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G.R. No.

207001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
RICHARD F. TRIPOLI and ROMULO B. IMPAS, Accused-Appellants

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision dated March 28, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R.
1

CEB H.C. No. 00979, affirming the March 31, 2008 Decision rendered by the Regional Trial Court
2

(RTC) of Cebu City, Branch 10 in Criminal Case No. CB-65243, convicting accused-appellants
Richard F. Tripoli (Tripoli) and Romulo B. Impas (Impas) for illegal sale of shabu under Section 5,
Article II, Republic Act No. 9165 (RA 9165), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002.

Accused-appellants were charged in an Information dated February 10, 2003 with illegal sale of
dangerous drugs, as follows:

That on or about the 27th day of January 2003, at about 1 :00 AM., in the City of Cebu, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this· Honorable Court, the said accused conniving and confederating
together and mutually helping with (sic) each other, with deliberate intent and without being
authorized by law, did then and there sell, deliver, or give away to a poseur buyer the following: two
(2) heat-sealed transparent plastic packets containing white crystalline substance, having a total
weight of 5.64 grams, locally known as "SHABU", containing methylamphetamine (sic)
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 3

Accused-appellants pleaded not guilty upon arraignment.4 Trial on the merits ensued.

The testimony of P /Inspector David Alexander Patriana (P /Inspector Patriana) was dispensed with
in view of the defense's admission of the expertise of the witness, the existence of the Chemistry
Report, the subject specimen and the letter request, subject to the qualification that accused-
appellants were not in possession nor were they the owners of the said specimens. 5

The prosecution's evidence would evince that on January 26, 2003, a team of policemen from the
Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Branch . (CIIB), Cebu City Police Office, were briefed
regarding a buy-bust operation to be conducted against Tripoli. P02 John Pempee Arriola (P02
Arriola) and the informant were designated as poseur-buyers and given two pieces of one hundred
peso bills. The buy-bust money was placed in a package together with the "bodol" money and its
serial numbers recorded in the police blotter.
6

P02 Arriola and the informant proceeded inside the Jollibee, Mango Avenue Branch to meet with
Tripoli while the rest of the team stayed outside. SPO 1 Roel Del Socorro (SPO 1 Del Socorro)
received a text message from P02 Arriola informing him that the transaction was moved to the
Queensland Motel. P02 Arriola, the informant, and Tripoli went to Queensland Motel and checked in
at room 315 while SPO 1 Del Socorro and P02 Bezaleel Olmedo (P02 Olmedo) stayed outside the
motel. 7
At around 8:00 p.m., P02 Arriola informed SPOl Del Socorro thru text message that Tripoli will be
going out of the motel to get the shabu and will return before 1:00 a.m. When Tripoli left, SPO 1 Del
Socorro and P02 Olmedo entered room 315 to join P02 Arriola and the informant. 8

Shortly before 1:00 a.m., they heard a knock on the door. SPOl Del Socorro and P02 Olmedo hid
inside the bathroom leaving the door slightly open so they could see who would enter the room and
easily hear the conversation. SPOl Del Socorro and P02 Olmedo saw Tripoli enter the room with
Impas. Impas handed the two plastic packets of shabu to P02 Arriola, who gave "bodol" money to
Tripoli. SPO 1 Del Socorro and P02 Olmedo went out of the bathroom and immediately arrested the
two accused after a short scuffle. The marked buy-bust money and "bodol" money were recovered
from Tripoli. They were apprised of their constitutional rights and were brought to CIIB office at Camp
Sotero Cabahug. 9

The two plastic packets were turned over to P03 Filomena Mendaros (P03 Mendaros), who marked
both with the initials of the accused-appellants (RT/Rl-BB-1 and RT/RI-BB-2). The Chief of CIIB
Police Senior Inspector Rodolfo Calope Albotra, Jr. requested the PNP crime laboratory to conduct
an examination of the contents of the two plastic packets· for the presence of methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu. P02 Dhonel Salazar (P02 Salazar) delivered the request and the
confiscated two plastic packets to the PNP crime laboratory which were received by P03 Rias.
P/Inspector Patriana conducted a laboratory examination and issued Chemistry Report No .. D-139-
2003 stating that the two plastic packets marked RT/Rl-BB-1 · and RT/Rl-BB-2 contained a total
weight of 5.64 grams of white crystalline substance which tested positive for methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu. 10

For the defense, Tripoli declared that he worked as an asset for his former classmate P02 Salazar.
On January 26, 2003, P02 Salazar asked him to go to the CIIB Office where he found SPO 1 Del
Socorro, P02 Arriola, P02 Olmedo and P02 Salazar discussing a buy-bust operation to be conducted
on a certain "Erwin". He was told to join the buy-bust operation and was tasked to convince Erwin to
sell shabu to P02 Arriola. He knew Erwin because he accompanied Erwin's friend Patoc the day
before to conduct a test-buy in Erwin's house. 11

He accompanied P02 Arriola, but instead of going to Erwin's house at the Ponce Compound, they
proceeded to Queensland Motel. They checked-in and Tripoli was instructed to go to Ponce
Compound and inform Erwin that a shabu buyer was waiting for him in Queensland Motel. He and
Erwin went back to the Queensland Motel and after negotiations, P02 Arriola gave the PhPl0,000
"bodol" money, including the buy-bust money, to Erwin. Tripoli was instructed to accompany Erwin to
the latter's house to get the shabu. Erwin asked hjm to wait for him as he would get
the shabu elsewhere. Trip.oli waited for several hours for Erwin until a stranger, whom he later knew
as Romulo Impas (Impas ), arrived and warned him that his life was in danger and that Erwin will not
be coming back. Impas then accompanied him back to Queensland Motel and reported what
happened. Tripoli and Impas returned to the CIIB Office, where they were interrogated and
arrested.12

Impas testified and corroborated Tripoli's testimony. He heard from the bystanders in the Ponce
Compound that they will hurt Tripoli, whom they believed was a police asset. Impas approached
Tripoli and warned him that his life was in danger. He then offered to accompany Tripoli back to
Queensland Motel. They entered the room and saw two people inside. There was a knock at the
door by someone who identified himself as a police officer. Tripoli was asked where the PhPl0,000
was, to which he replied, that it was with Erwin. Thereafter, they were brought to the police station
where they were interrogated. 13
The RTC found merit in the prosecution's witnesses' testimonies. It also noted that though the
prosecution failed to present the "bodol" money,. it held that "delivery", which is one of the acts
punishable in Section 5, Article II of RA 9165, is present in the instant case. It disposed, thus:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court finds both accused RICHARD TRIPOLI Y
FALCON and ROMULO IMPAS Y BALCONAN, GUILTY of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic
Act No. 9165. Each is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and a FINE
of ₱500,000.00.

The two plastic packs found to be positive for the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride are
ordered confiscated and shall be destroyed in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED. 14

The CA sustained the conviction of the accused-appellants. It ruled that the failure to mark the two
pieces of one hundred peso bills as buy-bust money and the "bodol" money, and its non-
presentation in court, are not fatal to the cause of the prosecution. It likewise ruled that the failure to
show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory, photographed the evidence
seized, and immediately marked the seized items does not automatically impair the integrity of the
chain of custody. It ruled that the prosecution was able to prove that the chain of custody of the
seized prohibited drugs remained intact from the time the drugs were recovered until they were
submitted to the crime laboratory for testing and then to the court. The CA disposed, as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated March 31, 2008 of
the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 10 in Criminal Case No. CBU-65243 for Violation of
Section 5, Article II, Republic Act No. 9165 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 15

Tripoli filed this appeal before Us, reiterating his arguments that his guilt was not proven beyond
reasonable doubt because the informant was not presented in court; the corpus delicti and the chain
of custody was not duly established; the presumption of innocence prevails Over the presumption of
regular performance of official duties; the chemistry ·report does not prove the guilt of the accused-
appellant beyond reasonable doubt; and the accused-appellant was not properly informed of his
constitutional rights.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) countered that the presentation of the informant is not a
requisite in the prosecution of drug cases and that what is important is the preservation of the
integrity and the evidentiary value· of the seized drugs.

We find no merit in the appeal.

The essential elements for illegal sale of shabu are as follows: (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. The delivery of the illicit drug to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the
16

seller of the marked money consummate the illegal transaction. These elements are present in this
17

case.

Accused-appellants' argument that the failure to present the informant is fatal to the prosecution's
cause fails to impress. There is no need to present the informant/poseur-buyer/police asset.
First, the presentation of an informant as witness is not regarded as indispensable to the success of
a prosecution of a drug-dealing accused. As a rule, the informant is not presented in court for
security reasons, in view of the need to protect the informant from the retaliation of the culprit
arrested through his efforts. Thereby, the confidentiality of the informant's identity is protected in
deference to his invaluable services to law enforcement. Only when the testimony of the informant is
considered absolutely essential in · obtaining the conviction of the culprit should the need to protect
his security be disregarded. 18

Second, the identities of the accused-appellants were also confirmed by SP02 Del Socorro and P02
Olmedo. While the Court sanctions an acquittal for failure to present the informant, it does so when
the police officers involved had no personal knowledge of the transaction. Here, the witnesses were
inside the hotel room where the sale had transpired. Although they were in the bathroom when the
accused-appellants entered the room, they left the door ajar so that they could hear and see what
was happening. There was, therefore, no need for the presentation of the informant since the other
witnesses presented had personal knowledge of the transaction as well.

With regard to the accused-appellants' argument that Section 21 of RA. 9165 was ignored, We find
that the requirements of Section 21 of RA 9165 were substantially complied with.

The chain of custody requirement ensures the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of
the seized items such that doubts as to the identity of the evidence are eliminated. "To be
admissible, the prosecution must show by records or testimony, the continuous whereabouts of the
exhibit at least between the time it came into possession of the police officers and until it was tested
in the laboratory to determine its composition up to the time it was offered in evidence." 19

As the dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of both offenses, its identity and
integrity must definitely be shown to have been preserved. This requirement necessarily arises from
the illegal drug's unique characteristic that renders it indistinct, not readily identifiable, and easily
open to tampering, alteration or substitution, either by accident or otherwise. 20

This means that on top of the elements of possession or illegal sale, the fact that the substance
[possessed or illegally sold], in the first instance, is the very substance adduced in court must
likewise be established with the same exacting degree of certitude as that required sustaining a
conviction. Thus, the prosecution must be able to account for each link in the chain of custody over
the dangerous drug, from the moment it was seized from the accused up to the time it was
presented in court as proof of the corpus dellcti. The chain of custody requirement "ensures that
unnecessary doubts respecting the identity of the evidence are minimized if not altogether
removed." 21

In this case, accused-appellants point to the police officers' failure to mark the evidence at the crime
scene, lack of inventory and photographs as affecting the integrity of the chain of custody. However,
such failure does not, by itself, void the arrest of the accused-appellants or impair the integrity of the
chain of custody.

The case of People v. Cardenas states the same:


22

We held thus in Zalameda v. People of the Philippines:

Jurisprudence teems with pronouncements that failure to strictly comply with Section 21(1), Article II
of R.A. No. 9165 does not necessarily render an accused's 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. In the present case, we see substantial compliance by the police
with the required procedure on the custody and control of the confiscated items, thus showing that
the integrity of the seized evidence was not compromised. We refer particularly to the succession of
events established by evidence, to the overall handling of the seized items by specified individuals,
to the test results obtained, under a situation where no objection to admissibility was ever raised by
the defense. All these, to the unprejudiced mind, show that the evidence seized were the same
evidence tested and subsequently identified and testified to in court. In People v. Del Monte, we
explained:

We would like to add that non-compliance with Section 21 of said law, particularly" the making of the
inventory and the photographing of the drugs confiscated and/or seized, will not render the drugs
inadmissible in evidence. Under Section 3 of Rule 128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible
1âwphi1

when it is relevant to the issue and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be
inadmissible there should be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule,
the evidence must be admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will {sic} accorded it by the
courts. x x x

We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring about the non-
admissibility of the confiscated and/or seized drugs due to non-compliance with Section 21 of
Republic Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if there is non-compliance with said section, is not of
admissibility, but of weight evidentiary merit or probative value to be given the evidence. The weight
to be given by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in each case.
(Emphasis supplied.)

Here, the prosecution effectively established that the chain of custody of the seized dangerous drugs
from the time of seizure, marking, submission to the laboratory for testing, and presentation in court
remained intact. P02 Arriola was the one who received the two packets of shabu from Impas. After
their arrest and when the team brought the accused-appellants to the police station, the two packets
were given to P03 Mendaros who marked them. P02 Salazar then delivered the laboratory request
and the two packets of shabu to the crime laboratory which was received by P03 Rias. P /Inspector
Patriana conducted the testing of the two packets, and the same were presented and identified in
court. Clearly, the prosecution was able to substantially comply with the rules, showing by records
and testimony, the whereabouts of the seized items from the time of its seizure.

Tripoli insists that the lack of proof of a physical inventory of the items seized and failure to
photograph them in the presence of the accused and of other personalities specified by Section 21
(a), Article II of the IRR of RA 9165 raise uncertainty and doubts as to the identity and integrity of the
articles seized from the accused whether they were the same items presented at the trial court that
convicted him. Based on this noncompliance by the arresting officers, the defense insists the
acquittal of the accused.

Consequently, although We find that the police officers did not strictly comply with the requirements
of Section 21, Article II of the IRR implementing RA 9165, the non-compliance did not affect the
evidentiary weight of the drugs seized from the accused, because the chain of custody of the
evidence was shown to be unbroken under the circumstances of the case.

Finally, the accused-appellants only raised the issue of noncompliance with RA 9165 for the first time
in the CA. As such, the Court cannot now dwell on the matter because to do so would be against the
tenets of fair play and equity. In the case of People v. Bartolome , although it appears that the buy-
23

bust team did not literally observe all the requirements, like photographing the confiscated drugs in
the presence of the accused, a representative from the media and from the Department of Justice,
and any elected public official who should be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be
given a copy of it, whatever justification the members of the buy-bust team had to render in order to
explain their non-observance of all the requirements would remain unrevealed because the accused
did not assail such non-compliance during the trial.

It was likewise held in People v. Ros that "the law excuses noncompliance under justifiable
24

grounds. However, whatever justifiable grounds that may excuse the police officers involved in the
buy-bust operation x x x from complying with Section 21 · will remain unknown, because appellant
did not question during trial, the safekeeping of the items seized from him. Indeed, the police officers'
alleged violations of Sections 21 and 86 of RA 9165 were not raised before the trial court but were
instead raised for the first time on appeal. In no instance did appellant (at) least intimate at the trial
court that there were lapses in the safekeeping of seized items that affected their integrity and
evidentiary value. Objection to evidence cannot be raised for the first time on appeal; when a party
desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection. Without
such objection he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal." The same is true for this
case.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The Decision dated March 28, 2012 of the Court
of Appeals (CA), Cebu City in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-H.C. No. 00979, which affirmed the March 31, 2008
Decision of the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 10, in Criminal Case No. CB-65243, convicting accused-
appellants Richard F. Tripoli and Romulo B. Impas for violation of Section 5, Article II, RA 9165,
otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 202514

ANNA MARIE L. GUMABON, Petitioner


vs.
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK, Respondent

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by Anna Marie
1

Gumabon (Anna Marie) assailing the December 16, 2011 decision and June 26, 2012 resolution of
2 3

the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV. No. 96289. The CA reversed the Regional Trial
Court (RTC)'s ruling in Civil Case No. Q-04-53432 favoring Anna Marie.
4

The Facts

On August 12, 2004, Anna Marie filed a complaint for recovery of sum of money and damages
before the RTC against the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and the PNB Delta branch manager
Silverio Fernandez (Fernandez). The case stemmed from the PNB’s refusal to release Anna Marie’s
money in a consolidated savings account and in two foreign exchange time deposits, evidenced
by Foreign Exchange Certificates of Time Deposit (FXCTD).

In 2001, Anna Marie, together with her mother Angeles and her siblings Anna Elena and Santiago,
(the Gumabons) deposited with the PNB Delta Branch $10,945.28 and $16,830.91, for which they
were issued FXCTD Nos. A-993902 and A-993992, respectively.
5 6

The Gumabons also maintained eight (8) savings accounts in the same bank. Anna Marie decided
7

to consolidate the eight (8) savings accounts and to withdraw ₱2,727,235.85 from the consolidated
savings account to help her sister’s financial needs.

Anna Marie called the PNB employee handling her accounts, Reino Antonio Salvoro (Salvoro), to
facilitate the consolidation of the savings accounts and the withdrawal. When she went to the bank
on April 14, 2003, she was informed that she could not withdraw from the savings accounts since her
bank records were missing and Salvoro could not be contacted.

On April 15, 2003, Anna Marie presented her two FXCTDs, but was also unable to withdraw against
them. Fernandez informed her that the bank would still verify and investigate before allowing the
withdrawal since Salvoro had not reported for work.

Thus, Anna Marie sent two demand letters dated April 23 and April 25, 2003 to the PNB.
8

After a month, the PNB finally consolidated the savings accounts and issued a passbook
for Savings Account (SA) No. 6121200. The PNB also confirmed that the total deposits amounted
9

to ₱2,734,207.36. Anna Marie, her mother, and the PNB executed a Deed of Waiver and
Quitclaim dated May 23, 2003 to settle all questions regarding the consolidation of the savings
10

accounts. After withdrawals, the balance of her consolidated savings account was ₱250,741.82.
On July 30, 2003, the PNB sent letters to Anna Marie to inform her that the PNB refused to honor its
obligation under FXCTD Nos. 993902 and 993992, and that the PNB withheld the release of the
11

balance of ₱250,741.82 in the consolidated savings account. According to the PNB, Anna Marie
12

pre-terminated, withdrew and/or debited sums against her deposits.

Thus, Anna Marie filed before the RTC a complaint for sum of money and damages against the
PNB and Fernandez. 13

As to the two FXCTDs, Anna Marie contended that the PNB’s refusal to pay her time deposits is
contrary to law. The PNB cannot claim that the bank deposits have been paid since the certificates
1âwphi1

of the time deposits are still with Anna Marie.


14

As to the consolidated savings account, Anna Marie stated that the PNB had already acknowledged
the account’s balance in the Deed of Waiver and Quitclaim amounting to ₱2,734,207.36. As of
January 26, 2004, the remaining balance was ₱250,741.82. PNB presented no concrete proof that
this amount had been withdrawn.

Anna Marie prayed that the PNB and Fernandez be held solidarily liable for actual, moral, and
exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees, costs of suit, and legal interests because of the
PNB’s refusal to honor its obligations.

In its answer, the PNB argued that: (1) Anna Marie is not entitled to the balance of the consolidated
15

savings account based on solutio indebiti; (2) the PNB already paid the $10,058.01 covered by
FXCTD No. 993902; (3) the PNB is liable to pay only $10,718.87 of FXCTD No. 993992, instead of
the full amount of $17,235.41; and (4) Anna Marie is guilty of contributory negligence. The PNB’s
arguments are discussed below.

First, Anna Marie is not entitled to the alleged balance of ₱250,741.82. The PNB’s investigation
showed that Anna Marie withdrew a total of ₱251,246.81 from two of the eight savings accounts
16

and she used this amount to purchase manager’s check No. 0000760633. Hence, ₱251,246.81
17

should be deducted from the sum agreed upon in the Deed of Waiver and Quitclaim. The PNB
offered photocopies of the PNB’s miscellaneous ticket and the manager’s check as evidence to
18

prove the withdrawals. The PNB argued that unjust enrichment would result if Anna Marie would be
allowed to collect ₱250,741.82 from the consolidated savings account without deducting her
previous withdrawal of ₱251,246.81.

Second, Anna Marie is not entitled to receive $10,058.01 covered by FXCTD No. 993902. Based on
the PNB’s records, Anna Marie pre-terminated FXCTD No. 993902 on March 11, 2002, and used the
deposit, together with another deposit covered by FXCTD No. 993914 (for $8,111.35), to purchase
a foreign demand draft (FX Demand Draft No. 4699831) payable to Anna Rose/Angeles Gumabon.
The PNB presented a facsimile copy of Anna Rose’s Statement of Account (SOA) from the PNB
19

Bank to prove that the amount covered by FXCTD No. 993902 was already paid.

Third, Anna Marie is only entitled to receive $10,718.87 instead of the full amount of $17,235.41
covered by FXCTD No. 993992 because: (a) the amount of $1,950.00 was part of the money used
by Anna Marie to purchase the manager’s check; (2) the amount of $2,566.54 was credited to
Current Account No. 227-810961-8 owned by Anna Marie’s aunt, Lolita Lim; and (3) the amount of
$2,000.00 was credited to Current Account No. 2108107498 of Anna Marie and Savings Account No.
212-5057333 of Anna Marie/or Angeles or Santiago/or Elena (all surnamed Gumabon). Hence, these
amounts should be deducted from the amount payable to Anna Marie.

Finally, the PNB alleged that Anna Marie was guilty of contributory negligence in her bank dealings.
In her reply, Anna Marie argued that the best evidence of her withdrawals is the withdrawal slips
20

duly signed by her and the passbooks pertaining to the accounts. PNB, however, failed to show any
of the withdrawal slips and/or passbooks, and also failed to present sufficient evidence that she used
her accounts’ funds.

The RTC Ruling

The RTC ruled in Anna Marie’s favour. 21

The RTC held that the PNB had not yet paid the remaining balance of $10,058.01 under FXCTD No.
993902. Anna Marie’s SOA, which the PNB relied upon, is a mere photocopy and does not satisfy
22

the best evidence rule. Moreover, there is no indication on the stated amounts in the SOA that the
funds have come from FXCTD No. 993902. The PNB failed to obtain the deposition of a PNC Bank
23

officer or present any other evidence to show that the amounts stated in the SOA came from FXCTD
No. 993902. The RTC also held that the alleged pre-termination of FXCTD No. 993902 on March 11,
2002, is hard to believe since the certificate shows that the last entry was made on March 24, 2003,
with a reflected balance of $10,058.01.

On FXCTD No. 993992, the RTC held that the PNB failed to prove Anna Marie’s alleged
withdrawals. These alleged withdrawals are not reflected at the back of the certificate. Anna Marie’s
ledger was also not presented as evidence to show that several withdrawals had been made against
FXCTD No. 993992.

On the consolidated savings account, the RTC held that the PNB failed to prove that Anna Marie
withdrew the balance of ₱250,741.82. The RTC excluded PNB’s evidence, i.e., photocopies of the
miscellaneous ticket and manager’s check, to prove the alleged withdrawals, since these documents
were just photocopies and thus failed to satisfy the best evidence rule.

The RTC awarded damages to Anna Marie due to the PNB’s mishandling of her account through its
employee, Salvoro. The RTC also held that the PNB failed to establish Anna Marie’s contributory
negligence.

In conclusion, the RTC ordered the PNB to pay Anna Marie these amounts:

(1) Actual damages of:

(a) $10,058.01, as the outstanding balance of FXCTD No. 993902;

(b) $20,244.42, as the outstanding balance of FXCTD No. 993992;and

(c) ₱250,741.82, as the outstanding balance of SA No. 6121200;

(2) ₱100,000.00 as moral damages;

(3) ₱50,000.00 as exemplary damages;

(4) ₱150,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

(5) Costs of suit.

From this ruling, the PNB appealed before the CA.


The CA Ruling

The CA reversed the RTC’s ruling. 24

The CA held that the PNB had paid the actual amounts claimed by Anna Marie in her complaint. The
CA noted Anna Marie’s suspicious and exclusive dealings with Salvoro and the Gumabons’
instruction to Salvoro to make unauthorized and unrecorded withdrawals. Hence, there are no
entries of withdrawals reflected in Anna Marie’s passbook.

The CA also considered Anna Rose’s SOA as proof that the PNB had paid the remaining balance of
$10,058.01 on FXCTD No. 993902. The CA held that the PNB verified the SOA and it was
corroborated by the affidavit of the PNB Branch Operations Officer in New York. The CA stated that
25

the RTC should have allowed the taking of the deposition of the PNB bank officer.

The CA also relied on the PNB’s investigation and concluded that the PNB had already paid the
amounts claimed by Anna Marie under FXCTD Nos. 993902 and 993992.

As to Anna Marie’s consolidated savings account, the CA gave credence to the miscellaneous ticket
and the manager’s check presented by the PNB to prove that it had already paid the balance.

Anna Marie moved but failed to obtain reconsideration of the CA’s decision; hence, the present
petition.
26

The Petition

Anna Marie filed the present petition for review to question the CA’s decision and resolution which
reversed the RTC’s ruling.

Anna Marie argues that: first, the CA should not have disregarded the RTC’s conclusive
findings; second, the CA erred in considering the PNB New York bank officer’s affidavit because it
was not formally offered as evidence; third, the CA erroneously relied on a foreign demand draft to
27

prove the PNB’s payment of the amount due under FXCTD No. 993902; fourth, the CA erroneously
considered the miscellaneous ticket and the manager’s check because these documents are mere
photocopies and inadmissible under the best evidence rule; and fifth, the CA’s conclusion about a
purported "connivance" between Anna Marie and Salvoro has no evidentiary basis.

In its comment, the PNB counters that: first, the CA can rectify the RTC’s factual findings since the
RTC committed errors in its appreciation of the evidence; second, the RTC completely ignored the
PNB’s several evidence proving its payment of Anna Marie’s FXCTDs; third, Anna Marie did not
refute the PNB’s allegations of payment; fourth, the CA has the right to review even those exhibits
which were excluded by the RTC; and fifth, the CA correctly ruled that the PNB should not be faulted
about the unrecorded transactions, and that the PNB had done its duty to its depositors when it
conducted investigations and an internal audit of Anna Marie’s accounts.

The Issues

The issue before this Court is whether Anna Marie is entitled to the payment of the following
amounts:

(a) $10,058.01 or the outstanding balance under FXCTD No. 993902;


(b) $20,244.42 for FXCTD No. 993992;

(c) ₱250,741.82 for SA No. 6121200; and

(3) Damages.

Our Ruling

We grant the petition and reverse the CA’s ruling.

The core issue raised in the present petition is a question of fact. As a general rule, a petition for
review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court covers only questions of law. Questions of fact are not
reviewable and cannot be passed upon by the Court in the exercise of its power to review under
Rule 45.28

There are, however, exceptions to the general rule. Questions of fact may be raised before this
Court in any of these instances: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations,
surmises, or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible;
(3) when there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on misappreciation of
facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings, the same are
contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to
those of the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main
and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised
on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record. 29

The present case falls under two of the exceptions, particularly that the CA’s findings are contrary to
the RTC’s findings, and that the CA’s findings of fact are premised on absent evidence and
contradicted by the evidence on record.

We note that the CA considered pieces of evidence which are inadmissible under the Rules of Court,
particularly the manager’s check and the corresponding miscellaneous ticket, Anna Rose’s SOA,
and the affidavit of the PNB New York’s bank officer. The inadmissibility of these documents is
explained more fully in the following discussion.

PNB failed to establish the fact of


payment to Anna Marie in FXCTD
Nos. 993902 and 993992, and SA No. 6121200.

It is a settled rule in evidence that the one who alleges payment has the burden of proving it. The
30

burden of proving that the debt had been discharged by payment rests upon the debtor once the
debt’s existence has been fully established by the evidence on record. When the debtor introduces
some evidence of payment, the burden of going forward with the evidence – as distinct from the
burden of proof – shifts to the creditor. Consequently, the creditor has a duty to produce evidence to
show non-payment. 31

In the present case, both the CA and the RTC declared that the PNB has the burden of proving
payment. The lower courts, however, differed in resolving the question of whether the PNB
presented sufficient evidence of payment to shift the burden of evidence to Anna Marie. The RTC
ruled that the PNB failed to do so, after excluding PNB’s evidence, i.e., miscellaneous ticket,
manager’s check, and the affidavit of the PNB New York’s bank officer, based on the rules of
evidence. The CA, on the other hand, considered the excluded evidence and found that the PNB
presented sufficient proof of payment.

i. The PNB’s alleged payment of


the amount covered by SA No.
6121200

The PNB alleged that it had already paid the balance of the consolidated savings account (SA No.
6121200) amounting to P250,741.82. It presented the manager’s check to prove that Anna Marie
purchased the check using the amounts covered by the Gumabon’s two savings accounts which
were later part of Anna Marie’s consolidated savings account. The PNB also presented the
miscellaneous ticket to prove Anna Marie’s withdrawal from the savings accounts.

The RTC denied the admission of the manager’s check and the miscellaneous ticket since the
original copies were never presented. The PNB moved to tender the excluded evidence and argued
32

that even without the presentation of the original copies, the photocopies are admissible because
they have been identified by Fernandez. 33

Evidence, to be admissible, must comply with two qualifications: (a) relevance and (b) competence.
Evidence is relevant if it has a relation to the fact in issue as to induce a belief in its existence or
nonexistence. On the other hand, evidence is competent if it is not excluded by the law or by the
34

Rules of Court. 35

One of the grounds under the Rules of Court that determines the competence of evidence is the best
evidence rule. Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that the original copy of the
document must be presented whenever the content of the document is under inquiry. 36

However, there are instances when the Court may allow the presentation of secondary evidence in
the absence of the original document. Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court enumerates these
exceptions:

(a) when the original has been lost, or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith
on the part of the offeror;

(b) when the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is
offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

(c) when the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined
in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general
result of the whole; and

(d) when the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public
office.

While the RTC cannot consider the excluded evidence to resolve the issues, such evidence may still
be admitted on appeal provided there has been tender of the excluded evidence under Section 40 of
Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. 37

The PNB cannot simply substitute the mere photocopies of the subject documents for the original
copies without showing the court that any of the exceptions under Section 3 of Rule 130 of the Rules
of Court applies. The PNB’s failure to give a justifiable reason for the absence of the original
documents and to maintain a record of Anna Marie’s transactions only shows the PNB’s dismal
failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty to Anna Marie. The Court expects the PNB to "treat the accounts of
38

its depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of their
relationship." The Court explained in Philippine Banking Corporation v. CA, the fiduciary nature of
39 40

the bank’s relationship with its depositors, to wit:

The business of banking is imbued with public interest. The stability of banks largely depends on the
confidence of the people in the honesty and efficiency of banks. In Simex International (Manila) Inc.
v. Court of Appeals we pointed out the depositor’s reasonable expectations from a bank and the
bank’s corresponding duty to its depositor, as follows:

In every case, the depositor expects the bank to treat his account with the utmost fidelity, whether
such account consists only of a few hundred pesos or of millions. The bank must record every
single transaction accurately, down to the last centavo, and as promptly as possible. This has
to be done if the account is to reflect at any given time the amount of money the depositor can
dispose of as he sees fit, confident that the bank will deliver it as and to whomever he directs.
(emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Consequently, the CA should not have admitted the subject documents even if the PNB tendered
the excluded evidence.

Notably, the PNB clearly admitted in the executed Deed of Waiver and Quitclaim that it owed Anna
Marie ₱2,734,207.36 under the consolidated savings account. After a number of uncontested
transactions, the remaining balance of Anna Marie’s deposit became ₱250,741.82. The inevitable
conclusion is that PNB’s obligation to pay ₱250,741.82 under SA No. 6121200 subsists.

ii. The PNB’s alleged payment of


the amount covered by FXCTD No. 993902

The PNB claimed that it had already paid the amount of $10,058.01 covered by FXCTD No. 993902.
It presented the foreign demand draft dated March 11, 2002 which Anna Marie allegedly purchased
with the funds of FXCTD No. 993902. In addition, the PNB also presented Anna Rose’s SOA to show
that there was a fund transfer involving the contested amount. To further support its claim, the PNB
annexed the affidavit of the PNB New York’s branch officer about the fund transfer. The PNB,
however, failed to formally offer the affidavit as evidence.

