the penalty prescribed for the
violation of Section 15, Article III of the Dangerous Drugs Act
of 1972, as amended, and must be the penalty imposed.

WHEREFORE, the challenged decision of Branch 14 of the


Regional Trial Court of Bulacan in Criminal Case No. 1188-M91 is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the modification
abovestated as to the nomenclature of the penalty.
SO ORDERED.
Feliciano, Bidin, Romero, and Melo, JJ., concur.

# Endnotes
1 Original Records (OR), 151-159; Rollo, 15-23. Per
Judge Felipe N. Villajuan, Jr.
2 Appendix "B," Brief for Accused-Appellant.
3 Appendix "C," Id.
4 OR, 4-5.
5 Id., 1.
6 OR, 11.
7 Id., 151-159; Rollo, 15-23.
8 OR, 156-157; Rollo, 21-22.
9 OR, 155-156; Rollo, 19-20.
10 Id., 160.
11 Brief for the Appellant, 1; Rollo, 28, et seq.

12 People vs. Garcia, 89 SCRA 440 [1979]; People vs.


Abejuela, 92 SCRA 503 [1979]; People vs. Florida;
G.R. No. 90254, 24 September 1992.
13 People vs. De Jesus, 145 SCRA 521 [1986]; People
vs. Tejada, 170 SCRA 497 [1989]; People vs. Macuto
176 SCRA 762 [1989]; People vs. Asio, 177 SCRA
250 [1989]; People vs. Mariano, 191 SCRA 136
[1990]; People vs. Collantes, 208 SCRA 853 [1992].
14 People vs. Araja, 105 SCRA 133 [1981]; People vs.
Campana, 124 SCRA 271 [1983]; People vs. Jutie,
171 SCRA 586 [1989].
15 OR, 3.
16 People vs. Magdadaro, 197 SCRA 151 [1991].
17 TSN, 9 August 1991, 9-11.
18 Id., 37-38.
19 TSN, 21 September 1991, 8-10.
20 People vs. Riego, 189 SCRA 445 [1990].
21 TSN, 9 August 1991, 19.
22 People vs. Vocente, 188 SCRA 100 [1990]; People
vs. Mariano, supra.
23 See People vs. Dekingco, 189 SCRA 512 [1990];
People vs. Catan, 205 SCRA 235 [1992].

24 People vs. Manalansan, 189 SCRA 619 [1990];


People vs. Catan, supra.
25 TSN, 27 September 1991, 42-43.
26 TSN, 18 September 1991-11.
27 Id., 13.
28 People vs. Consuelo, 184 SCRA 402 [1990];
People vs. Collantes, supra.
29 OR, 158; Rollo, 22.
30 179 SCRA 54 [1989].
31 Republic vs. Sunga, 162 SCRA 191 [1988]; Caes
vs. IAC, supra.

University of Santo Tomas, Faculty of Civil Law 2010 All


Rights Reserved.
http://www.ustcivillaw.com/Jurisprudence/1993/gr_105005_1993.php

Today is Tuesday, September 06, 2016

R. No. 192913

Search

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
June 13, 2013

OPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,

EL REBOTAZO y ALEJANDRA, Accused-Appellant.


DECISION

RENO, CJ.:

ore us is a Notice of Appeal1 dated 9 September 2009 from the Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB CR
No. 00443. The CA affirmed the Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 30, Dumaguete City in Criminal Case
s. 16394 and 16395, convicting appellant Joel Rebotazo y Alejandria of violating Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic A
9165 (R.A. 9165) or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

culled from the records, the prosecutions version is herein quoted:

February 27, 2003, at around 3:00 in the afternoon, informant Orly Torremocha went to the National Bureau of Investigatio
BI) office in Dumaguete City to report that appellant was selling several sachets of shabu in his possession. The informant
o told the NBI that he was going to meet with appellant later, as the latter was looking for a motorcycle to be used in lookin
his missing wife.

sed on this information, the NBI planned a buy-bust operation and formed a buy-bust team, which was composed of: (1) N
ent Miguel Dungog; (2) Atty. Dominador Cimafranca; (3) Louie Diaz; and (4) Torremocha. For lack of personnel, Diaz, son
NBI Dumaguete chief, volunteered to be the poseur-buyer. It was planned that appellant and Torremocha would pass by
akeys Pizza Plaza in Rizal Boulevard on board a motorcycle. Diaz would then flag them down and discreetly ask where he
ld buy shabu.

er a briefing, at around 4:30 in the afternoon of the same day, the buy-bust team, with the exception of Torremocha,
ceeded to Shakeys and positioned themselves in strategic locations to ensure that they can witness the entrapment. With
team was media representative Ivan Bandal.

planned, appellant and Torremocha passed by Shakeys on board a motorcycle. Diaz flagged them down, and Torremocha
oduced him to appellant. After a brief conversation, Diaz told appellant that he was interested in buying shabu and handed
the P300 marked money. In exchange, appellant handed to Diaz a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance.

on completing the transaction, Diaz executed the pre-arranged signal by removing his cap. Dungog and Cimafranca then
hed to Diaz and appellants location and effected the latters arrest. Appellant was subjected to a body search, and, in the
cess, voluntarily informed the NBI agents that he had another sachet of shabu inside one of his socks. Dungog recovered
said sachet, as well as some money from appellants wallet, including the marked money given by Diaz. Dungong also
rked the two (2) plastic sachets with the following initials: (1) NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03/REBOTASO/BB/01; and (2) NBIMDO-02/20/03/REBOTASO/Pos/02. Photographs were also taken of appellant with the seized items. After being informed
constitutional rights, appellant was brought to the NBI office.

he NBI office, Dungog conducted an inventory of the seized items in the presence of appellant, media representative Mari
nas, and a representative from the Department of Justice. The NBI Dumaguete Chief likewise prepared a letter request fo
oratory examination of the seized substance, which Dungog brought to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory,
gros Oriental Provincial Office.

ice Inspector Josephine L. Llena received the request and examined the specimen, which tested positive for
thamphetamine Hydrochloride. The results of the laboratory examination were embodied in Chemistry Report No. D-026-3

pellant also underwent a drug test, and tested positive for the presence of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride. 4(Citations
tted)

the other hand, appellants version is as follows:

e accused claimed that on February 27, 2003, one Orly Torremocha let him ride on his motorcycle and they went around th
. He knew this Orly Torremocha as he was his schoolmate at NOHS and has been his long time friend. After a while, they
nt to Shakeys at Rizal Boulevard as Torremocha invited the accused for snacks. They seated themselves outside of the
n store, as there were also tables there for customers. They first ordered siopao but since there was none, they instead
ered pizza. While they waited for their order, this Torremocha was busy texting on his cell phone. After a while, a certain
uie Diaz came and handed money to Torremocha. The money was placed on the table. Torremocha then got a lighter and
mething that was lengthy which contained shabu. After cutting the lengthy something, Torremocha gave half of it to Diaz wh
n left. After about three [sic] minutes, NBI Agents Dungog and Cimafranca rushed and pointed something to him. The
used raised his hands, but remained seated. The NBI agents searched him but found nothing on him. The accused was
ested, but was not informed of his constitutional rights. The accused was brought to the NBI Office and was searched agai
e agents did not recover anything from him as in the earlier search made on him. At the time of his arrest, the accused was
aring pants, a T-shirt and slippers only. The accused had no socks at that time. The accused was forced to sign a docume
wn as Inventory of Dangerous Drugs dated February 20, 2003. The accused had no lawyer at that time. The accused
mplained to the inquest prosecutor that he was forced to sign a document without being explained [sic] as to what it was al
out.5

nsequently, on 30 June 2003, two amended informations were filed against the appellant for violation of Sections 5 and 11
cle II of R.A. 9165. The two amended informations are quoted herein below:

Criminal Case No. 16394:

at on or about the 27th day of February 2003, in the City of Dumaguete, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
norable Court, the said accused, not being then authorized by law, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
d deliver to one NBI poseur-buyer approximately 0.12 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly called "shabu,
ngerous drug.

at the accused is positive for use of Methamphetamine as reflected in Chemistry Report No. CDT-018-07. [sic]

ntrary to Section 5, Article 2 of R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002)."

Criminal Case No. 16395:

at on or about the 27th day of February 2003, in the City of Dumaguete, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
norable Court, the said accused, not being then authorized by law, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
sess and keep approximately 0.07 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly called "shabu," a dangerous dru

at the accused is positive for use of Methamphetamine as reflected in Chemistry Report No. CDT-018-03.

ntrary to Section 11, Article 2 of R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002)."

er the case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 30, Dumaguete City, appellant was arraigned, and he pleaded n
ty. The two cases were then consolidated and jointly tried. 6

16 May 2006, the RTC rendered a Joint Judgment, 7 the dispositive portion of which is herein quoted:

HEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the Court hereby renders judgment as follows:

n Criminal Case No. 16394, the accused Joel Rebotazo y Alejandria is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of
offense of illegal sale of 0.12 gram of Methamphetamine or shabu in violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 and
eby sentenced to suffer a penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00).

e 0.12 gram of Methamphetamine or shabu is hereby confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government and to be dispos
n accordance with law.

n Criminal Case No. 16395, the accused Joel Rebotazo y Alejandria is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of
offense of illegal possession of 0.07 gram of Methamphetamine or shabu in violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No.
65 and is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day as minimum term to
rteen (14) years as maximum term and to pay a fine of Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (P400,000.00).

e 0.07 gram of Methamphetamine or shabu is hereby confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government and to be dispos
n accordance with law.

he service of sentence, the accused shall be credited with the full time during which he has undergone preventive
risonment, provided he agrees voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted
oners.
ORDERED.

s ruling, the RTC gave more weight to the evidence presented by the prosecution. It relied on the testimony of Louie Diaz
poseur-buyer who narrated how the illegal sale took place, presented in court the evidence of the corpus delicti, and
itively identified appellant as the seller of the shabu. 8 It also gave credence to the testimony of the two police officers, Poli
pector Josephine S. Llena and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Agent Miguel Dungong, who were both "presumed t
e acted regularly in the performance of their official functions, in the absence of clear and convincing proof to the contrary

t they are motivated by ill will."9

on intermediate appellate review, the CA rendered a Decision 10 on 31 July 2009, to wit:

HEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the joint judgment rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Negros Oriental, Branc
of Dumaguete City dated May 16, 2006 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
ORDERED.

onvicting appellant of the crimes charged, the CA affirmed the factual findings of the RTC 11 on the premise that witness Di
d Dungog had clearly and convincingly established his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the CA did not find any
tive on the part of these witnesses to falsely implicate appellant 12 only bolstered his conviction.

reover, the factual discrepancies pointed out by appellant referred only to minor and insignificant details, which, "when
wed with the prosecution witnesses clear and straightforward testimonies, do not destroy the prosecution of the
e." 13 These discrepancies have in fact been clearly explained by the witnesses in their testimonies.
ISSUE

m the foregoing, the sole issue before us is whether or not the RTC and CA erred in finding the testimonial evidence of the
secution witnesses sufficient to warrant appellants conviction for the crimes charged.
THE COURTS RULING

pellant argues14 that the RTC and CA erred in appreciating the factual evidence on record. In particular, he notes that the
secution failed to establish the existence of the marked money supposedly recovered. When Prosecutor Escorial asked
ness Diaz why the serial numbers the former read from a bunch of peso bills presented in evidence were not marked, Diaz
s unable to answer.15 Later in the proceedings, the prosecution managed to offer only two supposedly marked bills, but no
lanation was offered as to why the third bill was missing. 16

pellant also harps on some factual discrepancies, to wit:

1. The Prosecution admitted that the inventory report does not contain the signature of any elected official (Pls.
see Pre-Trial Order).
2. The prosecution admitted that in his affidavit, the arresting officer NBI Agent Miguel Dungog named Ivan
Bandal as the media representative, while in the inventory report, the named media representative is Maricar
Aranas (Kindly see Pre-Trial Order).

3. Prosecution admitted that the inventory report is dated February 20, 2003, seven (7) days before the date of
the alleged incident, which is February 27, 2003.

4. The marking on Specimen "A" (evidence-shabu, prosecutions Exh. "D") bears the date "02/20/03" which is
February 20, 2003, seven (7) days before the date of the alleged incident in question, February 27, 2003 (pls. s
TSN November 7, 2005, p. 3). The marking on Specimen "B" (evidence-shabu, prosecutions Exh. "E") bears th
date "02/20/03" which is February 20, 2003, seven (7) days before the date of the alleged incident in question,

which is February 27, 2003 (pls. see TSN November 7, 2005, p. 4). 17

addition, he questions the failure of the prosecution to indicate the name of the person who affixed his signature to the
entory as a Department of Justice (DOJ) representative. 18

pellant further argues that no one from the prosecution testified on the manner in which the seized drugs were handled and
measures undertaken to preserve their integrity and evidentiary value. 19 Specifically, the prosecution "failed to account for
whereabouts of the seized drugs from the time the forensic chemist was done with examining the same, up to the time the
e identified by her in court, as the said pieces of evidence appear to have been already in the courts custody when she
ified."20

tly, appellant questions the NBIs lack of coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Allegedly, the
I failed to send a filled-out pre-coordination form by facsimile message, as required by R.A. 9165 and its implementing rule
d regulations.21 Because of this omission, appellant argues that the buy-bust operation should be considered unauthorized
d his subsequent arrest illegal. The evidence supposedly obtained thereby must be declared inadmissible. 22 Hence, the ca
drug-pushing and possession of prohibited drugs must fall together.23

the part of the prosecution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) insists that there is nothing in the law that requires th
secution to present the marked money. The non-presentation does not create any hiatus in the evidence, provided that the
secution adequately proves the sale.24 Moreover, as against the straightforward and consistent testimonies of its witnesse
supposed inconsistencies cited by appellant refer only to minor and insignificant details that do not destroy the prosecutio
e.25 On the lack of coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the OSG asserts that it does not
ate appellants constitutional right against illegal arrests, because there is nothing in R.A. 9165 that mandatorily requires
rdination with the PDEA.26
I

y-bust operations are legally sanctioned procedures, provided they are undertaken with due regard for constitutional and
al safeguards.

he outset, buy-bust operations are legally sanctioned procedures for apprehending drug peddlers and distributors. These
erations are often utilized by law enforcers for the purpose of trapping and capturing lawbreakers in the execution of their
arious activities.27 A busy-bust operation is one form of entrapment employed by peace officers as an effective way of
prehending a criminal in the act of committing an offense, 28and must be undertaken with due regard for constitutional and
al safeguards.29

wever, as we have observed in People v. Garcia, 30 while this kind of operation has been proven to be an effective way to
h out illegal transactions that are otherwise conducted covertly and in secrecy, it has a significant downside that has not
aped the attention of the framers of the law. It is susceptible to police abuse, the most notorious of which is its use as a to
extortion. Thus, in People v. Tan,31 courts have been exhorted to be extra vigilant in trying drug cases, lest an innocent
son is made to suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses.

sprudence has consistently held that the procedural safeguards enunciated in Section 21 of R.A. 9165 must be strictly
erved, among which are provided as follows:

ction 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of

ngerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals,

ruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous
gs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia
d/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from th
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the
copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;
(2) Within twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment, the same shall be submitted to the PDEA Forensic Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative
examination;
xxxx

ded by the above-quoted provision, we find no cogent reason to overturn appellants conviction.

affirm the appellants conviction for the following reasons, in response to the claimed errors of the CA, as raised by the
pellant.