Anna Marie moved for the exclusion of the photocopy of Anna Rose’s SOA for failing to conform to
the best evidence rule. The RTC granted her motion and denied its admission. When the case
reached the CA, the CA stated that the RTC should have considered the evidence in the light of the
PNB’s identification of the SOA as an exact copy of the original and the claim that it is corroborated
by the affidavit of the PNB New York’s bank officer.

The PNB explained that its failure to present the original copy of Anna Rose’s SOA was because the
original was not in the PNB’s possession.

We rule that the SOA is inadmissible because it fails to qualify as relevant evidence. As the RTC
correctly stated, the SOA "does not show which of the amount stated therein came from the funds of
Certificate of Time Deposit No. A-993902." 41

The affidavit of the PNB New York’s bank officer is also inadmissible in the light of the following
self-explanatory provision of the Rules of Court:
"Sec. 34. Offer of evidence. – The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally
offered. x x x."
42

Formal offer means that the offeror shall inform the court of the purpose of introducing its exhibits
into evidence. Without a formal offer of evidence, courts cannot take notice of this evidence even if
this has been previously marked and identified. 43

In Heirs of Pedro Pasag v. Parocha, we reiterated the importance of a formal offer of evidence.
44

Courts are mandated to rest their factual findings and their judgment only and strictly upon the
evidence offered by the parties at the trial. The formal offer enables the judge to know the purpose or
purposes for which the proponent is presenting the evidence. It also affords the opposing parties the
chance to examine the evidence and to object to its admissibility. Moreover, it facilitates review as
the appellate court will not be required to review documents not previously scrutinized by the trial
court.

In People v. Napat-a, People v. Mate, and Heirs of Romana Saves, et al. v. Escolastico Saves, et
45 46

al., we recognized the exceptions from the requirement of a formal offer of evidence, namely: (a)
47

the evidence must have been duly identified by testimony duly recorded; and (b) the evidence must
have been incorporated in the records of the case.

It is unmistakable that the PNB did not include the affidavit of the PNB New York’s bank officer in its
formal offer of evidence to corroborate Anna Rose’s SOA. Although the affidavit was included in the
records and identified by Fernandez, it remains inadmissible for being hearsay. Jurisprudence
dictates that an affidavit is merely hearsay evidence when its affiant or maker did not take the
witness stand.48

In the present case, Fernandez is not the proper party to identify the affidavit executed by the PNB
New York’s bank officer since he is not the affiant. Therefore, the affidavit is inadmissible.

Thus, the PNB failed to present sufficient and admissible evidence to prove payment of the
$10,058.01.This failure leads us to conclude that the PNB is still liable to pay the amount covered by
FXCTD No. 993902.

iii. The PNB’s alleged payment of


the amount covered by FXCTD No. 993992

The PNB alleged that Anna Marie’s claim over FXCTD No. 993992 should only be limited to
$5,857.79. It presented the manager’s check, which admissibility we have heretofore discussed and
settled, and the miscellaneous tickets.

We cannot absolve the PNB from liability based on these miscellaneous tickets alone. As the RTC
correctly stated, the transactions allegedly evidenced by these tickets were neither posted at the
back of Anna Marie’s certificate, nor recorded on her ledger to show that several withdrawals had
been made on the account.

At this point, we remind the PNB of the negotiability of a certificate of deposit as it is a written
acknowledgment by the bank of the receipt of a sum of money on deposit which the bank promises
to pay to the depositor, to the latter’s order, or to some other person or the latter’s order. To
49

discharge a debt, the bank must pay to someone authorized to receive the payment. A bank acts at
50

its peril when it pays deposits evidenced by a certificate of deposit, without its production and
surrender after proper indorsement. 51
Again, as the RTC had correctly stated, the PNB should not have allowed the withdrawals, if there
were indeed any, without the presentation of the covering foreign certificates of time deposit. There
are no irregularities on Anna Marie’s certificates to justify the PNB’s refusal to pay the stated
amounts in the certificates when it was presented for payment.

Therefore, the PNB is liable for Anna Marie’s claims since it failed to prove that it had already been
discharged from its obligation.

PNB is liable to Anna Marie for actual, moral, and


exemplary damages as well as attorney’s fees for its
negligent acts as a banking institution.

Since the PNB is clearly liable to Anna Marie for her deposits, the Court now determines PNB’s
liability for damages under existing laws and jurisprudence.

Section 2 of Republic Act No. 8791, declares the State’s recognition of the "fiduciary nature of
52

banking that requires high standards of integrity and performance." It cannot be overemphasized
that the banking business is impressed with public interest. The trust and confidence of the public to
the industry is given utmost importance. Thus, the bank is under obligation to treat its depositor’s
53

accounts with meticulous care, having in mind the nature of their relationship. The bank is required
54

to assume a degree of diligence higher than that of a good father of a family. 55

As earlier settled, the PNB was negligent for its failure to update and properly handle Anna Marie’s
accounts. This is patent from the PNB’s letter to Anna Marie, admitting the error and unauthorized
withdrawals from her account. Moreover, Anna Marie was led to believe that the amounts she has in
her accounts would remain because of the Deed of Waiver and Quitclaim executed by her, her
mother, and PNB. Assuming arguendo that Anna Marie made the contested withdrawals, due
diligence requires the PNB to record the transactions in her passbooks.

The Court has established in a number of cases the standard of care required from banks, and the
bank’s liability for the damages sustained by the depositor. The bank is not absolved from liability by
the fact that it was the bank’s employee who committed the wrong and caused damage to the
depositor. Article 2180 of the New Civil Code provides that the owners and managers of an
56

establishment are responsible for damages caused by their employees while performing their
functions.57

In addition, we held in PNB v. Pike, that although the bank’s employees are the ones negligent, a
58

bank is primarily liable for the employees’ acts because banks are expected to exercise the highest
degree of diligence in the selection and supervision of their employees.

Indeed, a great possibility exists that Salvoro was involved in the unauthorized withdrawals. Anna
Marie entrusted her accounts to and made her banking transactions only through him. Salvaro’s
unexplained disappearance further confirms this Court’s suspicions. The Court is alarmed that he
was able to repeatedly do these unrecorded transactions without the bank noticing it. This only
shows that the PNB has been negligent in the supervision of its employees.

As to contributory negligence, the Court agrees with the RTC that the PNB failed to substantiate its
allegation that Anna Marie was guilty of contributory negligence.
Contributory negligence is conduct on the part of the injured party, contributing as a legal cause to
the harm he has suffered, which falls below the standard to which he is required to conform for his
own protection. Whether contributory negligence transpired is a factual matter that must be proven.
59

In the present case, Anna Marie cannot be held responsible for entrusting her account with Salvoro.
As shown in the records, Salvoro was the bank’s time deposit specialist. Anna Marie cannot thus be
faulted if she engaged the bank’s services through Salvoro for transactions related to her time
deposits.

The Court also cannot accept the CA’s conclusion that there was connivance between Anna Marie
and Salvoro. This conclusion is simply not supported by the records and is therefore baseless.

In these lights, we hold that Anna Marie is entitled to moral damages of ₱100,000.00. In cases of
breach of contract, moral damages are recoverable only if the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad
faith, or is guilty of gross negligence amounting to bad faith, or in clear disregard of his contractual
obligations. Anna Marie was able to establish the mental anguish and serious anxiety that she
60

suffered because of the PNB’s refusal to honor its obligations.

Anna Marie is likewise entitled to exemplary damages of ₱50,000.00. Article 2229 of the New Civil
Code imposes exemplary damages by way of example or correction for the public good. To repeat,
banks must treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care and always have in mind the
fiduciary nature of its relationship with them. Having failed to observe these, the award of exemplary
61

damages is justified.

As exemplary damages are awarded herein and as Anna Marie was compelled to litigate to protect
62

her interests, the award of attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation of ₱150,000.00 is proper.
63

Finally, we impose legal interest pursuant to the guidelines in Nacar v. Gallery Frames. We held in
64

that case that for interest awarded on actual and compensatory damages, the interest rate is
imposed as follows:

1. When the obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of money, i.e., a loan or
forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may have been stipulated in writing.
Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest from the time it is judicially demanded. In
the absence of stipulation, the rate of interest shall be 12% per annum [changed to 6% per
annumstarting July 1, 2013] to be computed from default, i.e., from extrajudicial demand under and
subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.

xxxx

3. When the judgment of the court awarding a sum of money becomes final and executory, the rate
of legal interest x x x shall be 6% per annum from such finality until its satisfaction. x x x

We note that pursuant to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas-Monetary Board Circular No. 799, the legal
interest rate is 6% per annum effective July 1, 2013. The new rate is applicable prospectively; thus,
the 12% per annum shall still apply until June 30, 2013.

In the present case, Anna Marie filed her complaint on August 12, 2004. PNB is therefore liable for
legal interest of 12% per annum from Augus t 12, 2004 until June 30, 2013, and 6% per annum from
July 1, 2013, until its full satisfaction.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed December 16, 2011 decision and June 26,
2012 resolution of the Court of Appeals is hereby reversed. The October 26, 2010 decision of the
Regional Trial Court is REINSTATED with MODIFICATIONS. Thus, the Philippine National Bank
is ORDERED to pay Anna Marie Gumabon the following:

(1) Actual damages of:

(a) $10,058.01, as the outstanding balance of FXCTD No. 993902;

(b) $ 20,244.42, as the outstanding balance of FXCTD No. 993992; and

(c) ₱250,741.82, as the outstanding balance of SA No. 6121200;

(2) Legal interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum of the total actual damages from August 12,
2004 to June 30, 2013, and six percent (6o/o) per annum from July 1, 2013 until full satisfaction;

(3) ₱l00,000.00 as moral damages;

(4) ₱50,000.00 as exemplary damages;

(5) ₱l50,000.00 as attorney's fees; and

(7) Costs of suit.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Financial Consumers Protection Department of the
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, for information and possible action in accordance with the Bangko
Sentral ng Pilipinas' mandate to protect the banking public.

SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 123546. July 2, 1998]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. JOERAL GALLENO,
Facts:
The victim Evelyn Obligar Garganera a 5-year old together with her younger brother, 3-year
old Eleazar, live under the care and custody of their uncle, Emetario Obligar, and aunt, Penicola
Obligar.The accused-appellant, is 19-year old Joeral Galleno. On August 16, 1994, Emetario
and Penicola left their residence to work at sugarcane plantation and the only persons left in
the house were Evelyn and Eleazar.
At around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Galleno passed by the Obligars' residence and found
the two children left to themselves. The prosecution and the defense presented conflicting
versions on what occurred at said residence. However, the result is undisputed. Evelyn
sustained a laceration in her vagina which result in profuse, life-threatening bleeding due to her
tender age.
For the prosecution, the victim herself testified that Galleno took advantage of the situation by
sexually molesting her. After lowering her shorts, he made Evelyn sit on his lap, facing him. The
penetration caused the child's vagina to bleed, making her cry in pain. Emeterio and Penicola
also testified that when they came home from work, they arrived to find Evelyn crying. Emetario
noticed that there was blood in Evelyn's dress and she was pressing a rug against her genital
organ. Dr. Alfonso D. Orosco, the Rural Health Physician reported, upon examining Evelyn, that
he found (1) clotted blood, and (2) a vaginal laceration.
On August 18, 1994, Emeterio brought Evelyn to the Roxas Memorial General Hospital were
she was examined by resident physician Dr. Ma. Lourdes Lañada. Dr. Lañada, testified that she
found that "there was a 3 cm. lacerated wound at the left anterior one-third of the vagina" and
"the pressence of about 10-15cc of blood" at the vaginal vault. Dr. Lañada recommended that
evelyn be admitted for confinement in the hospital because the wound in her vagina, which was
bleeding, had to be repaired. The following day, Evelyn was examined at Roxas Memorial
General Hospital again where she was attended to by Dr. Machael Toledo, the resident
physician on duty, who found blood clots and minimal bleeding in the genital area. Dr. Toledo "
… pack(ed) the area to prevent further bleeding and (he) … admitted the patient for possible
repair of the laceration and blood transfusion because she has anaemia 2ndary to bleeding."
The trial deemed the following circumstances significant in finding accused-appellant culpable
for the crime of Statutory Rape.
Hence, the instant appeal and review.

Issue:
The Trial Court erred in giving full weight and credence to the testimonies of the medical
doctors.

Ruling:
As a general rule, witnesses must state facts and not draw conclusions or give opinions. It is
the court's duty to draw conclusions from the evidence and form opinions upon the facts
proved. However, conclusions and opinions of witnesses are received in many cases, and are
not confined to expert testimony, based on the principle that either because of the special skill or
expert knowledge of the witness, or because of the nature of the subject matter under
observation, of for other reasons, the testimony will aid the court in reaching a judgment.
In the case at bar, the trial court arrived at its conclusions not only with the aid of the expert
testimony of doctors who gave their opinions as to the possible cause of the victim's laceration,
but also the testimony the victim herself. In other words, the trial court did not rely solely on the
testimony of the expert witnesses. Such expert testimony merely aided the trial court in the
exercise of its judgment on the facts. Hence, the fact that the experts enumerated various
possible causes of the victim's laceration does not mean the trial court's interference is wrong.
As regards the inconsistencies in Evelyn's declaration, particularly as to what really caused
the laceration, we are convinced that the child, due to her tender age, was just confused.
As regards accused-appellant's argument that the victim's testimony is just a concocted story
of what really happened, we apply the rule that the revelation of an innocent child whose
chastity was abused deserves full credence (People vs. Cagto, 253 SCRA 455 [1996]). We
likewise consider the fact that her uncle and aunt, virtually her foster parents, themselves
support her story of rape. It is unnatural for a parent to use her offspring as an engine of malice,
especially if it will subject a daughter to embarrassment and even stigma (People vs.
Dones,supra.)

WHEREFORE, finding the conviction of accused-appellant justified by the evidence on record,


the assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED.
Court of Appeals of Texas,Beaumont.
Tyrone Keith LEDAY, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.

No. 09-95-361 CR.
Decided: October 27, 1999
Before WALKER, C.J., BURGESS and STOVER, JJ. Donald W. Rogers, Jr., Richard
Haynes & Associates, P.C., Houston, for appellant. Daniel Rice, Dist. Atty., Gail Kikawa
McConnell, Asst. Dist. Atty., Conroe, for state.
OPINION ON RECONSIDERATION

Pursuant to tex.R.App. P. 50, we withdraw our opinion on remand of August 25, 1999, and substitute the
following in its place.

Appellant was convicted of Aggravated Possession of a Controlled Substance.   On direct appeal, we


affirmed the conviction.   See Leday v. State, No. 09-95-361-CR (Tex.App.-Beaumont, June 25, 1997) (not
designated for publication), 1997 WL 354770.   Appellant petitioned for review.   In reversing our
judgment affirming the conviction, the Court of Criminal Appeals abrogated approximately thirty years of
precedent in ultimately holding that a defendant who testifies at the punishment stage of a trial and
admits his guilt does not waive appellate review of any error alleged to have occurred during the
guilt/innocence stage of the trial.   See Leday v. State, 983 S.W.2d 713, 721-26 (Tex.Crim.App.1998).  
This former rule had become known as “the DeGarmo doctrine” “[b]ecause of the infamy of the case.”  Id.
at 723, n. 14. The Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case to us for substantive consideration of
appellant's complaints regarding the admissibility of the contraband used to prosecute him.

 The two issues appellant presents to us on remand contend the trial court erred in overruling Leday's
motion to suppress because (1) the cocaine seized from Leday and his companion, Ms. Lynch, was “the
product of an unreasonable warrantless detention without reasonable suspicion in violation of the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments,” and (2) the cocaine seized from Leday was “the product of an
unreasonable warrantless arrest and search of Leday without probable cause in violation of the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments.”   The basis for suppressing the contraband as set out in Leday's written
motion to suppress provides, “The search and seizure were made without probable cause and without
warrant.   That the arrest was illegal and without warrant.”   The deference an appellate court should
afford a trial court in reviewing a search and seizure ruling is often “determined by which judicial actor is
in a better position to decide the issue.”  Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 87 (Tex.Crim.App.1997).   If
the issue involves the credibility of a witness, thereby making the evaluation of that witness's demeanor
important, “compelling reasons exist for allowing the trial court to apply the law to the facts.”  Id.
Appellate courts should afford almost total deference to a trial court's determination of historical facts
that the record supports, especially when based on the trial court's evaluation of credibility and demeanor.
  See id. at 89.   An appellate court “should afford the same amount of deference to trial courts' rulings on
‘application of law to fact questions,’ also known as ‘mixed questions of law and fact,’ if the resolution of
those ultimate questions turns on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor.”  Id. However, “appellate
courts may review de novo ‘mixed questions of law and fact’ not falling within this category.”  Id. In the
instant case, the admissibility of the contraband involved mixed questions of law and fact that did turn, to
some extent, on the credibility of Officer Lawson.   We therefore afford the trial court deference in its
ultimate determination of the historical facts, and decide de novo whether the continued detention of
Lynch and Leday was reasonable.

The Court of Criminal Appeals set out the facts surrounding the discovery of the contraband as follows:
The appellant was the passenger in a vehicle which a deputy constable stopped for speeding.   The
officer's dog, which was trained to detect narcotics, began barking in the officer's car.   The driver asked if
the dog would bite someone who had cocaine on their person.   The officer said no.   The driver asked the
officer to take a bag out of her coat pocket in such a way that the appellant could see that she was not
giving it willfully.   The bag contained about 124 grams of “crack” cocaine.   The driver and the appellant
were arrested and taken to the constable's office.   After talking to the driver, the officer searched the
appellant's shoes and found about 28 more grams of “crack” cocaine.

Leday v. State, 983 S.W.2d at 714.

Appellant does not contend that the initial traffic stop was improper.   We will supply any further details
as needed as we discuss the issues presented.

The scope of a permissible temporary detention was succinctly set out in Davis v. State, 947 S.W.2d 240,
242-45 (Tex.Crim.App.1997).   In Davis, the Court reiterated the well-recognized rule that an
investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose
of the stop, and the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably
available to verify or dispel the officer's suspicion in a short period of time.  Id. at 244-45.   In the instant
case, the only evidence before the trial court when it ruled on Leday's suppression motion was the
testimony of the arresting officer, Craig Lawson.   Lawson's testimony indicates that he observed the
vehicle in which Leday was a passenger speeding at about 1:40 a.m. on November 24, 1993.   He stopped
the vehicle at that time.   The vehicle displayed Georgia licence plates.   During his conversation with the
driver, Ms. Lynch, Lawson noticed that she was “overly nervous” and at one point blurted out something
to the effect of, “Don't take us to jail․  We're not criminals.”   After getting driver's licence and insurance
information from Ms. Lynch, Lawson then spoke to Leday.   Lawson noted that Leday's responses to
questions about the couple's itinerary “did not match” the responses from Lynch. 1  Lawson then
requested, and was granted, written consent to search the vehicle from Lynch.   The time of the consent
was listed at “1:50” a.m. The elapsed time between the time of the traffic stop and the time Ms. Lynch
agreed to the search of her vehicle was only ten minutes.

 As noted in Davis, in a traffic stop situation, an officer may demand identification, a valid driver's
license, and proof of insurance from the driver.  Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 245, n. 6. From the record before
us, as Lawson was in the course of conducting these routine matters incident to the traffic stop, his
suspicions were raised by Lynch's excessive nervousness, her request to Lawson not to take she and Leday
to jail, and the inconsistent responses.   The continued detention of Lynch and Leday was certainly
reasonable up to the point of Lawson's request for consent to search the vehicle, as well as reasonable up
to the point when Lynch asked Lawson to retrieve the contraband from her coat.   Therefore, for Fourth
Amendment purposes, the continued detention of Lynch and Leday was reasonable up to the point that
Lynch voluntarily and unexpectedly asked Lawson to retrieve the contraband from her person.   Issue one
is overruled.

As we appreciate Leday's argument under his second issue, the sole determination is whether probable
cause existed for Leday's arrest following Lynch's relinquishment of the cocaine on her person to Lawson.
  In accordance with the standard of review discussed above, we will defer to the trial court's
determination of the historical facts, and decide de novo whether the officers had probable cause under
the totality of the circumstances to justify a warrantless arrest of Leday.

 State law, and not federal law, governs the legality of a state arrest so long as state law does not violate
federal constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.   See Amores v. State, 816
S.W.2d 407, 413 (Tex.Crim.App.1991).   To effectuate a full custodial arrest, an officer must have probable
cause to believe the person arrested has committed or is committing an offense.  Id. at 411;  Beck v. Ohio,
379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964).   Probable cause to arrest exists where the facts and
circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge and of which he has reasonably trustworthy
information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe an offense
has been or is being committed.   See Amores, 816 S.W.2d at 413.   The determination of probable cause
hinges on “ ‘the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent
[people], not legal technicians, act.’ ”  Woodward v. State, 668 S.W.2d 337, 345 (Tex.Crim.App.1982)
(opinion on reh'g)(quoting Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879
(1949)).   Probable cause requires more than mere suspicion but far less evidence than that needed to
support a conviction or to support a finding by a preponderance of the evidence.   See id.   The rule of
probable cause seeks to accommodate the sometimes opposing interests of (1) safeguarding citizens from
rash and unreasonable police conduct and (2) giving fair leeway to legitimate law enforcement efforts.  
Id. at 345-46.

The State argues “[t]he totality of the circumstances adduced at the motion to suppress hearing in this
case show that Deputy Lawson had probable cause to believe that Appellant and Ms. Lynch were involved
in hauling large amounts of cocaine.”   Therefore, the State contends, “Deputy Constable Lawson had
probable cause to arrest Appellant as a result of finding a large amount of crack cocaine in the possession
of Charmaine Lynch.”   The facts and circumstances relied upon the State are as follows:

(1) Deputies Lawson and Self lawfully stopped the car in which Appellant was a passenger for speeding 61
miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone.

(2) The traffic stop was made at approximately 1:40 a.m.

(3) The driver, Ms. Lynch, and Appellant were the only occupants of the car.

(4) As Ms. Lynch was getting her driver's license, she said to Deputy Lawson something to the effect of
“[d]on't take us to jail or something like that.   We're not criminals, something pertaining to that.”

(5) Deputy Lawson testified that he had made “too many” traffic stops in his career as a law enforcement
officer.   And, relative to other persons that he had stopped for speeding, Ms. Lynch was “overly nervous.”

(6) Deputy Lawson observed that the passenger, Appellant, “kept his eyes glued on us.”

(7) Appellant and Ms. Lynch gave Deputy Lawson different versions of where they had been and where
they were going.

(8) Ms. Lynch was very nervous after Deputy Lawson explained in response to her questions that he had
a drug dog to detect narcotics on Highway 59.

(9) Deputy Lawson related that after Ms. Lynch signed a consent to search form, she asked Deputy
Lawson, “Would you take the substance out of the inside of my coat without me having to do it, to give it
to you so Mr. Leday would not see her voluntarily․  She was concerned about taking the narcotics out of
her coat to give to me.  [She said,] ‘I'm scared for Tyrone to see me give this to you.   Would you take this
out of my pocket.”

(10) Deputy Lawson took a cookie of crack cocaine out of the inside pocket of Ms. Lynch's coat, a “form
[in] which people haul [cocaine] in large amounts.”

 We first note that the majority of the “facts and circumstances ․ known to Deputy Lawson,” do not even
mention any actions of Leday, much less indicate Leday was committing any offense.   Only two of the
facts relied upon involve any action by Leday-six and seven.   Fact six indicates that Leday “kept his eyes
glued on us.”   However, Deputy Lawson did not articulate the significance of that fact nor state that this
was unusual or that he drew any inference from this conduct.   Merely looking at a police car has been
held insufficient to constitute a basis for reasonable suspicion for a detention.   See Rodriguez v. State,
578 S.W.2d 419, 420 (Tex.Crim.App.1979);  see also Jones v. State, 567 S.W.2d 209, 211 (Tex.Crim.App.
[Panel Op.] 1978)(looking at a police car not out of the ordinary or connected with crime);  Luera v. State,
561 S.W.2d 497, 499 (Tex.Crim.App. [Panel Op.] 1978)(looking straight ahead and not looking at officers
insufficient for a finding of reasonable suspicion);  but see Renteria v. State, 989 S.W.2d 114 (Tex.App.-
San Antonio 1999, rev. ref'd)(agents' testimony that it had been their experience that smugglers would
stare straight ahead and not look at officers when their lights were illuminated held sufficient among
other factors for determination of reasonable suspicion).
 Fact seven, the inconsistent stories of Lynch and Leday, is a factor which could be used to articulate a
reasonable suspicion and justify the temporary detention of both.   See Fields v. State, 932 S.W.2d 97, 105
(Tex.App.-Tyler 1996, pet. ref'd).   However, here the inconsistent stories must provide more than
reasonable suspicion, they must rise to the level of warranting a person of reasonable cause to believe an
offense has been or is being committed.   We are unable, as was the trial court, to determine the extent of
the inconsistency as the record does not contain those “stories.”

 The State places a great deal of reliance on the fact that the amount of cocaine found on Lynch
implicates Leday.   This reliance on quantity is misplaced.   A person's mere proximity or propinquity to
others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise to probable cause.  
See Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85, 91, 100 S.Ct. 338, 62 L.Ed.2d 238 (1979).   The State also relies heavily
upon Lynch's concern about relinquishing the drugs to Lawson and her concern about Leday's interest
and attitude about this transaction.   However, Lynch's state of mind cannot provide probable cause to
arrest Leday for possession of the cocaine found on Lynch.

 The facts relating to Leday's behavior which could indicate Leday was committing an offense simply do
not rise above the level of mere suspicion.   See Woodward, 668 S.W.2d at 345.  “The perceived events
must be out of the ordinary, suspicious and tie a suspect with a criminal act.”   Stull v. State, 772 S.W.2d
449, 451 (Tex.Crim.App.1989).   We reject the State's position that probable cause to arrest Leday existed
merely because Lynch possessed a large amount of crack cocaine.   Having reviewed Leday's contentions
de novo, we find under the totality of the circumstances the deputy did not have probable cause to justify a
warrantless arrest of Leday, therefore the seizure was unreasonable. 2  Consequently, the trial court erred
in failing to suppress the evidence found as a result of the constitutionally infirm arrest.   Point of error
two is sustained.

Suffice to say this is a constitutional error and we are unable to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, it
did not contribute to the conviction.   See T ex. R. App. P. 44.2(a).   The judgment of the trial court is
reversed.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

While the majority does conduct a proper analysis of the evidence as mandated by the Court in Guzman v.
State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 87 (Tex.Crim.App.1997), the majority continues to miss what appears to me to be
the essence of the Guzman case.   After quoting from the court of appeals' opinion as to what does not
constitute probable cause, the Court of Criminal Appeals provides what seems to be the proper focus, viz:

While this [the court of appeals' statement on what probable cause is not] principle is well-established,
the Court failed to appreciate the definition of probable cause.   Probable cause exists where the police
have reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a reasonable person to believe a particular
person has committed or is committing an offense. [citation omitted] The determination of the existence
of probable cause concerns “the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable
and prudent [people], not legal technicians, act.” [citation omitted] Probable cause deals with
probabilities;  it requires more than mere suspicion but far less evidence than that needed to support a
conviction or even that needed to support a finding by a preponderance of the evidence. [citations
omitted] The rule of probable cause seeks to accommodate the sometimes opposing interests of
safeguarding citizens from rash and unreasonable police conduct and giving fair leeway to legitimate law
enforcement efforts. [citation omitted]

Id.

It is clear to me that considering the ten facts and circumstances enumerated in the majority's opinion in
their totality, the arrest of appellant was neither “rash” nor “unreasonable” police conduct.   Having in his
hand a “cookie” of cocaine and knowing it to be in a form that “people haul in large amounts” required
Deputy Lawson to apply “factual and practical considerations of everyday life” in making the ultimate
determination that appellant was a joint possessor, along with his traveling companion, of the contraband
in question.   Clearly Deputy Lawson's arrest of appellant was not the act of a “legal technician,” but that
of a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer.   I have continually read and re-read the facts and
circumstances described in Guzman and have compared those to the facts and circumstances in the
instant case.   I continue to find that, at the point of the respective arrests, Deputy Lawson had as much, if
not more, “reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a reasonable person to believe” that
appellant was committing the crime of possession of a controlled substance than did Officer Cardenas in
Guzman.   As such, the probable cause standard discussed by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Guzman is
easily met in the instant case.   Because the majority “fail[s] to appreciate the definition of probable
cause,” I must issue this dissent.
G.R. No. 204289

FERNANDO MANCOL, JR., Petitioner


vs.
DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari is the Decision dated February 22, 2012 and
1 2

Resolution dated September 27, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA), Visayas Station in CA-G.R.
3

CEB-CV No. 03030, affirming the Orders dated June 13, 2008, November 4, 2008 and April 17,
4 5

2009 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calbayog City, Branch 31 in Civil Case No. 923.
6

Factual Antecedents

Respondent Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), scheduled an Invitation to Bid for
Negotiated Sale on October 13, 2004 at the Mezzanine Floor, over a residential lot with a two-storey
building (subject property) covered by TCT No. 2041 located at Navarro Street, Calbayog City, and
with Tax Declaration (TD) Nos. 990100600931 and 990100600479 with a purchase price of
7 8

₱l,326,000. 9

In line with this, Fernando Mancol, Jr. (petitioner) executed a Special Power of Attorney
(SPA) appointing his father, Fernando Mancol, Sr. (Mancol, Sr.), to represent and negotiate, on his
10

behalf, the sale of the subject property. Pursuant to the SPA, Mancol, Sr. signed the Negotiated Offer
to Purchase and Negotiated Sale Rules and Procedures/Disposition of Assets on a First-Come First
11

Served Basis. DBP then issued an Official Receipt (O.R.) No. 3440018 dated October 13, 2004, in
12 13

the name of Fernando R. Mancol, Jr., paid by Fernando M. Mancol, Sr., in the amount of ₱265,200,
as initial payment for the purchase price of the subject property. During the negotiations, DBP
officials allegedly agreed, albeit verbally, to: (1) arrange and effect the transfer of title of the lot in
petitioner's name, including the payment of capital gains tax (CGT); and (2) to get rid of the
occupants of the subject property. 14

Petitioner paid the balance in the amount of ₱1,060,800, as evidenced by O.R. No. 3440451 dated 15

December 10, 2004. Thereafter, DBP, through its Branch Manager Jorge B. Albarillo, executed a
Deed of Absolute Sale, in petitioner's favor.
16

On December 21, 2004, petitioner made a deposit with DBP for the payment of the CGT and
documentary stamp tax (DST) in the amount of ₱99,450. DBP acknowledged the deposit and issued
O.R. No. 3440537. 17

Sometime in 2006, DBP reneged on its undertaking based on the oral agreement. DBP returned to
the petitioner all the pertinent documents of the sale and issued a Manager's Check (MC) No.
0000956475 in the amount of ₱99,450.
18 19
In a Letter dated February 21, 2006, petitioner through its counsel demanded from DBP to comply
20

with its verbal undertaking. He returned the MC and all pertinent documents affecting the sale of the
subject property to DBP.

DBP, through its Letter dated April 22, 2006, disregarded the subsequent oral agreement and
21

reminded petitioner that DBP has no obligation to eject the occupants and to cause the transfer of
title of the lot in petitioner's name.

Meanwhile, Mancol, Sr. wrote a Letter dated May 15, 2006 to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)
22

requesting for a detailed computation of the CGT and DST with penalties and surcharges thereof
affecting the sale of the subject property. The BIR, through its Letter dated May 24, 2006 came out
23

with a detailed computation in the total of ₱160,700.88.

In a Letter dated June 2, 2006, petitioner proposed to DBP that he will facilitate the payment of the
24

CGT and DST but DBP should shoulder the penalties and surcharges. The proposal, however, was
turned down. As of March 7, 2007, the total amount to be paid which is necessary for the transfer of
the title in petitioner's name ballooned to ₱183,553.61 and counting. 25

On August 24, 2006, petitioner filed a Complaint for damages for breach of contract against DBP
26

before the RTC of Calbayog City, Branch 31. He prayed that DBP be found to have breached its
obligation with petitioner; that DBP be held liable to pay the aggregate amount of ₱160,700.88 and
surcharges which may be imposed by the BIR at the time of payment; that DBP be ordered to pay
damages and attorney's fees; and that DBP be ordered to return the MC dated February 8, 2006 for
₱99,450.

In its Answer with Counter-Claim, DBP alleged that the terms of the
27

Deed of Absolute Sale stated no condition that DBP will work on the document of transfer and to
eject the occupants thereon. Assuming that DBP's officials made such a promise, DBP alleged that
28

the same would not be possible since the petitioner did not give any money to DBP for other
expenses in going to and from Calbayog City. DBP likewise alleged that it is not the bank's policy to
work for the registration of the instrument of sale of properties. DBP further claimed that petitioner's
29

unilateral act in issuing a check to DBP does not constitute as evidence to prove that DBP assumed
the responsibility of registering the instrument of sale. By way of counterclaim, DBP averred that
petitioner grossly violated the terms and conditions of the agreement of sale. Petitioner failed to
30

pay, reimburse or assume the financial obligation consequent to the initiation and filing of the writ of
possession by DBP against the occupants. Petitioner's failure was contrary to his promise and
assurance that he will pay. Petitioner did not comply with the clear and express provisions of the
Deed of Absolute Sale and of the rules and procedures of sale on negotiation. DBP, thus, prayed
that the complaint be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and that petitioner be ordered to assume the
burden of initiating the ejectment suit and to pay DBP damages, attorney's fees and cost of suit
amounting to ₱200,000.

On February 20, 2007, the RTC issued an Order declaring DBP in default by reason of its counsel's
31

failure to appear during the pre-trial and to file its pre-trial brief.

Trial ensued.

During the trial, Rodel Villanueva testified that he was the one commissioned or ordered by a
32

certain Atty. Mar De Asis (Atty. De Asis) of DBP, to go to BIR-Catbalogan, and to bring the following
documents: a check worth PhP99,450.00, the amount for the CGT, the title, the TD, and the deed of
sale.
33
Mancol, Sr. testified that he signed the Negotiated Offer to Purchase and Negotiated Sale Rules
34

and Procedures/Disposition of Assets on a First-Come First Served Basis on behalf of his son, by
virtue of the SPA. He stated that after the execution and delivery of the Deed of Absolute Sale, DBP
35

verbally agreed to facilitate the transfer of the title, the payment of the CGT, and to cause the
vacation of the occupants of the house and lot. Although he admitted that the verbal agreement
contradicted the negotiated rules and agreement. He stated that DBP undertook to get rid of the
36

occupants, when its lawyer filed an Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Possession dated
37

January 11, 2005, which is pending in the RTC. 38

On April 14, 2008, the R TC Decision ruled in favor of the petitioner, and ordered DBP to return to
39

petitioner the amount of ₱99,450 deposited to it for payment of the CGT and DST; to pay the
surcharges and/or interests on the CGT and DST as may be determined by the BIR from June 12,
2005 up to the date of payment; and to pay the petitioner attorney's fees in the amount of ₱l5,000.
The RTC likewise dismissed DBP's counterclaim. 40

Thereafter, DBP moved for the reconsideration of the RTC's Decision. DBP alleged, among others,
41

that the testimonies of Villanueva and Mancol, Sr. were hearsay because their statements were
based on facts relayed to them by other people and not based on their personal knowledge.

On June 13, 2008, the RTC Order granted DBP's motion and dismissed petitioner's complaint.
42

Petitioner moved for the reconsideration of the June 13, 2008 Order. For the first time, petitioner
43

alleged that through his father, Mancol, Sr., he entered into a contemporaneous verbal agreement
with DBP. He argued that since his father was his attorney-in-fact, then his father had personal
knowledge of all transactions involving the sale of the subject property. The motion, however, was
denied in the RTC Order dated November 4, 2008. The RTC affirmed with modification its June 13,
44

2008 Order, to read thus:

WHEREFORE, this court finds no reason to disturb its order dated June 13, 2008, subject only to a
modification that [DBP] is directed to return to the [petitioner], the total amount of ₱99,450.00
deposited to it for the payment of the [CGT] and [DST], with interest of six percent (6%) per
annum from December 21, 2004 until its return to the [petitioner].

SO ORDERED. 45

DBP sought reconsideration of the RTC Order dated November 4, 2008, which however, was
46

denied by the RTC in its Order dated April 17, 2009. The RTC ruled that DBP has waived its right to
47

question the return of ₱99,450 to the petitioner since DBP failed to refute such an issue in the RTC
Decision dated April 14, 2008.

Both petitioner and DBP appealed the RTC Order dated June 13, 2008 and November 4, 2008,
48 49

respectively, with the CA.

On February 22, 2012, the CA in its Decision, denied both appeals, the dispositive portion of which
50

reads, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the appeals filed in this case are hereby DENIED.
The assailed Orders dated June 13, 2008, November 4, 2008 and April 17, 2009 of the [RTC],
Branch 31 of Calbayog City in Civil Case No. 923 are AFFIRMED. Costs to be shouldered equally by
both parties.
SO ORDERED. 51

Thereafter, petitioner filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration, while DBP filed a Motion for
52

Reconsideration, seeking the reversal of the CA Decision dated February 22, 2012. Both motions,
53

however, were denied in the CA Resolution dated September 27, 2012.


54

Henceforth, only the petitioner filed the instant appeal anchored on the following arguments:

I. THE TESTIMONIES OF [PETITIONER'S] WITNESSES, [VILLANUEVA] AND [MANCOL, SR.] ARE


BASED ON PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE AND NOT HEARSAY EVIDENCE, AND THAT THEY
SUFFICIENTI.JY ESTABLISHED THE EXISTENCE AND VALIDITY OF A SUBSEQUENT ORAL
AGREEMENT BETWEEN [PETITIONER] AND DBP TO (1) ARRANGE AND EFFECT THE
TRANSFER OF THE TORRENS TITLE IN THE NAME OF [PETITIONER], INCLUDING PAYMENT
OF [CGT] AND [DSTs], AND (2) TO GET RID OF THE OCCUPANTS IN THE SUBJECT
PROPERTY[;]

II. UNDISPUTED RELEVANT AND MATERIAL EVIDENCE ON RECORD ESTABLISHED THE


EXISTENCE AND VALIDITY OF THE SUBSEQUENT ORAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN MANCOL,
JR. AND DBP, AND THAT TO IGNORE THEM IS TO SANCTION VIOLATION OF MANCOL. JR.'S
DUE PROCESS RIGHTS[; AND]

III. [PETITIONER] IS ENTITLED TO THE PAYMENT OF' MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES,
ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS OF SUIT. 55

The petition/ails.

The above assignment of errors make it evident that the only issue involved in this appeal is one of
fact: whether or not the testimonies of petitioner's witnesses, Villanueva and Mancol, Sr., should be
given probative value to establish the alleged contemporaneous verbal agreement in the sale
contract, i.e., that DBP bound itself to arrange and effect the transfer of title of the lot in petitioner's
name; and, get rid of the occupants of the subject property.

We answer in the negative.

"The parol evidence rule forbids any addition to, or contradiction of, the terms of a written agreement
by testimony or other evidence purporting to show that different terms were agreed upon by the
parties, varying the purport of the written contract." 56

This, however, is merely a general rule. Provided that a party puts in issue in its pleading any of the
exceptions in the second paragraph of Rule 130, Section 9 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, a
57

party may present evidence to modify, explain or add to the terms of the agreement. "Moreover, as
with all possible objections to the admission of evidence, a party's failure to timely object is deemed
a waiver, and parol evidence may then be entertained. 58

In the case of Maunlad Savings & Loan Assoc., Inc. v. CA, the Court held that:
59

The rule is that objections to evidence must be made as soon as the grounds therefor become
reasonably apparent. In the case of testimonial evidence, the objection must be made when the
objectionable question is asked or after the answer is given if the objectionable features become
apparent only by reason of such answer, otherwise the objection is waived and such evidence will
form part of the records of the case as competent and complete evidence and all parties are thus
amenable to any favorable or unfavorable effects resulting from the evidence. (Citations omitted)
60

Here, in order to prove the verbal agreement allegedly made by DBP, petitioner invoked the fourth
exception under the parol evidence rule, i.e., the existence of other terms agreed to by the parties or
their successors-in-interest after the execution of the written agreement, by offering the testimonies
of Villanueva and Mancol, Sr.

The bank, however, failed to make a timely objection against the said testimonies during the trial
since DBP was declared in default. Thus, DBP waived the protection of the parol evidence rule.

This notwithstanding, We stress that the admissibility of the testimonial evidence as an exception to
the parol evidence rule does not necessarily mean that it has weight. Admissibility of evidence
should not be confounded with its probative value.

"The admissibility of evidence depends on its relevance and competence, while the weight of
evidence pertains to evidence already admitted and its tendency to convince and persuade." The 61

admissibility of a particular item of evidence has to do with whether it meets various tests by which
its reliability is to be determined, so as to be considered with other evidence admitted in the case in
arriving at a decision as to the truth. The weight of evidence is not determined mathematically by
62

the numerical superiority of the witnesses testifying to a given fact, but depends upon its practical
effect in inducing belief on the part of the judge trying the case. "Admissibility refers to the question
63

of whether certain pieces of evidence are to be considered at all, while probative value refers to the
question of whether the admitted evidence proves an issue." "Thus, a particular item of evidence
64

may be admissible, but its evidentiary weight depends on judicial evaluation within the guidelines
provided by the rules of evidence." 65

It is a basic rule in evidence that a witness can testify only on the facts that he knows of his own
personal knowledge, i.e., those which are derived from his own perception. A witness may not
66

testify on what he merely learned, read or heard from others because such testimony is considered
hearsay and may not be received as proof of the truth of what he has learned, read or
heard. Hearsay evidence is evidence, not of what the witness knows himself but, of what he has
67

heard from others; it is not only limited to oral testimony or statements but likewise applies to written
statements. 68

The personal knowledge of a witness is a substantive prerequisite for accepting testimonial evidence
that establishes the truth of a disputed fact. A witness bereft of personal knowledge of the disputed
69

fact cannot be called upon for that purpose because his testimony derives its value not from the
credit accorded to him as a witness presently testifying but from the veracity and competency of the
extrajudicial source of his information. 70

Guided by these precepts, Villanueva's testimony falls within the category of hearsay evidence.
Contrary to petitioner's claim, Villanueva had no personal inkling as to the contemporaneous verbal
agreement between petitioner and DBP. In fact, there was no such verbal agreement. As admitted by
the petitioner, the alleged verbal agreement was entered into between DBP and Mancol, Sr., by
virtue of the SP A. Villanueva has no personal knowledge of such fact. His testimony related only to
the fact that Atty. De Asis ordered him to go to BIR-Catbalogan, and bring the following documents: a
check worth ₱99,450, the amount for the CGT, title, TD, and the deed of sale. None of Villanueva's
acts would suggest, even remotely, that he personally knew about the verbal agreement.

As correctly pointed out by the CA:


[Villanueva] did not personally witness the perfection of the alleged contemporaneous agreement
between Mancol, Jr. and DBP. Furthermore, he had no personal knowledge of its existence. His
testimony merely touched on the alleged denial by the Revenue Office of the payment of the [CGT]
on the subject property and the subsequent execution of a new deed of conveyance by the DBP. It is
clear then that his testimony did not bolster [petitioner's] allegation to any degree.
71

The same conclusion can be drawn from Mancol, Sr.'s testimony. Although the records show that by
virtue of an SP A executed by the petitioner, Mancol, Sr. signed the Negotiated Offer to Purchase,
including the Negotiated Sale Rules and Procedures/Disposition of Assets on a First-Come First
Served Basis, and that he made the initial payment for the sale, there is dearth of evidence to prove
that indeed, he personally entered into a verbal agreement with DBP. Upon being asked what
transpired after the delivery of the Deed of Absolute Sale, Mancol, Sr. simply answered that DBP
agreed to undertake the transfer of title of the lot, and to oust the occupants. There was no mention
as to who actually and personally appeared before DBP or any of its officials in order to forge the
alleged verbal agreement. Thus:

(DIRECT EXAMINATION by Atty. Elino Chin, counsel for

Witness: [Mancol, Sr.])

xxxx

ATTY. CHIN

Q After the delivery of this Exh. "H'', what transpired?

A The bank agreed to facilitate the transfer of the title and the payment of the [CGT] to get rid of the
present occupants of the house and lot.

Q You said that the bank agreed, is that in writing?

A Only verbal.

Q That does not contradict the negotiated rules and agreement?

A Yes, but there was a verbal undertaking for them to do what was agreed upon.

x x x x. 72

Additionally, the RTC aptly observed that:

[N]owhere in the records would also reveal that the agreement to arrange and effect the transfer of
title over the subject lot was entered into between [DBP] and [Mancol, Sr.], for and on behalf of the
[petitioner].

x x x The [SPA] authorizes [Mancol, Sr.] to represent the [petitioner] and negotiate before the DBP,
Catarman Branch on the invitation to bid on he sale of the lot covered by TCT No. 2041 scheduled
on October 13, 2004, as well as to sign or execute and receive any paper or document necessary for
said purposes. This explains why it was Mancol, Sr. who signed the Negotiated Offer to Purchase
and the Negotiated Sale Rules and Procedure, and who paid to DBP the initial payment of the
purchase price on October 13, 2004 in [petitioner's] behalf. It was not established however whether
the subsequent payments and other transactions, including the act of entering into an oral
agreement with [DBP] that it will effect the transfer of the subject title, were also carried out by
Fernando Mancol, Sr. in behalf of [petitioner].

The [petitioner] fails [sic] to show with whom the [DBP] agreed to arrange and effect the transfer of
the title in his name. Thus, as there is no showing that it was [Mancol, Sr.] who entered into such
1âwphi1

agreement with [DBP] or that he was personally present during the perfection of the agreement and
witnessed the same, any statement from the latter as to the circumstances relative to the perfection
of such oral agreement would indeed be hearsay. 73

Assuming for argument's sake that Mancol, Sr., on behalf of petitioner, entered into a verbal
agreement with DBP, such agreement would remain unenforceable. Despite petitioner's insistence,
the act of entering into a verbal agreement was not stipulated in the SPA. The authority given to
Mancol, Sr. was limited to representing and negotiating, on petitioner's behalf, the invitation to bid on
the sale of the subject lot, which is specifically worded as follows:

I, FERNANDO R. MANCOL, JR., xxx by these presents do hereby name, constitute and appoint my
father Fernando M. Manco, Sr., as true and lawful attorney-in-fact, for me, in my name, place and to
do and perform the following:

1. To represent and negotiate before the DBP Catarman Branch regarding the INVITATION TO BID
FOR NEGOTIATED SALE scheduled on October 13, 2004 at the Mezzanine Floor, the subject
Residential Lot with two storey building (TCT No. 2041) located at Navarro Street, Calbayog City;
and

2. To sign, or execute and receive any paper or document necessary for the above purpose.

x x x x.
74

There is nothing in the language of the SP A from which We could deduce the intention of petitioner
to authorize Mancol, Sr. to enter into a verbal agreement with DBP. Indeed, it has been held that
"[w]here powers and duties are specified and defined in an instrument, all such powers and duties
are limited and are confined to those which are specified and defined, and all other powers and
duties are excluded." Clearly, the power to enter into a verbal agreement with DBP is conspicuously
75

inexistent in the SPA.

To adopt the intent theory advanced by petitioner, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to
that effect, would run afoul of the express tenor of the SPA. It would likewise be contrary to "the rule
that a power of attorney must be strictly construed and pursued. The instrument will be held to grant
only those powers which are specified therein, and the agent may neither go beyond nor deviate
from the power of attorney." 76

It is axiomatic that this Court will not review, much less reverse, the factual findings of the CA,
especially where, as in this case, such findings coincide with those of the trial court, since this Court
is not a trier of facts.

All told, therefore, the Court finds no reason or basis to grant the petition.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated February 22, 2012 and Resolution dated
September 27, 2012 of the Court of Appeals, Visayas Station in CA-G.R. CEB-CV No. 03030
are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

Case Digest in Evidence (Remedial Law): BPI vs.


Reyes
BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS vs. JESUSA P. REYES and
CONRADO B. REYES

[G.R. No. 157177, February 11, 2008]

FACTS:

On December 7, 1990, respondent Jesusa Reyes together with her


daughter, went to BPI Zapote Branch to open an ATM account.

Respondent informed one of petitioners employees, Mr. Capati, that they


wanted to open an ATM account for the amount of P200,000.00,
P100,000.00 of which shall be withdrawn from her exiting savings account
with BPI bank which is account no. 0233-2433-88 and the other
P100,000.00 will be given by her in cash.

Capati allegedly made a mistake and prepared a withdrawal slip for


P200,00.00 to be withdrawn from her existing savings account with said
bank and the respondent believing in good faith that Capati prepared the
papers with the correct amount signed the same unaware of the mistakes
in figures.

Minutes later after the slips were presented to the teller, Capati returned to
where the respondent was seating and informed the latter that the
withdrawable balance could not accommodate P200,000.00.

Respondent explained that she is withdrawing the amount of P100,000.00


only and then changed and correct the figure two (2) into one (1) with her
signature super-imposed thereto signifying the change, afterwhich the
amount of P100,000.00 in cash in two bundles containing 100 pieces of
P500.00 peso bill were given to Capati with her daughter Joan witnessing
the same. Thereafter Capati prepared a deposit slip for P200,000.00 in the
name of resondent Jesusa Reyes with the new account no. 0235-0767-48
and brought the same to the teller's booth.
After a while, he returned and handed to the respondent her duplicate copy
of her deposit to account no. 0235-0767-48 reflecting the amount of
P200,000.00 with receipt stamp showing December 7, as the date.

Later on, respondent would become aware that her ATM account only
contained the amount of P100,000.00 with interest. Hence, she filed an
action before the RTC.

Petitioner claimed that there was actually no cash involved with the
transactions which happened on December 7, 1990 as contained in the
bank’s teller tape.

On August 12, 1994, the RTC issued a Decision upholding the versions of
respondents.

Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the CA which affirmed the RTC decision


with modification

ISSUE:

Whether the CA erred in sustaining the RTC's finding that respondent


Jesusa made an initial deposit of P200,000.00 in her newly opened
Express Teller account on December 7, 1990.

HELD:

It is a basic rule in evidence that each party to a case must prove his own
affirmative allegations by the degree of evidence required by law. In civil
cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by
preponderance of evidence, or that evidence which is of greater weight or
is more convincing than that which is in opposition to it. It does not mean
absolute truth; rather, it means that the testimony of one side is more
believable than that of the other side, and that the probability of truth is on
one side than on the other.

For a better perspective on the calibration of the evidence on hand, it must


first be stressed that the judge who had heard and seen the witnesses
testify was not the same judge who penned the decision. Thus, not having
heard the testimonies himself, the trial judge or the appellate court would
not be in a better position than this Court to assess the credibility of
witnesses on the basis of their demeanor.

Hence, to arrive at the truth, we thoroughly reviewed the transcripts of the


witnesses' testimonies and examined the pieces of evidence on record.

After a careful and close examination of the records and evidence


presented by the parties, we find that respondents failed to successfully
prove by preponderance of evidence that respondent Jesusa made an
initial deposit of P200,000.00 in her Express Teller account.
PEOPLE vs. AMANSEC G.R. No. 186131
December 14, 2011 R. A. No. 9165,
Dangerous Drugs, buy-bust operation,
Chain of Custody, Section 5, Article II of
Republic Act No. 9165, Sale of Illegal
Drugs, Non-Presentation of the
Informant, Absence of Surveillance,
Defense of Frame up and Denial
O C TOB E R 19, 2 0 17

FACTS:

OIC Police Inspector Villanueva together with PO1 Mabutol, Jr., PO2 Pascua, and PO1 
Valencia, formed a team for a buy­bust operation against Benjamin Amansec with the help of an 
informant. The informant then introduced Mabutol to Amansec as a drug addict. Mabutol had 
just told Amansec that he was going to purchase one hundred pesos worth of shabu when another
buyer, later identified as Jerome Pintis, came up to Amansec to also buy shabu. Amansec then 
showed both Pintis and Mabutol three plastic sachets containing crystalline substance. Pintis 
gave a one hundred peso bill to Amansec and picked one of the three plastic sachets.

After Pintis left, Amansec continued his transaction with Mabutol, and gave Mabutol another of 
the remaining two plastic sachets after receiving the buy­bust money. Valencia immediately 
arrested Pintis and recovered from the latter one plastic sachet. Pascua thereafter frisked 
Amansec and retrieved the buy­bust money and another plastic sachet. The team also marked 
with their initials the plastic sachets that they had recovered and turned them over to their 
Investigator. They later brought the plastic sachets to the Crime Laboratory to have their contents
examined and the result showed positive for the presence of shabu.
Amansec was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic
Act No. 9165.

In convicting Amansec of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, the RTC held
that the prosecution was able to establish and satisfy the elements in the sale of illegal drugs.

However, the RTC acquitted Amansec of the illegal possession of dangerous drugs charge.

ISSUE:

1. Whether or not the lower court was correct in finding the accused guilty of SALE of 
ILLEGAL DRUGS despite the non­presentation of the informant and absence of surveillance.

2. Whether or not the chain of custody of evidence was established.

3. Rule on the accused’s defense of denial and frame­up.

4. Whether the elements of the sale of dangerous drugs were established in the present case.

RULING:

1.
Amansec was charged and convicted for selling methylamphetamine hydrochloride, more 
popularly known as shabu, in violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 or the 
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which provides:

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 a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (? 
500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (? 10,000,000.00) 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.
Non­presentation of an Informant

This Court, has time and again, held that “the presentation of an informant in an illegal drugs 
case is not essential for the conviction nor is it indispensable for a successful prosecution 
because his testimony would be merely corroborative and cumulative.” If Amansec felt that the 
prosecution did not present the informant because he would testify against it, then Amansec 
himself should have called him to the stand to testify for the defense. The informant’s testimony 
is not needed if the sale of the illegal drug has been adequately proven by the prosecution. In 
People v. Ho Chua, we said:

The presentation of an informant is not a requisite in the prosecution of drug cases. In People v. 
Nicolas, the Court ruled that “police authorities rarely, if ever, remove the cloak of 
confidentiality with which they surround their poseur­buyers and informers since their usefulness
will be over the moment they are presented in court. Moreover, drug dealers do not look kindly 
upon squealers and informants. It is understandable why, as much as permitted, their identities 
are kept secret.” In any event, the testimony of the informant would be merely corroborative.

No prior surveillance conducted

This issue in the prosecution of illegal drugs cases, again, has long been settled by this Court. We
have been consistent in our ruling that prior surveillance is not required for a valid buy­bust 
operation, especially if the buy­bust team is accompanied to the target area by their informant. In
People v. Eugenio, we held:

There is no requirement that prior surveillance should be conducted before a buy­bust operation 
can be undertaken especially when, as in this case, the policemen are accompanied to the scene 
by their civilian informant. Prior surveillance is not a prerequisite for the validity of an 
entrapment or a buy­bust operation, there being no fixed or textbook method for conducting one. 
We have held that when time is of [the] essence, the police may dispense with the need for prior 
surveillance.

2. Inventory and Chain of Custody of Evidence

Amansec asserts that his conviction was incorrect because the evidence against him was obtained
in violation of the procedure outlined in Republic Act No. 9165. He claims that Section 21 of the
aforesaid act was violated when the police officers who arrested him did not take his picture with
the shabu they confiscated from him, and when they made no physical inventory of the shabu in 
his presence, or in the presence of his representative, the media, the department of justice, or any 
elected public official. Amansec avers that his presumption of innocence prevails over the 
presumption that the police officers performed their duty in a regular manner.

Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, provide 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:

(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;

(2) Within twenty­four (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;

(3) A certification of the forensic laboratory examination results, which shall be done under oath 
by the forensic laboratory examiner, shall be issued within twenty­four (24) hours after the 
receipt of the subject item/s: Provided, That when the volume of the dangerous drugs, plant 
sources of dangerous drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals does not allow the
completion of testing within the time frame, a partial laboratory examination report shall be 
provisionally issued stating therein the quantities of dangerous drugs still to be examined by the 
forensic laboratory: Provided, however, That a final certification shall be issued on the 
completed forensic laboratory examination on the same within the next twenty­four (24) hours;

(4) After the filing of the criminal case, the Court shall, within seventy­two (72) hours, conduct 
an ocular inspection of the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources
of dangerous drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the 
instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment, and through the PDEA shall within 
twenty­four (24) hours thereafter proceed with the destruction or burning of 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 DOJ, civil society 
groups and any elected public official. The Board shall draw up the guidelines on the manner of 
proper disposition and destruction of such item/s which shall be borne by the offender: Provided,
That those item/s of lawful commerce, as determined by the Board, shall be donated, used or 
recycled for legitimate purposes: Provided, further, That a representative sample, duly weighed 
and recorded is retained;

(5) The Board shall then issue a sworn certification as to the fact of destruction or burning of the 
subject item/s which, together with the representative sample/s in the custody of the PDEA, shall
be submitted to the court having jurisdiction over the case. In all instances, the representative 
sample/s shall be kept to a minimum quantity as determined by the Board;

(6) The alleged offender or his/her representative or counsel shall be allowed to personally 
observe all of the above proceedings and his/her presence shall not constitute an admission of 
guilt. In case the said offender or accused refuses or fails to appoint a representative after due 
notice in writing to the accused or his/her counsel within seventy­two (72) hours before the 
actual burning or destruction of the evidence in question, the Secretary of Justice shall appoint a 
member of the public attorney’s office to represent the former;

(7) After the promulgation and judgment in the criminal case wherein the representative sample/s
was presented as evidence in court, the trial prosecutor shall inform the Board of the final 
termination of the case and, in turn, shall request the court for leave to turn over the said 
representative sample/s to the PDEA for proper disposition and destruction within twenty­four 
(24) hours from receipt of the same; and

(8) Transitory Provision: a) Within twenty­four (24) hours from the effectivity of this Act, 
dangerous drugs defined herein which are presently in possession of law enforcement agencies 
shall, with leave of court, be burned or destroyed, in the presence of representatives of the Court,
DOJ, Department of Health (DOH) and the accused/and or his/her counsel, and, b) Pending the 
organization of the PDEA, the custody, disposition, and burning or destruction of 
seized/surrendered dangerous drugs provided under this Section shall be implemented by the 
DOH.

Ideally, the procedure on the chain of custody should be perfect and unbroken. However “a 
testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard as it is almost always impossible to 
obtain an unbroken chain.” Thus, even though the prosecution failed to submit in evidence the 
physical inventory and photograph of the seized drugs as required under Section 21 of Republic 
Act No. 9165, this will not render Amansec’s arrest illegal or the items seized from him as 
inadmissible in evidence. This Court has consistently held that “what is of utmost importance is 
the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, because the same 
will be utilized in ascertaining the guilt or innocence of the accused.”

The prosecution was able to demonstrate that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence 
seized had been preserved. Both the prosecution witnesses were categorical and consistent that 
Amansec offered three plastic sachets containing shabu to Mabutol and Pintis. These were later 
recovered from Amansec, Pintis, and Mabutol himself. As soon as the police officers, together 
with Amansec and Pintis, reached the Police Station, the seized sachets were marked with the 
initials of the police officers, with each officer marking the sachet he personally retrieved from 
the suspects. This was done before the specimens were turned over to the station investigator for 
the preparation of the request for laboratory examination. Thereafter, the specimens were 
forwarded to the crime lab by the police officers themselves. The Chemistry Report prepared by 
the forensic chemist listed the same specimens, which bore the initials of the police officers, and 
which were later identified by Mabutol and Pascua in open court as the plastic sachets they 
marked with their initials.

Besides, the presumption that the integrity of the evidence has been preserved will remain unless 
it can be shown that there was bad faith, ill will, or tampering of the evidence. Amansec bears 
the burden of showing the foregoing to overcome the presumption that the police officers 
handled the seized drugs with regularity, and that they properly discharged their duties. This, 
Amansec failed to do.

Furthermore, there is nothing in RA No. 9165 or in its implementing rules, which requires each 
and everyone who came into contact with the seized drugs to testify in court. “As long as the 
chain of custody of the seized drug was clearly established to have not been broken and the 
prosecution did not fail to identify properly the drugs seized, it is not indispensable that each and 
every person who came into possession of the drugs should take the witness stand.”

Denial and Frame­up

The defenses of denial and frame­up have been invariably viewed by this Court with disfavor for
it can easily be concocted and is a common and standard defense ploy in prosecutions for 
violation of Dangerous Drugs Act. In order to prosper, the defenses of denial and frame­up must 
be proved with strong and convincing evidence. In the cases before us, appellant failed to present
sufficient evidence in support of his claims. Aside from his self­serving assertions, no plausible 
proof was presented to bolster his allegations.

Equally important is the fact that Amansec has not ascribed any improper motive on the part of 
the police officers as to why they would hand­pick him, and falsely incriminate him in such a 
serious crime. No evidence has been offered to show that Mabutol and Pascua, were motivated 
by reasons other than their duty to curb the sale of prohibited drugs. Amansec himself admitted 
that he only came to know his arresting officers after his arrest. He also testified that he knew of 
no grudge that they might have against him. Hence, until Amansec can show clear and 
convincing evidence that the members of the entrapment operation team were stirred by illicit 
motive or failed to properly perform their duties, their testimonies deserve full faith and credit.

3. Elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs established

The successful prosecution of the sale of dangerous drugs case depends on the satisfaction of the 
following elements:

(1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and

(2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.

To elucidate on the foregoing elements, this Court has said that “in prosecutions for illegal sale 
of shabu, what is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled 
with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence.”

It is evident in the case at bar that the prosecution was able to establish the said elements.

Amansec was positively identified by the prosecution witnesses, as the person who sold to the 
poseur­buyer a heat­sealed plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance. He had been 
caught red­handed in the entrapment operation conducted by the police. Such positive 
identification must prevail over Amansec’s uncorroborated and weak defense of denial, and 
unsubstantiated defense of frame­up.

The corpus delicti of the crime was also established with certainty and conclusiveness. Amansec 
gave one of the two remaining plastic sachets to Mabutol after receiving the 100.00 buy­bust 
money.
In People v. Legaspi, we said:
The delivery of the contraband to the poseur­buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked 
money successfully consummated the buy­bust transaction between the entrapping officers and 
Legaspi.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. RONNIE RULLEPA y GUINTO

398 SCRA 567, 5 March 2003, EN BANC

Ronnie Rullepa y Guinto (Rullepa), a houseboy, was charged with Rape before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City for allegedly having carnal knowledge with
“AAA”, three (3) years of age, a minor and against her will and without her consent.
“AAA” described her abuse under the hands of Rullepa in a plain and matter-of-
fact manner in her testimony. The victim and her mother testified that she was only
three years old at the time of the rape. However, the prosecution did not offer the
victim‘s certificate of live birth or similar authentic documents in evidence.