The marked money does not need


be presented in Court.
are not impressed by the alleged failure of the prosecution to present the marked money in Court.

e Court has been categorical in declaring that neither law nor jurisprudence requires the presentation of any money used in
-bust operation.32 Failure to mark the money or to present it in evidence is not material, since failure to do so will not
essarily disprove the sale.33 If at all, the marked money merely serves as corroborative evidence in proving appellants
t.34 Stated differently, in prosecuting a case for the sale of dangerous drugs, the failure to present marked money does not
ate a hiatus in the evidence for the prosecution, as long as the sale of dangerous drugs is adequately proven and the drug
ject of the transaction is presented before the court. 35

stated in the records, the testimony of prosecution witness Louie Diaz sufficiently established the sale and identified the
ngerous drug in court:36

RECT EXAMINATION BY PROS. E. ESCORIAL


xxxx

Now can you remember any unusual incident that happened in the afternoon of February 27, 2003?

At 3:30 in the afternoon there was an informant who arrived.

xxxx

And when this informant arrived in the Office of the NBI, Dumaguete City, what transpired next?

He had reported something regarding the drug pushing activity of Mr. Joel Rebotazo.

To whom it was reported?

To my father who was a chief.

And where were you when it was reported to your father?


was at the office, sir, because that was my vacant.

Vacant time?

Yes, sir.

So what happened next when that informant informed your father about the transaction?

He forwarded it to his operative who was Miguel Dungog.

And what happened next?

So we designed something for operation and we had our briefing.

ce there was a lack of personnel at that time so I volunteered to be a poseur-buyer.

Then after you volunteered as poseur buyer?

So we had a briefing.

What was that briefing all about?

We are going to conduct a buy bust on Joel Rebotazo.

What happened next during the briefing, there was a plan to conduct buy bust on Joel Rebotazo?

We proceeded to the Shakeys at the boulevard.

Here in Dumaguete City?

Yes, sir.

What boulevard is that?

Boulevard, sir.

Rizal boulevard near?

Near Bethel.

And did you arrive thereat?

4:30, sir, after the briefing, sir, we arrived there at 4:30 already.

And what happened at the Rizal boulevard near the Shakeys or at the Shakeys?

At the Shakeys. So the plan was for the informant and Joel Rebotazo to accompany him. And then they were having a
versation at the Shakeys and I pretended to be a buyer.

And since you pretended to be the buyer, was there any conversation made between you as the buyer with the accused Jo
botazo?

Yes, sir.

Can you tell the Honorable Court what was that conversation?

bought drug from him worth P300. Our bridge was the informant because the informant and him know each other and me
s just a buyer.

What happened when you informed the accused Joel Rebotazo of your desire to buy shabu?

As I bought from him in the amount of Three hundred, he also gave me an exchange of the amount that I gave.
xxxx

So after you informed the accused Joel Rebotazo of your desire to buy shabu, this Joel Rebotazo acceded to your propos

Yes.

And since he acceded to your proposal to buy shabu, what transpired next?

Thats it. I gave him three hundred and the shabu that is also worth P300 he also gave it to me.

What particular hand?

Right hand, Your Honor.

That you tendered that money?

Yes, Your Honor.

What about Joel Rebotazo, what particular hand of Joel Rebotazo?

The same, Your Honor.

The same what?

Right hand.

So after there was an exchange of money made by you and the receiving of the shabu from Joel Rebotazo, what happene
t?

When I gave the money, he also gave me the stuff, the shabu. I gave a go signal to the operatives.

What signal were you talking about?

Since I was wearing a hat at that time, sir, our agreed signal with the operatives is for me to take off.

And were you able to take off your hat?

Yes, sir.

What happened after you took off your hat?

They already assaulted. They apprehended Joel Rebotazo.

Who approached both of you?

Miguel Dungog and Doming Cimafranca, the operatives.

By the way, if this Joel Rebotazo is inside this courtroom, will you be able to identify him?

Yes, sir.

Kindly point to us?

There (witness is pointing to the person wearing orange t-shirt who when asked as to his name answered Joel Rebotazo).

Now if that shabu will be shown to you, will you be able to identify that shabu?

Yes, sir.

There are two (2) of this shabu in front of you, kindly go over these two (2) sachets of shabu, identify the same and tell the
norable Court what particular sachet of shabu was the one that was the subject of the buy bust transaction?

This is the one (witness is handling over the plastic which contained the sachet).
xxxx

There is another sachet of shabu aside from the one that you have just identified, what is this shabu all about?

Actually this was placed in a bigger sachet and it was being divided into two (2), this one (witness is touching the other pla
tainer). It was left on the accused.

Where was it? Do you know where was it recovered?

He inserted it in his socks.

s testimony was sufficiently corroborated by witness Miguel Dungog: 37

RECT EXAMINATION CONDUCTED BY PROS. ESCORIAL


xxxx

Can you remember where you were in the afternoon of February27, 2003?

We were at the Rizal Boulevard conducting buy bust operation.

When you say "we," who were your companions in conducting a buy bust operation?

Dominador Cimafranca and other assets of the NBI.

Such as?

Louie Diaz and also a media representative, Ivan Bandal.

And considering that you were there at the Rizal Boulevard particularly at the Shakeys Pizza Plaza, what transpired there
he time?

We conducted the buy bust operation, using Louie Diaz as the poseur-buyer. We successfully conducted the buy bust
eration against Joel Rebotazo.

Who is this Louie Diaz?

He is the son of our former chief in Dumaguete City.

Where were you when this Louie Diaz conducted the buy bust?
was in the vicinity, I was at a seeing distance.

When you say you were in the vicinity, how far were you?

About four or five meters away, Sir.

When you say you are at a seeing distance, was it clear at that time?

Yes, and we arranged signals.


xxxx

But what have you observed between the two?

We observed that there was an exchange and then the signal was given that the sale was completed.

What was the exchange which you mentioned? Can you describe to us what particular hand of Louie Diaz was extended t
used Joel Rebotazo?

His right hand but another thing was given also in exchange from Joel Rebotazo.

Did you see what was given by Louie Diaz to Joel Rebotazo?

No, Sir.

What about the thing that you saw in the extended hand of Joel Rebotazo given to Louie Diaz?
have not seen the thing given by Joel Rebotazo to Louie Diaz. It was Louie Diaz who personally received the item, Sir.

After the transaction you said there was a signal?

Yes, Sir, there was a signal.

What was the signal?

Taking off the cap of Louie Diaz, Sir.

Are you telling this Honorable Court that Louie Diaz was wearing a cap?

Yes, Sir, he was wearing a cap.

What kind of cap?

A baseball cap.

Then after the signal what happened next?

immediately went to them and told Joel Rebotazo to freeze and stay calm, that we are NBI and this is a buy bust operatio

Who told Joel Rebotazo?

Me, Sir.

n other words you effected the arrest?

Yes, Sir, I effected the arrest and after I told him that, a frisked [sic] was made on his body and then he voluntarily told me
t another pocket [sic] was in his sock.

dently, there is no need to present the marked money in court, because the prosecution has satisfactorily shown how the
gal sale took place and positively identified the packets of shabu, subjects of this case.

The prosecution has sufficiently


ablished the chain of custody.

pellant also argues that no one from the prosecution testified on the manner in which the seized drugs were handled and t
asures undertaken to preserve their integrity and evidentiary value. 38 Specifically, the prosecution "failed to account for the
ereabouts of the seized drugs from the time the forensic chemist was done with examining the same, up to the time they
e identified by her in court, as the said pieces of evidence appear to have been already in the courts custody when she
ified."39

have held that as a mode of authenticating evidence, the chain-of-custody rule requires that the presentation of the seize
hibited drugs as an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what the
ponent claims it to be.40 This would ideally cover the testimony about every link in the chain, from seizure of the prohibited
g up to the time it is offered in evidence, in such a way that everyone who touched the exhibit would describe how and fro
om it was received, to include, as much as possible, a description of the condition in which it was delivered to the next link
chain.41

examination of the records would reveal that the prosecution has sufficiently established the chain of custody in this case.
e testimonies of Miguel Dungog and Josephine S. Llena, forensic chemist of the PNP Crime Laboratory, reveal that althoug
chain was not narrated step-by-step, the accountability for each transfer of the seized drugs was proven. Witness Dungog
ified on this matter, to wit:42

RECT EXAMINATION CONDUCTED BY PROS. ESCORIAL


xxxx

n other words you effected the arrest?

Yes, Sir, I effected the arrest and after I told him that, a frisked [sic] was made on his body and the he voluntarily told me th
other pocket was in his sock.
xxxx

When you effected the arrest what happened next?

The two (2) sachets of shabu were marked as 1 and 2 and the subject Joel Rebotazo was taken to the NBI office for prope
entory taking and other standard procedures done in the NBI office.

You made these markings on the sachets at the crime scene?

Yes, Sir.
xxxx

n the sachet are markings. Can you identify what are these markings and who made those writings?

NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03/REBOTAZO/BB/01

Who made those markings?

Myself, Sir.

And what is the meaning of that marking?

BB/01 is the product of the buy bust.


xxxx

Kindly proceed to the other sachet.

NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03/REBOTAZO/POS/02

Who made that marking.

Me, Sir, [ sic]

And what is the meaning of that?

POS/02 is the one recovered in his possession, Sir.


xxxx

You also mentioned that you have issued a receipt at the NBI office?

Yes, Sir.

Attached to the records of the case, found on page 19 is an inventory of dangerous drugs which is already marked as Exh
for the prosecution. Kindly go over this and identify the same.

This is the same inventory of dangerous drugs we made at the NBI office.
xxxx

You also said awhile ago that you were the officer who submitted the letter request to the PNP crime laboratory together w
confiscated drugs, for examination?

Yes, Sir.
xxxx

There is a signature at the bottom portion along with the word, "Delivered by" and followed by a handwritten name Miguel
ngog. Whose signature is this?

This is my signature, Sir.

the other hand, witness Llena testified as follows: 43

RECT EXAMINATION CONDUCTED BY PROS. ESCORIAL


xxxx

Police Inspector Josephine S. Llena, since [sic] when did you receive this letter request together with the specimen
mitted in relation to this case together with the seized items?

The letter request which came from the Chief of the NBI stationed here in Dumaguete City together with the specimen
ject in this case were received in our office on February 28, 2003 at 9:20 in the morning.
xxxx

Now, after you received this letter request for laboratory examination together with the 2 sachets of shabu in relation to the
es, what did you do with them?

The specimen were subjected into [sic] physical and chemical examination.

e prosecution of cases involving illegal drugs depends largely on the credibility of the police officers who conducted the bu
t operation.44 Credence is usually given to prosecution witnesses who are police officers, for they are presumed to have
formed their duties in a regular manner, unless there is evidence to the contrary. 45 Failure to impute ill motive on the part o
police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation 46will only sustain the conviction of the accused.

Minor inconsistencies, when


erring only to minor details and
ch are fully explained, do not
troy the prosecutions case.

e supposed factual discrepancies in the prosecutions evidence do not hold water. The rule on material inconsistencies ha
en enunciated by this Court several times. In People v. Arcega, 47 we have held that "by and large, the material
1avvphi1

onsistencies asserted by the accused-appellant which allegedly create grave doubts are, on the contrary, too minor, trivial
d inconsequential to affect the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, the inconsistencies having been fully and sufficiently
lained during trial by the witnesses themselves, and their explanations having been accepted by the Trial Court. Besides,
been held, time and again, that minor inconsistencies and contradictions in the declarations of witnesses do not destroy t
nesses' credibility but even enhance their truthfulness as they erase any suspicion of a rehearsed testimony."

this score, we agree with the findings of the CA that the prosecution has sufficiently explained the factual discrepancies.

st, on the lack of signature of an elected official and the failure to indicate the name of the person who affixed his signature
J representative in the inventory report, jurisprudence has maintained that "non-compliance by the apprehending/buy-bus
m with Section 21 is not fatal as long as there is justifiable ground therefor, and as long as the integrity and the evidentiary
ue of the confiscated/seized items, are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team. Its non-compliance will not
der an accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the
servation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination
guilt or innocence of the accused."48

ppears from the records that the NBI tried to contact barangay officials to attend the inventory-taking, but none
ved.49 Such effort on the part of the NBI agents and the consequent failure of said elected officials to appear should be
sidered sufficient justifiable ground so as to excuse the prosecution from complying with this particular requirement. As to
question of the identity of the DOJ representative, witness Dungog clarified the same in his cross-examination, thus: 50

That at the time of the signing of the Inventory of Drugs, you were not able to identify the DOJ Representative?

Yes.

And you cannot remember his face or his name?


think it was Michael Fabe.

Are you sure of that?


am sure that it is Michael Fabe.

But during the time of the cross-examination, do you admit that you did not remember him at that time?
had a hard time to recall [sic].

nsidering that the integrity of the seized drugs has been maintained, and that the drugs were immediately marked for prop
ntification, the absence of an elected official during the inventory-taking should not be deemed fatal to the prosecutions
e.51

cond, the alleged confusion in the identity of the media representatives was thoroughly explained by witness Dungog in the
owing manner:52

You mentioned a while ago that Ivan Bandal was present during the buy-bust?

Yes, Sir.

Was he able to sign in the inventory?

No, Sir.

Why?

During the conduct of the buy bust operation, he was called by his office at Silliman University, so he was not around in the
ual buy bust. He was around in the initial plan and going to the site.

ing the cross-examination, he further stated: 53

But specifically you mentioned a media practitioner?

Yes, Sir.

van Bandal?

Yes, Sir.

But as you stated he was no longer present during the actual buy bust?

Yes, Sir.

And when you conducted therefore, the actual buy bust operation there was no representative from the media?

None, Sir.

And thereafter, after the buy bust operation you effected the arrest, you seized the objects and you went to the NBI office,
rect?

Yes, Sir.

And it was the time you conducted the inventory, right?

The formal inventory, right?

And it was at this time that a media [sic] was present, and was represented by another personality Aranas?

Yes, Sir.

The name?

Maricar Aranas.

Present as representative of the media who was not present during the actual buy bust operation?

Yes, Sir.

rd, on the discrepancy between the inventory report and the actual incident, including the markings on Specimen "A" and
ecimen "B," the discrepancy was also explained by Dungog, as follows: 54

Now on the second page of your affidavit, particularly on paragraph 5 it reads... "Hereunder is an inventory of dangerous
gs confiscated from the possession of Joel Rebotazo, to wit: one heat sealed transparent plastic pack if white crystalline
nules believed to be shabu marked as NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03/REBOTAZO/BB/01; No. 2, one heat sealed transparent plas
k of white crystalline granules believed to be shabu marked as NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03/REBOTAZO/POS/02. What is the
aning of this NBI-DUMDO-02/20/03?

That corresponds to the date but in that case, there was an inadvertence because we were thinking that it was February 2
hat time. Nobody noticed. We noticed the inadvertence on February 28, the following day.

You did not correct that?


have corrected that in my affidavit, Sir.
II

e NBIs lack of coordination with the PDEA

not exculpate the appellant.

e NBIs lack of coordination with the PDEA cannot be given weight or credence. Section 86 of R.A. 9165 reads:
1wphi1

C. 86. Transfer, Absorption, and Integration of All Operating Units on Illegal Drugs into the PDEA and Transitory Provisions
e Narcotics Group of the PNP, the Narcotics Division of the NBI and the Customs Narcotics Interdiction Unit are hereby
olished; however they shall continue with the performance of their task as detail service with the PDEA, subject to screenin
l such time that the organizational structure of the Agency is fully operational and the number of graduates of the PDEA
ademy is sufficient to do the task themselves: Provided, That such personnel who are affected shall have the option of eith
ng integrated into the PDEA or remain with their original mother agencies and shall, thereafter, be immediately reassigned
er units therein by the head of such agencies. Such personnel who are transferred, absorbed and integrated in the PDEA
ll be extended appointments to positions similar in rank, salary, and other emoluments and privileges granted to their
pective positions in their original mother agencies.

e transfer, absorption and integration of the different offices and units provided for in this Section shall take effect within
hteen (18) months from the effectivity of this Act: Provided, That personnel absorbed and on detail service shall be given u
(5) years to finally decide to join the PDEA.

hing in this Act shall mean a diminution of the investigative powers of the NBI and the PNP on all other crimes as provided
in their respective organic laws: Provided, however, That when the investigation being conducted by the NBI, PNP or any
anti-drug task force is found to be a violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the PDEA shall be the lead agency. The
I, PNP or any of the task force shall immediately transfer the same to the PDEA: Provided, further, That the NBI, PNP and

Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters.

People v. Sta. Maria,55 we have held thus:

sory read, the foregoing provision is silent as to the consequences of failure on the part of the law enforcers to transfer dr
ated cases to the PDEA, in the same way that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9165 is
o silent on the matter. But by no stretch of imagination could this silence be interpreted as a legislative intent to make an
est without the participation of PDEA illegal nor evidence obtained pursuant to such an arrest inadmissible.

a well-established rule of statutory construction that where great inconvenience will result from a particular construction, o
at public interests would be endangered or sacrificed, or great mischief done, such construction is to be avoided, or the co
ght to presume that such construction was not intended by the makers of the law, unless required by clear and unequivoca
ds.

we see it, Section 86 is explicit only in saying that the PDEA shall be the "lead agency" in the investigations and
secutions of drug-related cases. Therefore, other law enforcement bodies still possess authority to perform similar function
he PDEA as long as illegal drugs cases will eventually be transferred to the latter. Additionally, the same provision states t
EA, serving as the implementing arm of the Dangerous Drugs Board, "shall be responsible for the efficient and effective la
orcement of all the provisions on any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical as provided in th
." We find much logic in the Solicitor Generals interpretation that it is only appropriate that drugs cases being handled by
er law enforcement authorities be transferred or referred to the PDEA as the "lead agency" in the campaign against the
nace of dangerous drugs. Section 86 is more of an administrative provision. By having a centralized law enforcement bod
the PDEA, the Dangerous Drugs Board can enhance the efficiency of the law against dangerous drugs. (Emphasis and
derscoring supplied).

other words, the lack of coordination with the PDEA cannot in and of itself exculpate appellant. For as long as the mandato
uirements of R.A. 9165 have been complied with, the buy-bust operation remains legal, and appellants conviction shall be
held.
III

e '"fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine cannot apply

he face of a valid buy-bust operation.

en the circumstances above, appellants arrest cannot be considered illegal. Time and again, we have ruled that the arres
accused in flagrante during a buy-bust operation is justified under Rule 113, Section 5(a) of the Rules of Court. 56 From the
y nature of a buy-bust operation, the absence of a warrant does not make the arrest illegal. 57

we held in People v. Marcelino,58 the illegal drug seized was not the "fruit of the poisonous tree," as the defense would hav
Court to believe. The seizure made by the buy-bust team falls under a search incidental to a lawful arrest under Rule 126
ction 13 of the Rules of Court.59 Since the buy-bust operation was established as legitimate, it follows that the search was
o valid, and a warrant was not needed to conduct it. 60

HEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB CR- No.
443 dated 31 July 2009 is hereby AFFIRMED.

ORDERED.

RIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


ef Justice, Chairperson
CONCUR:
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
C E R T I F I C AT I O N

suant to Section I 3, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached i
sultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion or the Court's Division.

RIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


ef Justice

otnotes
1

CA rollo, pp. 119-121.

Rollo, pp. 3-28; CA Decision dated 31 July 2009 penned by Associate Justice Franchito N. Diamante and
concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo L. Delos Santos and Rodil V. Zalameda.
2

CA rollo, pp. 10-18; RTC Decision dated 16 May 2006, penned by Judge Rafael Cresencio C. Tan, Jr.

Id. at 95-96; CA Decision, pp. 6-7.

Id. at 97; CA Decision, p. 8.

Id. at 10; RTC Decision, p. 1.

Id. at 10-18.

Id. at 14; RTC Decision, p. 5.

Id. at 17; RTC Decision, p. 8.

10

Id. at 90-115; CA Decision, p. 25

11

Id. at 99; CA Decision, p. 10.

12

Id. at 112; CA Decision, p. 23.

13

Id. at 100-101; CA Decision, p. 11-12.

Id at. 40-54; Brief for the Accused-Appellant, pp. 9-12. In our 6 December 2010 Resolution, this Court noted t
Manifestation of accused-appellant that he is adopting his 13 December 2007 Brief for the Accused-Appellant
filed with the CA, and his Supplemental Brief.
14

15

Id. at 49; Appellants Brief, p. 7.

16

Id. at 50. Appellants Brief, p. 8.

17

Id. at 51; Appellants Brief, p. 9.

18

Rollo, p. 47; Supplemental Brief, p. 3.

19

Id. at 46; Supplemental Brief, p. 2.

20

Id.

21

CA rollo, p. 52; Appellants Brief, p. 10.

22

Id. at 53; Appellants Brief, p. 11.

23

Id.

24

Id. at 76; Plaintiff-Appellees Brief, p. 7.

25

Id. at 80; Plaintiff-Appellees Brief, p. 11.

26

Id. at 81; Plaintiff-Appellees Brief, p. 12.

27

People v. Chua Uy, 384 Phil. 70, 85 (2000).

28

People v. Jocson, G.R. No. 169875, 18 December 2007, 540 SCRA 585, 592.

Id., citing People v. Doria, 361 Phil. 595 (1999). See also People v. Abbu, 317 Phil. 518 (1995); People v.
Tadepa, 314 Phil. 231 (1995); People v. Basilgo, G.R. No. 107327, August 5, 1994, 235 SCRA 191.
29

30

G.R. No. 173480, 25 February 2009, 580 SCRA 259.

31

401 Phil. 259, 273 (2000), citing People vs. Pagaura, 334 Phil. 683 (1997).

People v. Concepcion, G.R. No. 178876, 27 June 2008, 556 SCRA 421, 442, citing People v. Astudillo, 440 P
203, 224 (2002).
32

People v Cueno, 359 Phil. 151, 162 (1998), citing People vs. Cuachon, G.R. Nos. 106286-87, 1 December
1994, 238 SCRA 540. See also People v. Pascual, G.R. No. 88282, 6 May 1992, 208 SCRA 393; People vs.
Sanchez, 255 Phil. 293 (1989).
33

34

People v. Gonzaga, G.R. No. 184952, 11 October 2010, 632 SCRA 551, 572.

35

Supra note 32, at 441-442.

36

TSN, 25 October 2005, pp. 3-12.

37

TSN, 8 November 2004, pp. 3-7.

38

Rollo, p. 46; Supplemental Brief, p. 2.

39

Id.

Cacao v. People, G.R. No. 180870, 22 January 2010, 610 SCRA 636, 650, citing People v. Gutierrez, G.R. N
177777, 4 December 2009, 607 SCRA 377, 392.
40

41

Id.

42

TSN, 8 November 2004, pp. 7-20.

43

TSN, 10 December 2003, pp. 2-4.

44

People v. Lapasaran, G.R. No. 198820, 10 December 2012.

45

Id.

46

Id.

47

G.R. No. 96319, 31 March 1992, 207 SCRA 681, 687.

48

People v. Pringas, G.R. No. 175928, 31 August 2007, 531 SCRA 828, 842-846.

49

TSN, 27 June 2005, p. 5.

50

Id. at 3-4.

See People v. Musa, G.R. No. 199735, 24 October 2012; Imson v. People, G.R. No. 193003, 13 July 2011, 6
SCRA 826.
51

52

TSN, 8 November 2004, p. 16.

53

Id. at pp. 25-26.

54

Id. at 10-11.

55

545 Phil. 520, 531-532 (2007).

56

People v. Villamin, G.R. No. 175590, 9 February 2010, 612 SCRA 91, 108.

57

Id.

58

G.R. No. 189278, 26 July 2010, 625 SCRA 632.

59

Id. at 640.

60

Id.

e Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/jun2013/gr_192913_2013.html

G.R. No. 199901

October 9, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GARYZALDY GUZON, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION
REYES, J.:
This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated June 29 2010 of the Court of Appeals CA) in CAG.R. CR HC No. 02890, which affirmed the Decision2 dated June 15, 2007 of the Regional
Trial Court RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 13 in Criminal Case No. 11968-13, finding accusedappellant Garyzaldy Guzon Guzon) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal
sale of shabu.
The facts

Guzon was accused of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, also
known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in an Information 3 dated
November 23, 2005, the accusatory portion of which reads:
That on or about November 22, 2005 at 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, in the municipality of
San Nicolas, province of Ilocos Norte, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously sell one (1) heat-sealed plastic sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride
otherwise known as "shabu", a dangerous drug, weighing 0.06 gram to a police asset of
PNP San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, who posed as buyer in a buy[-]bust operation without
authority to do so.
CONTRARY TO LAW.4
Upon arraignment, Guzon entered a plea of "not guilty." 5 After pre- trial, trial on the merits
ensued.
Version of the Prosecution
PO2 Elyzer Tuzon (PO2 Tuzon) testified for the prosecution. He claimed that on November
22, 2005, at around 11:00 oclock in the morning, he was on duty at the police station of San
Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, when he received a telephone call from an unknown tipper that
Guzon was engaged in drug-pushing activity at Nalupta Street, Barangay 3, San Nicolas,
Ilocos Norte. PO2 Tuzon relayed the information to Officer-In-Charge Chief Police Inspector
Jerico Baldeo (OIC Baldeo), who ordered PO2 Tuzon and PO3 Cesar Manuel (PO3
Manuel) to verify the report. When PO2 Tuzon and PO3 Manuel failed to find Guzon at
Nalupta Street, OIC Baldeo instructed them to seek the aid of an asset. 6
After an unnamed asset identified Guzons location, the police planned a buy-bust
operation. PO2 Tuzon gave marked money to the asset designated to be the poseur-buyer
of shabu. The asset was instructed to remove his cap to signal that he had received the
shabu from Guzon.7
The buy-bust operation ensued at Nalupta Street, where the asset approached Guzon .
From afar, PO2 Tuzon saw the asset hand three (3) marked P100.00 bills to Guzon, who
then handed something to the asset.8 After the asset removed his cap, the police ran
towards Guzon to arrest him . PO3 Manuel recovered the marked P100 bills from Guzon,
while PO2 Tuzon received from the asset the item purchased from Guzon. 9 Guzon was
brought to the San Nicolas Police Station, where PO2 Tuzon prepared a
Certification/Inventory of Seized/Confiscated Items 10, marked the seized sachet with his
initials "EAT",11 and then delivered the sachet to the police crime laboratory for chemical
examination.12 The sachet was received by PO3 Nolie Domingo (PO3 Domingo). 13
Given a stipulation by the prosecution and the defense during the pre- trial, PO3 Domingo
and Police Senior Inspector Mary Ann Cayabyab (PSI Cayabyab), the Forensic Chemical
Officer of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Crime Laboratory Office who conducted the chemical
examination, no longer testified in court. The RTCs pre-trial Order 14 provides:

The parties stipulated on the gist of the testimony of PO3 Nolie Domingo to the effect that
as per request for laboratory examination, he was the one who received the specimen from
Elyzer Tuzon and that he delivered the same to PSI Mary Ann Cayabyab. They also
stipulated on the testimony of PSI Cayabyab to the effect that after receiving the said
specimen and found the specimen to be shabu, thus, she issued her initial report and
confirmatory report under Chemistry Report No. D-090-2005 which were marked as Exhibits
F and G, respectively. They further agreed that said forensic chemical officer and PO3
Domingo could identify the said specimen and the labels as appearing therein. The defense
admitted the proffer without admitting that the specimen came from the accused. The
testimonies of PO3 Nolie Domingo and PSI Mary Ann Cayabyab were therefore dispensed
with. x x x.15
The Initial Laboratory Report16 and Chemistry Report17 referred to in the pre-trial Order both
state that the specimen, weighing 0.06 grams, that was submitted to the crime laboratory for
examination contained methamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as shabu.
Version of the Defense
The defense presented the testimonies of Guzon, his friend Jesus Guira, Jr. (Guira) and
brother Edwin Guzon (Edwin).
Guzon denied the charge against him. He claimed that on the early afternoon of November
22, 2005, he had a drinking spree with Guira at the latters house in Barangay San Nicolas,
Ilocos Norte.18 At past 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, his brother Edwin arrived and told him
that PO3 Manuel wanted to talk to him. Guzon approached PO3 Manuel, who invited him to
the municipal hall but would not say the reason therefor.19 Guzon insisted that the matter be
instead discussed near Guiras house, but PO3 Manuel declined. Thereafter, PO2 Tuzon
arrived20 and upon his prodding, Guzon agreed to go with them to the municipal hall. 21 Only
PO2 Tuzon went with Guzon inside the municipal hall. 22
PO2 Tuzon later brought Guzon to a police camp in Laoag City. While on board a patrol car
on their way to the camp, PO2 Tuzon realized that he forgot the shabu in his office drawer
so they went back to the municipal hall. Thereafter, they headed back to the police camp
where, upon their arrival, PO2 Tuzon handcuffed Guzon before proceeding to the camps
second floor.23
While at the second floor, PO2 Tuzon took a sachet from his pocket then handed it to a
desk officer. Guzon was instructed by a woman to fill a small bottle with his urine. After he
complied, PO2 Tuzon brought him back to San Nicolas. 24
On the morning of November 23, 2005, Guzon was brought by PO2 Tuzon, PO3 Manuel
and another policeman to a place south of the City Hall of Laoag, near the corner of the
Laoag-Solsona terminal. There, Guzon saw PO3 Manuel take out three P100.00 bills from
his wallet then hand them to PO2 Tuzon. PO2 Tuzon left and when he returned, he handed
photocopies of the P100.00 bills to PO3 Manuel.25
Guira and Edwin also testified for Guzons defense. Guira claimed that at about 1:00 oclock
in the afternoon on November 22, 2005, he was having a drinking session outside his house

with Guzon and several other persons.26 At around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, Edwin
arrived to inform Guzon that PO3 Manuel was looking for him. 27 Guzon then left the place
with PO3 Manuel, PO2 Tuzon and one George.28 Edwins testimony also corroborated the
account of Guzon, having testified that on November 22, 2005, he was asked by PO3
Manuel on the whereabouts of Guzon.29 When he saw his brother at Guiras house, he
approached him to say that PO3 Manuel was looking for him. 30
The testimony of one Ronnie Dimaya was dispensed with after the prosecution admitted
that the gist of his testimony would be merely corroborative of the testimonies of Guira and
Guzon.31
The RTCs Ruling
On June 15, 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision 32 finding Guzon guilty as charged. The
dispositive portion of its Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Garyzaldy Guzon GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt as charged of illegal sale of shabu and is therefore sentenced to
suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.
The contraband subject hereof is hereby confiscated, the same to be disposed of as the law
prescribes.
SO ORDERED.33
Feeling aggrieved, Guzon appealed to the CA. Notwithstanding the RTCs findings, he
denied the charge against him. He also questioned the credibility of PO2 Tuzon as a
witness for the prosecution and the police officers non-compliance with the chain of custody
rule in handling the confiscated shabu.
The CAs Ruling
On June 29, 2010, the CA rendered its Decision 34 denying the appeal. It reasoned that
Guzons defenses of denial and frame-up are common and could easily be fabricated; they
could not prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the police officer who
testified for the prosecution.
In affirming Guzons conviction, the CA also cited the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duty by the police operatives who conducted the buy-bust operation.
As to the issue of chain of custody, the CA rejected Guzons argument, and maintained that
based on the evidence, the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated shabu were
preserved.
Hence, this appeal.
The Present Petition

Guzon seeks his acquittal mainly on the basis of the prosecutions failure to establish the
chain of custody of the subject drug. He argues 35 that: (1) the evidence allegedly seized
from Guzon could have been planted; it was not immediately marked at the place of
seizure; (2) there were no photographs and physical inventory of the confiscated drug; (3)
the prosecution failed to offer justification for the absence of photographs and inventory; (4)
the asset who acted as the poseur-buyer was not identified; and (5) the prosecution failed to
establish that the integrity of the seized item was sufficiently preserved through an unbroken
chain of custody.
This Courts Ruling
The appeal is meritorious. The Court acquits Guzon for the prosecutions failure to prove his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In Reyes v. CA, 36 the Court emphasized that a "conviction
must stand on the strength of the prosecutions evidence, not on the weakness of the
defense which the accused put up. Evidence proving the guilt of the accused must always
be beyond reasonable doubt. If the evidence of guilt falls short of this requirement, the
Court will not allow the accused to be deprived of his liberty. His acquittal should come as a
matter of course."37
In the instant case, Guzon was accused of violating Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165
which prohibits the sale of illegal drugs. The elements of the crime include: (a) the identities
of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale, and the consideration; and (b) the delivery
of the thing sold and the payment for the thing. 38 The Court explained in People v.
Bautista39 that in drug-related prosecutions, the State bears the burden not only of proving
these elements of the offense under R.A. No. 9165, but also of proving the corpus delicti ,
the body of the crime. The dangerous drug is itself the very corpus delicti of the violation of
the law.40
"A buy-bust operation is a legally effective and proven procedure, sanctioned by law, for
apprehending drug peddlers and distributors." 41 As in all drugs cases, compliance with the
chain of custody rule is crucial in any prosecution that follows such operation. Chain of
custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or
controlled chemicals from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic
laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. 42 The rule is imperative, as
it is essential that the prohibited drug confiscated or recovered from the suspect is the very
same substance offered in court as exhibit; and that the identity of said drug is established
with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make a finding of guilt. 43
To eliminate doubt, and even abuse, in the handling of seized substances, some safeguards
for compliance by law enforcement officers are established by law and jurisprudence. For
one, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, upon which Guzon anchors his appeal, reads in part:
Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous
Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals,
Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge
and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled
precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory

equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following
manner:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately
after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the
presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or
seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the
Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign
the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;
x x x x (Emphasis ours)
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165, particularly Section 21
thereof, further provides the following guidelines in the custody and control of confiscated
drugs:
xxxx
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in
the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or
seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the
Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign
the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical
inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is
served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable , in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further,
that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the
integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody
over said items ;
x x x x (Emphasis ours)
The rule includes the proviso that procedural lapses in the handling of the seized drugs are
not ipso facto fatal to the prosecutions cause, provided that the integrity and the evidentiary
value of the seized items are preserved. In each case, courts are nonetheless reminded to
thoroughly evaluate and differentiate those errors that constitute a simple procedural lapse
from those that amount to a gross, systematic, or deliberate disregard of the safeguards
that are drawn by the law44 for the protection of the corpus delicti. The strict demands and
significant value of the chain of custody rule were emphasized in the oft-cited Malillin v.
People45 wherein the Court held:
As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the
admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the
matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about
every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is offered into
evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and

from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness
possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was
delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions
taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no
opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.
While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard because it is almost
always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody becomes indispensable and
essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is not readily identifiable, or
when its condition at the time of testing or trial is critical, or when a witness has failed to
observe its uniqueness. The same standard likewise obtains in case the evidence is
susceptible to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. In
other words, the exhibits level of susceptibility to fungibility, alteration or tamperingwithout
regard to whether the same is advertent or otherwise notdictates the level of strictness in
the application of the chain of custody rule. 46(Citations omitted and emphasis supplied)
As Guzon correctly pointed out in his Supplemental Brief, there were several lapses in the
law enforcers handling of the seized item which, when taken collectively, render the
standards of chain of custody seriously breached. In a line of cases, the Court explained
that the failure to comply with the indispensable requirement of corpus delicti happens not
only when it is missing, but also where there are substantial gaps in the chain of custody of
the seized drugs which raise doubts on the authenticity of the evidence presented in
court.47 Upon review, the Court has determined that such lapses and doubt mar the instant
case.
First, the police officers who took part in the buy-bust operation failed to mark the seized
item immediately after its confiscation from Guzon. The Court explained in People v.
Coreche48 the importance in the chain of custody of the immediate marking of an item that is
seized from an accused, to wit:
Crucial in proving chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or other related items
immediately after they are seized from the accused. Marking after seizure is the starting
point in the custodial link, thus it is vital that the seized contraband are immediately marked
because succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the markings as reference. The
marking of the evidence serves to separate the marked evidence from the corpus of all
other similar or related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused until they
are disposed at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching, "planting," or
contamination of evidence.49 (Citation omitted and emphasis ours)
Here, instead of immediately marking the subject drug upon its confiscation, PO2 Tuzon
marked it with his initials "EAT" only upon arrival at the police station. 50 While the failure of
arresting officers to mark the seized items at the place of arrest does not, by itself, impair
the integrity of the chain of custody and render the confiscated items inadmissible in
evidence,51 such circumstance, when taken in light of the several other lapses in the chain
of custody that attend the present case, forms part of a gross, systematic, or deliberate
disregard of the safeguards that are drawn by the law,52 sufficient to create reasonable
doubt as to the culpability of the accused.

The Court has determined that although a physical inventory of the items seized during the
buy-bust operation forms part of the case records, the buy-bust team failed to fully comply
with the requirements under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 for its preparation and execution.
Under the law, the inventory must be made "in the presence of the accused or the person/s
from whom the items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice, and any elected public official
who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof."
These requirements are reiterated in Section 21, IRR of R.A. No. 9165. Non-compliant with
such rules, however, the Certification/Inventory of Seized/Confiscated Items 53 in this case
only bears the signatures of PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon as apprehending officers.
Although the Certification indicates the name of Guzon under the section "With Conformity",
it includes neither his signature nor of any other person who is allowed by law to witness the
required inventory. There is also no proof that a copy of the inventory was received by any
of the persons enumerated under the law.
Besides these deficiencies in the preparation of the inventory, no photograph of the seized
item, which is also required under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, forms part of the case
records.
The saving clause in Section 21, IRR of R.A. No. 9165 fails to remedy the lapses and save
the prosecutions case. We have emphasized in People v. Garcia 54 that the saving clause
applies only where the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses, and thereafter cited
justifiable grounds.55 Failure to follow the procedure mandated under R.A. No. 9165 and its
IRR must be adequately explained.56 Equally important, the prosecution must establish that
the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized item are properly preserved. The
prosecution failed in this regard. Taking into account the several rules and requirements that
were not followed by the law enforcers, there was an evident disregard on their part of the
established legal requirements. Their breach of the chain of custody rule, magnified by the
prosecutions failure to explain the deficiencies during the trial, casts doubt on whether the
item claimed to have been sold by Guzon to the police asset was the same item that was
brought for examination by the police crime laboratory and eventually presented in court as
evidence.
As further proof that the chain of custody rule was breached in this case, the Court points
out the discrepancy in the weight of the item that was supposedly seized following the buybust operation, and that examined by PSI Cayabyab. We refer to the inventory prepared by
PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon on the items that were confiscated after the buy-bust
operation:
One (1) piece small heat[-]sealed plastic sachet containing white crystalline granules
believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride locally known as "SHABU", weighing more
or less .01 gram including plastic material.
xxxx
The above enumerated and described items were properly marked with capital letters EAT
representing the name Elyzer Agarma Tuzon who was one of the apprehending police
officers x x x.57 (Emphasis ours)

The fact that the item sold by Guzon to the police asset weighed only 0.01 gram is provided
in several other documents: first, in the Joint Affidavit 58 dated November 22, 2005 executed
by PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon; second, the September 22, 2005 entry in the San Nicolas
Municipal Police Stations Temporary Police Blotter, as provided in a Certification 59 dated
November 22, 2005 issued by OIC Baldeo; and third, the Memorandum 60requesting for
laboratory examination signed by OIC Baldeo and which reads in part:
EXHIBIT: a) One (1) piece of small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing
crystalline substance suspected to be shabu weighing more or less .01 gram including
plastic sachet marked hereto as exhibit EAT.61(Emphasis ours)
Clearly, the specimen submitted to the police crime laboratory weighed only 0.01 gram,
even including the plastic sachet that contained the substance.
It appears, however, that the specimen examined by PSI Cayabyab of the police crime
laboratory differed from the specimen allegedly seized by the police and brought for
examination. The Initial Laboratory Report62prepared by PSI Cayabyab indicates that the
specimen examined weighed more, specifically at 0.06 gram, excluding its plastic container.
Chemistry Report No. D-090-200563 issued by PSI Cayabyab likewise provides the following
details:
SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:
A One (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic bag with markings containing 0.06 gram of
white crystalline substance. xxx
xxxx
REMARKS:
Weight does not include plastic container. xxx. 64 (Emphasis ours)
Clearly from the foregoing, the item that was allegedly obtained by the police from Guzon
during the buy-bust operation differed or, at the very least, was no longer in its original
condition when examined in the crime laboratory. The variance in the weight of the seized
item vis--vis the examined specimen and, ultimately, the detail provided in the Information,
remained unaddressed by the prosecution. The testimony of PO2 Tuzon offered no
explanation for the difference. PO3 Domingo and PSI Cayabyab could have provided the
clarification, but their testimonies were dispensed with following the parties agreement
during the pre-trial.65 The identity of the item examined by PSI Cayabyab could have also
been verified from the markings "EAT" that was made by PO2 Tuzon on the plastic sachet.
Her reports, however, made no specific reference to such markings, as they merely
described the subject specimen as "one (1)-heat-sealed transparent plastic bag with
markings containing 0.06g of white crystalline substance." 66
The Court is mindful of the stipulations that were entered into by the parties during the pretrial67 to the effect that: (a) PO3 Domingo received the specimen from PO2 Tuzon and then
delivered it to PSI Cayabyab; (b) PSI Cayabyab received the specimen and when she found

the specimen to be shabu , she issued her initial and confirmatory reports; and (c) PSI
Cayabyab and PO3 Domingo could identify the specimen and the labels appearing thereon.
These bare stipulations, however, merely address the matter of the specimens transfer
from one police officer to the next, without offering any explanation as to the specimens
condition during the transfers, how each person made sure that the item was not tampered
with or substituted, and an indication of the safeguards that were employed to prevent any
tampering or substitution. Given the considerable difference between the specimens weight
upon its seizure and its weight at the time of its examination, with the seized items weight
being a mere 16% of the examined specimens weight, the determination in this case of
whether the rationale for the chain of custody rule was duly satisfied necessitated a more
intensive inquiry. The prosecutions failure to do so was fatal to its case. It failed to prove
beyond reasonable doubt that the integrity and evidentiary value of the substance claimed
to be seized during the buy-bust operation was preserved. The doubt is resolved in Guzons
favor, as the Court rules on his acquittal.
In drugs cases, the prosecution must show that the integrity of the corpus delicti has been
preserved. This is crucial in drugs cases because the evidence involved the seized
chemical is not readily identifiable by sight or touch and can easily be tampered with or
substituted.68 "Proof of the corpus delicti in a buy-bust situation requires not only the actual
existence of the transacted drugs but also the certainty that the drugs examined and
presented in court were the very ones seized. This is a condition sine qua non for conviction
since drugs are the main subject of the illegal sale constituting the crime and their existence
and identification must be proven for the crime to exist." 69 The flagrant lapses committed in
handling the alleged confiscated drug in violation of the chain of custody requirement even
effectively negate the presumption of regularity in the performance of the police officers
duties, as any taint of irregularity affects the whole performance and should make the
presumption unavailable.70
In addition to the foregoing, the Court finds merit in Guzons argument that the nonpresentation of the poseur-buyer to the witness stand was fatal to the prosecutions cause.
We emphasize that in a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the prosecution
must convincingly prove that the transaction or sale actually transpired. 71 In the instant case,
the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation, a civilian, was the witness competent to prove
such fact, given the testimony of PO2 Tuzon that at time the supposed sale happened, he
and PO3 Manuel were positioned about 20 meters away from Guzon and the poseur-buyer.
Although PO2 Tuzon testified during the trial on the supposed sale, such information he
could offer was based only on conjecture, as may be derived from the supposed actions of
Guzon and the poseur-buyer, or at most, hearsay, being information that was merely
relayed to him by the alleged poseur-buyer. Given the 20-meter distance, it was unlikely for
PO2 Tuzon to have heard the conversations between the alleged buyer and seller. True
enough, his testimony provided that he and PO3 Manuel merely relied on an agreed signal,
i.e., the poseur-buyers removal of his cap, to indicate that the sale had been consummated.
On cross-examination, PO2 Tuzon even admitted:
ATTY. BALUCIO:
Q And Mr. Witness, when you allegedly arrived at the target place, you were at a distance
far away from the alleged transaction, is it not?