Finding for the prosecution, the RTC rendered judgment finding Rullepa guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of rape and accordingly sentenced him to death. The case was placed
for automatic review of the Supreme Court

ISSUE:

Whether or not the trial court erred in imposing the supreme penalty of death upon
Rullepa

HELD:

A person‘s appearance, where relevant, is admissible as object evidence, the same being
addressed to the senses of the court. As to the weight to accord such appearance,
especially in rape cases, the Court in People v. Pruna laid down the guideline.

Under the guideline, the testimony of a relative with respect to the age of the victim is
sufficient to constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt in cases (a) and (b) above. In
such cases, the disparity between the allegation and the proof of age is so great that the
court can easily determine from the appearance of the victim the veracity of the
testimony. The appearance corroborates the relative‘s testimony.

As the alleged age approaches the age sought to be proved, the person‘s appearance,
as objectevidence of her age, loses probative value. Doubt as to her true age becomes
greater and, following United States v. Agadas, such doubt must be resolved in favor of
the accused.
Because of the vast disparity between the alleged age (three years old) and the age
sought to be proved (below twelve years), the trial court would have had no difficulty
ascertaining the victim‘s age from her appearance. No reasonable doubt, therefore,
exists that the second element of statutory rape is present.

Whether the victim was below seven years old, however, is another matter. Here,
reasonable doubt exists. A mature three and a half-year old can easily be mistaken for an
underdeveloped seven-year old. The appearance of the victim, as object evidence,
cannot be accorded much weight and the testimony of the mother is, by
itself, insufficient.

As it has not been established with moral certainty that “AAA” was below seven years
old at the time of the commission of the offense, Rullepa cannot be sentenced to suffer
the death penalty. Only the penalty of reclusion perpetua can be imposed upon him.
Augustin v CA
GR 162571

Facts:
Respondents Fe Angela and her son Martin Prollamante sued Martin’s alleged biological father,
petitioner Arnel Agustin, for support and support pendente lite before the Quezon City RTC.
In their complaint, respondents alleged that Arnel courted Fe, after which they entered into an
intimate relationship. Arnel supposedly impregnated Fe on her 34th birthday but despite Arnel’s
insistence on abortion, Fe decided to give birth to their child out of wedlock, Martin. The baby’s birth
certificate was purportedly signed by Arnel as the father. Arnel shouldered the pre-natal and hospital
expenses but later refused Fe’s repeated requests for Martin’s support despite his adequate financial
capacity and even suggested to have the child committed for adoption. Arnel also denied having
fathered the child.

On January 2001, while Fe was carrying five-month old Martin at the Capitol Hills Golf and Country
Club parking lot, Arnel sped off in his van, with the open car door hitting Fe’s leg. This incident was
reported to the police. Several months later, Fe was diagnosed with leukemia and has, since then,
been undergoing chemotherapy. Fe and Martin then sued Arnel for support.

Fe and Martin moved for the issuance of an order directing all the parties to submit themselves to
DNA paternity testing, which Arnel opposed by invoking his constitutional right against self-
incrimination and moving to dismiss the complaint for lack of cause of action.

The trial court denied the MTD and ordered the parties to submit themselves to DNA paternity
testing at the expense of the applicants. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, thus this
petition.

Issue:
W/N the respondent court erred in denying the petitioner’s MTD

W/N the court erred in directing parties to subject to DNA paternity testing and was a form of
unreasonable search

Held:
1. No. The trial court properly denied the petitioner’s motion to dismiss because the private
respondents’ complaint on its face showed that they had a cause of action against the petitioner. The
elements of a cause of action are: (1) the plaintiff’s primary right and the defendant’s corresponding
primary duty, and (2) the delict or wrongful act or omission of the defendant, by which the primary
right and duty have been violated. The cause of action is determined not by the prayer of the
complaint but by the facts alleged.
2. No. In Ople v. Torres,the Supreme Court struck down the proposed national computerized
identification system embodied in Administrative Order No. 308, we said:
In no uncertain terms, we also underscore that the right to privacy does not bar all incursions into
individual privacy. The right is not intended to stifle scientific and technological advancements
that enhance public service and the common good... Intrusions into the right must be accompanied
by proper safeguards that enhance public service and the common good.
Historically, it has mostly been in the areas of legality of searches and seizures, and the infringement
of privacy of communication where the constitutional right to privacy has been critically at issue.
Petitioner’s case involves neither and, as already stated, his argument that his right against self-
incrimination is in jeopardy holds no water.

SISON VS. PEOPLE


G.R. Nos. 108280-83 November 16, 1995
FACTS:
Several informations were filed in court against eleven persons identified as Marcos
loyalists charging them with the murder of Salcedo.
The cases were consolidated and raffled to the Regional Trial Court. All of the accused
pleaded not guilty to the charge and trial ensued accordingly. The prosecution presented
twelve witnesses, including two eyewitnesses, Ranulfo Sumilang and Renato Banculo, and
the police officers who were at the Luneta at the time of the incident. In support of their
testimonies, the prosecution likewise presented documentary evidence consisting of
newspaper accounts of the incident and various photographs taken during the mauling.
The trial court rendered a decision finding Romeo Sison, Nilo Pacadar, Joel Tan, Richard de
los Santos and Joselito Tamayo guilty as principals in the crime of murder qualified by
treachery.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals on December 28, 1992, modified the decision of the trial
court by acquitting Annie Ferrer but increasing the penalty of the rest of the accused, except
for Joselito Tamayo, to reclusion perpetua. The appellate court found them guilty of murder
qualified by abuse of superior strength, but convicted Joselito Tamayo of homicide because
the information against him did not allege the said qualifying circumstance.
Hence, this petition.
One of the issues raised by the petitioner is that the Ca erred in admitting the photographs
which were not properly identified.
ISSUE:
Whether or not the CA erred in admitting the photographs which were not proprly identified.
RULING:
The rule in this jurisdiction is that photographs, when presented in evidence, must be
identified by the photographer as to its production and testified as to the circumstances
under which they were produced.The value of this kind of evidence lies in its being a correct
representation or reproduction of the original, and its admissibility is determined by its
accuracy in portraying the scene at the time of the crime. The photographer, however, is not
the only witness who can identify the pictures he has taken. The correctness of the
photograph as a faithful representation of the object portrayed can be proved prima facie,
either by the testimony of the person who made it or by other competent witnesses, after
which the court can admit it subject to impeachment as to its accuracy. Photographs,
therefore, can be identified by the photographer or by any other competent witness who can
testify to its exactness and accuracy.
This court notes that when the prosecution offered the photographs as part of its evidence,
appellants, through counsel Atty. Alfredo Lazaro, Jr. objected to their admissibility for lack of
proper identification. However, when the accused presented their evidence, Atty. Winlove
Dumayas, counsel for accused Joselito Tamayo and Gerry Neri used the photographs to
prove that his clients were not in any of the pictures and therefore could not have
participated in the mauling of the victim.
The objection of Atty. Lazaro to the admissibility of the photographs is anchored on the fact
that the person who took the same was not presented to identify them. We rule that the use
of these photographs by some of the accused to show their alleged non-participation in the
crime is an admission of the exactness and accuracy thereof. That the photographs are
faithful representations of the mauling incident was affirmed when appellants Richard de los
Santos, Nilo Pacadar and Joel Tan identified themselves therein and gave reasons for their
presence thereat.
An analysis of the photographs vis-a-vis the accused's testimonies reveal that only three of
the appellants, namely, Richard de los Santos, Nilo Pacadar and Joel Tan could be readily
seen in various belligerent poses lunging or hovering behind or over the victim. Appellant
Romeo Sison appears only once and he, although afflicted with hernia is shown merely
running after the
victim. Appellant Joselito Tamayo was not identified in any of the pictures. The absence of
the two appellants in the photographs does not exculpate them. The photographs did not
capture the entire sequence of the killing of Salcedo but only segments thereof. While the
pictures did not record Sison and Tamayo hitting Salcedo, they were unequivocally
identified by Sumilang and Banculo.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 189806


Plaintiff-Appellee,
Present:
CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,
VELASCO, JR.,
- versus - LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
DEL CASTILLO, and
PEREZ, JJ.
FRANCISCO MANLANGIT y Promulgated:
TRESBALLES,
Accused-Appellant. January 12, 2010
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This is an appeal from the August 28, 2009 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03273, which affirmed in toto the Decision dated
July 12, 2007[2] in Criminal Case Nos. 03-4735 and 03-4961 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 64 in Makati City. The RTC found accused-appellant
Francisco Manlangit y Tresballes guilty of drug-sale and drug-use penalized by
Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Facts

On November 25, 2003, an information was filed charging Manlangit with


violating Section 5, Article II of RA 9165, as follows:

That on or about the 24th day of November 2003, in the City of


Makati, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized by law, did then
and there willfully and feloniously sell, give away, distribute and deliver
zero point zero four (0.04) gram of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride
(shabu), which is a dangerous drug.[3]
On December 11, 2003, another information was filed against Manlangit for
breach of Sec. 15, Art. II of RA 9165, to wit:

That sometime on or before or about the 24 th day of November


2003, in the City of Makati, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being authorized by
law to use dangerous drugs, and having been arrested and found positive
for use of Methylamphetamine, after a confirmatory test, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously use Methylamphetamine, a
dangerous drug in violation of the said law.[4]

During the arraignment for both cases, Manlangit pleaded not


guilty. Afterwards, the cases were tried jointly.

At the trial of the case, the prosecution adduced evidence as follows:

On November 24, 2003, the Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council (MADAC)


Cluster 4 office received information from an informant that a certain Negro was
selling prohibited drugs along Col. Santos Street at Brgy. South
Cembo, Makati City. The MADAC thereafter coordinated with the Anti-Illegal
Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSTOF) and the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency to conduct a joint MADAC-police buy-bust operation. A
team was assembled composed of several members of the different offices, among
which Police Officer 2 Virginio Costa was designated as the team leader, with
MADAC operative Wilfredo Serrano as the poseur-buyer and Roberto Bayona as
his back-up. The team prepared buy-bust money for the operation, marking two (2)
one hundred peso (PhP 100) bills with the initials AAM.

Upon arrival on Col. Santos Street, Brgy. Cembo, Makati City, the team
spotted Manlangit standing in front of his house. The informant approached
Manlangit and convinced the latter that Serrano wanted to purchase shabu from
him. Manlangit asked Serrano how much shabu he wanted,
to which Serrano replied that he wanted two hundred pesos (PhP 200) worth
of shabu. Manlangit went inside his house and later reappeared with a plastic
sachet containing a white crystalline substance. Manlangit handed over the plastic
sachet to Serrano who, in turn, gave Manlangit the marked money. Then Serrano
gave the pre-arranged signal of lighting a cigarette to indicate to the rest of the
team that the buy-bust operation had been consummated. Thus, the rest of the team
approached Manlangit and proceeded to arrest him while informing him of
constitutional rights and the reason for his arrest. The marked money was
recovered from Manlangits pocket. The plastic sachet was then marked with the
initials FTM and sent to the Philippine National Police (PNP) crime laboratory
in Camp Crame, Quezon City for analysis. The PNP crime laboratory identified the
white crystalline substance as Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride in Chemistry
Report No. D-1190-03. Manlangit was also brought to the PNP crime laboratory
for a drug test, which yielded a positive result for use of Methylamphetamine
Hydrochloride.[5]

Manlangit denied that such buy-bust operation was conducted and claimed
that the recovered shabu was not from him. He claimed that he was pointed out by
a certain Eli Ballesteros to Serrano and Bayona. Thereafter, he was allegedly
detained at the Barangay Hall of Brgy. Pitogo. There, he was allegedly interrogated
by Serrano as to the location of the shabu and its proceeds, as well as the identity
of the drug pushers in the area. He also claimed that whenever he answered that he
did not know what Serrano was talking about, he was boxed in the chest. Later on,
he said that he was brought to Camp Crame for drug testing.[6]

On July 12, 2007, the RTC rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered


as follows:

1) In Criminal Case No. 03-4735, finding accused Francisco


Manlangit y Tresballes GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT of Violation of Section 5, Art II,
RA 9165 (drug-sale) and sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine in the
amount of P500,000.00. Said accused shall be given credit
for the period of his preventive detention.

2) In Criminal Case No. 03-4735,[7] finding accused Francisco


Manlangit y Tresballes GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT of Violation of Section 15, Art II,
RA 9165 (drug-use), and sentencing him to undergo
rehabilitation for at least six (6) months in a government
rehabilitation Center under the auspices of the Bureau of
Correction subject to the provisions of Article VIII, RA
9165.

It is further ordered that the plastic sachet containing shabu,


subject of Criminal Case No. 03-4735, be transmitted to the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for the latters appropriate action.

SO ORDERED.[8]

From such Decision, Manlangit interposed an appeal with the CA.

In his Brief, accused-appellant Manlangit claimed that the prosecution failed


to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. To support such contention, accused-
appellant claimed that there was no buy-bust operation conducted. He pointed out
that he was not in the list of suspected drug pushers of MADAC or of the
AIDSTOF. He further emphasized that the buy-bust operation was conducted
without first conducting a surveillance or test buy to determine the veracity of the
report made by the informant. He assailed the fact that despite knowledge of his
identity and location, the buy-bust team failed to secure even a search warrant.

Accused-appellant also raised the issue that the buy-bust team failed to
comply with the procedure for the custody and control of seized prohibited drugs
under Sec. 21 of RA 9165. He argued that the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official function was overturned by the officers failure to follow
the required procedure in the conduct of a buy-bust operation, as well as the
procedure in the proper disposition, custody, and control of the subject specimen.

On August 28, 2009, the CA rendered the decision which affirmed the RTCs
Decision dated July 12, 2007. It ruled that contrary to accused-appellants
contention, prior surveillance is not a prerequisite for the validity of a buy-bust
operation. The case was a valid example of a warrantless arrest, accused-appellant
having been caught in flagrante delicto. The CA further stated that accused-
appellants unsubstantiated allegations are insufficient to show that the witnesses
for the prosecution were actuated by improper motive, in this case the members of
the buy-bust team; thus, their testimonies are entitled to full faith and credit. After
examining the testimonies of the witnesses, the CA found them credible and found
no reason to disturb the RTCs findings. Finally, the CA found that chain of
evidence was not broken.

Hence, the instant appeal.

In a Manifestation (In lieu of Supplemental Brief) dated February 22, 2010,


accused-appellant expressed his desire not to file a supplemental brief and
reiterated the same arguments already presented before the trial and appellate
courts.

The Issues

The issues, as raised in the Brief for the Accused-Appellant dated September 29,
2008, are:

1. The Court a quo gravely erred in convicting the accused-appellant


despite the prosecutions failure to prove his built beyond reasonable
doubt.[9]

2. The Court a quo gravely erred in finding that the procedure for the
custody and control of prohibited drugs was complied with. [10]

The Ruling of the Court

The appeal is bereft of merit.

First Issue:
Accused-appellants guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt

The first paragraph of Sec. 5 of RA 9165 punishes the act of selling dangerous
drugs. It provides:
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 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 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. (Emphasis supplied.)

While Sec. 15, RA 9165 states:


Section 15. Use of Dangerous Drugs.A person apprehended or
arrested, who is found to be positive for use of any dangerous drug,
after a confirmatory test, shall be imposed a penalty of a minimum
of six (6) months rehabilitation in a government center for the first
offense, subject to the provisions of Article VIII of this Act. If
apprehended using any dangerous drug for the second time, he/she shall
suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) years and one
(1) day to twelve (12) years and a fine ranging from Fifty thousand pesos
(P50,000.00) to Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00): Provided,
That this Section shall not be applicable where the person tested is also
found to have in his/her possession such quantity of any dangerous drug
provided for under Section 11 of this Act, in which case the provisions
stated therein shall apply. (Emphasis supplied.)

People v. Macatingag[11] prescribed the requirements for the successful prosecution


of the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, as follows.

The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs are
(1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration;
and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. What is
material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the
proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the
presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti.
The pieces of evidence found in the records amply demonstrate that all the
elements of the crimes charged were satisfied. The lower courts gave credence to
the prosecution witnesses testimonies, which established the guilt of accused-
appellant for the crimes charged beyond reasonable doubt. The
testimoniesparticularly those of the police officers involved, which both the RTC
and the CA found credibleare now beyond question. As the Court ruled in Aparis v.
People:[12]

As to the question of credibility of the police officers who served


as principal witnesses for the prosecution, settled is the rule that
prosecutions involving illegal drugs depend largely on the credibility of
the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation. It is a
fundamental rule that findings of the trial courts which are factual in
nature and which involve credibility are accorded respect when no
glaring errors; gross misapprehension of facts; or speculative, arbitrary,
and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings. 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. The rule finds
an even more stringent application where said findings are sustained by
the Court of Appeals, as in the present case.

Moreover, accused-appellants defense of denial, without substantial evidence to


support it, cannot overcome the presumption of regularity of the police officers
performance of official functions. Thus, the Court ruled in People v. Llamado:[13]

In cases involving violations of Dangerous Drugs Act, credence


should be given to the narration of the incident by the prosecution
witnesses especially when they are police officers who are presumed to
have performed their duties in a regular manner, unless there be evidence
to the contrary. Moreover, in the absence of proof of motive to falsely
impute such a serious crime against the appellant, the presumption
of regularity in the performance of official duty, as well as the
findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses, shall prevail
over appellants self-serving and uncorroborated denial. (Emphasis
supplied.)

Contrary to accused-appellants challenge to the validity of the buy-bust


operation, the Court categorically stated in Quinicot v. People that a prior
surveillance or test buy is not required for a valid buy-bust operation, as long as the
operatives are accompanied by their informant, thus:

Settled is the rule that the absence of a prior surveillance or test buy
does not affect the legality of the buy-bust operation. There is no
textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. The Court has left
to the discretion of police authorities the selection of effective means to
apprehend drug dealers. A prior surveillance, much less a lengthy one, is
not necessary, especially where the police operatives are accompanied by
their informant during the entrapment. Flexibility is a trait of good police
work. We have held that when time is of the essence, the police may
dispense with the need for prior surveillance. In the instant case,
having been accompanied by the informant to the person who was
peddling the dangerous drugs, the policemen need not have
conducted any prior surveillance before they undertook the buy-
bust operation.[14](Emphasis supplied.)

Furthermore, accused-appellants contention that the buy-bust team should


have procured a search warrant for the validity of the buy-bust operation is
misplaced. The Court had the occasion to address this issue in People v. Doria:[15]

We also hold that the warrantless arrest of accused-appellant


Doria is not unlawful. Warrantless arrests are allowed in three instances
as provided by Section 5 of Rule 113 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal
Procedure, to wit:

Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful.A peace officer


or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has


committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an
offense;

(b) When an offense has in fact just been committed, and


he has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be
arrested has committed it; and
(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who
escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving
final judgment or temporarily confined while his case is pending,
or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to
another.

Under Section 5 (a), as above-quoted, a person may be arrested


without a warrant if he has committed, is actually committing, or is
attempting to commit an offense. Appellant Doria was caught in the act
of committing an offense. When an accused is apprehended in flagrante
delicto as a result of a buy-bust operation, the police are not only
authorized but duty-bound to arrest him even without a warrant.

The Court reiterated such ruling in People v. Agulay:[16]

Accused-appellant contends his arrest was illegal, making the


sachets of shabu allegedly recovered from him inadmissible in
evidence. Accused-appellants claim is devoid of merit for it is a well-
established rule that an arrest made after an entrapment operation does
not require a warrant inasmuch as it is considered a valid warrantless
arrest, in line with the provisions of Rule 113, Section 5(a) of the
Revised Rules of Court, to wit:

Section 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful.A peace


officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has


committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an
offense.

A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment which in recent


years has been accepted as a valid and effective mode of apprehending
drug pushers. In a buy-bust operation, the idea to commit a crime
originates from the offender, without anybody inducing or prodding him
to commit the offense. If carried out with due regard for constitutional
and legal safeguards, a buy-bust operation deserves judicial sanction.

Second Issue:
The chain of custody of the seized drug was unbroken
Accused-appellant contends that the arresting officers did not comply with the
requirements for the handling of seized dangerous drugs as provided for under Sec.
21(1) of RA 9165:
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:

(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;
(Emphasis supplied.)

In particular, accused-appellant argues that:

While the marking of the specimen was done in the place of incident by
MADAC operative Soriano, the inventory of the item was done at
Cluster 4. There was no photograph made of the plastic sachet in the
presence of the accused, media, any elected local official, or the DOJ
representatives, in clear violation of Section 21, R.A. No. 9165. [17]
Based on such alleged failure of the buy-bust team to comply with the procedural
requirements of Sec. 21, RA 9165, accused-appellant posits that he should,
therefore, be acquitted. Such reasoning is flawed.

In People v. Rosialda,[18] the Court addressed the issue of chain of custody of


dangerous drugs, citing People v. Rivera, as follows:

Anent the second element, Rosialda raises the issue that there is a
violation of Sec. 21, Art. II of RA 9165, particularly the requirement that
the alleged dangerous drugs seized by the apprehending officers be
photographed 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. Rosialda argues that such failure to comply with the provision
of the law is fatal to his conviction.

This contention is untenable.

The Court made the following enlightening disquisition on this


matter in People v. Rivera:

The procedure to be followed in the custody and handling of


seized dangerous drugs is outlined in Section 21, paragraph 1,
Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 which stipulates:

(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.

The same is implemented by Section 21(a), Article II of the


Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165,
viz.:

(a) 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: 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.

The failure of the prosecution to show that the police


officers conducted the required physical inventory and
photograph of the evidence confiscated pursuant to said
guidelines, is not fatal and does not automatically render
accused-appellants arrest illegal or the items
seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. Indeed, the
implementing rules offer some flexibility when a proviso added
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. The same provision clearly states as well,
that it must still be shown that there exists justifiable grounds and
proof that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence have
been preserved.

This Court can no longer find out what justifiable reasons


existed, if any, since the defense did not raise this issue during
trial. Be that as it may, this Court has explained in People v. Del
Monte that what is of utmost importance is the preservation of
the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, as the
same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or
innocence of the accused. The existence of the dangerous drug is
a condition sine qua non for conviction for the illegal sale of
dangerous drugs. The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very
corpus delicti of the crime and the fact of its existence is vital to a
judgment of conviction. Thus, it is essential that the identity of the
prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. The chain of
custody requirement performs the function of ensuring that the
integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved,
so much so that unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the
evidence are removed.

To be admissible, the prosecution must show by records or


testimony, the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit at least
between the time it came into possession of the police officers
and until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its
composition up to the time it was offered in
evidence. (Emphasis supplied.)

Here, accused-appellant does not question the unbroken chain of evidence. His
only contention is that the buy-bust team did not inventory and photograph the
specimen on site and in the presence of accused-appellant or his counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice, and any elected
public official. However, as ruled by the Court in Rosialda, as long as the chain of
custody remains unbroken, even though the procedural requirements provided for
in Sec. 21 of RA 9165 was not faithfully observed, the guilt of the accused will not
be affected.

And as aptly ruled by the CA, the chain of custody in the instant case was not
broken as established by the facts proved during trial, thus:

Lastly, the contention of appellant, that the police officers failed to


comply with the provisions of paragraph 1, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165
for the proper procedure in the custody and disposition of the seized
drugs, is untenable. Record shows that Serrano marked the confiscated
sachet of shabu in the presence of appellant at the place of incident and
was turned over properly to the investigating officer together with the
marked buy-bust money. Afterwards, the confiscated plastic sachet
suspected to be containing shabu was brought to the forensic chemist for
examination. Likewise, the members of the buy-bust team executed
their Pinagsanib na Salaysay sa Pag-arestoimmediately after the arrest
and at the trial, Serrano positively identified the seized drugs. Indeed, the
prosecution evidence had established the unbroken chain of custody of
the seized drugs from the buy-bust team, to the investigating officer and
to the forensic chemist. Thus, there is no doubt that the prohibited drug
presented before the court a quo was the one seized from appellant and
that indeed, he committed the crimes imputed against him.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CAs August 28, 2009


Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03273 is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.

No costs.
SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 185011
Plaintiff-Appellee,
Present:

CORONA, J., Chairperson,


- versus - VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
PERALTA, and
DEL CASTILLO,* JJ.
SPO3 SANGKI ARA y MIRASOL,
MIKE TALIB y MAMA, and Promulgated:
JORDAN MUSA y BAYAN, December 23, 2009
Accused-Appellants.
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

This is an appeal from the December 13, 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00025B entitled People of the Philippines v. SPO3
Sangki Ara y Mirasol, Mike Talib y Mama, Jordan Musa y Bayan, which affirmed
the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 9 in Davao City,
convicting accused-appellants of violation of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or
the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Facts

Three Informations charged accused-appellants Sangki Ara, Mike Talib, and Jordan
Musa, as follows:
Criminal Case No. 51,471-2002 against Ara

That on or about December 20, 2002, in the City of Davao, Philippines


and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without being authorized by law, willfully, unlawfully and
consciously traded, transported and delivered 26.6563 grams of
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu, which is a dangerous drug,
with the aggravating circumstance of trading, transporting and delivering
said 26.6563 grams of shabu within 100 meters from [the] school St.
Peters College of Toril, Davao City.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[1]

Criminal Case No. 51,472-2002 against Talib

That on or about December 20, 2002, in the City of Davao, Philippines


and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without being authorized by law, willfully, unlawfully and
consciously had in his possession and control one (1) plastic sachet of
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu, weighing 0.3559 gram,
which is a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[2]

Criminal Case No. 51,473-2002 against Musa

That on or about December 20, 2002, in the City of Davao, Philippines,


and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned
accused, without being authorized by law, willfully, unlawfully and
consciously had in his possession and control five (5) big plastic
sachet[s] of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu weighing
14.2936 grams, which is a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

During their arraignment, accused-appellants all gave a not guilty plea.


Version of the Prosecution

At the trial, the prosecution presented the following witnesses: Forensic Chemist
Noemi Austero, PO2 Ronald Lao, SPO1 Bienvenido Furog, PO1 Enrique Ayao, Jr.,
SPO4 Rodrigo Mallorca, and PO2 Jacy Jay Francia.

In the morning of December 20, 2002, a confidential informant (CI) came to the
Heinous Crime Investigation Section (HCIS) of the Davao City Police Department
and reported that three (3) suspected drug pushers had contacted him for a deal
involving six (6) plastic sachets of shabu. He was instructed to go that same
morning to St. Peters College at Toril, Davao City and look for an orange Nissan
Sentra car.[4]

Police Chief Inspector Fulgencio Pavo, Sr. immediately formed a buy-bust team
composed of SPO3 Reynaldo Capute, SPO4 Mario Galendez, SPO3 Antonio
Balolong, SPO2 Arturo Lascaos, SPO2 Jim Tan, SPO1 Rizalino Aquino, SPO1
Bienvenido Furog, PO2 Vivencio Jumawan, Jr., PO2 Ronald Lao, and PO1 Enrique
Ayao, Jr., who would act as poseur-buyer.[5]

The team proceeded to the school where PO1 Ayao and the CI waited by the gate.
At around 8:45 a.m., an orange Nissan Sentra bearing plate number UGR 510
stopped in front of them. The two men approached the vehicle and the CI talked
briefly with an old man in the front seat. PO1 Ayao was then told to get in the back
seat as accused-appellant Mike Talib opened the door. The old man, later identified
as accused-appellant SPO3 Ara, asked PO1 Ayao if he had the money and the latter
replied in the positive. Ara took out several sachets with crystalline granules from
his pocket and handed them to PO1 Ayao, who thereupon gave the pre-arranged
signal of opening the car door. The driver of the car, later identified as accused-
appellant Jordan Musa, tried to drive away but PO1 Ayao was able to switch off the
car engine in time. The back-up team appeared and SPO1 Furog held on to Musa
while PO2 Lao restrained Talib. PO1 Ayao then asked Ara to get out of the vehicle.
[6]

Recovered from the group were plastic sachets of white crystalline substance: six
(6) big sachets, weighing 26.6563 grams, from Ara by PO1 Ayao; five (5) big
sachets, weighing 14.2936 grams, from Musa by SPO1 Furog; and a small sachet,
weighing 0.3559 gram, from Talib by PO2 Lao.[7]

The three suspects were brought to the HCIS and the seized items indorsed to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for examination. Forensic
Chemist Austero, who conducted the examination, found that the confiscated
sachets all tested positive for shabu.[8]
Version of the Defense

The defense offered the sole testimony of Ara, who said that he had been a member
of the PNP for 32 years, with a spotless record. On December 20, 2002, SPO3 Ara
was in Cotabato City, at the house of his daughter Marilyn, wife of his co-accused
Musa. He was set to go that day to the Ombudsmans Davao City office for some
paperwork in preparation for his retirement on July 8, 2003. He recounted
expecting at least PhP 1.6 million in retirement benefits. [9] Early that morning, past
three oclock, he and Musa headed for Davao City on board the latters car. As he
was feeling weak, Ara slept in the back seat.

Upon reaching Davao City, he was surprised to see another man, Mike Talib,
in the front seat of the car when he woke up. Musa explained that Talib had hitched
a ride on a bridge they had passed.[10]

When they arrived in Toril, Ara noticed the car to be overheating, so they
stopped. Ara did not know that they were near St. Peters College since he was not
familiar with the area. Talib alighted from the car and Ara transferred to the front
seat. While Talib was getting into the back seat, PO1 Ayao came out of nowhere,
pointed his .45 caliber pistol at Ara even if he was not doing anything, and ordered
him to get off the vehicle. He saw that guns were also pointed at his companions.
As the group were being arrested, he told PO1 Ayao that he was also a police
officer. Ara insisted that he was not holding anything and that the shabu taken from
him was planted. He asserted that the only time he saw shabu was on television.[11]

The Ruling of the Trial Court

The RTC pronounced accused-appellants guilty of the crimes charged. In its


Decision dated March 1, 2003, the trial court held that the prosecution was able to
establish the quantum of proof showing the guilt of accused-appellants beyond
reasonable doubt. It further ruled that the intercept operation conducted by the buy-
bust team was valid.

The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premised on the foregoing the Court finds the following:

In Criminal Case No. 51,471-2002, the accused herein SANGKI ARA Y


MASOL, Filipino, 55 years old, widower, a resident of Kabuntalan,
Cotabato City, is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, and is
CONVICTED of the crime of violation of Sec. 5, 1st paragraph of
Republic Act 9165. He is hereby imposed the DEATH PENALTY and
FINE of TEN MILLION PESOS (PhP 10,000,000) with all the accessory
penalties corresponding thereto, including absolute perpetual
disqualification from any public office, in view of the provision of
section 28 of RA 9165 quoted above.

Since the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the crime
was committed in the area which is only five (5) to six (6) meters away
from the school, the provision of section 5 paragraph 3 Article II of RA
9165 was applied in the imposition of the maximum penalty against the
herein accused.

In Criminal Case No. 51,472-2002, the accused herein MIKE TALIB y


MAMA, Filipino, of legal age, single and a resident of Parang, Cotabato,
is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, and is CONVICTED of the
crime of violation of Sec. 11, 3rd paragraph, Article II of Republic Act
9165. He is hereby imposed a penalty of Imprisonment of SIXTEEN
(16) YEARS and a fine of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(PhP 300,000) with all the accessory penalties corresponding thereto.