A More or less twenty (20) meters, sir.


Q And that if any transaction have been (sic) transpired at that time, you did not hear it Mr.
Witness?
A Yes, sir.
Q And you did not also see if what was being handed at that time was shabu Mr. Witness?
A Yes, sir.72
In the absence of neither the poseur-buyers nor of any eyewitness testimony on the
transaction, the prosecutions case fails. In People v. Tadepa, 73 the Court explained that the
failure of the prosecution to present in court the alleged poseur-buyer is fatal to its
case. Said the Court in that case, the police officer, who admitted that he was seven (7) to
eight (8) meters away from where the actual transaction took place, could not be deemed
an eyewitness to the crime. The Court held, viz :
1wphi1

In People v. Polizon, we said


We agree with the appellants contention that the non-presentation of Boy Lim, the alleged
poseur-buyer, weakens the prosecutions evidence. Sgt. Pascua was not privy to the
conversation between Lim and the accused. He was merely watching from a distance and
he only saw the actions of the two. As pointed out by the appellant, Sgt. Pascua had no
personal knowledge of the transaction that transpired between Lim and the appellant. Since
appellant insisted that he was forced by Lim to buy the marijuana, it was essential that Lim
should have been presented to rebut accuseds testimony.
The ruling in People v. Yabut is further instructive
Well established is the rule that when the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable
of two (2) or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the
accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of
moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction. In the present case, accusedappellants version of the circumstances leading to his apprehension constitutes a total
denial of the prosecutions allegations. In this regard this Court has ruled that when there is
such a divergence of accounts
x x x it becomes incumbent upon the prosecution to rebut appellants allegation by
presenting x x x the alleged poseur- buyer. This it failed to do giving rise to the presumption
that evidence willfully suppressed would be adverse if produced (Rule 131, Sec. 5 [e]). This
failure constitutes a fatal flaw in the prosecutions evidence since the so-called (poseurbuyer) who was never presented as a witness x x x is the best witness for the prosecution x
x x.74 (Emphasis ours)
The Court also ruled in People v. Olaes75, that the non-presentation of the poseur-buyer was
fatal to the prosecutions case, since the alleged sale transaction happened inside the

accuseds house; hence, it was supposedly witnessed only by the poseur-buyer, who then
was the only person who had personal knowledge of the transaction. 76
While the Court, in several instances, has affirmed an accuseds conviction notwithstanding
the non-presentation of the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation, such failure is
excusable only when the poseur-buyers testimony is merely corroborative, there being
some other eyewitness who is competent to testify on the sale transaction. 77
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated June 29, 2010
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 02890, which affirmed the Decision dated
June 15, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court of Laoag City, Branch 13, in Criminal Case No.
11968-13; and ACQUITS accused-appellant GARYZALDY GUZON of the crime charged in
Criminal Case No. 11968-13 on the ground of reasonable doubt. The Director of the Bureau
of Corrections is hereby ORDERED to immediately release Garyzaldy Guzon from custody,
unless he is detained for some other lawful cause.
SO ORDERED.
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN*


Associate Justice
C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions n the
above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
*

Acting member per Special Order No. 1545 Revised) dated September 16, 2013.

Penned by Associate Justice Michael P. Elbinias, with Associate Justices Remedios


Salazar-Fernando and Celia C Librea-Leagogo; concurring; rollo pp. 2-14.
1

Issued by Presiding Judge Philip G. Salvador; CA rollo pp. 27-41.

Id. at 9-10.

Id. at 9.

Id. at 27.

TSN, February 28, 2006, pp. 3-6.

Id. at 5-6, 8-9.

Id. at 11.

Id. at 12.

10

Records, p. 5.

11

TSN, February 28, 2006, p. 13.

12

Id. at 15.

13

Id. at 16.

14

Records, p. 24.

15

Id.

16

CA rollo, p. 54.

17

Id. at 55.

18

TSN, September 18, 2006, p. 3.

19

Id. at 5-7.

20

Id. at 7.

21

Id. at 8, 10.

22

Id. at 12.

23

Id. at 14-15.

24

Id. at 15-16.

25

Id. at 17-18.

26

TSN, August 3, 2006, pp. 3-4.

27

Id. at 6-7.

28

Id. at 8.

29

TSN, August 15, 2006, p. 4.

30

Id. at 7.

31

TSN, September 7, 2006, p. 4.

32

CA rollo, pp. 27-41

33

Id. at 41.

34

Rollo, pp. 2-14.

35

Id. at 47-49.

36

G.R. No. 180177, April 18, 2012, 670 SCRA 148.

37

Id. at 164-165, citing People v. Obeso, 460 Phil. 625, 641 (2003).

People v. Lorenzo, G.R. No. 184760, April 23, 2010, 619 SCRA 389, 400, citing
People v. Villanueva, 536 Phil. 998, 1004 (2006).
38

39

G.R. No. 177320, February 22, 2012, 666 SCRA 518.

40

Id. at 531-532.

People v. Mantalaba, G.R. No. 186227, July 20, 2011, 654 SCRA 188, 199, citing
People v. Chua Uy, 384 Phil. 70, 85 (2000).
41

42

People v. Dumaplin, G.R. No. 198051, December 10, 2012, 687 SCRA 631.

43

People v. Remigio, G.R. No. 189277, December 5, 2012, 687 SCRA 336.

44

People v. Umipang, G.R. No. 190321, April 25, 2012, 671 SCRA 324, 355.

45

576 Phil. 576 (2008).

46

Id. at 587-588.

People v. Umipang, supra note 44, 355-356; People v. Relato, G.R. No. 173794,
January 18, 2012, 663 SCRA 260, 270; People v. Coreche, G.R. No. 182528, August
14, 2009, 596 SCRA 350, 365.
47

48

G.R. No. 182528, August 14, 2009, 596 SCRA 350.

49

Id. at 357.

50

CA rollo, p. 29.

People v. Umipang, supra note 44, at 351, citing Imson v. People, G.R. No.
193003, July 13, 2011, 653 SCRA 826.
51

52

Id. at 355.

53

CA rollo, p. 52.

54

G.R. No. 173480, February 25, 2009, 580 SCRA 259.

Id. at 272, citing People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569
SCRA 194.
55

56

People v. Lorenzo, supra note 38, at 404.

57

Records, p. 5.

58

Id. at 3-4.

59

Id. at 7.

60

Id. at 10.

61

Id.

62

Id. at 11.

63

Id. at 19.

64

Id.

65

Id. at 24.

66

Id. at 11, 19; emphasis ours.

67

Id. at 24.

68

People v. Peralta, G.R. No. 173472, February 26, 2010, 613 SCRA 763, 768-769.

People v. Nandi, G.R. No. 188905, July 13, 2010, 625 SCRA 123, 130, citing
People v. Zaida Kamad , G.R. No. 174198, January 19, 2010, 610 SCRA 295, 303.
69

70

People v. Mendoza, G.R. No. 186387, August 31, 2011, 656 SCRA 616, 628.

71

People v. Orteza, 555 Phil. 700, 706 (2007).

72

TSN, May 9, 2006, p. 9.

73

314 Phil. 231 (1995).

Id. at 239-240, citing People v. Polizon , G.R. No. 84917, September 18, 1992, 214
SCRA 56 and People v. Yabut , G.R. No. 82263, June 26, 1992, 210 SCRA 394.
74

75

G.R. No. 76547, July 30, 1990, 188 SCRA 91.

76

Id. at 95.

See People v. Orteza, supra note 71, at 709, citing People v. Uy, 392 Phil. 773, 786
(2000), People v. Ambrosio, 471 Phil. 241 (2004).
77

http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/oct2013/gr_199901_2013.html

G.R. No. 201845

March 6, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
EDGARDO ADRID y FLORES, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
The Case
This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated February 24, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03775, which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Br:mch 35 in Manila, in Criminal Case No. 06-247286, finding accused-appeIlant
Edgardo Adrid y Flores (Adrid) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal sale of
methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly known as shabu, in violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002.
The Facts

In two separate lnformations2 filed on October 11, 2006, Adrid was charged with violation of
Sees. 5 and 11, Art. II of RA 9165, allegedly committed as follows:
Crim. Case No. 06-247286
That on or about October 8, 2006, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused,
without being authorized by law to sell, trade, deliver, or give away to another any
dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell to SPO1
ARISTEDES MARINDA, who acted as poseur-buyer, one (1) heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachet of white crystalline substance marked by the police as "DAID-1" with net
weight of ZERO POINT ZERO EIGHT SIX (0.086) gram, commonly known as "SHABU",
which substance, after a qualitative examination, gave positive results for
methylamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a dangerous drug.
Crim. Case No. 06-247287
That on or about October 8, 2006, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused,
without being authorized by law to possess any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully, and knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control white
crystalline substance contained in one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet marked by
the police as "DAID-2" with net weight of ZERO POINT ZERO SIX SIX (0.066) gram, known
as "SHABU" containing Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
At the instance of the prosecution, these cases were consolidated with Crim. Case No. 06247288 against Romeo Pacaul y Lagbo (Pacaul), who was arrested together with Adrid
during the same buy-bust incident. When arraigned, Adrid pleaded not guilty.3
During the pre-trial, the parties agreed to dispense with the testimony of Forensic Chemical
Officer Police Senior Inspector Maritess Mariano (PS/Insp. Mariano) and stipulated on the
tenor of her testimony to the following effect: she was a Forensic Chemical Officer of the
Western Police District Crime Laboratory, and on duty on October 9, 2009; on that day, she
received a memorandum-request from the District Anti-Illegal Drugs-Special Operations
Task Group (DAID-SOTG); said memorandum came with three plastic sachets containing
white crystalline substance; her examination of the substance presented yielded a positive
result for methylamphetamine hydrochloride. 4
Trial on the merits ensued.
Version of the Prosecution
The prosecutions account of the events, pieced together from the testimony of Senior
Police Officer 1 Aristedes Marinda (SPO1 Marinda)5 and documentary and object evidence,
is as follows:
At around 10 oclock in the evening of October 8 2006, a male informant arrived at the
Manila Police District (MPD) Anti-Illegal Drugs Unit (DAID) to report that one "Jon Jon" is
pushing illegal drugs at Chesa, Tondo, Manila.6 Acting on this tip, the DAID Chief
immediately formed a team to conduct a buy-bust operation and named a certain SPO1

Macasling as team leader. Designated as poseur-buyer was SPO1 Marinda, while Police
Officer 1 Jaycee John Galutera and Police Officer 2 Arnold Delos Santos (PO2 Delos
Santos) were to serve as back-up officers. Following the usual instructions, the buy-bust
group was given two PhP 100 bills bearing the initials "DAID," to serve as marked money.7
Thereafter, or at about 10:30 p.m., the operatives proceeded to the target area. Once there,
the informant approached and then had a brief conversation with a person, later identified
as "Jon Jon," standing at the entry of an alley. The informant then called SPO1 Marinda,
who, after being introduced to "Jon Jon," expressed his desire to purchase shabu as test
buy to determine the quality of the goods.8
During the course of the negotiations, Pacaul arrived and asked Adrid in the vernacular,
"Tol, pakuha ng pang-gamit lang may bisita lang ako." (Bro, can you give me some, I have a
visitor.) SPO1 Marinda then saw Adrid hand over to Pacaul one plastic sachet containing
suspected shabu. Pacaul then left the scene, and PO2 Delos Santos immediately followed
him.9
The negotiations continued, and SPO1 Marinda told the accused that he is buying "dos,"
meaning, that he was buying the value of PhP 200. The accused replied, "Sigue ho, meron
naman ho ako ng halagang hinahanap ninyo." 10 (Okay sir, I have the amount you are
looking for). He then handed to SPO1 Marinda a sealed plastic sachet, with a white
substance in the appearance of "vetsin."11 SPO1 Marinda received the filled sachet with his
left hand, and handed Adrid the PhP 200 marked money using his right hand. This sachet
was later marked as "DAID-1." SPO1 Marinda then immediately grabbed Adrids arm,
introduced himself as a police officer, and arrested the latter.12 Found in Adrids possession
when frisked was another sachet of suspected shabu, later marked as "DAID-2." Some
persons who tried to intervene in the entrapment episode were likewise arrested.
From the target area, Adrid and two other individuals were brought to MPD DAID. There,
the police officers learned that the real name of "Jon Jon" is Edgardo Adrid, the same
accused in the case here. In his testimony during the trial, SPO1 Marinda claimed that he
turned over the plastic sachets recovered from Adrid, together with the marked money, to
the investigator at DAID, a certain SPO1 Pama who, in his (SPO1 Marindas) presence,
marked the recovered sachets as "DAID-1"13 and "DAID-2." The sachet recovered from
Pacaul was marked as "DAID-3."
SPO1 Marindas direct narrative ended with the statement that these three sachets were
submitted for laboratory examination to the DAID Forensic Chemistry Division. He, however,
admitted having no participation in the submission of the specimen for examination. The
examination later yielded positive results for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. 14
During cross-examination, SPO1 Marinda testified that prior to the buy-bust operation, his
group coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). He was not sure,
however, if the pre-operation report is present in the records of the case, albeit he admitted
not indicating the fact of coordination in his Affidavit of Apprehension. 15
Version of the Defense