In Criminal Case No. 51,473-2002 the accused herein JORDAN MUSA


Y BAYAN, Filipino, 30 years old, married and a resident of Cotabato
City, is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt and is
CONVICTED of the crime for Violation of Sec. 11, 1st paragraph,
Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. He is hereby sentenced to suffer a
penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and FINE of FOUR HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS (PhP 400,000) with all the accessory penalties
corresponding thereto.
SO ORDERED.[12]

As the death penalty was imposed on Ara, the case went on automatic review
before this Court. Conformably with People v. Mateo,[13] we, however, ordered the
transfer of the case to the CA.

The Ruling of the Appellate Court

Contesting the RTC Decision, accused-appellants filed separate appeals before the
CA. Talib claimed that it was erroneous for the trial court to have used the
complaining witnesses affidavits as basis for ruling that their arrest was valid. He
also cited as erroneous the trial courts refusal to rule that the prosecutions evidence
was inadmissible. Lastly, he questioned the failure of the buy-bust team to follow
the requirements of RA 9165 on proper inventory of seized drugs.

Ara and Musa filed a joint brief, alleging the following: (1) the trial court erred in
denying the Motion to Suppress and/or exclude illegally obtained evidence; (2) the
trial court erred in denying the Demurrer to Evidence; (3) the trial court failed to
consider that the criminal informations did not allege conspiracy among the
accused; and (4) the trial court erred in ruling that the intercept operation was
valid.

The CA affirmed the trial courts decision with some modifications on the penalty
imposed. It ruled that a majority of the errors raised in the appeal referred to
technicalities in the conduct of buy-bust operations that did not invalidate the
police officers actions. On the issue of the evidence presented, the CA held that the
presumption that police officers performed their duties in a regular manner was not
overturned.

The appellate court resolved the issue of the validity of the buy-bust operation by
stating that the law requires no specific method of conducting such an operation. It
ruled that to require a warrant of arrest would not accomplish the goal of
apprehending drug pushers in flagrante delicto. The CAs Decision emphasized that
all the elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs were
established.

The fallo of the December 13, 2007 CA Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises foregoing, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED


and the appealed March 1, 2003 Decision is hereby AFFIRMED subject
to the modification insofar as the death penalty imposed upon accused
SPO3 Sangki Ara is concerned. Accordingly, his penalty is hereby
reduced to life imprisonment pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346.

SO ORDERED.[14]

On December 17, 2008, this Court required the parties to submit supplemental
briefs if they so desired. The parties, save for Musa, manifested their willingness to
forego the filing of additional briefs.

The Issues

Reiterating the matters raised before the CA, accused-appellants alleged the
following:

I
Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the arrest of the
accused-appellants was valid based on the affidavits of the complaining
witnesses

II
Whether the Court of Appeals erred in disregarding the apparent defects
and inconsistencies in the affidavits of the complaining witnesses

III
Whether the Court of Appeals erred in refusing to consider the
suppression or exclusion of evidence

IV
Whether the Court of Appeals erred in not holding that the prosecution
miserably failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable
doubt

Talib also raises the following grounds for his acquittal:

I
Whether the arrest of Talib was illegal and the evidence confiscated from
him illegally obtained

II
Whether the police officers who conducted the illegal search and arrest
also deliberately failed and/or violated the provisions of RA 9165

III
Whether the testimonies of the prosecutions witnesses and their
respective affidavits were gravely inconsistent

Ara and Musa additionally raise the following issues:

I
Whether the trial court erred in denying the Demurrer to Evidence

II
Whether the trial court failed to consider that the criminal informations
did not allege conspiracy among the accused

III
Whether the trial court erred in ruling that the intercept operation was
valid

Accused-appellant Musa also avers that the CA erred in convicting him since the
prosecution failed to prove the corpus delicti of the offense charged.

The Ruling of this Court


What are mainly raised in this appeal are (1) whether the buy-bust conducted was
valid; (2) whether the crimes of illegal sale and illegal possession of drugs were
sufficiently established; and (3) whether the chain of custody over the shabu was
unbroken.

Warrantless Arrest and Seizure Valid

In calling for their acquittal, accused-appellants decry their arrest without probable
cause and the violation of their constitutional rights. They claim that the buy-bust
team had more than a month to apply for an arrest warrant yet failed to do so.
Owing to the special circumstances surrounding the drug trade, a buy-bust
operation has long been held as a legitimate method of catching offenders. It is a
form of entrapment employed as an effective way of apprehending a criminal in
the act of commission of an offense.[15] We have ruled that a buy-bust operation can
be carried out after a long period of planning. The period of planning for such
operation cannot be dictated to the police authorities who are to undertake such
operation.[16] It is unavailing then to argue that the operatives had to first secure a
warrant of arrest given that the objective of the operation was to apprehend the
accused-appellants in flagrante delicto. In fact, one of the situations covered by a
lawful warrantless arrest under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Court is
when a person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit
an offense in the presence of a peace officer or private person.

It is erroneous as well to argue that there was no probable cause to arrest accused-
appellants. Probable cause, in warrantless searches, must only be based on
reasonable ground of suspicion or belief that a crime has been committed or is
about to be committed. There is no hard and fast rule or fixed formula for
determining probable cause, for its determination varies according to the facts of
each case.[17] Probable cause was provided by information gathered from the CI and
from accused-appellants themselves when they instructed PO1 Ayao to enter their
vehicle and begin the transaction. The illegal sale of shabu inside accused-
appellants vehicle was afterwards clearly established. Thus, as we have previously
held, the arresting officers were justified in making the arrests as accused-
appellants had just committed a crime when Ara sold shabu to PO1 Ayao.[18] Talib
and Musa were also frisked for contraband as it may be logically inferred that they
were also part of Aras drug activities inside the vehicle. This inference was further
strengthened by Musas attempt to drive the vehicle away and elude arrest.
Moreover, the trial court correctly denied the Motion to Suppress or Exclude
Evidence. We need not reiterate that the evidence was not excluded since the buy-
bust operation was shown to be a legitimate form of entrapment. The pieces of
evidence thus seized therein were admissible. As the appellate court noted, it was
within legal bounds and no anomaly was found in the conduct of the buy-bust
operation. There is, therefore, no basis for the assertion that the trial courts order
denying said motion was biased and committed with grave abuse of discretion.

Prosecution Established Guilt Beyond Reasonable Doubt

For the successful prosecution of the illegal sale of shabu, the following elements
must be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the
sale, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and its
payment. What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took
place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence.
[19]
All these requisites were met by the prosecution.

In contrast, Ara, the sole defense witness, could only proffer the weak defenses of
denial and alibi. He expressed surprise at having Talib in his car and claimed he
was framed and that the shabu confiscated from him was planted. According to the
trial court, however, Aras lying on the witness stand was so intense as he tried very
hard in vain to win the Courts sympathy.[20]

Given the prosecutions evidence, we rule that the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duties has not been overturned. The presumption remains
because the defense failed to present clear and convincing evidence that the police
officers did not properly perform their duty or that they were inspired by an
improper motive.[21] Ara could not explain why his fellow police officers, who did
not know him prior to his arrest, would frame him for such a serious offense.

Validity of Buy-Bust Operation


Likewise questioned by the defense in the affidavits of the police officers
was the allegation that there was a legitimate buy-bust operation. No marked
money was presented to back up the police officers claims. This argument lacks
basis, however. There are requirements that must be complied with in proving the
legitimacy of drug buy-bust operations. Nevertheless, this Court has ruled that
presentation of the marked money used is not such a requirement. In the
prosecution for the sale of dangerous drugs, the absence of marked money does not
create a hiatus in the evidence for the prosecution, as long as the sale of dangerous
drugs is adequately proved and the drug subject of the transaction is presented
before the court.[22] In the instant case, the police officers testimonies adequately
established the illegal sale of shabu. The shabu was then presented before the trial
court. The non-presentation of the marked money may, thus, be overlooked as a
peripheral matter.
Talib further contends that it is incredible that a shabu transaction would be
carried out in a very open and public place. Contrary to Talibs claim, however,
judicial experience has shown that drug transactions have been conducted without
much care for an inconspicuous location.

Thus, we observed in People v. Roldan:

Drug pushing when done on a small level x x x belongs to that


class of crimes that may be committed at anytime and at any place. After
the offer to buy is accepted and the exchange is made, the illegal
transaction is completed in a few minutes. The fact that the parties are in
a public place and in the presence of other people may not always
discourage them from pursuing their illegal trade these factors may even
serve to camouflage the same. Hence, the Court has sustained the
conviction of drug pushers caught selling illegal drugs in a billiard hall,
in front of a store, along a street at 1:45 p.m., and in front of a house. [23]

It is also argued as impossible to believe that even if there was already a deal
between the informant and accused-appellants, it was the apprehending police
officer who acted as the buyer and that he requested to see the shabu first before
showing the money. These claims by Talib are similarly undeserving of
consideration. First, there is no uniform method by which drug pushers and their
buyers operate. Second, the choice of effective ways to apprehend drug dealers is
within the ambit of police authority. Police officers have the expertise to determine
which specific approaches are necessary to enforce their entrapment operations.
[24]
Third, as long as they enjoy credibility as witnesses, the police officers account
of how the buy-bust operation transpired is entitled to full faith and
credit. [25] Lastly, these arguments are merely incidental and do not affect the
elements of the crime which have been, in the instant case, sufficiently established.

Talib also alleges that during his testimony, SPO1 Furog was not certain as to the
reason he was apprehending Musa. Another claim is that SPO1 Furog, when
examined by the prosecutor and two different defense lawyers, allegedly made
relevant inconsistencies in his testimony. The pertinent exchange reads:

Direct Examination of SPO1 Furog:

Prosecutor Weis:

Q What was your basis for stopping [Musa] from letting the car go?

A I made him [stop] the car[.] [W]e [had] to check them first because I
think Ayao saw [that] Ara [had] the suspected shabu.

Cross-Examination of SPO1 Furog:

Atty. Estrada

Q When you arrested Musa as you said, it was because he attempted to
drive the car away, that was it?
A The most, when SPO3 Sangki Ara told us that he was a PNP member
and when we saw the substances from the two of them first.
x x x x
 
Q You are referring to Musa and Ara?
 
A Yes sir.[26]
 
x x x x
 
Atty. Javines
 
Q Ayao did not arrest [Ara] inside the vehicle?
 
A Only I rushed to the vehicle. I dont know if he directly arrested him
when he saw the substance and [got] out of the vehicle but I saw him get
out from the vehicle.[27]

The alleged inconsistencies in SPO1 Furogs reason for apprehending Musa are,
however, insignificant and do not merit much consideration as well. The
questioned parts in the testimony of SPO1 Furog do not dent the totality of
evidence against accused-appellants. To repeat, the elements of the crime of illegal
sale of drugs and illegal possession of drugs were both sufficiently established.
Although SPO1 Furog was not categorical in explaining his basis for apprehending
Musa, the arrest of the latter must be considered as part of a legitimate buy-bust
operation which was consummated. Musas arrest came after the pre-arranged
signal was given to the back-up team and this served as basis for the police officers
to apprehend all those in the vehicle, including Musa.

Denial of Demurrer to Evidence

Although alleged by accused-appellants Ara and Musa, no reason was given in the
appeal as to why the trial court erred in denying their Demurrer to Evidence.
Whatever their basis may be, an action on a demurrer or on a motion to dismiss
rests on the sound exercise of judicial discretion. [28] In Gutib v. CA,[29] we explained
that:

A demurrer to evidence is an objection by one of the parties in an action,


to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is
insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or
sustain the issue. The party demurring challenges the sufficiency of the
whole evidence to sustain a verdict. The court, in passing upon the
sufficiency of the evidence raised in a demurrer, is merely required to
ascertain whether there is competent or sufficient evidence to sustain the
indictment or to support a verdict of guilt.
Here, the trial court found competent and sufficient evidence to support a
conviction of all three accused-appellants. We see no reason to overturn the trial
courts finding.

Allegation of Conspiracy in Information Not Necessary

We find no merit in accused-appellants insistence that conspiracy should have been


alleged in the separate Informations indicting them. We agree with the appellate
court, which succinctly stated that conspiracy was not alleged precisely because
they were charged with different offenses for the distinct acts that each of them
committed. Ones possession of an illegal drug does not need to be conspired by
another who, on his part, also possessed an illegal drug. [30] The three separate
indictments against Ara, Musa, and Talib do not need to allege conspiracy, for the
act of conspiring and all the elements of the crime must be set forth in the
complaint or information only when conspiracy is charged as a crime.[31]

Requirements of RA 9165 on Proper Inventory

Musa contends that since the markings on the seized items were only made at the
police station, there is a great possibility that these were replaced. The result, he
argues, would be a lack of guarantee that what were inventoried and photographed
at the crime laboratory were the same specimens confiscated from the accused.

As recently highlighted in People v. Cortez[32] and People v. Lazaro, Jr.,[33] RA 9165


and its subsequent Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) do not require strict
compliance as to the chain of custody rule. The arrest of an accused will not be
invalidated and the items seized from him rendered inadmissible on the sole
ground of non-compliance with Sec. 21, Article II of RA 9165. We have
emphasized that 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.

Briefly stated, non-compliance with the procedural requirements under RA


9165 and its IRR relative to the custody, photographing, and drug-testing of the
apprehended persons, is not a serious flaw that can render void the seizures and
custody of drugs in a buy-bust operation.[34]

The chain of custody in the instant case did not suffer from serious flaws as
accused-appellants argue. The recovery and handling of the seized drugs showed
that, as to Ara, first, PO1 Ayao recovered six plastic sachets of white crystalline
substance from Ara and marked them with both his and Aras initials. Second, the
sachets were likewise signed by property custodian PO3 Pelenio. Third, PO1 Ayao
signed a Request for Laboratory Examination then personally delivered the sachets
to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination. Fourth, SPO4 Mallorca then
received the sachets at the crime laboratory.

As to Musa, first, SPO1 Furog seized the sachets from Musa and marked each with
his own initials. Second, an Inventory of Property Seized was then made by SPO4
Galendez. Lastly, SPO1 Furog later submitted a Request for Laboratory
Examination of the five (5) sachets weighing a total of 14.2936 grams to the PNP
Crime Laboratory.

As to Talib, first, PO2 Lao seized a small sachet from Talib during the buy-bust
operation. Second, PO2 Lao delivered a Request for Laboratory Examination of
one (1) sachet of suspected shabu weighing 0.3559 gram. Third, SPO4 Mallorca
also received the items at the PNP Crime Laboratory.

Forensic Chemist Noemi Austeros examination of the sachets confiscated from all
accused-appellants showed that these were positive for shabu. During trial, the
seized items were identified in court. The five (5) sachets taken from Musa were
marked Exhibits A-1 to A-5, while the sachet seized from Talib was marked
Exhibit B. The six (6) sachets taken from Ara were marked Exhibits B1-B6.

We are, thus, satisfied that the prosecution was able to preserve the integrity and
evidentiary value of the shabu in all three criminal cases against accused-
appellants.

The rest of the arguments interposed are evidently without merit and do not
warrant discussion.
Penalties Imposed

Criminal Case No. 51,472-2002 against Talib


The crime of illegal possession of drugs is punishable by Sec. 11 of RA
9165, as follows:
Sec. 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. x x x
xxxx
3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to
twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand pesos
(P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if the
quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) grams of x x x
methamphetamine hydrochloride x x x.

Talib was sentenced to imprisonment of sixteen (16) years and a fine of PhP
300,000.

Criminal Case No. 51,473-2002 against Musa


The provision Musa was charged of violating provides the following penalty:

(1) Life   imprisonment   and   a   fine   ranging   from   Four   hundred


thousand   pesos   (P400,000.00)   to   Five   hundred   thousand   pesos
(P500,000.00),   if   the   quantity   of   methamphetamine   hydrochloride   or
shabu is ten (10) grams or more but less than fifty (50) grams;

Musa was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of PhP 400,000.

Criminal Case No. 51,471-2002 against Ara

The crime of illegal sale of shabu is penalized by Sec. 5, Art. 11 of RA 9165:

SEC. 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 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 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.

The same section contains the following provision:

If the sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution or


transportation of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and
essential chemical transpires within one hundred (100) meters from the
school, the maximum penalty shall be imposed in every case.

Since the sale of shabu was within five (5) to six (6) meters from St. Peters
College, the maximum penalty of death should be imposed on Ara. Pursuant to
RA 9346 or An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines,
however, only life imprisonment and a fine shall be meted on him.

Ara was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of PhP 10,000,000. He,
however, is no longer eligible for parole.

What distinguishes this case from others is that one of the accused-appellants was a
police officer himself who should have known better than to break the law he was
duty-bound to enforce. What is more, he is charged with the crime of selling illegal
drugs, an offense so horrendous for destroying the lives of its victims and their
families that the penalty of death used to be imposed on its perpetrators. No one
could have been more deserving of such a punishment than someone who should
be enforcing the law but caught pushing drugs instead. As it was, the death penalty
was indeed originally imposed on SPO3 Ara, who had been in the service for more
than 30 years.

The ill effects of the use of illegal drugs are too repulsive and shocking to
enumerate. Thus, once the charges of sale and possession of said drugs are
established in cases such as this, any errors or technicalities raised by the suspects
should not be allowed to invalidate the actions of those involved in curtailing their
illegal activities. The punishments given to drug pushers should serve as deterrent
for others not to commit the same offense. No price seems high enough for drug
dealers to pay; it is just unfortunate that the penalty of death can no longer be
imposed because it has been abolished.

As the penalties meted out to all three accused-appellants are within the range
provided by RA 9165, we affirm the CAs sentence.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.


No. 00025B entitled People of the Philippines v. SPO3 Sangki Ara y Mirasol, Mike
Talib y Mama, Jordan Musa y Bayan is AFFIRMED with the modification that
accused-appellant Sangki Ara is not eligible for parole.

SO ORDERED.
Nogales v. People, G.R. No. 191080, 21 November 2011.
31JUL
FACTS
Several electronic devices including desktop computer CPUs and softwares were seized by
virtue of a search warrant in violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended
in relation to R.A. No. 8972.The RTC issued an order to keep the seized items in the NBI
evidence room with the undertaking to make said confiscated items available whenever the
court would require them. Aggrieved by the issuance of the said order, the named persons
in the search warrant filed a Motion to Quash Search Warrant and Return Seized Properties,
but were denied.
The Court of Appeals, in resolving the petition for certiorari filed with it against the RTC
judge, ordered the release of the seized CPUs and softwares with the condition that the
hard disk be removed from the CPUs and be destroyed, and if the softwares are determined
to be unlicensed or pirated copies, they shall be destroyed in the manner allowed by law.
Petitioners argue that there is no evidence showing that they were the source of
pornographic printouts presented by the NBI to the RTC or to the City Prosecutor of Manila.
Since the hard disks in their computers are not illegal per se unlike shabu, opium,
counterfeit money, or pornographic magazines, said merchandise are lawful as they are
being used in the ordinary course of business, the destruction of which would violate not
only procedural, but substantive due process.
ISSUE
Whether or not the removal and destruction of the hard disks containing the pornographic
and obscene materials violates the property rights of its owner, considering the criminal
case for violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code was dismissed.
RULING
NO.
The argument of petitioners is totally misplaced considering the undisputed fact that
the seized computer units contained obscene materials or pornographic files. Had it been
otherwise, then, petitioners argument would have been meritorious as there could be no
basis for destroying the hard disks of petitioners computer units.
While it may be true that the criminal case for violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal
Code was dismissed as there was no concrete and strong evidence pointing to them as the
direct source of the subject pornographic materials, it cannot be used as basis to recover
the confiscated hard disks. At the risk of being repetitious, it appears undisputed that the
seized computer units belonging to them contained obscene materials or pornographic
files. Clearly, petitioners had no legitimate expectation of protection of their supposed
property rights.
[T]he Court holds that the destruction of the hard disks and the softwares used in any
way in the violation of the subject law (Article 201, RPC) addresses the purpose of
minimizing if not totally eradicating pornography. This will serve as a lesson for those
engaged in any way in the proliferation of pornography or obscenity in this country. The
Court is not unmindful of the concerns of petitioners but their supposed property rights
must be balanced with the welfare of the public in general.
SECOND DIVISION

PEOPLE OF G.R. No. 176350


THE PHILIPPINES,
Appellee, Present:

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,


BRION,
*
BERSAMIN,
PEREZ, and
- versus - SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

August 10, 2011


JHON-JHON ALEJANDRO y
DELA CRUZ @ NOGNOG,
Appellant.
x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
DECISION

BRION, J.:

We resolve in this appeal the challenge to the May 31, 2006 decision[1] of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01251. The CA affirmed the May
14, 2004 decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 231, Pasay City,
finding appellant Jhon-Jhon Alejandro ydela Cruz (appellant) guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165
(the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and imposing on him the
penalty of life imprisonment.

BACKGROUND FACTS
The prosecution charged the appellant with violation of Section 5, Article II of
R.A. No. 9165 before the RTC, under an Information that states:

That on or about the 1st day of September 2002, in Pasay City,


Metro Manila, 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 and deliver 0.06 gram of
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), a dangerous drug.
[3]
(emphases in the original)

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. [4] During the pre-trial, the
prosecution and the defense stipulated on the following:

PRE-TRIAL ORDER

xxxx

III. Evidence of the Prosecution:

A. Testimonial (witnesses) -

xxxx

B. Documentary

Exhibit A - Affidavit of Arrest


Exhibit B - Buy-bust Money
Exhibit C - Booking and Information Sheet
Exhibit D - Request for Laboratory Examination
Exhibit E - Physical Science Report
No. D-1331-02

C. Real Evidence x x x

Exhibit F - subject specimen

xxxx
VI. Stipulation of Facts (Including those admitted or undisputed): The
accused with counsel and the Trial Prosecutor have agreed on the
following:

Exhibits C, D, & E admitted their existence only but not as to the


source

xxxx
This pre-trial order shall control the course of the trial in this case,
unless modified by the Court to prevent manifest injustice. The trial
prosecutor as well as the accused and counsel have signed this pre-trial
order to attest to the correctness thereof and their conformity thereto
which may accordingly be used in evidence in this case. [5] [emphases
ours]

Thus, the defense admitted the existence of Exhibits C (Booking and


Information Sheet), D (Request for Laboratory Examination) and E (Physical
Science Report No. D-1331-02). The parties also agreed, during the pre-trial, to
dispense with the testimony of the forensic chemist, Police Inspector (P/Insp.)
Lourdeliza M. Gural.

The prosecution presented, as its witnesses, Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1)


Jesus Tan and Police Officer 1 (PO1) Timothy Mengote. The appellant and Reggie
Morilla took the witness stand for the defense.

The evidence for the prosecution established that in the afternoon of September 1,
2002, SPO1 Tan was in the office of the District Drug Enforcement Group,
Southern Police District, Taguig, Metro Manila, when a confidential informant
called and told him about the illegal drug activities of the appellant, alias Nog-nog.
Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Mariano Fegarido conducted a briefing, and then
dispatched Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Nilo Banzuela, Senior Police Officer 1
(SPO1)Alberto Sangalang, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Carlos Cachapero, SPO1 Tan,
and PO1 Mengote, to meet with the informant.[6]

At around 5:00 p.m., the police met with the informant at the Pio Del Pilar
Elementary School. Thereafter, SPO1 Tan, PO1 Mengote and the informant went
to M. Dela Cruz Street in Pasay Cityto conduct a surveillance.[7] There, the
informant pointed to a person standing at the corner of Mary Luz Street and M.
Dela Cruz Street, and identified him as the appellant. [8] They observed the
appellant for about half an hour, and saw that there were people approaching him.
They also observed that there was an exchange of goods between the appellant and
the people who approached him.[9] The police thereafter returned to the station
where they underwent another briefing and planned an entrapment operation.
Under the plan, PO1 Mengote was designated as the poseur-buyer.[10]

SPO2 Banzuela, SPO1 Tan, SPO1 Sangalang, PO1 Mengote, PO3


Cachapero and the informant returned to M. Dela Cruz Street to conduct the buy-
bust operation. When they arrived at the place at around 6:00 p.m., they saw the
appellant sitting in front of a sari-sari store. The informant introduced PO1
Mengote to the appellant as a buyer (i.e., a shabu scorer). The appellant
asked, Magkano ba? PO1 Mengote answered, Halagang piso. PO1 Mengote then
gave the one hundred peso marked money to the appellant. The appellant, in turn,
pulled out a plastic sachet from his right pocket and handed it to PO1 Mengote.
Upon receiving the plastic sachet, PO1 Mengote made the pre-arranged signal (i.e.,
wiped his face with a towel) to his companions. Immediately, the other members of
the buy-bust team approached the appellant. They introduced themselves as police
officers, recovered the buy-bust money from the appellant, and arrested him. They
then brought him and the confiscated items to the police station. [11] At the police
station, they forwarded the seized items to the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Crime Laboratory where they were examined by P/Insp. Gural.[12]

The laboratory examination, conducted by P/Insp. Gural on the confiscated


specimen, yielded the following result:

PHYSICAL SCIENCE REPORT NO. D-1331-02

xxxx

SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:

A One (1) small brown staple wire-sealed evidence envelope with


signature markings containing one (1) small heat sealed transparent
plastic sachet with markings TM-1-010902 containing 0.06 gram of
white crystalline substance and marked as A-1.

xxxx

FINDINGS:

Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimen


gave POSITIVE result to the tests for the presence of
Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONCLUSION:

Specimen A-1 contains Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a


dangerous drug.[13]

In his defense, the appellant submitted a different version of events. He testified


that at around 6:00 p.m. of September 1, 2002, he was in front of his grandmothers
store on Mary Luz Street, Pasay City, when eight (8) policemen arrived. PO1
Mengote and SPO1 Tan approached and asked him about the whereabouts of a
certain Terio. When he replied that he did not know where Terio was, the police
brought him to the Pio Del Pilar Elementary School in Makati City[14] from where
the police apparently received a text message informing them that Terio was
in Pasay City. The police and the appellant returned to Mary Luz Street, and
entered a house owned by Terio. Inside, they saw its occupant, Enrico Yatco. The
police searched the house for about half an hour. Afterwards, they brought the
appellant and Enrico to the Sothern Police District. [15] At the police station, PO1
Mengote and SPO1 Tan showed six (6) pieces of plastic sachets to the appellant
and forced him to admit ownership.[16]

Reggies testimony was summarized by the RTC as follows:

REGGIE MORILLA, the caretaker of the store owned by the


accuseds grandmother, testified that he has been living with the family of
the accused for three (3) years already. The family of the accused is
located at 51 Mary Luz St., M. dela Cruz, Pasay City. On September 1,
2002, he was inside the store while the accused was standing outside
when suddenly he heard a commotion. So he peeped through a hole in
the store and saw two policemen in civilian attire handcuffing the
accused. He asked assistance from his neighbors. Then he saw the
accused being taken out of Mary Luz St. Later, they returned the accused
and they led the accused inside a house and then after thirty minutes, he
was brought out and was boarded inside an owner type jeep. [17]

The RTC, in its decision of May 14, 2004, found the appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged, and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of
life imprisonment. The RTC also ordered the appellant to pay a P500,000.00 fine.
[18]

The records of this case were originally transmitted to this Court on appeal.
Pursuant to our ruling in People v. Efren Mateo y Garcia,[19] we endorsed the case
and its records to the CA for appropriate action and disposition.

The CA affirmed the RTC decision.[20] The CA held that the appellant and his
counsel entered into a stipulation of facts whereby they agreed on the admissibility
of the request for laboratory examination of the submitted specimen and on the
findings of P/Insp. Gural. Hence, they cannot be allowed to question, on appeal,
the identity and integrity of the plastic sachet of shabu seized from the appellant by
members of the entrapment team. The CA added that the prosecution witnesses
positively identified the appellant as the person who handed the plastic sachet
of shabu to the poseur-buyer.[21]

The CA further held that the police officers are presumed to have performed their
duties in a regular manner, in the absence of any evidence of improper motive on
their part. It, likewise, disregarded the appellants defense of denial, as it was
unsupported by reliable corroborative evidence.[22]

In his brief, the appellant claims that the trial court erred in convicting him
of the crime charged despite the prosecutions failure to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. He claims that the integrity of the seized item had been
compromised due to the failure of the apprehending police to mark it.[23]

The Office of the Solicitor General counters with the argument that the appellant
cannot now question the identity and integrity of the specimen confiscated from
him as he already entered into a stipulation regarding the admissibility of the
request for laboratory examination and on the result of this examination. In
addition, the appellant failed to impute any ill motive on the part of the police
officers to falsely testify against him.[24]

THE COURTS RULING

We resolve to ACQUIT the appellant, for the prosecutions failure to prove his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until


the contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The burden lies on the prosecution
to overcome such presumption of innocence by presenting the quantum of
evidence required. In doing so, the prosecution must rest its case on its own merits
and cannot merely rely on the weakness of the defense. If the prosecution fails to
meet the required quantum of evidence, the defense does not even need to present
any evidence in its behalf; the presumption of innocence prevails and the accused
should be acquitted.[25]

Reasonable Doubt on the Corpus Delicti

The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs under
Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165 are: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the
object and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment
therefor. What is material in the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is
proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation
in court of evidence of the corpus delicti, i.e., the body or substance of the crime
that establishes that a crime has actually been committed, as shown by presenting
the object of the illegal transaction. [26] In prosecutions involving narcotics, the
narcotic substance itself constitutes the corpus delicti of the offense and proof of
its existence is vital to sustain a judgment of conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
[27]
To remove any doubt or uncertainty on the identity and integrity of the seized
drug, the evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug presented in court is
the very same illicit drug actually recovered from the appellant; otherwise, the
prosecution for drug pushing under R.A. No. 9165 fails.[28]
a. The Chain of Custody Rule and the Marking Requirement

Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which


implements R.A. No. 9165, defines chain of custody as the duly recorded
authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant
sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of
seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to
presentation in court for destruction.

In Junie Malillin y Lopez v. People,[29] we explained the importance of


establishing the chain of custody of the confiscated drugs, in this wise:

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 exhibit's level of
susceptibility to fungibility, alteration or tampering - without regard to
whether the same is advertent or otherwise not - dictates the level of
strictness in the application of the chain of custody rule.[30]
Thus, 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
means the placing by the apprehending officer or the poseur-buyer of his/her
initials and signature on the items seized. [31]Long before Congress passed R.A. No.
9165, this Court has consistently held that failure of the authorities to immediately
mark the seized drugs casts reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus
delicti.[32] Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link; hence, it
is vital that the seized contraband be 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 of at the end of the criminal proceedings, thus preventing
switching, "planting," or contamination of evidence.[33]

In the present case, the records do not show that the apprehending team
marked the seized items with their initials immediately upon confiscation.
In Sanchez,[34] we explained that consistency with the chain of custody rule
requires that the marking of the seized items be done (1) in the presence of the
apprehended violator, and (2) immediately upon confiscation. We clarified
in People v. Manuel Resurreccion[35] that [m]arking upon immediate confiscation
does not exclude the possibility that marking can be at the police station or office
of the apprehending team. In the present case, the testimonies of the apprehending
officers do not indicate that they ever marked the seized items, either at the place
of seizure or at the police station. How the police could have omitted such a basic
and vital procedure in the initial handling of the seized drugs truly baffles us.
Going back to what we earlier discussed, succeeding handlers of the specimen will
use the markings as reference. If at the first instance or opportunity, the
apprehending team did not mark the seized item/s, then there is nothing to identify
it later on as it passes from one hand to another.

Curiously, the seized item already bore the markings TM-1-010902 when it
was examined by the forensic chemist. In the absence, however, of specifics on
how, when and where this marking was done, and who witnessed the marking
procedure, we cannot accept this marking as compliance with the chain of custody
requirement required by the law. In People v. Ranilo Dela Cruz y Lizing,[36] the
Court reversed the accuseds conviction for the failure of the police to mark the
plastic sachet in the presence of the accused or his representatives. People v. Zaida
Kamad y Ambing,[37] likewise, resulted in an acquittal for the failure of the
prosecution to provide specific details on how the seized shabu was marked.

The second link in the chain of custody is the turnover of the confiscated
drug from PO1 Mengote to the police station. To recall, after PO1 Mengote
allegedly received the plastic sachet from the appellant, he made the pre-arranged
signal to his companions. The other members of the buy-bust team approached the
appellant, introduced themselves as police officers, and arrested him. Thereafter,
they brought him and the confiscated item to the police station.

Notably, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses failed to identify the


person who took custody of the seized item at the police station. Although the
request for laboratory examination was signed by P/Supt. Fegarido, the Chief of
the District Drug Enforcement Group, we cannot assume that he was the person
who received the seized item from PO1 Mengote, in the absence of any testimony
proving such fact.

For the succeeding links in the chain of custody, the evidence shows that
the confiscated item was forwarded to the PNP Crime Laboratory by one SPO2
Pepano, and then received by a certain Relos. P/Insp. Gural examined the
submitted specimen, and found it positive for the presence of methylamphetamine
hydrochloride. As previously discussed, there was a missing link in the custody of
the confiscated item after it left the possession of PO1 Mengote. The police did not
only fail to mark the specimen immediately upon seizure; it likewise failed to
identify the police officer to whose custody the confiscated item was given at the
police station. Thus, we cannot conclude with certainty that the item seized from
the appellant was the same as that presented for laboratory examination and, later
on, presented in court.

That the defense admitted the existence of the Booking and Information
Sheet (Exh. C), the Request for Laboratory Examination (Exh. D) and Physical
Science Report No. D-1331-02 (Exh. E) during the pre-trial did not amount to an
admission of the identity of the seized specimen. What the admissions proved were
merely the existence and authenticity of the request for laboratory examination and
the result of this examination, not the required chain of custody from the time of
seizure of evidence. Simply put, the admission regarding the existence of Exhibits
C, D and E has no bearing on the question of whether the specimen submitted for
chemical analysis was the same as that seized from the appellant. [38] To interpret
the stipulations as an admission that the appellant was the source of the specimen
would be contrary to the pre-trial order (stating that Exhibits C, D and E were
admitted as to their existence only and not as to the source); it would also bind the
appellant to an unceremonious withdrawal of his plea of not guilty.

In like manner, the stipulation during the pre-trial regarding the non-
presentation of the forensic chemist, P/Insp. Gural, 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.[39]

b. Non-compliance with the requirements of paragraph 1,


Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165

Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 and Section 21(a),
Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA No. 9165 give
us the procedures that the apprehending team should observe in the handling of
seized illegal drugs in order to preserve their identity and integrity as evidence. As
indicated by their mandatory terms, strict compliance with the prescribed
procedure is essential and the prosecution must show compliance in every case.[40]

Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 reads:

(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[.]

This provision is further elaborated in Section 21(a), Article II of the IRR of R.A.
No. 9165, which reads:
(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[.]

The records of the present case are bereft of evidence showing that the
apprehending or buy-bust team followed the outlined procedure of Section 21 of
R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR. PO1 Mengote narrated the police operation as follows:

PROSECUTOR BERNABE SOLIS:

Q: So [were] you able to locate him afterwards?

PO1 TIMOTHY MENGOTE:

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Where was he at that time?

A: At that time, he was in front of a sari-sari store or M. dela Cruz


St., sir.

Q: What was he doing at that time?

A: He was just sitting there at that time, sir.

xxxx
Q: What did you do next?

A: When we saw him, our asset introduced me to him as a shabu


scorer sir.

xxxx

Q: So what was the reply of the accused?

A: He said, Magkano ba? and I answered, Halagang piso sir.

Q: What does Piso mean?

A: P100.00 worth, sir.

Q: After having conveyed your intention to buy P100.00 worth of


shabu, what did the accused do, if any?

A: When I had given him the buy bust money, he pulled x x x the
shabu out of his right pocket pants, sir.

xxxx

Q: What did he do with the shabu which he pulled out of his right
pocket?

A: He handed over the stuff to me, sir.

Q: And after this exchange of goods, what did you do if any?

A: I executed the pre-arranged signal by wiping my face with a


face towel, sir.

xxxx

Q: And did your colleagues respond to the pre-arranged signal?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What happened after that?


A: I properly introduced myself to Jhon Jhon as a police officer,
sir.

xxxx

Q: Upon the arrival of your back-up team, what happened next?

A: They likewise introduced themselves as police officers and we


recovered the buy bust money which was taken from his
right hand sir.

xxxx

Q: What happened next?

A: We apprised him of his rights, arrested him and brought him to


our office sir.[41]

From these exchanges, clearly it appears that the apprehending team did not
photograph or conduct a physical inventory of the item seized, whether at the place
of seizure or at the police station. The non-compliance by the apprehending team
with the photograph and physical inventory requirements under R.A. No. 9165 and
its IRR was also evident in the testimony of another member of the buy-bust teams,
PO1 Tan, who corroborated PO1 Mengotes testimony on material points. Notably,
even the Joint Affidavit of Arrest[42] of the members of the entrapment team made
no mention of any inventory or photograph.

Prior to the passage of R.A. No. 9165, the Court applied the procedure
required by Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979, amending
Board Regulation No. 7, Series of 1974.[43] Section 1 of this Regulation requires the
apprehending team, having initial custody and control of the seized drugs, to
immediately inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused
and/or his representatives, who shall be required to sign and be given copies of the
inventory.
After the passage of R.A. No. 9165, the Court did not waver in ensuring that
the prescribed procedures in the handling of the seized drugs were observed.
In People v. Rosemarie R. Salonga,[44] we acquitted the accused for the failure of
the police to inventory and photograph the confiscated items. We also reversed the
accuseds conviction in Gutierrez,[45] for the failure of the buy-bust team to
inventory and photograph the seized items without justifiable grounds. People v.
Cantalejo[46] also resulted in an acquittal because no inventory or photograph was
ever made by the police.

We reached the same conclusions in the recent cases of People v. Erlinda


Capuno y Tison,[47] People v. Jay Lorena y Labag,[48] and People
v. Arnold Martinez y Angeles, et al.[49]

Lest the chain of custody rule be misunderstood, we clarify that non-


compliance with the prescribed procedural requirements does not necessarily
render the seizure and custody of the items void and invalid; the seizure may still
be held to be valid, provided that (a) there is a justifiable ground for the non-
compliance, and (b) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are
shown to have been properly preserved. These conditions, however, were not met
in the present case as the prosecution did not even
attempt to offer any justification for the failure of the police to follow
the prescribed procedures in the handling of the seized items. As we held in People
v. Ronaldo De Guzman y Danzil,[50] the failure to follow the procedure mandated
under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR must be adequately explained. The justifiable
ground for the non-compliance must be proven as a fact. The Court cannot
presume what these grounds are or that they even exist.

No Presumption of Regularity in
the Performance of Official Duties
In convicting the appellant of the crime charged, both the RTC and the CA relied
on the evidentiary presumption that official duties have been regularly performed.
However, this presumption is not conclusive and cannot, by itself, overcome the
constitutional presumption of innocence. The presumption of regularity, it must be
emphasized, obtains only when there is no deviation from the regular performance
of duty. Where the official act in question is irregular on its face, no presumption of
regularity can arise.[51] Our declaration in People v. Samuel Obmiranis y Oreta [52] is
particularly instructive:

It needs no elucidation that the presumption of regularity in the


performance of official duty must be seen in the context of an existing
rule of law or statute authorizing the performance of an act or duty or
prescribing a procedure in the performance thereof. The presumption, in
other words, obtains only where nothing in the records is suggestive of
the fact that the law enforcers involved deviated from the standard
conduct of official duty as provided for in the law. Otherwise, where the
official act in question is irregular on its face, an adverse presumption
arises as a matter of course. There is indeed merit in the contention that
where no ill motives to make false charges was successfully attributed to
the members of the buy-bust team, the presumption prevails that said
police operatives had regularly performed their duty, but the theory is
correct only where there is no showing that the conduct of police duty
was irregular. People v. Dulay and People v. Ganenas in fact both
suggest that the presumption of regularity is disputed where there is
deviation from the regular performance of duty. Suffice it to say at this
point that the presumption of regularity in the conduct of police duty is
merely just thata mere presumption disputable by contrary proof and
which when challenged by the evidence cannot be regarded as binding
truth.[53]

In the present case, the procedural lapses by the apprehending team in the handling
of the seized items from their failure to mark it immediately upon confiscation, to
their failure to inventory and photograph it in the presence of the accused, or his
representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any
elected public official, without offering any justifiable ground effectively negated
the presumption of regularity.

Conclusion
In fine, the totality of evidence presented in the present case does not
support the appellant's conviction for violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No.
9165, since the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt all the
elements of the offense. The prosecutions failure to comply with Section 21,
Article II of R.A. No. 9165, and with the chain of custody requirement of this
Act compromised the identity of the item seized, leading to the failure to
adequately prove the corpus delicti of the crime charged. In accordance with the
constitutional mandate that the guilt of the appellant must be proven beyond
reasonable doubt, we hold for failure to establish the required quantum of evidence
that the presumption of innocence must prevail and acquittal should follow as a
matter of right.[54]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we REVERSE and SET


ASIDE the May 31, 2006decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 01251. Appellant Jhon-Jhon Alejandro y dela Cruz is
hereby ACQUITTED for the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. He is ordered immediately RELEASED from detention, unless
he is confined for another lawful cause.

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


Corrections, MuntinlupaCity, for immediate implementation. The Director of the
Bureau of Corrections is directed to report the action he has taken to this Court,
within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 173794

Plaintiff-Appellee,

Present:

CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
- versus - BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO, and

VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:
DARWIN RELATO y AJERO,

Accused-Appellant.
January 18, 2012

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

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:
Statutory rules on preserving the chain of custody of confiscated prohibited
drugs and related items are designed to ensure the integrity and reliability of the
evidence to be presented against the accused. Their observance is the key to the
successful prosecution of illegal possession or illegal sale of prohibited drugs.

Darwin Relato y Ajero is now before the Court in a final plea for exoneration
from his conviction for violating Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002). Policemen had arrested him on August 29, 2002
during a buy-bust operation and the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Sorsogon
had forthwith charged him with the offense on August 30, 2002 in the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 65, in Bulan, Sorsogon as follows:

That on or about the 29th day of August, 2002 at about 11:00


o’clock in the evening, in Barangay Aquino, Municipality of Bulan,
Province of Sorsogon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously, sell, dispense and deliver to a PNP asset
disguised as poseur-buyer, two (2) plastic sachets of methamphetamine
hydrochloride “shabu” weighing 0.0991 gram, for and in consideration
of the sum of FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P500.00), the serial number of
which was previously noted, without having been previously authorized
by law to sell or deliver the same.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 1

Upon pleading not guilty to the information on November 19, 2002, Relato was
2

tried.

Version of the Prosecution


At 6:00 pm of August 29, 2002, PO3 Sonny Evasco of the Bulan Police Station
received a tip from his asset to the effect that Relato would be peddling illegal drugs
around midnight in Barangay Aquino, Zone 7, Bulan, Sorsogon. PO3 Evasco
immediately reported the tip to SPO1 Elmer Masujer, the chief of the Intelligence
Department of the police station. In turn, SPO1 Masujer formed a team to conduct a
buy-bust operation against Relato consisting of himself, PO3 Evasco, PO1 Wilfredo
Lobrin and SPO2 Adolfo Villaroza. SPO1 Masujer prepared a P500.00 bill to be the
buy-bust money by marking the bill with his initials.3

The team waited for the informant to call again. At 10:00 pm, PO3 Evasco
finally received the call from his asset, who confirmed that the proposed transaction
would take place beside the lamp post near the ice plant in Barangay Aquino. With
that, the team hastened to the site. PO3 Evasco and SPO2 Villaroya concealed
themselves about seven to 10 meters from the lamp post, while SPO1 Masujer and
PO1 Lobrin provided area security from about 10 to 15 meters away from where PO3
Evasco and SPO2 Villaroya were.

A few minutes later, Relato and a companion (later identified as Pido Paredes)
arrived together on board a motorcycle. Relato alighted to confer with the asset who
was the poseur buyer. After the transaction was completed, PO3 Evasco signaled to
the rest of the team, who drew near and apprehended Relato. Seized from Relato was
the marked P500.00 buy-bust bill. The poseur buyer turned over to PO3 Evasco the
two transparent sachets containing crystalline substances that Relato sold to the
poseur buyer. Paredes escaped. 4

SPO1 Masujer marked the two transparent sachets with his own initials “EM”
upon returning to the police station.
5
Forensic Chemical Officer Josephine Clemen of the PNP Crime Laboratory in
Region V conducted the laboratory examination on the contents of the two transparent
sachets and found the contents to have a total weight of 0.991 gram. She certified that
the contents were positive for the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride. 6

Version of the Accused

Relato denied the accusation, and claimed that he had been framed up. His
version follows.

At about 11:00 pm of August 29, 2002, Relato and Paredes were proceeding to
his grandfather’s wake in Magallanes, Sorsogon on board his motorcycle, with
Paredes driving. They stopped upon reaching Barangay Aquino to allow Relato to
adjust the fuel cock of the motorcycle. SPO1 Masujer suddenly appeared and put
handcuffs on Relato, who resisted. The three other officers came to SPO1 Masujer’s
assistance and subdued Relato. SPO1 Masujer then seized Relato’s 3310 Nokia
cellphone, its charger, and his personal money of P3,500.00 in P500.00 bills. Relato
claimed that the cellphone belonged to Paredes while the cash was a gift from an in-
law. The officers boarded Relato in their jeep and haled him to the police station of
Bulan.

In the station, SPO1 Masujer and PO2 Villaroya required him to remove his
pants. He complied. They then searched his person but did not find anything on him.
He then saw SPO1 Masujer take two sachets from his own wallet and placed them on
top of a table. SPO1 Masujer then told Relato to point to the sachets, and a picture
was then taken of him in that pose. In the meanwhile, Paredes notified his family
about his arrest.
7
Ruling of the RTC

On August 9, 2004, the RTC convicted Relato, viz:


8

Prosecution having established by the required quantum of proof


and with moral certainty the CULPABALITY of the herein accused to
the crime as charged- HIS CONVICTION HAS BECOME
INEVITABLE.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused Darwin Ajero y


Relato having been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of
Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 (Repealing R.A. No. 6425 and
amending R.A. 7659), is hereby sentenced to suffer the indivisible
penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT, absent any mitigating or
aggravating circumstance (Art. 63(2), R.P.C.), with all the accessory
penalties provided by law, and to pay the fine of P500,000.00.

All the proceeds of the crime shall be confiscated and forfeited in


favor of the government to be disposed of in accordance with the
provisions of Sec. 21 of R.A. 9165.

The period of the preventive imprisonment already served by the


herein accused shall be credited in the service of his sentence pursuant to
the provision of Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code.

SO ORDERED. 9
Ruling of the CA

Relato appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), submitting that:

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN GIVING FULL CREDENCE TO


THE CONFLICTING TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION
WITNESSES

II

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-


APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE
PROSECUTION’S FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT

On May 24, 2006, however, the CA affirmed the conviction, stating:


10

In closing, there being no misappreciation of facts, distortion of


evidence, and speculative, arbitrary and unsupported conclusions drawn
by the court a quo in support of its judgment of conviction, We defer to
such findings and conclusion. Thus, well- settled is the rule that the
findings of facts and assessment of credibility of witnesses is a matter
best left to the trial court because of its unique position of having
observed that elusive and incommunicable evidence of the witnesses’
deportment on the stand while testifying, which opportunity is denied to
the appellate courts (Lim, Jr. vs. San, 438 SCRA 102).
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the
court a quo’s assailed decision dated 09 August is perforce affirmed in
toto.

SO ORDERED.

Issues

Relato argues that the CA should have reversed his conviction for being
contrary to the established facts, and to the pertinent law and jurisprudence.

Ruling

The appeal is meritorious.

Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 provides the procedure to be followed in


the seizure and custody of prohibited drugs, to wit:

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:

(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;

xxx

The provisions of Article II, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and
Regulations (IRR)of Republic Act No. 9165 provide:

xxx

(a) The apprehending office/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;

xxx

A review of the records establishes that the aforestated procedure laid down by
Republic Act No. 9165 and its IRR was not followed. Several lapses on the part of the
buy-bust team are readily apparent. To start with, no photograph of the
seized shabu was taken. Secondly, the buy-bust team did not immediately mark the
seized shabu at the scene of the crime and in the presence of Relato and witnesses.
Thirdly, although there was testimony about the marking of the seized items being
made at the police station, the records do not show that the marking was done in the
presence of Relato or his chosen representative. And, fourthly, no representative of the
media and the Department of Justice, or any elected official attended the taking of the
physical inventory and to sign the inventory.

Under the foregoing rules, the marking immediately after seizure is the starting point
in the custodial link, because succeeding handlers of the prohibited drugs or related
items will use the markings as reference. It further serves to segregate the marked
evidence from the corpus of all other similar and related evidence from the time they
are seized from the accused until they are disposed of at the end of the criminal
proceedings, obviating switching, “planting,” or contamination of evidence. It is
11

crucial in ensuring the integrity of the chain of custody, which is defined in Section
1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, thus:
12

b. “Chain of Custody” means the duly recorded authorized


movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant
sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from
the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to
safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of
movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and
signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item,
the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course
of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition;

While the last paragraph of Section 21(a) of the IRR provides a saving
mechanism to ensure that not every case of non-compliance irreversibly prejudices the
State’s evidence, it is significant to note that the application of the saving mechanism
to a situation is expressly conditioned upon the State rendering an explanation of the
lapse or lapses in the compliance with the procedures. Here, however, the Prosecution
13

tendered no explanation why the buy-bust team had failed to mark the
seized shabu immediately after the arrest. Nevertheless, even assuming that marking
the shabu at the scene of the crime by the buy-bust team had not been practical or
possible for the buy-bust team to do, the saving mechanism would still not be
applicable due to the lack of a credible showing of any effort undertaken by the buy-
bust team to keep the shabu intact while in transit to the police station.

The procedural lapses committed by the buy-bust team underscored the


uncertainty about the identity and integrity of the shabu admitted as evidence against
the accused. They highlighted the failure of the Prosecution to establish the chain of
14

custody, by which the incriminating evidence would have been authenticated. An


unavoidable consequence of the non-establishment of the chain of custody was the
serious doubt on whether the shabu presented as evidence was really
the shabusupposedly seized from Relato.

In a prosecution of the sale and possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride


prohibited under Republic Act No. 9165, the State not only carries the heavy burden
15

of proving the elements of the offense of, but also bears the obligation to prove
the corpus delicti, failing in which the State will not discharge its basic duty of
proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. It is settled that the State
does not establish the corpus delicti when the prohibited substance subject of the
prosecution is missing or when substantial gaps in the chain of custody of the
prohibited substance raise grave doubts about the authenticity of the prohibited
substance presented as evidence in court. Any gap renders the case for the State less
16

than complete in terms of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable
doubt. Thus, Relato deserves exculpation, especially as we recall that his defense of
17

frame-up became plausible in the face of the weakness of the Prosecution’s evidence
of guilt.

WHEREFORE, we REVERSE the decision promulgated on May 24, 2006


affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Bulan, Sorsogon, Branch 65;
and ACQUIT accusedDARWIN RELATO y AJERO due to the failure of the State
to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
ACCORDINGLY, we DIRECT the immediate release from detention
of DARWIN RELATO y AJERO, unless he is detained for some other lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ordered to implement this


Decision, and to report his action hereon to this Court within 10 days from receipt
hereof.

SO ORDERED.
THE PEOPLE OF G.R. No. 177771
THE PHILIPPINES,
Appellee, Present:
CARPIO MORALES, J., Chairperson,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
SERENO, JJ.
- versus -
Promulgated:

May 30, 2011

ARIELITO ALIVIO y
OLIVEROS and ERNESTO
DELA VEGA y CABBAROBIAS,
Appellant.
x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

BRION, J.:

On appeal to this Court is the Decision, [1] dated November 30, 2006, of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01138, which affirmed the Decision [2] of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 70, Pasig City, in Criminal Case Nos.
12450-52-D. The RTC convicted Arielito Alivio y Oliveros and Ernesto dela Vega
(collectively referred to as appellants) of violating Sections 5, 11 and 12, Article II
of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002.
The Arraignment and Plea

In Criminal Case No. 12450-D, the Information charged the appellants of


selling shabu, as follows:

the accused, conspiring and confederating together, and both of them mutually
helping and aiding one another, not being lawfully authorized by law, did then
and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, deliver and give away to
PO2 Lemuel Laro, a police poseur-buyer, one (1) heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachet containing six (6) centigrams (0.06 gram) of white crystalline
substance, which was found positive to the test for methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, in violation of the said law.[3]

In Criminal Case No. 12451-D, Dela Vega was charged of


possessing shabu under the following Information:

the accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess any dangerous drug; did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession and
under his custody and control one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet
containing ten (10) decigrams (0.10 gram), of white crystalline substance,
which was found positive to the test for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug, in violation of the said law.[4]

Finally, in Criminal Case No. 12452-D, Alivio was charged of possessing


drug paraphernalia consisting of two disposable lighters, an improvised tooter and
an improvised burner. The pertinent portion of the Information states:

the accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess paraphernalia or


otherwise use any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously have in his possession two (2) pcs. of disposable lighters, one (1)
improvised tooter and one (1) improvised burner, which are all instruments,
equipment, apparatus or paraphernalia, fit or intended for smoking, sniffing,
consuming or introducing methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly
known as shabu, a dangerous drug, in violation of the said law.[5]

The appellants pleaded not guilty to all the charges and trial on the merits
followed.

The Version of the Prosecution

The prosecutions case relied on the theory that the police apprehended the
appellants during a buy-bust operation conducted at Alivios residence. During the
buy-bust operation, the police found drug paraphernalia at Alivios residence while
a search on Dela Vegas person yielded one plastic sachet of shabu which the police
seized.

The prosecutions evidence showed that at around 9:30 p.m. of May 20, 2003, the
Pasig City Police received a tip from an asset that one Ariel was rampantly selling
illegal drugs in Bagong Ilog, Pasig City. A buy-bust team was immediately formed
in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. The buy-bust
money, which consisted of two (2) 100 peso bills, was prepared and marked with
the symbol, 3L. PO2 Lemuel Lagunay Laro was designated to act as the poseur-
buyer.

Together with SPO3 Lemuel Matias and PO1 Allan Mapula, PO2 Laro and
the asset went to the house of Ariel. While the rest of the buy-bust team
strategically positioned themselves at the target area, PO2 Laro and the asset met
Ariel. The asset introduced PO2 Laro to Ariel who was later on identified as
Alivio. The asset told Alivio that they wanted to buy shabu. Alivio asked how
much they wanted to buy, to which the asset replied: dalawang daan lang pre at
saka puwede kaming gumamit dyan? The two were ushered into the second floor of
the house where they saw dela Vega seated in front of a table with drug
paraphernalia. PO2 Laro then gave the buy-bust money to Alivio who handed it to
Dela Vega. The latter then took out from his pocket one plastic sachet
of shabu which he gave to Alivio who handed it to PO2 Laro. After the
exchange, PO2 Laro introduced himself as a police officer and arrested Alivio and
Dela Vega. The asset made a signal for the buy-bust team to come inside the
house. SPO3 Matias searched Dela Vega and found him in possession of one
plastic sachet of shabu. The buy-bust team also retrieved the drug paraphernalia on
top of the table, which paraphernalia they correspondingly marked. The buy-bust
team took Alivio, Dela Vega and the confiscated items to the police station for
investigation. Afterwards, the confiscated items were taken by PO1 Mapula to the
PNP Crime Laboratory for examination. The two (2) plastic sachets tested positive
for shabu.

By agreement of the prosecution and the defense, the testimony of forensic chemist
P/Insp. Joseph Perdido was dispensed with and they entered stipulations on:

1) The due execution and genuineness of the Request for Laboratory


Examination dated May 20, 2003 which was marked in evidence as Exhibit
A and the stamp showing receipt thereof by the PNP Crime Laboratory as
Exhibit A-1;

2) The due execution and genuineness, as well as the truth of the contents, of
Chemistry Report No. D-940-03E dated May 12, 2003 issued by Forensic
Chemist P/Insp. Joseph M. Perdido of the PNP Crime Laboratory, Eastern
Police District, Saint Francis St., Mandaluyong City, which was marked in
evidence as Exhibit B, the finding and conclusion as appearing on the report
as Exhibit B-1 and the signature of the forensic Chemist over his typewritten
name likewise as appearing on the report as Exhibit B-2;

3) The existence of the two (2) plastic sachets and other paraphernalia, but not
their source or origin, contained in an envelope, the contents of which were
the subject of the Request for Laboratory Examination, which where marked
in evidence as follows: as Exhibit C (the envelope), as Exhibit C-1 (the
1st plastic sachet), as Exhibit D (the improvised tooter with markings EXH-E
AAO dated 05-20-03), as Exhibit E (the improvised burner) and as Exhibits
F-1 & F-2 (the two disposable lighters).[6]
The Version of the Defense

The appellants anchored their defense on denial and frame-up. They denied
selling shabu and claimed that they were together that night drinking at the second
floor of Alivios residence. They also claimed that five (5) men (who turned out to
be policemen) suddenly barged in on them looking for a person named Bon-bon.
When they replied that neither of them was Bon-bon, the policemen frisked and
arrested them. The policemen took from the appellants their earnings for that day
and the P5,000.00 cash they found in the house. The appellants tried to resist arrest
and suffered injuries as a result. [7]

Alivio additionally asserted that he could not have sold shabu to PO2 Laro since he
knew him to be a policeman. Alivio claimed that he was a former driver of Atty.
Nelson Fajardo whom he used to accompany to the police station where PO2 Laro
was assigned.

The Ruling of the RTC

On February 28, 2005, the RTC convicted the appellants of all charges laid.
The RTC relied on the presumption of regularity in the buy-bust operation and the
lack of improper motive on the part of the police officers. The RTC rejected the
proferred denial and frame-up as defenses as they are inherently easy to concoct,
and found that the prosecution sufficiently established all the elements of the
crimes charged and the identity of the appellants as perpetrators. The RTC thus
concluded:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered, as follows:

In Criminal Case No. 12450-D both accused Arielito Alivio and Ernesto Dela
Vega are hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of
Violation of Section 5, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (illegal sale of shabu) and
are hereby sentenced to LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to solidarily pay
a FINE of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP500,000.00).

In Criminal Case No. 12451-D accused Ernesto dela Vega is hereby


found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section
11, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (illegal possession of shabu) and is hereby
sentenced to Twelve (12) Years and One (1) Day to Twenty (20) Years and to
pay a Fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 300,000.00).

In Criminal Case No. 12452-D accused Arielito Alivio is hereby


found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section
12, Article II, of Republic Act 9165 (illegal possession of drug paraphernalia)
and is hereby sentenced to Six (6) Years and One (1) Day to Four (4)
Years and a FINE of Ten Thousand Pesos (PHP 10,000.00).[8]
The appellants appealed to the CA.

The Ruling of the CA

On November 30, 2006, the CA affirmed the RTC decision. The CA took
into account the consistent testimonies of the prosecution witnesses to support the
presumption that the police officers regularly performed the buy-bust operation.
The CA likewise ruled that the appellants failed to substantiate their defenses.

The Issue

The appellants raised the following lone assignment of error:

THE [CA] ERRED IN FINDING THE [APPELLANTS] GUILTY


BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT FOR VIOLATION OF THE
PROVISIONS OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165.[9]

The appellants argue that the lower courts erred in evaluating the testimonial
evidence when they placed undue reliance on the presumption of regularity and the
absence of improper motive on the part of the police officers to perpetuate the
claimed irregularities. The appellants assert that the presumption of regularity
cannot take precedence over the presumption of innocence in their favor.

The appellants also fault the lower courts for disregarding the defenses
evidence that showed Alivios familiarity with PO2 Laro as a policeman. They
emphasize that this evidence was corroborated by the testimony of defense witness
Atty. Fajardo.

Finally, the appellants contend that the identities of the subject shabu were not
sufficiently proven since the seized items were not marked at the time the
appellants were apprehended.

The Courts Ruling

We find no reversible error committed by the RTC and the CA in


convicting the appellants of the crimes charged.

While the presumption of innocence is the highest in the hierarchy of


presumptions, it remains a rebuttable presumption. In a criminal case, the
presumption of innocence can be overcome by the presumption of regularity when
the latter is accompanied by strong evidence supporting the guilt of the accused.
[10]
Even without the presumption of regularity, a drug conviction can be sustained
through competent evidence establishing the existence of all the elements of the
crimes charged.
In this case, although the presumption of regularity did not arise considering
the evident lapses the police committed in the prescribed procedures, we rule that
the prosecutions evidence sufficiently established all the elements of the three (3)
crimes charged and the identity of the appellants as the perpetrators.
The existence of the buy-bust operation

Prosecutions involving illegal drugs depend largely on the credibility of


the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation. Thus, we generally defer
to the assessment on this point by the trial court as it had the opportunity to directly
observe the witnesses, their demeanor, and their credibility on the witness stand.
[11]
Our independent examination of the records shows no compelling reason to
depart from this rule.

First, the lower courts found the testimonies of PO2 Laro and SPO3
Matias consistent, positive and straightforward. These testimonies were
corroborated by PO1 Mapula who testified that the appellants were apprehended
through a buy-bust operation.

Second, the records reveal the lack of improper motive on the part of the
buy-bust team. Appellant Alivio even admitted that he had no idea why the police
officers filed the present case against him.[12] Alivio also denied police extortion.[13]

Third, the appellants failure to file cases against the buy-bust team for planting
evidence undoubtedly supports the prosecutions theory that the appellants were
arrested because they were caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu.

Fourth, the following documentary evidence presented by the prosecution


corroborates the existence of an actual buy-bust operation:

(a) The Pre-Opns Reports, made part of the records, showed that anti-
narcotics operations were conducted on May 20, 2003 against one @Ariel who
was allegedly involved in selling/trading of dangerous drugs.[14]
(b) The existence of the buy-bust money,[15] bearing the marking 3L, was
presented during the trial as part of PO2 Laros testimony. [16] According to PO2
Laro, the marking stood for his initials which he placed on the buy-bust money for
easy identification.