The evidence for the defense, meanwhile, consisted of the lone testimony of accused Adrid
himself. His narration of what purportedly transpired during the period material is as follows:
On October 6, 2006, at about 7:30 in the evening, after having supper, several men
suddenly entered his house on Magsaysay St., Tondo, Manila, introduced themselves as
police officers and without so much of an explanation apprehended and handcuffed
him.16 When he asked them, "ano po ang kasalanan ko, bakit ninyo ako hinuhuli sir?" (What
did I do sir, why are you arresting me?), the intruders simply gave a dismissive reply,
"sumama ka na lang sa amin."17 (Just come with us.)
At the MPD DAID, he was mauled and forced to admit something regarding the sale of
drugs.18 The police, according to Adrid, was actually after a certain "Jon Jon" who was into
selling drugs, but who have given the police officers a slip. For its failure to nab "Jon Jon,"
the police turned to Adrid to admit to some wrongdoings. 19And albeit he has no actual
knowledge of "Jon Jons" full name, he is aware of his being a well-known drug lord in their
area and knows where "Jon Jon" lives, as he, "Jon Jon" has in fact been to his (Adrids)
house three times to have a PlayStation game. 20
The Ruling of the RTC
After trial, the Manila RTC rendered on October 22, 2008 a Joint Decision, 21 finding the
accused Adrid guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Crim. Case No. 06-247286 (sale of illegal
drugs). The trial court, however, acquitted Adrid in Crim. Case No. 06-247287 and Pacaul in
Crim. Case No. 06-247288 (both for illegal possession of drugs), for insufficiency of
evidence to sustain a conviction. The fallo of the RTC Decision, in its pertinent part, reads:
ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
1. In Criminal Case No. 06-247286 finding the accused Edgardo Adrid y Flores
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 5, Article II of
RA [9165] (Sale of Dangerous Drug), he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of
life imprisonment; to pay a fine of Five Hundred Thousand(P500,000) Pesos; and
cost of suit;
Let a commitment order be issued for the transfer of his custody to the Bureau of
Corrections, Muntinlupa City, pursuant to SC OCA Circulars Nos. 4-92-A and 262000;
2. With respect to Criminal Case No. 06-247287, finding the evidence insufficient to
establish the guilt of accused Edgardo Adrid y Flores beyond reasonable doubt, he is
hereby
ACQUITTED of the offense charged therein;
3. With respect to Criminal Case No. 06-247288, finding the evidence insufficient to
establish the guilt of accused Romeo Pacaul y Lagbo beyond reasonable doubt, he
is hereby ACQUITTED of the offense charged.

xxxx
The plastic sachet with shabu (Exh. "C"), as well as Exhs. "D" and "E", which were also
positive for shabu, are hereby confiscated in favor of the Government. x x x
SO ORDERED.
The trial court based its judgment of conviction on the charge of illegal sale on the
combined application of the following factors: (1) SPO1 Marindas inculpatory testimony
which was given in a positive, categorical, and straightforward manner and thus worthy of
belief; (2) the absence of credible evidence of bad faith or other improper motive on the part
of the police officers; and (3) the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duties.22
As to the identity of the dangerous drugs seized and presented in court in evidence, the
RTC stated the following observations: Thus, as testified to by SPO1 Marinda, from the
place of arrest and recovery, he was in custody of the dangerous drug involved in this case
(Exh. "C"). Upon arrival at the police station, he promptly turned it over to the duty
investigator, SPO1 Pama who placed markings thereon of the capital letters "DAID", in his
presence. Thereafter, it was brought to the MPD Crime Laboratory for chemical analysis of
its contents which gave positive result for methylamphetamine hydrochloride, or "shabu", a
dangerous drug. The specimen itself was produced in Court and was positively identified by
SPO1 Marinda as the same plastic sachet with white crystalline substance which accused
handed to him in exchange for the two One Hundred Peso bills buy-bust money (Exhs. "G"
and "G-1").23
On December 3, 2008, Adrid filed a Notice of Appeal, 24 pursuant to which the RTC
forwarded the records to the CA.
The Ruling of the CA
On February 24, 2011, the CA rendered its assailed affirmatory Decision, disposing as
follows:
WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the judgment of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), National Capital Region, Branch 35, Manila in Criminal Case No. 06-247286 is
AFFIRMED.
Just like the RTC, the CA gave credence to the testimony of SPO1 Marinda to prove a
consummated sale of a prohibited drug involving Adrid, 25 noting in this regard that the
integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated prohibited drug had been properly
preserved, thus satisfying the rule on chain of custody.26
On the conduct of the buy-bust operation, the CA rejected Adrids protestation about the
lack of prior surveillance before the buy-bust operation was set in motion. As the appellate
court stressed, a prior surveillance is not a prerequisite for the validity of an entrapment
operation,27 which is presumed to have been conducted regularly, absent proof of ill motive
on the part of the apprehending police officers. 28

Hence, this appeal.


On July 30, 2012, this Court, by Resolution, required the parties to submit supplemental
briefs if they so desired. The People, through the Office of the Solicitor General, manifested
having already exhaustively addressed the issues and arguments involving the case, and
expressed its willingness to submit the case on the basis of available records. Similarly,
appellant Adrid manifested that he is adopting all the defenses and arguments that he
raised in his Appellants Brief before the CA, capsulated in the following assignment of
errors:
I
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING FULL CREDENCE TO THE
PROSECUTIONS VERSION DESPITE THE PATENT IRREGULARITIES IN THE
CONDUCT OF THE BUY-BUST OPERATION.
II
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT
DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO ESTABLISH THE CHAIN OF CUSTODY
OF THE DRUG SPECIMEN ALLEGEDLY CONFISCATED.
III
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT
DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT.29
In fine, the issues raised by appellant revolve around the conduct of the buy-bust operation,
and the subsequent handling and examination of the seized substance inside the sachet.
Appellant insists that the incredibility of the manner of the conduct of the supposed buy-bust
operation supports his claim that there was no such operation and that he was, in fact, a
victim of a frame-up.30 Even assuming that the buy-bust operation was actually conducted,
appellant argues, he deserves to be acquitted for the prosecutions failure to establish his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The Court's Ruling
The appeal is meritorious. Appellant must be acquitted but not because of his defense of
frame-up or the perceived flaw in the conduct of the buy-bust which, as alleged, was carried
out without prior surveillance and in coordination with the PDEA.
1wphi1

The Court has long held that the absence of a prior surveillance is neither a necessary
requirement for the validity of a drug-related entrapment or buy-bust operation nor
detrimental to the Peoples case. The immediate conduct of the buy-bust routine is within
the discretion of the police officers, especially, as in this case, when they are accompanied
by the informant in the conduct of the operation. We categorically ruled in People v.
Lacbanes:31

x x x In People v. Ganguso, it has been held that prior surveillance is not a prerequisite for
the validity of an entrapment operation, especially when the buy-bust team members were
accompanied to the scene by their informant. In the instant case, the arresting officers were
led to the scene by the poseur-buyer. Granting that there was no surveillance conducted
before the buy-bust operation, this Court held in People v. Tranca, that there is no rigid or
textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. Flexibility is a trait of good police work.
The police officers may decide that time is of the essence and dispense with the need for
prior surveillance. (citations omitted)
Of the same tenor is the holding in People v. Dela Rosa, 32 We underscored the leeway
given to the police officers in conducting buy-bust operations:
That no test buy was conducted before the arrest is of no moment for there is no rigid or
textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. For the same reason, the absence of
evidence of a prior surveillance does not affect the regularity of a buy-bust operation,
especially when, like in this case, the buy-bust team members were accompanied to the
scene by their informant. The Court will not pretend to establish on a priori basis what
detailed acts police authorities might credibly undertake and carry out in their entrapment
operations. The selection of appropriate and effective means of entrapping drug traffickers
is best left to the discretion of police authorities.
Whether or not the buy-bust team coordinated PDEA is, under the premises, of little
moment, for coordination with PDEA, while perhaps ideal, is not an indispensable element
of a proper buy-bust operation. The Court, in People v. Roa, has explained the rationale and
practicality of this sound proposition in the following wise:
In the first place, coordination with the PDEA is not an indispensable requirement before
police authorities may carry out a buy-bust operation. While it is true that Section 86 of
Republic Act No. 9165 requires the National Bureau of Investigation, PNP and the Bureau
of Customs to maintain "close coordination with the PDEA on all drug-related matters," the
provision does not, by so saying, make PDEAs participation a condition sine qua non for
every buy-bust operation. After all, a buy-bust is just a form of an in flagrante arrest
sanctioned by Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of the Court, which police authorities may
rightfully resort to in apprehending violators of Republic Act No. 9165 in support of the
PDEA. A buy-bust operation is not invalidated by mere non-coordination with the PDEA. 33
Neither can appellants defense of alibi or frame-up save the day for him. Frame-up, denial,
or alibi, more particularly when based on the accuseds testimony alone, as here, is an
inherently weak form of defense. As the prosecution aptly observed and as jurisprudence
itself teaches, the defense of denial or frame-up has been viewed with disfavor for it can
easily be concocted and is a common defense plot in most prosecutions for violations of
anti-drug laws. Bare denial of an accused cannot prevail over the positive assertions of
apprehending police operatives, absent ill motives on the part of the latter to impute such a
serious crime as possession or selling of prohibited drugs. 34
The foregoing notwithstanding, appellant is still entitled to an acquittal considering that
certain critical circumstances that had been overlooked below, which, if properly
appreciated, engender moral uncertainty as to his guilt. Nothing less than evidence of

criminal culpability beyond reasonable doubt can overturn the presumption of innocence. In
this regard, the onus of proving the guilt of the accused lies with the prosecution which must
rely on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the defense.
In every prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs under Sec. 5, Art. II of RA 9165, the
following elements must concur: (1) the identities of the buyer and seller, object, and
consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it. 35 As it were, the
dangerous drug itself forms an integral and key part of the corpus delicti of the offense of
possession or sale of prohibited drugs. Withal, it is essential in the prosecution of drug
cases that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond reasonable doubt. This
means that on top of the elements of possession or illegal sale, the fact that the substance
illegally sold or possessed is, in the first instance, the very substance adduced in court must
likewise be established with the same exacting degree of certitude as that required
sustaining a conviction. The chain of custody requirement, as stressed in People v.
Cervantes,36 and other cases, performs this function in that it ensures that unnecessary
doubts respecting the identity of the evidence are minimized if not altogether removed.
People v. Cervantes describes the mechanics of the custodial chain requirement, thusly:
As a mode of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission
of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in
question is what the proponent claims it to be. In context, this would ideally include
testimony about every link in the chain, from the seizure of the prohibited drug up to the
time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that everyone who touched the exhibit would
describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in
the witness possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition it was
delivered to the next link in the chain.37
xxx
The Court has to be sure stressed the need for the strict adherence to the custodial chain
process and explained the reason behind the rules on the proper procedure in handling of
specimen illegal drugs. People v. Obmiranis 38readily comes to mind:
The Court certainly cannot reluctantly close its eyes to the possibility of substitution,
alteration or contaminationwhether intentional or unintentionalof narcotic substances at
any of the links in the chain of custody thereof especially because practically such
possibility is great where the item of real evidence is small and is similar in form to other
substances to which people are familiar in their daily lives. x x x
Reasonable safeguards are provided for in our drugs laws to protect the identity and
integrity of narcotic substances and dangerous drugs seized and/or recovered from drug
offenders. Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 materially requires the apprehending team having
initial custody and control of the drugs to, immediately after seizure and confiscation,
physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the
person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or
counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice, and any elected
public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy
thereof. The same requirements are also found in Section 2 of its implementing rules as

well as in Section 2 of the Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, series of 2002.
(Emphasis supplied.)
In the same case, We stressed why evidence of an unbroken chain of custody of the seized
illegal drugs is necessary:
Be that as it may, although testimony about a perfect chain does not always have to be the
standard because it is almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody
indeed becomes indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is a narcotic
substance. A unique characteristic of narcotic substances such as shabu is that they are not
distinctive and are not readily identifiable as in fact they are subject to scientific analysis to
determine their composition and nature. And because they cannot be readily and properly
distinguished visually from other substances of the same physical and/or chemical nature,
they are susceptible to alteration, tampering, contamination, substitution and exchange
whether the alteration, tampering, contamination, substitution and exchange be inadvertent
or otherwise not. It is by reason of this distinctive quality that the condition of the exhibit at
the time of testing and trial is critical. Hence, in authenticating narcotic specimens, a
standard more stringent than that applied to objects which are readily identifiable must be
applieda more exacting standard that entails a chain of custody of the item with sufficient
completeness if only to render it improbable that the original item has either been
exchanged with another or contaminated or tampered with. 39
Appellant contends that the police officers failed to follow the proper procedure laid down in
Sec. 21 of RA 9165, in relation to the chain of custody rule. He argues:
The prosecution failed to supply all the links in the chain of custody rule. SPO2 Marinda
testified that he supposedly turned-over the confiscated plastic sachets to the investigator
SPO1 Pama. However, the latter was never presented to testify on this matter. The
prosecution also failed to testify on what happened to the subject specimens after these
were turned-over to Pama and who delivered these to the forensic chemist. Thus, there is
an unexplained gap in the chain of custody of the dangerous drug, from the time the same
were supposedly seized by SPO2 Marinda from accused-appellant, until these were turnedover to the crime laboratory.
It also appears that the prosecutions evidence failed to reveal the identity of the person
who had the custody and safekeeping of the drugs after its examination and pending its
presentation in court. This unexplained link also created doubt as to the integrity of the
evidence. This should have been considered as a serious source of doubt favorable to the
accused-appellant.40
Appellants contention is very much well-taken. The Court particularly notes that of the
individuals who came into direct contact with or had physical possession of the sachets of
shabu allegedly seized from appellant, only SPO1 Marinda testified for the specific purpose
of identifying the evidence. But his testimony failed to sufficiently demonstrate an unbroken
chain, for he himself admits that at the police station he transferred the possession of the
specimen to an investigator at the MPD DAID, one SPO1 Pama to be precise. The following
is the extent of SPO1 Marindas testimony regarding his knowledge of the whereabouts of
the specimen:

Q You said you received the plastic container containing the supposed shabu from John
John, what happened to that plastic sachet?
A I turned that over to out investigator at DAID.
Q So you were the one who brought that from the scene of the incident to your office?
A Yes, sir.
Q And after you turned over the stuff to the investigator, what happened to that, if any?
A It was marked by our investigator DAID-1. COURT:
Q Who marked the evidence?
A Our investigator, Your Honor.
Q Who is he?
A SPO1 Pama, Your Honor. FISCAL:
Q And how did you know that it was marked with DAID-1?
A We were present when it was marked, sir.
xxxx
Q And after you turned over the plastic sachet and alias Jon-Jon to the investigator, what
happened next?
A The evidence were submitted to the laboratory for examination, sir.41
And after this turnover of the specimen, SPO1 Marinda no longer had personal knowledge
of the whereabouts of the shabu-containing sachet. In plain language, the custodial link
ended with SPO1 Marinda when he testified that the specimen was submitted for laboratory
examination, he was veritably assuming the occurrence of an event; he was not testifying
on the fact of submission out of personal knowledge, because he took no part in the transfer
of the specimen from the police station to the laboratory. This testimony of SPO1 Marinda
alone, while perhaps perceived by the courts below as straightforward and clear, is
incomplete to satisfy the rule on chain of custody.
It baffles this Court no end why the prosecution opted not to present the investigator,
identified as SPO1 Pama, to whom SPO1 Marinda allegedly handed over the confiscated
sachets for recording and marking. If SPO1 Pama indeed received the sachets containing
the illegal drugs and then turned them over to the laboratory for testing, his testimony is vital
in establishing the whereabouts of the seized illegal drugs and how they were handled from
the time SPO1 Marinda turned them over to him, until he actually delivered them to the

laboratory. He could have accounted for the whereabouts of the illegal drugs from the time
he possessed them.
The indispensability of SPO1 Pama testimony cannot be over-emphasized. He could have
provided the link between the testimony of SPO1 Marinda and the tenor of the testimony of
PS/Insp. Mariano, which the prosecution and appellant have already stipulated on. As the
evidence on record stands, there is a considerable amount of time, a gaping hiatus as it
were, in which the whereabouts of the illegal drugs were unaccounted for. This constitutes a
clear but unexplained break in the chain of custody. Then too no one testified on how the
specimen was handled and cared following the analysis. And of course no one was
presented to prove that the specimen turned over for analysis, if that be the case, and
eventually presented in court as exhibits were the same substance SPO1 Pama received
from SPO1 Marinda. There are so many unanswered questions regarding the possibility of
evidence tampering and the identity of evidence. These questions should be answered
satisfactorily to determine whether the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized
substance have been compromised in any way. Else, the prosecution cannot plausibly
maintain that it was able to prove the guilt of appellant beyond reasonable doubt. 42 Thus, the
trial court should not have easily accorded the drugs presented in court much credibility.
Not lost on the Court is the prosecutions admission that the "Forensic Chemical Officer has
no personal knowledge as to where or from whom the specimen she examined originally
came from x x x; that several hands got hold of the said specimen before the presentation
of the same in court."43 This admission puts into serious question whether it was in fact the
same SPO1 Pama who turned over the specimen for laboratory testing, or some other
police officer or person took possession of the specimen before it was brought to the
laboratory.
The prosecutions own misgivings created a reasonable doubt on the integrity of the drugs
presented in court, and necessarily strongly argue against a finding of guilt. As the Court
stated in Malillin v. People, "When moral certainty as to culpability hands in the balance,
acquittal on reasonable doubt inevitably becomes a matter of right." 44
Apropos too is what the Court said in People v. Almorfe:
The presentation of the drugs which constitute the corpus delicti of the offenses, calls for
the necessity of proving beyond doubt that they are the same seized objects. This function
is performed by the "chain of custody" requirement as defined in Section 1(b) of Dangerous
Drugs
Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which requirement is necessary to erase all doubts
as to the identity of the seized drugs by establishing its movement from the accused, to the
police, to the forensic chemist, and finally to the court.
xxxx
It bears recalling that while the parties stipulated on the existence of the sachets, they did
not stipulate with respect to their "source."