(c) The Affidavits of Arrest[17] by PO2 Laro and SPO3 Matias executed
immediately after the arrest of the appellants showed that the arrests were made
pursuant to a buy-bust operation.[18]

Familiarity

The defense failed to sufficiently prove the alleged familiarity of appellant


Alivio with PO2 Laro. The testimony of defense witness Atty. Fajardo failed to
give out specific details on the dates and occasions when he supposedly talked to
PO2 Laro in the presence of Alivio.[19]Moreover, the evidence also shows a time
gap between Alivios employment with Atty. Fajardo (from 2000 to 2001) and the
occurrence of the buy-bust operation (in 2003). As against these sketchy claims,
PO2 Laro testified that Alivio failed to recognize him during the buy-bust
operation.[20]

In any event, in Gwyn Quinicot v. People,[21] we held that it is not the


existing familiarity between the seller and the buyer, but the agreement and acts
constituting the sale and delivery of the illegal drugs, that is crucial in drug-related
cases:
What matters in drug related cases is not the existing familiarity between the
seller and the buyer, but their agreement and the acts constituting the sale and
delivery of the dangerous drug. Besides, drug pushers, especially small
quantity or retail pushers, sell their prohibited wares to anyone who can pay
for the same, be they strangers or not. It is of common knowledge that
pushers, especially small-time dealers, peddle prohibited drugs in the open
like any article of commerce. Drug pushers do no confine their nefarious trade
to known customers and complete strangers are accommodated provided they
have the money to pay.[22] [Citations omitted]
In this case, the prosecutions evidence sufficiently established the exchange of
the shabu and the buy-bust money between the appellants and PO2 Laro.

The identity of the confiscated shabu


and/or drug paraphernalia

In ascertaining the identity of the illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia


presented in court as the ones actually seized from the accused, the prosecution
must show that: (a) the prescribed procedure under Section 21(1), Article II of R.A.
No. 9165 has been complied with or falls within the saving clause provided in
Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A.
No. 9165; and (b) there was an unbroken link (not perfect link) in the chain of
custody with respect to the confiscated items.

Section 21(1), Article II of R.A. No. 9165 that prescribes the procedure to be
observed by the authorities in handling the illegal drug and/or drug paraphernalia
confiscated provides:

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:
(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;
This provision is elaborated on under Section 21(a) of the IRR which
provides a saving clause in case the prescribed procedure is not complied with.
Under this saving clause, 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.

The chain of custody rule requires the identification of the persons who handled
the confiscated items for the purpose of duly monitoring the authorized movements
of the illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia from the time they were seized from
the accused until the time they are presented in court. Section 1(b) of Dangerous
Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002 defines the chain of custody rule in
the following manner:

b. Chain of Custody" means the duly recorded authorized movements and


custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous
drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of
seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to
presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and
custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person
who held temporary custody [was] of the seized item, the date and time when
such transfer of custody made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as
evidence, and the final disposition[.]

In this case, although the prescribed procedure under Section 21(1), Article II of
R.A. No. 9165 was not strictly complied with, we find that the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items were properly preserved by the buy-bust team
under the chain of custody rule.

(a) The first link The records show that the shabu and the drug
paraphernalia were immediately marked at the scene by PO2 Laro and SPO3
Matias before they proceeded to the police station. [23] PO2 Laro marked the plastic
sachet containing shabu subject of the buy-bust sale, with AAO 05-20-03 that
stood for the initials of Alivio and the date of the buy-bust sale. [24]In turn, SPO3
Matias marked the retrieved shabu and the drug paraphernalia with his signature.[25]

(b) The second link - The records also disclose that after the respective
markings were made, PO2 Laro and SPO3 Matias turned over the confiscated
items in their custody at the police station for investigation. As may be gathered
from the Request for Laboratory Examination dated May 20, 2003 and prepared by
SPO4 Danilo M. Tuao, the following specimens were recovered from the
appellants and submitted for laboratory examination:
One (1) pc heat sealed transparent plastic sachet containing undetermined
amount of white crystalline substance suspected to be shabu bought from
suspect marked as EXH A AAO 05-20-03;

One (1) pc heat sealed transparent plastic sachet containing undetermined


amount of white crystalline substance marked as EXH B ECDV 05-20-03;

Two (2) pcs (sic) disposable lighter marked as EXH C1 to C2 AAA 05-20-03;

One (1) pc improvised burner marked as EXH D AAO 05-20-03;

One (1) pc improvised waterpipe/tooter marked as EXH E AAO 05-20-03.[26]

(c) The third link - PO1 Mapula testified that he was the one
who delivered the request for laboratory examination and the specimens to the PNP
Crime Laboratory.[27] He also testified that he turned over the specimens to one
PO1 Chuidan who received them at 1:00 a.m. of May 21, 2003.[28] Upon receipt of
the specimens, PO1 Chuidan stamped the request with a Control No. 1700-03 and
wrote D-940-03.[29] In this regard, a facial examination of Chemistry Report No. D-
940-03E shows that the very same specimens bearing the same markings stated in
the police request were subjected to laboratory examination, completed at 3:15
a.m. of May 21, 2003.[30]

(d) The fourth link - The prosecution and the defense stipulated that the
specimens examined by the forensic chemist, contained in the request for
laboratory examination, were the ones presented in court. PO2 Laro and SPO3
Matias identified and testified that the shabu and the drug paraphernalia examined
were the items retrieved from the appellants in the buy-bust operation conducted
on May 20, 2003.[31]

Under the circumstances, the prosecutions evidence clearly established an


unbroken link in the chain of custody, thus removing any doubt or suspicion that
the shabu and drug paraphernalia had been altered, substituted or otherwise
tampered with. The unbroken link in the chain of custody also precluded the
possibility that a person, not in the chain, ever gained possession of the seized
evidence.[32]

The defenses of Denial and Frame-up

The appellants merely denied the buy-bust sale and their possession of
the shabu and the drug paraphernalia. They claimed that they were framed by the
police who took their earnings and forcibly took them to the police station. In light
of the positive and credible testimony and the concrete evidence showing the
existence of the buy-bust operation, these defenses are unworthy of belief. Dela
Vegas injuries alone cannot rebut the consistent evidence that the appellants were
arrested pursuant to a buy-bust operation. We particularly note in this regard that
the participating policemen denied that they previously knew the appellants and
that they entertained ulterior or illicit motives to frame them.

The Proper Penalties

On the illegal sale of shabu (Criminal Case No. 12450-D), the appellants
were caught and arrested for selling .06 gram of shabu. The RTC and the CA
correctly imposed the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000.00
against the appellants, in accordance with Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165
which punishes illegal sale of shabu with the penalty of life imprisonment to death
and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) toTen
Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00).

On the illegal possession of shabu (Criminal Case No. 12451-D), dela Vega
was caught in possession of .10 gram of shabu and was meted the penalty of
twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of imprisonment and to pay
a fine of P300,000.00. Section 11, paragraph 2(3), Article II of R.A. No. 9165
provides:

(3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and
a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) to Four
hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are
less than five (5) grams of xxx methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Thus, we sustain the penalties the RTC and the CA imposed as these are
within the range provided by law.

Lastly, illegal possession of drug paraphernalia (Criminal Case No. 12452-


D) is punished under Section 12, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 that provides a
penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4)
years, and a fine ranging from Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to Fifty thousand
pesos (P50,000.00). We thus uphold the penalty of imprisonment of six (6) months
and one (1) day to four (4) years and a fine of P10,000.00 that the RTC and the CA
imposed on Alivio.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we AFFIRM the decision, dated November


30, 2006, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01138 which, in turn,
affirmed the decision, dated February 28, 2005, of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 70, Pasig City, in Criminal Case Nos. 12450-52-D.

SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 185715
Appellee,
Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J., Chairperson,


BRION,
BERSAMIN,
- versus - VILLARAMA, JR., and
SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:
ERLINDA CAPUNO y TISON, January 19, 2011
Appellant.
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

BRION, J.:

We review the May 27, 2008 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
G.R. CR No. 30215, affirming with modification the April 3, 2006 decision[2] of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 75, San Mateo, Rizal. The RTC decision
found Erlinda Capuno y Tison (appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
illegal sale of shabu, under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or
the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

ANTECEDENT FACTS

The prosecution charged the appellant with violation of Section 5, Article II of


R.A. No. 9165 before the RTC, under an Information that states:

That on or about the 21 st day of July 2002, in the Municipality of


Rodriguez, Province of Rizal, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being
authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
knowingly sell, deliver and give away to another, one (1) heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachet of white crystalline substance weighing 0.04
gram which was found positive to the test for Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, and which substance produces a
physiological action similar to amphetamine or other compound thereof
providing similar physiological effects.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. [4] The prosecution presented
Police Officer 1 (PO1) Jose Gordon Antonio and PO1 Fortunato Jiro III at the trial.
The appellant and Maria Cecilia Salvador took the witness stand for the defense.

PO1 Antonio narrated that at around 11:10 a.m. of July 21, 2002, he was at
the Rodriguez Police Station when a civilian informant arrived and told him that a
woman was openly selling dangerous drugs on Manggahan
Street, Barangay Burgos, Montalban, Rizal. Upon receiving this information, he,
PO1 Joseph G. Fernandez, and PO1 Jiro planned an entrapment operation: he (PO1
Antonio) was designated as the poseur-buyer, while his two companions would act
as back-up. Before leaving the police station, they asked the desk officer to record
their operation.[5] They went to Manggahan Street, and when they were near this
place, the informant pointed to them the appellant. PO1 Antonio alighted from the
vehicle, approached the appellant, and told her, Paiskor ng halagang piso; he then
handed the pre-marked one hundred peso bill to her. The appellant pulled out a
plastic sachet from her left pocket and gave it to PO1 Antonio. PO1 Antonio
immediately held the appellants arm, introduced himself to her, and stated her
constitutional rights. It was at this time that PO1 Fernandez and PO1 Jiro
approached them; PO1 Jiro recovered the marked money from the appellant. They
brought the appellant to the police station for investigation.[6] According to PO1
Antonio, the police forwarded the seized item to the Eastern Police District Crime
Laboratory for examination.[7]

PO1 Jiro testified that at around 11:00 a.m. of July 21, 2002, he was at the
Rodriguez Police Station when a confidential asset called and informed the police
that he saw one alias Erlindaselling illegal drugs. The police planned a buy-bust
operation wherein they prepared a one hundred peso bill (P100.00) marked money,
and designated PO1 Antonio as the poseur buyer. Afterwards, PO1 Jiro, PO1
Antonio, PO1 Fernandez, and the confidential asset left the police station and
proceeded to Manahan Street. On their arrival there, the confidential asset pointed
to them the appellant.[8] PO1 Antonio alighted from the vehicle, approached the
appellant, and talked to her. Thereafter, PO1 Antonio handed the marked money to
the appellant; the appellant took something from her pocket and handed it to PO1
Antonio.[9] Immediately after, PO1 Antonio arrested the appellant. He (PO1 Jiro)
and PO1 Fernandez approached the appellant; he recovered the marked money
from the appellants left pocket. They brought the appellant to the police station and
asked the duty officer to blotter the incident. Afterwards, they brought the appellant
to the police investigator; they also made a request for a laboratory examination.[10]

On cross-examination, PO1 Jiro stated that he was 10 meters away from


PO1 Antonio when the latter was transacting with the appellant. He maintained that
the buy-bust operation took place outside the appellants house. [11] He recalled that
the appellant had two other companions when they arrived. When they arrested the
appellant, some residents of the area started a commotion and tried to grab her.[12]

The testimony of Police Inspector Abraham Tecson, the Forensic Chemist,


was dispensed with after both parties stipulated on the result of the examination
conducted on the specimen submitted to the crime laboratory.

On the hearing of April 14, 2004, the prosecution offered the following as
exhibits:

Exhibit A the Sinumpaang Salaysay of PO1 Antonio, PO1 Jiro and


PO1 Fernandez

Exhibit B the request for laboratory examination

Exhibit C Chemistry Report No. D-1373-02E

Exhibit D the buy-bust money

Exhibit E Chemistry Report No. RD-78-03

Exhibit F the specimen confiscated from the appellant


Exhibit G Police Blotter[13]

The defense presented a different version of the events.

The appellant testified that at around 11:00 a.m. of July 21, 2002, she was
inside her house and lying on the bed, together with her 15-year old daughter,
when two persons, who introduced themselves as police officers, entered her
house. They wore maong pants and sando. They asked her if she was Erlinda
Capuno and when she answered in the affirmative, they searched her house.
[14]
They invited the appellant and her daughter to the Municipal Hall of Montalban,
Rizal when they did not find anything in the house. Upon arriving there, the police
told her to reveal the identity of the person who gave her shabu. When she
answered that she had no idea what they were talking about, the police put her in
jail.[15] The appellant further stated that she saw the seized specimen only in court.
[16]

On cross-examination, the appellant denied that she had been selling illegal
drugs. She explained that she consented to the search because she believed that the
two persons who entered her house were policemen.[17]

Maria, the appellants daughter, corroborated her mothers testimony on


material points, but stated that the two policemen did not search their house but
merely looked around.[18]

The RTC, in its decision[19] of April 3, 2006, convicted the appellant of the
crime charged, and sentenced her to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment for twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years, ten (10)
months and twenty (20) days. The RTC likewise ordered the appellant to pay
a P100,000.00 fine.

The appellant appealed to the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 30215. The
CA, in its decision[20] dated May 27, 2008, affirmed the RTC decision with the
modification that the appellant be sentenced to life imprisonment, and that the
amount of fine be increased to P500,000.00.
The CA found unmeritorious the appellants claim that the prosecution
witnesses were not credible due to their conflicting statements regarding the place
of the buy-bust operation. As the records bore, PO1 Antonio stated that they
conducted the entrapment operation on Manggahan Street; PO1 Jiro testified that it
was held on Manahan Street. The CA, nevertheless, ruled that PO1 Jiro made a slip
of the tongue as there was no Manahan Street in Barangay Burgos, Montalban,
Rizal.[21]

The CA added that despite the minor inconsistencies in the testimonies of


PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro, the records do not show that they were ever motivated
by any ulterior motive other than their desire to help wipe out the drug menace. It
added that the appellants denial cannot prevail over the positive identification
made by the prosecution witnesses, who, as police officers, performed their duties
in a regular manner.[22]

Finally, the CA held that all the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs
had been established.[23]

In her brief,[24] the appellant claims that the lower courts erred in convicting
her of the crime charged despite the prosecutions failure to prove her guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. She harps on the fact that PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro gave
conflicting statements on how they came to know of her alleged illegal activities.
On one hand, PO1 Antonio claimed that an informant went to the police station and
told them that the appellant was openly selling illegal drugs; PO1 Jiro, on the other
hand, stated that a civilian informant called the police and informed them of the
appellants illegal activities. The appellant also alleges that the testimonies of these
two witnesses differ as regards the actual place of the entrapment operation. She
further argues that the police did not coordinate with the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in conducting the buy-bust operation.

The appellant likewise contends that the prosecution failed to show an


unbroken chain of custody in the handling of the seized specimen. She claims that
the apprehending team did not mark the seized items upon confiscation. Moreover,
there was no showing that the police inventoried or photographed the seized items
in her presence or her counsel, a representative of the media and the Department of
Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official.[25]
For the State, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) counters with the
argument that the testimonies of the police officers prevail over the appellants bare
denial, more so since there was nothing in the records to show that they were
motivated by any evil motive other than their desire to curb the vicious drug trade.
[26]

The OSG added that when the buy-bust operation took place on July 21,
2002, there was no institution yet known as the PDEA, as the Implementing Rules
of R.A. No. 9165 (IRR) took effect only on November 27, 2002.[27] It further
claimed that the failure to comply with the Dangerous Drugs Board Regulations
was not fatal to the prosecution of drug cases.[28]

THE COURTS RULING

After due consideration, we resolve to acquit the appellant for the prosecutions
failure to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the laws own starting
perspective on the status of the accused in all criminal prosecutions, he is
presumed innocent of the charge laid unless the contrary is proven beyond
reasonable doubt.[29] The burden lies on the prosecution to overcome such
presumption of innocence by presenting the quantum of evidence required. In so
doing, the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not rely on the
weakness of the defense. And if the prosecution fails to meet the required amount
of evidence, the defense may logically not even present evidence on its own behalf.
In which case, the presumption prevails and the accused should necessarily be
acquitted.[30]

The requirements of paragraph 1, Section 21


of Article II of R.A. No. 9165
In a prosecution for the illegal sale of a prohibited drug under Section 5 of
R.A. No. 9165, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (1) the identity
of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of
the thing sold and the payment therefor. All these require evidence that the sale
transaction transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti,
i.e., the body or substance of the crime that establishes that a crime has actually
been committed, as shown by presenting the object of the illegal transaction. To
remove any doubt or uncertainty on the identity and integrity of the seized drug,
evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug presented in court is
the same illegal drug actually recovered from the appellant; otherwise, the
prosecution for possession or for drug pushing under R.A. No. 9165 fails.[31]

The required procedure on the seizure and custody of drugs is embodied in


Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, which states:
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[.]

This procedure, however, was not shown to have been complied with by the
members of the buy-bust team, and nothing on record suggests that they had
extended reasonable efforts to comply with the said statutory requirement in
handling the evidence. The deficiency is patent from the following exchanges at
the trial:

FISCAL ROMNIEL MACAPAGAL:

Q: Upon arrival at Manggahan Street, what did x x x your group


do?

PO1 JOSE GORDON ANTONIO:


A: We proceeded to the place and before we reach[ed] that
place[,] our civilian asset pointed to us the suspect.

Q: After your civilian informer pointed to the suspect, what did


your group do?

A: I alighted from our private vehicle at the time and I was the
one who talked to Erlinda Capuno.

Q: You said [that] you talked to Erlinda Capuno, what did you tell
her when you approached her?

A: I told her Paiskor ng halagang piso.

Q: When you told this to Erlinda that you buy one Hundred Peso
of shabu, what did he do? [sic]

A: When I gave her on [sic] piece of the marked money[,] he [sic]


pulled out something from her pocket.

Q: What is the denomination of the marked money?

A: One Hundred Peso bill.

Q: Upon receiving the plastic sachet, what did you do next?

A: After she gave me the suspected shabu, I held her by the arm
and my two companions who [were] then seeing me
approached me. [sic]

Q: What is the purpose of holding the hands of Erlinda when you


received this plastic sachet?

A: When I took the plastic sachet that was the time I held her and
after that I introduced myself and explained to her
Constitutional rights. [sic]

Q: After arresting Erlinda, where did you proceed?


A: We brought her to the Police Station for investigation where
she gave her full name and also turned over the suspected
items[.]

Q: Who recovered the buy-bust money?

A: Police Officer Hero [sic], Sir.

Q: You stated you were the one who handed the buy bust money
to Erlinda. Do you have that buy bust money with you?

A: After I gave the marked money to her[,] she picked from her
left pocket the suspected shabu and Police Officer Hero
recovered the money. [sic]

xxxx

Q: The alleged specimen you got from Erlinda, where is it now?

A: We brought it to the Eastern Police District Crime Laboratory


for examination.

Q: Were you able to know the result of this examination?

A: Yes, Sir. When we returned we already have the result. [32]

From the foregoing exchanges, it is clear that the apprehending team, upon
confiscation of the drug, immediately brought the appellant and the seized
specimen to the police station. No physical inventory and photograph of the
seized items were taken in the presence of the appellant or her counsel, a
representative from the media and the DOJ, and an elective official. We stress
that PO1 Antonios testimony was corroborated by another member of the
apprehending team, PO1 Jiro, who narrated that after arresting the appellant, they
brought her and the seized item to the police station. At no time during PO1 Jiros
testimony did he even intimate that they inventoried or photographed the
confiscated item.
A review of jurisprudence, even prior to the passage of R.A. No.
9165, shows that this Court did not hesitate to strike down convictions for failure
to follow the proper procedure for the custody of confiscated dangerous
drugs. Prior to R.A. No. 9165, the Court applied the procedure required by
Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979, amending Board
Regulation No. 7, Series of 1974.[33] Section 1 of this Regulation requires the
apprehending team, having initial custody and control of the seized drugs, to
immediately inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the
accused and/or his representatives, who shall be required to sign the copies of
the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

The Court remained vigilant in ensuring that the prescribed procedures


in the handling of the seized drugs were observed after the passage of R.A.
No. 9165. In People v. Lorenzo,[34] we acquitted the accused for failure of the buy-
bust team to photograph and inventory the seized items. People v.
Garcia[35] likewise resulted in an acquittal because no physical inventory was
ever made, and no photograph of the seized items was
taken under thecircumstances required by R.A. No. 9165. In Bondad, Jr. v. People,
[36]
we also acquitted the accused for the failure of the police to conduct an
inventory and to photograph the seized item, without justifiable grounds.

We had the same rulings in People v. Gutierrez,[37] People v. Denoman,


[38]
People v. Partoza,[39] People v. Robles,[40] and People v. dela Cruz,[41] where we
emphasized the importance of complying with the required procedures under
Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165.

To be sure, Section 21(a), Article II of the IRR offers some flexibility in


complying with the express requirements under paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II
of R.A. No. 9165, i.e.,"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[.]" This saving clause,
however, applies only where the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses, and,
thereafter, explained the cited justifiable grounds, and when the prosecution
established that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized had been
preserved.[42]
These conditions were not met in the present case, as the prosecution did not
even attempt to offer any justification for its failure to follow the prescribed
procedures in the handling of the seized items.

The Chain of Custody Requirement

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.Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be
established. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in buy-bust
operations as it ensures that doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
removed.[43]

Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, defines chain of custody as "the


duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled
chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each
stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to
safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction." As a method of authenticating
evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of the 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, thus, include a testimony about the
every link in the chain, from the moment the item was seized to the time it was
offered in court as evidence, such that every person who handled the same would
admit as to 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. The same
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. It is from the testimony of every witness who
handled the evidence from which a reliable assurance can be derived that the
evidence presented in court is one and the same as that seized from the accused.[44]

In the present case, the prosecutions evidence failed to establish the chain
that would have shown that the shabu presented in court was the very same
specimen seized from the appellant.
The first crucial link in the chain of custody starts with the seizure of the
plastic sachet from the appellant. From the testimonies and joint affidavit of PO1
Antonio and PO1 Jiro, it is clear that the police did not mark the confiscated sachet
upon confiscation. Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link,
thus it is vital that the seized contraband is immediately marked because
succeeding handlers of the specimen 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 of at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching,
"planting," or contamination of evidence.[45]

The second link in the chain of custody is its turnover from PO1 Antonio to
the police station. Both PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro testified that they brought the
appellant and the seized item to the police station. They, however, failed to identify
the person to whose custody the seized item was given. Although the records show
that the request for laboratory examination of the seized item was prepared by the
Chief of Police, Police Senior Inspector Anastacio Benzon, the evidence does not
show that he was the official who received the marked plastic sachet from PO1
Antonio.

As for the subsequent links in the chain of custody, the records show that the
seized item was forwarded to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory by a
certain PO1 Sanchez. We stress, however, that PO1 Sanchez forwarded the said
specimen only on the next day, or on July 22, 2002. To harp back to what we
earlier discussed, there was a missing link in the custody of the seized drug after it
left the hands of PO1 Antonio. We cannot, therefore, presume that PO1 Sanchez
had custody of the specimen in the interim. We also stress that the identity of the
person who received the seized item at the crime laboratory was not clearly
identified.

Due to the procedural lapses pointed out above, serious uncertainty hangs
over the identification of the seized shabu that the prosecution introduced into
evidence. In effect, the prosecution failed to fully prove the elements of the crime
charged, creating a reasonable doubt on the criminal liability of the accused.
Credibility of the Prosecution Witnesses

We likewise cannot acquiesce to the credibility accorded to the prosecution


witnesses by the courts a quo. Contrary to the lower courts ruling, the
inconsistencies in the statements of the prosecution witnesses are substantial, not
trivial. To recall, PO1 Antonio, PO1 Jiro and PO1 Fernandez stated in
their Pinagsamang Sinumpaang Salaysay[46] that a civilian asset arrived at the
police station on July 21, 2002, and informed them that one alias Erlinda was
selling illegal drugs on Manahan Street, Barangay Burgos, Rodriguez, Rizal. PO1
Antonio reiterated this fact when he testified in court that a civilian
informant arrived at the police station on July 21, 2002and told them that a
woman was openly selling dangerous drugs on Manggahan
Street, BarangayBurgos, Montalban, Rizal. PO1 Jiro, however, changed his story
in court and testified that the confidential informant called the police and informed
then that one alias Erlinda was selling illegal drugs.

We are at a loss how PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro could have given different
accounts regarding how the confidential asset informed them of the appellants
illegal activities when both of them were present at the police station on July 21,
2002. What baffles us even more is why PO1 Jiros gave conflicting statements in
his joint affidavit and in his court testimony. To us, the conflicting statements and
declarations of PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro destroyed their credibility; it made their
testimonies unreliable. Evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the
mouth of a credible witness but it must be credible in itself, such as the common
experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the
circumstances.[47]

Presumption of Regularity in the


Performance of Official Duties

In sustaining the appellants conviction, the CA also relied on the evidentiary


presumption that official duties have been regularly performed. This presumption,
it must be stressed, is not conclusive. It cannot, by itself, overcome the
constitutional presumption of innocence. Any taint of irregularity affects the whole
performance and should make the presumption unavailable.[48]The presumption, in
other words, obtains only when nothing in the records suggests that the law
enforcers involved deviated from the standard conduct of official duty as provided
for in the law. But where the official act in question is irregular on its face, as in
this case, an adverse presumption arises as a matter of course. [49] As we explained
in People v. Sanchez:

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. The presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duty cannot be used as basis for affirming
accused-appellant's conviction because "First, the presumption is
precisely just that - a mere presumption. Once challenged by evidence,
as in this case, xxx [it] cannot be regarded as binding truth. Second, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot
preponderate over the presumption of innocence that prevails if not
overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt." The presumption also
cannot prevail over positive averments concerning violations of the
constitutional rights of the accused. In short, the presumption of
regularity in the performance of official duty cannot by itself overcome
the presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable
doubt.[50]

All told, we find merit in the appellant's claim that the prosecution failed to
discharge its burden of proving her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, due to the
unreliability of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and substantial gaps in
the chain of custody, raising reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus
delicti.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby REVERSE and SET


ASIDE the May 27, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
30215. Appellant Erlinda Capuno y Tison is hereby ACQUITTED for failure of
the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. She is ordered
immediately RELEASED from detention unless she is confined for another lawful
cause.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Superintendent, Correctional


Institution for Women, Mandaluyong City, for immediate implementation. The
Superintendent of the Correctional Institution for Women is directed to report the
action she has taken to this Court within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

THE PEOPLE OF G.R. No. 188319


THE PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee, Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J.,


Chairperson,
BRION,
- versus - BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
SERENO, JJ.

MADS SALUDIN MANTAWIL,


MAGID MAMANTA and Promulgated:
ABDULLAH TOMONDOG,
Accused-Appellants. June 8, 2011
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before us is an appeal from the January 30, 2009 Decision[1] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02627. The CA had affirmed the
September 12, 2006 Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila,
Branch 41, convicting appellants for violation of Section 15,[3] Article III of
Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425, otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act of
1972, as amended.[4]

The information against appellants reads:


That on or about June 2, 1999, in the City of Manila, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused MADS
SALUDIN MANTAWIL a.k.a. MADS ALI, MAGID MAMANTA and
ABDULLAH TOMONDOG, conspiring, confederating and mutually
helping one another, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously sell, deliver and give away to a poseur-buyer One Thousand
Three Hundred Sixteen point five (1,316.5) grams of Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride, commonly known as SHABU, a regulated drug, without
authority of law or the corresponding license therefor.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]

At the trial, the prosecution presented as witnesses P/C Insp. Arthur V.


Bisnar (Bisnar), SPO3 Rolando Sayson (Sayson), SPO1 Rodolfo Gonzales
(Gonzales), and P/Insp. Ma. Luisa David. Their testimonies presented the
following factual scenario:

On June 2, 1999 at around 10:00 in the morning, the Presidential Anti-


Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) buy-bust operations team composed of
P/Supt. John Lopez (Lopez), Bisnar, Sayson, Gonzales and other PAOCTF
operatives, conducted a briefing to discuss a buy-bust operation with a confidential
informant. The confidential informant revealed that he was able to confirm a drug
deal with a drug dealer named Mads Ali for 1 kilos
of shabu worth P900,000.00. The deal would be consummated at the Quirino
Grandstand, Rizal Park, Manilanear Museong Pambata between two to three
oclock that afternoon.[6]

Together with the confidential informant, the buy-bust team boarded four
unmarked vehicles bearing confidential security plates of the PAOCTF and
proceeded to the designated place, arriving thereat around 1:45 p.m. Bisnar was to
act as the poseur-buyer, Sayson the arresting officer, and Gonzales the back-up
poseur-buyer.[7]

Around 2:00 p.m., a maroon Toyota FX Mega Taxi marked Margy with plate
no. TVC 479 arrived at the Quirino Grandstand and parked two meters away from
Bisnars car. Appellant Mads Saludin Mantawil (Mantawil) alighted from the FX
taxi, approached Bisnars car, and greeted the confidential informant, who greeted
Mantawil back and introduced Bisnar as the buyer of the shabu. Bisnar showed
Mantawil the boodle money placed inside a Giordano paper bag and the latter went
back to the FX taxi and left the place.[8]

After thirty (30) minutes, Mantawil returned on board the same FX taxi. The
FX taxi parked about five meters away from Bisnars car. Mantawil alighted and
approached Bisnars car.He demanded to see the money. When Bisnar insisted on
seeing the shabu first, Mantawil waved to his two companions who were inside the
FX taxi. Magid Mamanta (Mamanta) and Abdullah Tomondog (Tomondog)
alighted from the FX taxi and approached Bisnar.[9]

Mamanta then handed a light blue Bench plastic bag to Bisnar through the
car window.Inside the bag was a self-sealing transparent plastic bag containing
white crystalline substance, which Bisnar suspected to be shabu. After seeing the
contents of the plastic bag, Bisnar handed the boodle money to Mantawil and
immediately made the pre-arranged signal for the arrest by switching on the hazard
lights of his car. The PAOCTF team then rushed to Bisnars car and arrested the
appellants.[10] After apprising appellants of their constitutional rights, the buy-bust
team brought appellants separately to Camp Crame. Mamanta was transported by
Gonzales while Sayson transported Tomondog. Bisnar, for his part, transported the
confiscated shabu and Mantawil.[11]

At Camp Crame, Sayson and Gonzales witnessed Bisnar mark the


seized shabu.[12] Bisnar also filled up a corresponding Receipt for Property Seized
dated June 2, 1999,[13] which appellants refused to sign. Bisnar and his team
likewise executed a Joint Affidavit of Arrest [14]and prepared the Booking Sheet and
Arrest Report of the appellants.[15] Thereafter, P/Supt. Lopez issued a request for
laboratory examination of the confiscated shabu.[16] Gonzales delivered the request
to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory at 6:55 p.m. [17]with the
confiscated shabu indicated to be contained in a self-sealing plastic bag marked
AVB 06/02/99 and placed inside a light blue Bench plastic bag. A handwritten
description was also placed on the laboratory report indicating that the shabu with
the container weighed 1,325 grams.[18]

At the PNP Crime Laboratory, P/Insp. Ma. Luisa David, Forensic Chemist I,
conducted a quantitative and qualitative examination of the specimen. The Initial
Laboratory Report, as well as the Final Report, showed that the white crystalline
substance, weighing 1,316.5 grams, tested positive for methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu.[19]

On the other hand, the appellants, testifying on their own behalf, denied the
charges and claimed that they were framed-up by the policemen. They also
presented two other witnesses, Teddy Ziganay (Ziganay) and Solaiman Casan
(Casan), to corroborate their defense. The testimony of the other defense witness,
Atty. Rowaisa M. Pandapatan, was dispensed with as the parties stipulated that
Tomondog was indeed an FX taxi driver.