People v. Sanchez teaches that the testimony of the forensic chemist which is stipulated
upon merely covers the handling of the specimen at the forensic laboratory and the result of
the examination, but not the manner the specimen was handled before it came to the
possession of the forensic chemist and after it left his possession.
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While a perfect chain of custody is almost always impossible to achieve, an unbroken chain
becomes indispensable and essential in the prosecution of drug cases owing to its
susceptibility to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange.
Hence, every link must be accounted for.
In fine, the prosecution failed to account for every link of the chain starting from its turn over
by Janet to the investigator, and from the latter to the chemist.
As for the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty relied upon by the
courts a quo, the same cannot by itself overcome the presumption of innocence nor
constitute proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 45(citations omitted)
In People v. Librea,46 the Court acquitted the accused for the reason that the circumstances
of how the person who delivered the specimen for laboratory testing came into possession
of the specimen remained unexplained.
The CA, thus, gravely erred in ruling that the integrity and evidentiary value of the
confiscated prohibited drug were properly preserved. 47 On the contrary, the prosecution
failed to provide each and every link in the chain of custody. This runs contrary to the rule
that the corpus delicti should be identified with unwavering exactitude. 48
It is worthy to note, as a final consideration, that the trial court acquitted appellant in
Criminal Case No. 06-247287, for illegal possession of drugs, on this ground: the subject
shabu was not identified in court. What the trial court failed to appreciate, however, is that
while SPO1 Marinda identified a sachet of shabu in court, his testimony failed to establish
that it was the same one submitted for laboratory testing. The trial court, in the case for
illegal sale, should not have so easily trusted the alleged integrity of the shabu identified in
court, when the evidence of the prosecution itself casts a doubt on the integrity of the
specimen presented and identified in court.
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. Accused-appellant Edgardo Adrid y Flores
is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime of violating Sec. 5, Art. II of RA 9165 on account of
reasonable doubt. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ordered to cause the
immediate release of accused-appellant, unless he is being lawfully held for any other
cause. Accordingly, the CA Decision dated February 24, 2011 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
03775 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
ARTURO D. BRION*
Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN


Associate Justice
AT T E S TAT I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before
the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson
C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's
Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's
Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
*

Additional member per raff1e dated June 18. 2012.

Rollo. pp. 2-16. Penned by Associate Justice Antonio L. Villamor and concurred in
by Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes. Jr. and Michael P. Elbinias.
1

Records. pp. 2-3.

Id. at 57.

Id. at 60-61.

"SPO2 Marinda" in some parts of the records.

TSN, October 11, 2007, pp. 3-4.

Id. at 5-6.

Id. at 7-8.

Records, p. 8.

10

TSN, October 11, 2007, p. 9.

11

Id.

12

Id. at 10-12.

13

Id. at 16.

14

Records, p. 76

15

TSN, October 11, 2007, p. 21.

16

TSN, March 4, 2008, p. 3.

17

Id. at 4.

18

Id. at 5.

19

Id. at 5-6.

20

Id. at 6-7.

21

CA rollo, pp. 14-18. Penned by Judge Eugenio C. Mendinueto.

22

Id. at 16.

23

Id. at 17.

24

Id. at 20.

25

Rollo, p. 12.

26

Id. at 14.

27

Id. at 12.

28

Id. at 14-15.

29

CA rollo, p. 41.

30

CA rollo, p. 41.

31

336 Phil. 933, 941 (1997).

32

G.R. No. 185166, January 26, 2011, 640 SCRA 635, 649.

33

G.R. No. 186134, May 6, 2010, 620 SCRA 359, 368-370.

34

People v. Dela Rosa, supra note 32, at 656-657.

People v. Politico, G.R. No. 191394, October 18, 2010, 633 SCRA 404, 412; citing
People v. Alberto, G.R. No. 179717, February 5, 2010, 611 SCRA 706, 713.
35

36

G.R. No. 181494, March 17, 2009, 581 SCRA 762.

Id. at 777; citing Malillin v. People, G.R. No. 172953, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA
619, 632.
37

38

G.R. No. 181492, December 16, 2008, 574 SCRA 140, 151-155.

39

Id. at 150-151.

40

CA rollo, pp. 43-44.

41

TSN, October 11, 2007, pp. 16-17.

42

People v. Ong, G.R. No. 137348, June 21, 2004, 432 SCRA 470, 490.

43

Records, p. 60.

44

Supra note 37, at 639.

45

G.R. No. 181831, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 52, 60-62.

46

G.R. No. 179937, July 17, 2009, 593 SCRA 258, 262-263.

47

Rollo, p. 14.

People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 181545, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 273, 282;
citing Zarraga v. People, G.R. No. 162064, March 14, 2006, 484 SCRA 639.
48

http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/mar2013/gr_201845_2013.html

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,

G.R. No. 186471

Plaintiff-Appellee,

Present:

- versus -

CORONA, J., Chairperson,

RODANTE DE LEON y DELA


ROSA,

VELASCO, JR.,

Accused-Appellant.

NACHURA,
PERALTA, and
MENDOZA, JJ.
Promulgated:
January 25, 2010

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case
This is an appeal from the April 4, 2008 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01811 entitled People of the Philippines v. Rodante De Leon y
Dela Rosa which affirmed the December 20, 2005 Decision2 in Criminal Case Nos.
Q-03-122555-56 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 82 in Quezon City. The
RTC found accused-appellant Rodante De Leon guilty of violation of Sections 5 and
11, Article II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002.
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The Facts
The charges against appellant stemmed from the following Informations:
Criminal Case No. Q-03-122555
(Violation of Section 5 [Sale], Article II of RA 9165)
That on or about the 9th day of November, 2003, in the Quezon City, Philippines,
the said accused, not being authorized by law, to sell, dispense, deliver, transport
or distribute of any dangerous drug, did, then and there, wilfully and unlawfully
sell, dispense, deliver, transport, distribute or act as broker in the said transaction

zero point sixteen (0.16) gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride a dangerous


drug.
Contrary to law.3
Criminal Case No. Q-03-122556
(Violation of Section 11 [Possession], Article II of RA 9165)
That on or about the 9th day of November, 2003, in the Quezon City, Philippines,
the said accused, not being authorized by law, to possess or use any dangerous
drug, did, then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his/her
possession and control zero point eighteen (0.18) gram of methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
Contrary to law.4

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On February 16, 2004, appellant was arraigned and pleaded "not guilty" to the
charge against him. After the pre-trial conference, trial on the merits ensued.
During the trial, the parties agreed to stipulate on the testimonies of Engr.
Leonard Jabonillo, the Forensic Chemist, and Police Officer 1 (PO1) Oliver
Estrelles, the police investigator of these cases. The prosecution thereafter
presented PO2 Noel Magcalayo as its witness. The defense, on the other hand,
presented Rodante De Leon, the accused himself.
The trial court summarized the stipulation of Engr. Jabonillo, as follows:
x x x that he is a Forensic Chemist of the Philippine National Police, that his Office
received the request for laboratory examination marked as Annex "A"; that
together with the said request was a plastic sachet marked as Exh. "B" which
contained two (2) plastic sachets marked as Exhibits "B-1" and "B-2"; that he
conducted the requested laboratory examination and, in connection therewith he
submitted a Chemistry Report marked as Exhibit "C", the finding thereon showing
the specimen positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride was marked as
Exhibit "C-1" and the signature of said police officer was marked as Exhibit "C-2";
that he then issued a Certification marked as Exhibits "D" and "D-1" and
thereafter turned over the specimen to the evidence custodian x x x. (Order dated
September 14, 2004).5
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Also, as regards PO1 Estrelles, the following was agreed upon:


x x x that he was the investigator of these cases and in connection with the
investigation conducted by him, he received the evidence, namely: the Joint
Affidavit of Apprehension executed by PO2 Noel Magcalayo and PO2 Cesar Collado
marked as Exhibit "E" and "E-1"; that likewise prepared the request for

examination marked as Exhibit "A" and submitted the specimen to the Crime
Laboratory and receive the Chemistry Report marked as Exhibit "C"; that he
received the Pre-Operation Report marked as Exhibit "E" as well as the buy bust
money marked as Exhibits "F" and "F-1", that he prepared the letter request to the
City Prosecutor Office marked as Exhibit "G"; and that Exhibit "A" contains
superimposition of the date thereof." (Order dated September 14, 2004).6
The Prosecutions Version of Facts
On November 9, 2003, at about 5 oclock in the afternoon, a confidential informant
arrived at the office of the Station Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operation Task Force
at the Novaliches Police Station in Quezon City and reported the illegal activities of
a person named "Rodante De Leon."
Thereafter, Police Senior Inspector (P/SInsp.) Nilo Wong formed a team for a buybust operation with PO2 Magcalayo as poseur-buyer and Senior Police Officer 3
(SPO3) Mario Concepcion, PO2 Fernando Salonga, PO2 Cesar Collado, PO2 Edmund
Paculdar, and PO1 Emeterio Mendoza as team members. A pre-operation report
was prepared. P/SInsp. Wong then handed to PO2 Magcalayo two (2) pieces of
PhP 100 bills as buy-bust money and on which PO2 Magcalayo wrote his initials
"NM."
At around 6:30 p.m. in the evening, the team proceeded to Sarmiento St.,
Barangay Sta. Monica, Novaliches, Quezon City, where the confidential informant
introduced PO2 Magcalayo to appellant as a buyer of shabu. PO2 Magcalayo then
asked appellant if he had shabu and the latter answered in the affirmative and
asked him how much he would buy. PO2 Magcalayo handed the money and, in
return, appellant handed him one (1) plastic sachet containing white crystalline
substance. He then scratched his head, which was the pre-arranged signal that the
transaction was consummated, and thereafter arrested appellant. He recovered
the buy-bust money from appellant as PO2 Collado approached them and
handcuffed appellant. Upon frisking appellant, PO2 Collado discovered another
plastic sachet on the person of appellant.
Afterwards, appellant was brought to the police station for investigation. PO2
Collado then placed his initials on the sachet he found on appellant. The evidence
was subsequently turned over to the police investigator, PO1 Estrelles, who
prepared a request for its laboratory examination.
PO2 Collado, PO1 Mendoza, PO2 Paculdar, and PO2 Magcalayo then brought the
transparent plastic sachets containing the white crystalline substance subject of
the buy-bust operation to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory,
Eastern Police District on St. Francis Street, Mandaluyong City for examination.
Engr. Jabonillo, a Forensic Chemical Officer, conducted a qualitative examination
on the specimens, which yielded positive results for Methylamphetamine

Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. He issued Chemistry Report No. D-1240-2003


dated November 9, 2003, which showed the following results:
SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:
Two (2) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each containing white crystalline
substance having the following markings and recorded net weights:
A (NM) = 0.16 gm
B (CC) = 0.18 gm
xxxx
PURPOSE OF LABORATORY EXAMINATION:
To determine the presence of dangerous drugs.
xxxx
FINDINGS:
Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimens gave POSITIVE
result to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. x x x
CONCLUSION:
Specimen A and B contain Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. x
xx
Version of the Defense
On the other hand, appellant testified that, prior to his arrest, he was a police
officer of Station 7, Araneta, Cubao, Quezon City and had been connected with the
PNP for 10 years. On November 9, 2003, at around 3 oclock in the afternoon, he
went to Sarmiento St., Barangay Sta. Monica, Novaliches, Quezon City to look for a
kumpadre from whom he intended to borrow money when policemen accosted him
and poked their guns at him. The people around him ran, and as he was the only
one left on the scene, the policemen asked him to sit down. He told SPO3
Concepcion, whom he knew, that he was a police officer but he was told to shut up
and to explain his side at the police station instead.
Upon arrival at the police station in Novaliches, Quezon City, his wallet, with his
I.D. and police badge, were taken from him. PO2 Magcalayo told him that he had a
fake police I.D. When appellant tried to explain himself, PO2 Magcalayo allegedly
kicked him saying, "Hindi na uso ang pulis, sundalo na ang nakaupo ngayon."

The following night, he was presented on inquest during which he was charged
with violation of Secs. 5 and 11 of RA 9165. He denied all the charges against him
claiming that the alleged shabu marked as Exhibits "B-1" and "B-2" came from the
arresting police officers. He did not file a case against them, because he had no
money and because he knew that he was not guilty.
On cross-examination, appellant further testified that he was a follow-up
operative at the Station Investigation Division of Police Station 7. He admitted
that he was separated from the service because he was absent without official
leave due to a business problem he had to attend to. He likewise said that he did
not know his arresting officers, whom he saw then for the first time, and that he
was not familiar with RA 9165.
Ruling of the Trial Court
After trial, the RTC convicted appellant. The dispositive portion of its Decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
Re: Criminal Case NO. Q-03-122555, the Court finds accused RODANTE DE LEON y
DELA ROSA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation of Section 5, Article II of
R.A. No. 9165 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to
pay a fine in the amount of P500,000.00;
Re: Criminal Case NO. Q-03-122556, the Court finds accused RODANTE DE LEON y
DELA ROSA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation of Section 11, Article II
of R.A. No. 9165 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002, and hereby sentences him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of twelve
(12) years and one (1) day as minimum to fifteen (15) years and one (1) day as
maximum and to pay a fine in the amount of P300,000.00;
SO ORDERED.7

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On appeal to the CA, appellant disputed the trial courts decision finding him guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged. He argued that the alleged buybust operation conducted by the police officers was tainted with irregularities and
that the prosecution failed to prove the chain of custody of the evidence.
Ruling of the Appellate Court
On April 4, 2008, the CA affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The dispositive
portion of its Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED for lack of merit. The
Decision dated 20 December 2005 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,
Branch 82 finding accused-appellant Rodante De Leon y Dela Rosa guilty beyond
reasonable doubt in Criminal Case No. Q-03-122555 for violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life
imprisonment and to pay a fine in the amount of P500,000.00, and in Criminal
Case No. Q-03-122556 for violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165
otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, sentencing
him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day as
minimum to fifteen (15) years and one (1) day as maximum and to pay a fine in
the amount of P300,000.00, is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.8

cralaw

Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal of the decision of the CA.

The Issues
Appellant assigns the following errors:
I.
The trial court gravely erred in ignoring the fact that the prosecution failed to
prove the chain of custody of the alleged confiscated items from the accusedappellant.
II.
The trial court gravely erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty of the crimes
charged despite the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt.

Our Ruling
We sustain appellants conviction.
Guilt of Appellant Was Proved Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Appellant assails his conviction by contending that the trial court failed to prove
his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. According to him, the trial court erroneously
convicted him on the basis of the evidence of the prosecution despite a question of
the legality of the buy-bust operation. Further, he asserts that the trial court relied
on the disputable presumption of regularity in the performance of the police
function, despite the police officers violated the rule on chain of custody of the
alleged confiscated items.
The contentions are unmeritorious.

It is a fundamental rule that findings of the trial court which are factual in nature
and which involve the credibility of witnesses are accorded with respect, when no
glaring errors, gross misapprehension of facts, and speculative, arbitrary, and
unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings.9 The reason for this
is that the trial court is in a better position to decide the credibility of witnesses
having heard their testimonies and observed their deportment and manner of
testifying during the trial.10
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After a thorough examination of the entire records of this case, this Court has
failed to identify any error committed by the trial court in its appreciation of the
evidence presented before it and in the conclusion it reached.
In the prosecution for the crime of illegal sale of prohibited drugs, the Court has
reiterated the essential elements in People v. Pendatun, to wit: (1) the accused
sold and delivered a prohibited drug to another; and (2) he knew that what he had
sold and delivered was a prohibited drug.11 Therefore, what is material is the
proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the
presentation in court of evidence of the corpus delicti. 12 Corpus delicti is the body
or substance of the crime, and establishes the fact that a crime has actually been
committed. It has two elements, namely: (1) proof of the occurrence of a certain
event; and (2) some persons criminal responsibility for the act.13
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In the instant case, the prosecution sufficiently established the elements of the
crime. Appellant sold and delivered the shabu for PhP 200 to PO2 Magcalayo
posing as buyer; the said drug was seized and identified as a prohibited drug and
subsequently presented in evidence; there was actual exchange of the marked
money and contraband; and finally, appellant was fully aware that he was selling
and delivering a prohibited drug. In fact, PO2 Magcalayo testified, thus:
Q: Mr. Witness, on November 9, 2003, did you report for duty?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What happened when you reported for duty?
A: Our confidential informant personally appeared in our station and reporting to
us the alleged drug pushing activity of Rodante De Leon.
Q: What time was that when this confidential informant arrived at your office?
A: Around 5:00 p.m., sir.
Q: What happened when this confidential informant relayed to you the information
about this Rodante De Leon?
A: Our Chief sir, formed a team for possible buy bust operation.

COURT:
Who formed?
A: P/Sr. Inspector Nilo Wong, your honor.
PROS. ANTERO:
Who composed this team?
A: Us, sir. SPO3 Mario Concepcion, PO2 Fernando Salonga, PO2 Cesar Collado, PO2
Edmund Paculdar and PO1 Emeterio Mendoza, your Honor.
Q: What happened when this team was formed, Mr. Witness?
A: We proceeded to Sarmiento Street, sir, for buy bust operation.
COURT:
Were you among the team?
A: Yes, your Honor.
PROS. ANTERO:
Prior to the dispatch to conduct that buy-bust operation, what happened, if any?
A: We prepared the pre-operation report and our Chief handed to me the two (2)
pieces of P100.00 bills as buy bust money.
Q: What did you do with that two (2) P100.00 bills?
A: Before we were dispatched, I put my initial on the buy-bust money.
Q: What initial?
A: NM, sir.
Q: What [does] NM stand for?
A: Noel Magcalayo, sir.
Q: I am showing you these two (2) P100.00 bills, kindly examine the same
whether you know those P100.00 bills?
A: These are the buy bust money that we used in the operation, sir.

xxxx
Q: What happened after you were given these buy bust money?
A: We proceeded to Sarmiento Street, Barangay Sta. Monica, Novaliches, Quezon
City.
Q: What time was that when you proceeded there?
A: At around 6:30 in the afternoon, sir.
Q: What happened, Mr. Witness?
A: We were able to meet Rodante De Leon.
Q: How did you meet this Rodante De Leon?
A: By the help of our confidential informant, sir.
Q: Can you tell this Hon. Court how you made a contact with this Rodante De
Leon?
A: We approached him and then our confidential informant introduced me to him
as a buyer of shabu.
COURT:
What?
A: I was introduced to him by the confidential informant as a buyer of shabu.
PROS. ANTERO:
What happened thereafter?
A: He made transaction with us, sir.
Q: What happened during the transaction?
A: I asked him sir if he has shabu and then he answered yes and magkano.
Q: What did he tell you, if any?
A: He asked me how much I would buy shabu.
Q: What did you tell, if any?

A: That was the time when I handed to him the money, sir.
Q: What happened when you handed the money to him?
A: In return, sir, he handed to me one (1) plastic sachet containing suspected
shabu.
Q: One?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What happened after he handed to you one plastic sachet?
A: I gave pre-arranged signal to my back-up and immediately effected the arrest,
sir.
Q: What was the pre-arranged signal?
A: By scratching my head, sir.
Q: Scratching your head?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What happened when you made that pre-arranged signal?
A: I effected the arrest, sir, and confiscated the buy bust money from Rodante De
Leon.14
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Evidently, all the elements of the crime of illegal sale of prohibited drugs were
proved in the instant case. The testimony cited above shows clearly that a sale
occurred between appellant, as the seller, and PO2 Magcalayo, as the buyer, for
PhP 200 worth of shabu. In addition, the said testimony illustrated the seizing of
the prohibited drug and the exchange of the marked money. As a matter of fact,
the trial court, in disposing of the case, said:
x x x Set against this legal yardstick, the evidence adduced by the prosecution
have sufficiently established the elements aforesaid. The prosecution witnesses in
the person of PO2 Noel Magcalayo, the one who acted as the poseur buyer in the
buy bust operation conducted by his team, described in detail how the operation
was commenced with the help of an informant, his introduction to the accused, the
ensuing negotiation and consummation of the sale of shabu which ended up in the
exchange of the item as well as the buy bust money. Accused was positively
identified as the seller thereof and the source of the plastic sachet which
contained crystalline substance later on determined after laboratory examination
as positive for methylamphetamine, a dangerous drug. Said evidence was

presented in court and properly identified as the subject of the buy bust and which
was submitted for examination by the Forensic Chemist. All told, all the elements
aforementioned are hereby present.15 x x x
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Further, the chain of custody was clearly established by the prosecution. It is


elementary that, in every prosecution for the illegal sale of prohibited drugs, the
presentation of the drug as evidence in court is material.16 It is, therefore,
essential that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt.
What is more, the fact that the substance bought during the buy-bust operation is
the same substance offered in court should be established. The chain of custody
requirement performs this function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts
concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. 17
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To ensure that the chain of custody is established, the Implementing Rules and
Regulations of RA 9165 provide:
SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered
Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. The PDEA shall takecharge and have custody of all dangerous drugs,
plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals,
as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated,
seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof; Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph
shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the
nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team,
whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that
non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the
integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and
custody over said items x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
A close examination of the law reveals that it admits of certain exceptions. Thus,
contrary to the assertions of appellant, Sec. 21 of the foregoing law need not be
followed as an exact science. Non-compliance with Sec. 21 does not render an
accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him
inadmissible.18 What is essential is "the preservation of the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused." 19
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In the instant case, there was substantial compliance with the law and the
integrity of the drugs seized from appellant was preserved. The chain of custody of
the drugs subject matter of the case was shown not to have been broken. The
factual milieu of the case reveals that after PO2 Magcalayo seized and confiscated
the dangerous drugs, as well as the marked money, appellant was immediately
arrested and brought to the police station for investigation, where the sachet of
suspected shabu was marked with "NM." Immediately thereafter, the confiscated
substance, with a letter of request for examination, was submitted to the PNP
Crime Laboratory for examination to determine the presence of any dangerous
drug. Per Chemistry Report No. D-1240-2003 dated November 9, 2003, the
specimen submitted contained methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous
drug. The examination was conducted by one Engr. Jabonillo, a Forensic Chemical
Officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory, whose stipulated testimony clearly
established the chain of custody of the specimens he received. Thus, it is without a
doubt that there was an unbroken chain of custody of the illicit drug purchased
from appellant.
Likewise, the prosecution was able to prove that appellant is guilty of illegal
possession of dangerous drugs with moral certainty. In the prosecution for illegal
possession of dangerous drugs, the following elements must be proved with moral
certainty: (1) that the accused is in possession of the object identified as a
prohibited or regulatory drug; (2) that such possession is not authorized by law;
and (3) that the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.20
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Here, appellant was caught in actual possession of the prohibited drugs without
showing any proof that he was duly authorized by law to possess them. Having
been caught in flagrante delicto, there is prima facie evidence of animus
possidendi on appellants part. As held by this Court, the finding of a dangerous
drug in the house or within the premises of the house of the accused is prima facie
evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi and is enough to convict in the
absence of a satisfactory explanation.21 In the case at bar, appellant failed to
present any evidence to rebut his animus possidendi of the shabu found in his
pocket during the buy-bust operation.
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Buy-Bust Operation Was Valid


Appellant further argues that the buy-bust operation was full of irregularities,
rendering it illegal. He notes that the Pre-Operation Report was full of
discrepancies and that the Joint Sworn Affidavit of Apprehension of PO2
Magcalayo and PO2 Collado failed to mention that they placed their markings on
the plastic sachets.
The arguments are specious. Such irregularities cannot overturn the finding of the
presence in this case of the elements of violations of Secs. 5 and 11, Art. II of RA
9165.

A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment whereby ways and means are


resorted to for the purpose of trapping and capturing the lawbreakers in the
execution of their criminal plan.22 In this jurisdiction, the operation is legal and
has been proved to be an effective method of apprehending drug peddlers,
provided due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards is undertaken. 23
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In the case at bar, the evidence clearly shows that the buy-bust operation
conducted by the police officers, who made use of entrapment to capture
appellant in the act of selling a dangerous drug, was valid and legal. Moreover, the
defense has failed to show any evidence of ill motive on the part of the police
officers. Even appellant himself declared that it was the first time he met the
police officers during his cross-examination. There was, therefore, no motive for
the police officers to frame up appellant.
Likewise, the identity of appellant as the person who sold the dangerous drugs to
PO2 Magcalayo and the one in possession of the shabu cannot be doubted
anymore. Such positive identification prevails over appellants defenses of denial
and alibi. These defenses have been invariably viewed by the Court with disfavor,
for they can easily be concocted but difficult to prove, and they are common and
standard defense ploys in most prosecutions arising from violations of the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.24
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Absent any proof of motive to falsely accuse appellant of such a grave offense, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty and the findings of
the trial court with respect to the credibility of witnesses shall prevail over
appellants bare allegation.25
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We, therefore, uphold the presumption of regularity in the performance of official


duties and find that the prosecution has discharged its burden of proving the guilt
of appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CAs Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
01811 finding appellant Rodante De Leon y Dela Rosa guilty of the crimes charged
is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice
ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before
the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice
Chairperson
CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons
Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

Endnotes:
Rollo, pp. 2-27. Penned by Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo and concurred in by Associate Justices Regalado E.
Maambong and Agustin S. Dizon.
1

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2
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3
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4
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5
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6
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7
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8
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CA rollo, pp. 17-24. Penned by Judge Severino B. De Castro, Jr.


Id. at 9.
Id. at 11.
Id. at 18.
Id.
Id. at 23-24.
Rollo, pp. 26-27.

People v. Macatingag, G.R. No. 181037, January 19, 2009; People v. Bayani, G.R. No. 179150, June 17, 2008, 554 SCRA
741.
9

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10
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Id.

G.R. No. 148822, July 12, 2004, 434 SCRA 148, 155-156; citing People v. Cercado, G.R. No. 144494, July 26, 2002,
385 SCRA 277; People v. Pacis, G.R. No. 146309, July 18, 2002, 384 SCRA 684.
11

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12
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13
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14
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15
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16
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17
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People v. Del Mundo, G.R. No. 169141, December 6, 2006, 510 SCRA 554.
Id.
Records, pp. 176-180.
CA rollo, p. 21.
People v. Doria, G.R. No. 125299, January 22, 1999, 301 SCRA 668, 718; citations omitted.
Malillin v. People, G.R. No. 172953, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 619, 632.

People v. Naquita, G.R. No. 180511, July 28, 2008, 560 SCRA 430, 448; citing People v. Del Monte, G.R. No. 179940,
April 23, 2008, 552 SCRA 627.
18

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19
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20
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21
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22
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Id.; citing People v. Concepcion, G.R. No. 178876, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 421.
People v. Del Norte, G.R. No. 149462, March 29, 2004, 426 SCRA 383.
U.S. v. Bandoc, 23 Phil. 14, 15 (1912).
Cruz v. People, G.R. No. 164580, February 6, 2009; People v. Del Mundo, supra note 12.

See People v. Herrera, G.R. No. 93728, August 21, 1995, 247 SCRA 433; People v. Tadepa, G.R. No. 100354, May 26,
1995, 244 SCRA 339.
23

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24
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People v. Del Mundo, supra note 12; People v. Isnani, G.R. No. 133006, June 9, 2004, 431 SCRA 439.

People v. Agulay, G.R. No. 181747, September 26, 2008, 566 SCRA 571, 599; citing People v. Bongalon, 425 Phil. 96,
116 (2002).
25

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