Taken together, the defense witnesses testimonies present the following


version of the incident:

On June 2, 1999, while selling cigarettes at Globo de Oro, Quiapo, Manila,


Mantawil was approached by two unidentified women who asked him to look for
an FX taxi and accompany them to Luneta. As they offered to pay him P150.00 for
the service, Mantawil agreed. The women, however, did not see the person they
were supposed to meet in Luneta so they all returned to Quiapo. Mantawil then
went back to selling cigarettes.[20]

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, one of the women whom Mantawil


accompanied earlier came back and asked him to rent an FX taxi and go with her
to Quirino Grandstand. Mantawil approached Tomondog, an FX taxi driver who
was at the terminal for public utility vehicles in Quiapo, and asked the latter to take
him and his companion to Quirino Grandstand. Tomondog agreed for a fee
of P250.00.[21]

As they were about to leave the terminal, Mamanta, a sidewalk vendor, came
and asked Tomondog to take him to San Andres Bukid. Tomondog acceded but he
proceeded first to Quirino Grandstand.[22]

At the Quirino Grandstand, Mantawil and the woman alighted from the FX
taxi while Mamanta remained inside. Tomondog also alighted but only to pour
water into the taxis radiator.Mantawil testified that he then saw the woman talk to
two unidentified persons in a Honda Civic car. After that, appellants were surprised
when several unidentified men in civilian clothes suddenly poked their guns at
appellants and handcuffed them. They were brought to Camp Crameseparately and
tortured. They were detained there for a week before they were brought to the
Department of Justice for inquest proceedings.[23]

Ziganay, a cigarette vendor, corroborated Tomondog and Mamantas story.


Ziganay testified that while he was resting near the Quirino Grandstand that
afternoon on June 2, 1999, he saw an FX taxi containing three persons park near
the Grandstand. The driver, Tomondog, alighted from the vehicle and poured water
into the radiator. Then, armed men in civilian clothes approached and poked their
guns at Tomondog and Mamanta. Tomondog and Mamanta were arrested by said
men. At that time, Mamanta was the only remaining passenger on board the FX
taxi.[24]

The RTC found the appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating
Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. The dispositive portion of the
RTC decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered
finding the three accused, MADS SALUDIN MANTAWIL @ Mads Ali,
MAGID MAMANTA and ABDULLAH TOMONDOG guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Violation of Section 15, Article III,
Republic Act No. 6425 and sentence them to suffer the penalty
of Reclusion Perpetua.
SO ORDERED.[25]

The RTC held that the version of the prosecution was a standard entrapment
story. Thus, it gave credence to the narration of the incident by the prosecution
witnesses, noting that they were officers of the law who enjoyed the presumption of
regularity in the performance of their duties, absent any evidence to the contrary.

As regards appellants defense, the trial court held that frame-up, like alibi, is
generally considered with disfavor, for it is easy to concoct but difficult to
disprove. The trial court noted that in admitting that they went to Quirino Grandstand
twice, Mantawil corroborated the testimony of the prosecutions witnesses that
appellants first arrived at the place to look at the money then left and returned with
the shabu. The trial court noted that no credible reason was given by the appellants
why they were at the Quirino Grandstand, Luneta at the time and date of the drug
deal. No motive was also given by the appellants why the police officers would
fabricate a grave offense against them if it was not true.[26]

Aggrieved, appellants filed a notice of appeal to the CA. [27] In their brief,
appellants faulted the RTC for giving weight and credence to the evidence of the
prosecution and totally disregarding their defense. Appellants contended that the
prosecution failed to prove the indispensable element of the corpus delicti since the
arresting officers failed to mark the shabuimmediately after the seizure, thus
creating reasonable doubt as to whether the shabu presented in court were seized
from them.[28]

The CA, however, affirmed the decision of the RTC. The dispositive portion
of the CA decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed decision of the
RTC of Manila City, Branch 41 dated September 12, 2006 is
hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.
SO ORDERED.[29]

In affirming appellants conviction, the appellate court held that the


prosecution was able to establish all the elements of the crime of illegal sale
of shabu. Bisnar positively identified the seller as Mantawil who sold the drugs to
him for P900,000.00. Appellants contention that the prosecution failed to establish
an essential link in the chain of custody of the seized item was untenable. The CA
noted that appellants were with the members of the PAOCTF when they were
brought to Camp Crame and Bisnar had custody of the Bench plastic bag
containing the shabu.Said shabu was immediately marked before it was given to
the forensic chemist for chemical analysis. Absent any showing to the contrary, the
members of the PAOCTF are presumed to have performed their duties regularly
and faithfully. This is especially so since nothing in the records shows that the
contents of the plastic bag were changed or the prosecutions witnesses perjured
themselves.[30]

Thus, the case is now before us for final review.

Appellants raise the following assignment of errors:

I.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE


ACCUSED-APPELLANTS OF THE CRIME CHARGED BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT.

II.
THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND
FULL CREDENCE TO THE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION
AND TOTALLY DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF THE
ACCUSSED-APPELLANT.[31]

Appellants posit that the prosecution utterly failed to prove the indispensable
element of the corpus delicti of the crime. They point that the arresting officers did
not immediately mark the seized item after its seizure and that the markings were
admittedly made only in Camp Crame. Such failure, according to appellants, is
sufficient to create reasonable doubt as the first link in the custodial chain was not
established. Moreover, the arresting officers failed to comply with the procedure in
the custody of the seized item suspected to be shabu. They failed to photograph
and make a physical inventory of the seized item immediately in the presence of
the appellants pursuant to Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of
1979 amending Board Regulation No. 7, Series of 1974.[32]

The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, argues that the chain
of custody of the shabu was not broken. Appellants were with the arresting officers
when they were brought to Camp Crame and Bisnar was holding the bag
containing the shabu. Upon arrival in Camp Crame, Bisnar immediately marked
the seized items before it was sent to the forensic chemist for chemical analysis.
There was also no showing that the contents of the bag taken from appellants were
substituted with shabu.[33]

We affirm the verdict with respect to appellants Mantawil and Mamanta, but
find reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Tomondog.

In People v. Cervantes,[34] we explained:


In every prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drug, what is
crucial is the identity of the buyer and seller, the object and its
consideration, the delivery of the thing sold, and the payment for it.
Implicit in these cases is first and foremost the identity and existence,
coupled with the presentation to the court of the traded prohibited
substance, this object evidence being an integral part of
the corpus delicti of the crime of possession or selling of
regulated/prohibited drug. There can be no such crime when nagging
doubts persist on whether the specimen submitted for examination and
presented in court was what was recovered from, or sold by, the
accused. Essential, therefore, in appropriate cases is that the identity of
the prohibited drug be established with moral certainty. x x x [35]
The chain of custody requirement, set forth in Dangerous Drugs Board
Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979,[36] performs this function in that it ensures that
unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. [37] The
said regulation reads:
Subject: Amendment of Board Regulation No. 7, series of
1974, prescribing the procedure in the custody of seized prohibited and
regulated drugs, instruments, apparatuses, and articles specially designed
for the use thereof.
xxxx
SECTION 1. All prohibited and regulated drugs, instruments,
apparatuses and articles specially designed for the use thereof when
unlawfully used or found in the possession of any person not authorized
to have control and disposition of the same, or when found secreted or
abandoned, shall be seized or confiscated by any national, provincial or
local law enforcement agency. Any apprehending team having initial
custody and 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. Thereafter the seized drugs
and paraphernalia shall be immediately brought to a properly equipped
government laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination.
The apprehending team shall: (a) within forty-eight (48) hours
from the seizure inform the Dangerous Drugs Board by telegram of said
seizure, the nature and quantity thereof, and who has present custody of
the same, and (b) submit to the Board a copy of the mission investigation
report within fifteen (15) days from completion of the investigation. [38]

In Malillin v. People,[39] we laid down the chain of custody requirements that


must be met in proving that the seized drugs are the same ones presented in court:
(1) testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked
up to the time it is offered into evidence; and (2) witnesses should 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
item.
After a meticulous scrutiny of the records, we are satisfied that there is no
broken chain in the custody of the confiscated shabu, contrary to appellants claim.

After the arrest, the confiscated shabu remained with Bisnar inside his car as
the team and the appellants travelled separately back to Camp Crame.[40] Aside
from Bisnar, only two other persons were with him throughout the said travel,
namely Mantawil and another PAOCTF operative.[41] Immediately upon their
arrival at Camp Crame, Sayson and Gonzales saw Bisnar place his initials and the
date of the arrest on the light blue Bench plastic bag and on the self-sealing
transparent plastic bag.[42]

A physical inventory of the confiscated items was also made by Bisnar


at Camp Crame, as evidenced by the Receipt of Property Seized dated June 2,
1999.[43] Notably, appellants did not question the accuracy and validity of the said
document.

After conducting a physical inventory, Bisnar, accompanied by Gonzales,


delivered the seized shabu to the PNP Crime Laboratory.[44]

At the PNP Crime Laboratory, P/Insp. Ma. Luisa David received the seized
shabu together with the laboratory request form. She testified that:
Atty. Villacorta:
Q When you examined, who received this specimen?
A I personally received the specimen, [S]ir.
Q Why? Is it a procedure that you should be the one to receive that (sic)?
A I am the duty chemist (sic), [S]ir and it [was] 7 oclock in the evening,
[S]ir.
Q You have no clerk at that time?
A I am the only one present at (sic) the laboratory, [S]ir.
Q So, when this stuff was examined, you were the [only] one present?
A Yes, [S]ir. But prior to my examination, the requesting parties were
present, [S]ir.
Q Did you put that in your report?
A No, [S]ir. But they counter[-]sign[ed] on the page which I took. They
[were] present when I weighed the specimen, [S]ir.
xxxx
Atty. Mancao:
By the way, in your examination of this specimen, did you not ask for an
assistance of another chemist?
A No, [S]ir.
Q So that you can have a better result?
A No, [S]ir. Because we were already trained to perform such
examination on our own, [S]ir.
Q You want to tell this Honorable Court that you [were] the only one
who conducted this examination and no other?
A Yes, [S]ir.
Q That because of this examination, you believe that such (sic) contain
metha[m]phetamine hydrochloride?
A Yes, [S]ir.[45]

Appellants anchor their argument on the PAOCTF teams failure to mark the
confiscated shabu while they were still at the crime scene. This is, however,
untenable. The buy-bust teams failure to immediately mark the seized drugs will
not automatically impair the integrity of the chain of custody as long as the
integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items have been preserved.[46]

Moreover, we have explained in People v. Salak,


While it appears that the buy-bust team failed to comply strictly
with the procedure outlined above, the same does not overturn the
presumption of regularity in the performance of their duty. A violation
of the regulation is a matter strictly between the Dangerous Drugs
Board and the arresting officers and is totally irrelevant to the
prosecution of the criminal case since the commission of the crime of
illegal sale of a prohibited drug is considered consummated once the
sale or transaction is established and the prosecution thereof is not
undermined by the arresting officers inability to conform to the
regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

Further, the integrity of the evidence is presumed to be preserved,


unless there is a showing of bad faith, ill will, or proof that the evidence
has been tampered with.[47]

It is worthy to note that appellants never alleged that the drugs presented during
the trial have been tampered with. Neither did appellants challenge the admissibility of
the seized items when these were formally offered as evidence. In the course of the trial,
the seized shabu were duly marked, made the subject of examination and cross-
examination, and eventually offered as evidence, yet at no instance did the
appellants manifest or even hint that there were lapses in the safekeeping of the
seized items as to affect their admissibility, integrity and evidentiary value. It was
only during their appeal that appellants raised the issue of non-compliance with the
said regulation. Settled is the rule that objections to the admissibility of evidence
cannot be raised for the first time on appeal; when a party desires the court to reject
the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection. Without such
objection, he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal.[48]

However, as to Tomondog, the Court entertains nagging doubts as to his


guilt considering that his participation to the transaction was not established.
According to the three PAOCTF officers, Tomondog alighted from the FX taxi and
went to Bisnars car after Mantawil motioned to him. The prosecution, however,
offered no further evidence as to his participation in the illegal transaction. It was
not shown that he acted as guard nor that he had possession of the shabu at
anytime. Neither was it shown that Tomondog knew that the other appellants
had shabu in their possession at that time. In fact, it was even made clear from the
testimonies of the witnesses, and even in the stipulation of the parties, that
Tomondog was a simple FX taxi driver. Hence, the fact that he alighted and
approached Mantawil after the latter motioned to him could very well have been
due to a mistaken belief that Mantawil motioned to him so he could get his P250
payment.Whatever the reason, his mere presence in the vicinity when the illegal
transaction took place should not be taken as participation in a conspiracy to
commit the crime. To be guilty as a conspirator, the accused needs to have done an
overt act in pursuit of the crime indubitably showing a community of purpose and
design.[49] Here, the prosecution presented no proof tending to show that Tomondog
knew of the criminal intentions of the other appellants, much less that he adopted
the same.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated January 30, 2009 of the Court of


Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02627 is MODIFIED. The Court AFFIRMS
IN TOTO the judgment of conviction against appellants Mads Saludin Mantawil
and Magid Mamanta, but ACQUITSappellant Abdullah Tomondog of the crime
charged on the ground of reasonable doubt. Appellant Abdullah Tomondog is
ordered immediately RELEASED from custody, unless he is being held for some
other lawful cause. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to
implement this Decision forthwith and to INFORM this Court, within five (5)
days from receipt hereof, of the date Abdullah Tomondog was actually released
from confinement.

With costs against appellants Mads Saludin Mantawil and Magid Mamanta.

SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

PEOPLE OF G.R. No. 192261


THE PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee, Present:

- versus - VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson,

PERALTA,

GARET SALCENA Y ABAD,


VICTORINO,
Accused-Appellant. 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, co-
accused 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 CampKaringal 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 frame-
up 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, 2007of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 103, Quezon City in Criminal Case No. Q-05-134553
convicting accused-appellant 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] dated March 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:

THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED THE ACCUSED-APPELLANTS


CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO COUNSEL.
II
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


[22]
Arrest 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 c0-BSDO 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 chainbecomes 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 to INFORM this Court,
within five (5) days from receipt hereof, of the date when Salcena was actually
released from confinement.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 184181 November 26, 2012

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
JOSEPH ROBELO y TUNGALA, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

This is another instance where we are called upon to resolve an issue concerning the constitutional
presumption of innocence accorded to an accused vis-à-vis the corresponding presumption of
regularity in the performance of official duties of police officers involved in a drug buy-bust operation.

Assailed in this appeal interposed by appellant Joseph Robelo y Tungala is February 27, 2008
Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02711, which affirmed the January
1

26, 2007 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the City of Manila, Branch 2, finding him
2

guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of Illegal Possession and Illegal Sale of Dangerous
Drugs under Sections 11(3) and (5) in relation to Section 26, Article II, respectively, of Republic Act
(R.A.) No. 9165 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Factual Antecedents

At about 10:00 a.m. of March 26, 2004, the Station of Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task
Force (SAID), Police Station 2 in Moriones, Tondo, Manila received information from a civilian
informer that a certain alias "Kalbo" (appellant) is involved in the sale of illegal drugs in Parola
Compound. Forthwith, the Chief of SAID organized a team composed of eight police officers to
conduct a "buy-bust" operation to entrap appellant. PO2 Arnel Tubbali (PO2 Tubbali) was designated
as the poseur-buyer and was thus handed a 100 peso bill which he marked with his initials. The rest
of the team were to serve as back-ups.

The civilian asset led PO2 Tubbali to the target area while others positioned themselves in strategic
places. Not long after, appellant came out from Gate 16, Area 1-b with a companion who was later
identified as Teddy Umali (Umali). Upon approaching the two, the civilian informer introduced to them
PO2 Tubbali as a friend and a prospective buyer of shabu. PO2 Tubbali then conveyed his desire to
buy P100.00 worth of shabu and handed Umali the marked P100.00 bill. After accepting the money,
Umali ordered appellant to give PO2 Tubbali one plastic sachet of shabu to which the latter readily
complied. PO2 Tubbali then looked at the plastic sachet, placed it in his pocket, and made the pre-
arranged signal by scratching his butt. Whereupon, the rest of the team rushed to the scene and
arrested appellant and Umali. When frisked by PO2 Conrado Juano, one plastic sachet suspected to
contain shabu was found inside appellant’s pocket. He and Umali were afterwards brought to the
precinct where the investigator marked the seized items with the initials "JRT-1" and "JRT-2". The
investigator then prepared the Laboratory Request, Booking Sheet, Arrest Report, Joint Affidavit of
3 4 5

Apprehension and a referral letter for inquest.


6 7
After qualitative examination, the forensic chemist found the items positive for methylamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug.

Appellant was accordingly charged with illegal sale and illegal possession of shabu in two separate
Informations while Umali was indicted in another Information raffled to a different branch of the RTC.

The Informations against appellant read as follows:

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 04-225284

That on or about March 26, 2004, 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 one (1) transparent plastic
sachet containing ZERO POINT ZERO NINETEEN (0.019) gram of white crystalline substance
known as shabu, containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 8

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 04-225285

That on or about March 26, 2004, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring and
confederating with one whose true name, identity and present whereabouts are still unknown and
mutually helping each other, not having been authorized by law to sell, trade, deliver or give away to
another any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell or offer for
sale one (1) transparent plastic sachet containing ZERO POINT ZERO THIRTEEN (0.013) gram of
white crystalline substance known as shabu, containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 9

During arraignment, appellant, assisted by his counsel, pleaded "not guilty" in the two cases. After
the termination of the pre-trial, trial on the merits immediately ensued.

Appellant denied being a drug pusher and claimed complete ignorance as to why he was being
implicated in the said crimes. He averred that he was repairing the floor of his mother’s house when
two police officers in civilian clothes went inside the house, ransacked the closet and without any
reason handcuffed and brought him to the precinct. At the precinct, the police officers demanded
from him P10,000.00 in exchange for his liberty.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

After trial, the RTC rendered a verdict of conviction on January 26, 2007, viz:
10

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows, to wit:

1. In Criminal Case No. 04-225284, finding accused, Joseph Robelo y Tungala @ "Kalbo", GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate
penalty of 12 years and 1 day as minimum to 17 years and 4 months as maximum; to pay a fine of
P300,000,00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs.
2. In Criminal Case No. 04-225285, finding accused, Joseph Robelo y Tungala @ "Kalbo", GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, he is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment and to
pay the fine of P500,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the
costs.

The specimens are forfeited in favor of the government and the Branch Clerk of Court, accompanied
by the Branch Sheriff, is directed to turn over with dispatch and upon receipt the said specimen to
the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper disposal in accordance with the law and
rules.

SO ORDERED. 11

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On appeal, the CA concurred with the RTC’s findings and conclusions and, consequently, affirmed
the said lower court’s judgment in its assailed Decision of February 27, 2008, the dispositive portion
12

of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated January 26, 2007 is
hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 13

Still undeterred, appellant is now before us and by way of assignment of errors reiterates the
grounds and arguments raised in his Brief filed before the CA, to wit:

THE LOWER 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.

II

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY


BEYOND REASOANBLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME CHARGED NOTWITHSTANDING THE POLICE
OFFICERS’ FAILURE TO REGULARLY PERFORM THEIR OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS. 14

Our Ruling

The appeal has no merit.

Appellant’s first assignment of error basically hinges on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses,
particularly in their conduct of the buy-bust operation. He asserts that the alleged buy-bust operation
is tainted with infirmity due to the absence of a prior surveillance or investigation. Moreover, per the
testimony of PO2 Tubbali, appellant did not say anything when the former was introduced to him as
an interested buyer of shabu. Appellant points out that it is contrary to human nature that the seller
would say nothing to the buyer who is a complete stranger to him.

We sustain the validity of the buy-bust operation.


A buy-bust operation has been proven to be an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers. In this
regard, police authorities are given a wide latitude in employing their own ways of trapping or
apprehending drug dealers in flagrante delicto. There is no prescribed method on how the operation
is to be conducted. As ruled in People v. Garcia, the absence of a prior surveillance or test-buy does
15

not affect the legality of the buy-bust operation as there is no text book method of conducting the
same. As long as the constitutional rights of the suspected drug dealer are not violated, the regularity
of the operation will always be upheld. Thus, in People v. Salazar, we ruled that "if carried out with
16

due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards, buy-bust operation deserves judicial sanction."

Neither impressive is appellant’s contention that it is contrary to human nature to sell the illegal stuff
to a complete stranger. The law does not prescribe as an element of the crime that the vendor and
the vendee be familiar with each other. As aptly held by the CA, peddlers of illicit drugs have been
known with ever increasing casualness and recklessness to offer and sell their wares for the right
price to anybody, be they strangers or not.

While indeed there was little or no exchange between the poseur-buyer and the appellant as it was
the former and Umali who negotiated for the sale, he still cannot escape liability because of his
passive complicity therein. Simply stated, there was conspiracy between appellant and Umali as can
be deduced from the testimony of PO2 Tubbali, to wit:

Q. So when Teddy Umali received this One Hundred Peso-bill (P100.00), what happened next, Mr.
Witness?

A. Then he talked to Joseph Robelo alias "Kalbo" to give me a shabu, one

(1) plastic sachet, sir.

Q. Did Robelo comply?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. How did, this Joseph…

A. And then Joseph handed me one (1) plastic sachet, sir. 17

Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of
the crime suggesting concerted action and unity of purpose among them. In this case, the testimony
of the poseur-buyer clearly shows a unity of mind between appellant and Umali in selling the illegal
drugs to him. Hence, applying the basic principle in conspiracy that the "act of one is the act of all"
appellant is guilty as a co-conspirator and regardless of his participation, is liable as co-principal.
Appellant’s silence when the poseur-buyer was introduced to him as an interested buyer of shabu is
non-sequitur.

Appellant denies his complicity in the crime by invoking alibi and frame-up. He claims that in the
morning of March 26, 2004, he was at his mother’s house doing some repair job and was just
suddenly arrested and brought to the precinct where the arresting officers demanded P10,000.00 for
his liberty.

We, however, find that the RTC correctly rejected this defense of the appellant.
Time and again, we have stressed virtually to the point of repletion that alibi is one of the weakest
defenses that an accused can invoke because it is easy to fabricate. In order to be given full faith
and credit, an alibi must be clearly established and must not leave any doubt as to its plausibility and
veracity. Here, appellant’s claim that he was at his mother’s house at the time of the incident cannot
stand against the clear and positive identification of him by the prosecution witnesses. As aptly held
by the RTC, "[t]he portrayal put forward by appellant remained uncorroborated. The testimonies of
the witnesses presented by the defense do not jibe with one another and that of the claim of the
appellant himself. x x x Lastly, the demand for money worth P10,000.00 remained unsubstantiated. x
x x If indeed appellant is innocent he or his family who were his witnesses should have filed a case
of planting of evidence against the police which is now punishable by life imprisonment." 18

In fine, no error was committed by the RTC and the CA in giving credence to the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses. The general rule is that findings of the trial court on the credibility of
witnesses deserve great weight, and are generally not disturbed, on appeal. We find no reason to
depart from such old-age rule as there are no compelling reasons which would warrant the reversal
of the verdict.

In his second assignment of error, appellant draws attention to the failure of the apprehending
officers to comply with Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 regarding the physical inventory and photocopy
of the seized items. He asserts that this failure casts doubt on the validity of his arrest and the
identity of the suspected shabu allegedly bought and confiscated from him.

Appellant’s contention fails to convince us.

It should be noted that the alleged non-compliance with Section 21 of Article II of R.A. No. 9165 was
not raised before the trial court but only for the first time on appeal. This cannot be done. In People v.
Sta. Maria, People v. Hernandez, and People v. Lazaro, Jr., among others, in which the very same
19 20 21

issue was belatedly raised, we ruled:

x x x Indeed the police officers’ alleged violations of Sections 21 and 86 of Republic Act No. 9165
were not raised before the trial court but were instead raised for the first time on appeal. In no
instance did appellant least intimate at the trial court that there were lapses in the safekeeping of
seized items that affected their integrity and evidentiary value. Objection to evidence cannot be
raised for the first time on appeal; when a party desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he
must so state in the form of objection. Without such objection, he cannot raise the question for the
first time on appeal.

Moreover, "non-compliance with Section 21 does not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items
seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. 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.’" The records reveal that at no instance did appellant hint a doubt
22

on the integrity of the seized items.

Undoubtedly, therefore, the suspected illegal drugs confiscated from appellant were the very same
substance presented and identified in court. This Court, thus, upholds the presumption of regularity
in the performance of official duties by the apprehending police officers.

The Penalty

Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, illegal sale of shabu carries with it the penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10 million irrespective of the
quantity and purity of the substance.
On the other hand, Section 11(3), Article II of the same law provides that illegal possession of less
than five grams of shabu is penalized with imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to
twenty (20) years plus a fine ranging from P300,000.00 to P400,000.00.

Appellant was found guilty of selling 0.019 gram of shabu and of possessing another 0.013 gram.
Hence, applying the above provisions, we find the penalties imposed by the RTC as affirmed by the
CA to be in order.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed February 27, 2008 Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02711 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 189277 December 05, 2012

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
RICARDO REMIGIO y ZAPANTA, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

For review through this appeal is the Decision dated 29 May 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
1 2

CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03169 which affirmed the conviction of herein accused-appellant RICARDO
REMIGIO y ZAP ANT A for illegal sale of dangerous drugs in violation of Section 5, Article 11 and
3

illegal possession of dangerous drugs in violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act (RA) No.
4

9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The factual rendition of the prosecution as presented by its only witness PO2 Romelito Ramos (PO2
Ramos), a member of the Cainta Police Station, follows:

PO2 Ramos testified that on 17 April 2003 at about six o’clock in the evening, while giving
assistance to the devotees going to Antipolo City in the corner of General Ricarte Street and Ortigas
Avenue, Cainta, Rizal, one of the police informants named Angel approached and told him that an
Alyas Footer was somewhere in the store near General Ricarte Street. Immediately, PO2 Ramos
5

informed his Deputy Chief of Police, Colonel Bagtas (Col. Bagtas) for the conduct of a buy-bust
operation. At that time, there were about seven to eight police officers in the area also giving
assistance to the devotees. Col. Bagtas so ordered that such operation be done with PO2 Ramos as
6

the poseur-buyer. PO2 Ramos prepared the One Hundred Peso bill (₱100.00) to be used as marked
7

money in the operation. He put his initials, RDR, on the face of the bill.
8

Having told the informant Angel that they will conduct a buy-bust operation, the policeman and Angel
proceeded to the store in General Ricarte Street where Alyas Footer was. Angel approached Alyas
9

Footer first and PO2 Ramos waited for his signal from a distance of more or less ten arms
length. After Angel and Alyas Footer talked for a while, Angel called PO2 Ramos to come forward.
10

Upon approaching, PO2 Ramos immediately told Alyas Footer,"[p]are paiskor ng piso." This meant
11

One Hundred Pesos worth of illegal drugs. Alyas Footer, prompted by the question, took a sachet
12

of shabu from his pocket and handed it over to PO2 Ramos. PO2 Ramos then handed the marked
money to Alyas Footer as payment. 13

After the transaction, PO2 Ramos introduced himself as a policeman and asked Alyas Footer to take
out all the contents of his pocket. Alyas Footer complied and brought out the One Hundred Peso bill
marked money and another plastic sachet of illegal drug. Three more sachets of illegal drugs were
14

found in the compartment of the motorcycle of the accused. He also turned over his student driver’s
license to PO2 Ramos which indicated his name as Remigio Zapanta. The name of the accused
15

would later be clarified by the prosecution through PO2 Ramos as referring to the same person as
the accused Ricardo Zapanta Remigio (Remigio).
The plastic sachets taken from Remigio were brought by PO2 Ramos to Camp Crame for laboratory
examination. He testified that he personally transmitted the request for actual testing of the contents
of the sachets to the chemist. 16

Towards the end of his direct examination, he identified the marked money as the one used in the
transaction and the picture of the motorcycle marked as Exhibit "C" as the one possessed by
Remigio when the buy-bust operation was conducted. 17

During his cross examination, PO2 Ramos admitted that the buybust operation was recorded only
18

after the arrest. He also revealed that he already knew that there was a standing alias warrant
19

against Remigio and that they have been conducting surveillance against Remigio for some time
prior to the buy-bust operation. He also added that he was then wearing civilian clothes unlike the
20

other police officers visible in the area. 21

On the other hand, the factual version of the defense as presented by accused Remigio is as
follows:

He testified that at about seven o’clock in the evening of 17 April 2003, he was at Helen’s Best store
in Ortigas Extension, Cainta, Rizal. He said that he rode his motorcycle going there and parked it in
22

front of the store before buying food. There were about six policemen in the area while he was in
23

front of the store. 24

He thereafter described the conduct of his arrest.

PO2 Ramos, wearing his official uniform, together with an asset he knew by the name of Angel,
approached and told him to take the things out of his pocket. PO2 Ramos then asked for his name
25

in this manner, "ikaw ba si Futter?" He replied that he is not the person. Just the same, he complied
26

and took out his keys and wallet from his pocket and gave them to PO2 Ramos. PO2 Ramos 27

opened his wallet and was thereafter shown one (1) plastic sachet of illegal drug which was
allegedly taken from his wallet. He told them that the sachet did not belong to him but still was
28

handcuffed. PO2 Ramos then brought him together with Angel to the police station at Karangalan
29

Village on board a taxi. His motorcycle was left in front of the store after his arrest.
30 31

Upon reaching the police station, one of the police officers there named Oscar Soliven told him that
for ₱20,000.00 the police would not file the case for violation of Section 5 or illegal sale of dangerous
drugs under R.A. No. 9165. He did not agree to the proposal and was detained at the station until his
inquest on 21 April 2003. 32

Subjected to cross-examination, Remigio was questioned by the prosecution regarding a previous


arrest relative to dangerous drugs. He said that he was just a suspect in that case and that he had
filed a complaint against the person who arrested him. 33

A witness who was presented to corroborate the version of Remigio was Nelia Diolata, his
elementary school classmate. She testified that she went to Helen’s Best store in General Ricarte St.
and Ortigas Avenue to buy food. There, she saw Remigio already waiting for the food he
34

bought. While leaving the store after she got her food, she heard someone being asked if his name
35

was Footer. She saw a uniformed police officer asking the question. She was able to identify the
36

policeman as "Ramos" through his nameplate, as she was only two meters away from them. She
37 38

then heard Remigio answer composedly. She saw Remigio pull out his wallet and a piece of paper
39

which she recognized as registration paper of a motor vehicle. Two more persons in civilian clothes
approached PO2 Ramos and Remigio. She thereafter turned her back and proceeded home. Two 40
years after the arrest, she learned from Remigio’s mother that he was arrested so she voluntarily
offered to testify.
41

Eventually, two sets of Information were filed as follows:

For Criminal Case No. 03-25497 for illegal sale of dangerous drugs:

That on or about the 17th day of April 2003 in the Municipality of Cainta, Province of Rizal,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused without
being authorized by law, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell, deliver and give
away to another 0.03 gram of white crystalline substance contained in one (1) heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachet which was found positive to the test for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride,
commonly known as "Shabu[,]" a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 42

For Criminal Case No. 03-25498 for possession of dangerous drugs:

That on or about the 17th day of April 2003 in the Municipality of Cainta, Province of Rizal,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being
lawfully authorized by law, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his
possession, direct custody and control 0.03 gram, 0.03 gram, 0.03 gram and 0.03 gram with a total
weight of 0.12 gram of white crystalline substance contained in four (4) heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachets which were found positive to the test for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, also
known as "Shabu[,]" a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 43

Upon arraignment on 29 May 2003, accused Remigio with the assistance of his counsel, pleaded
NOT GUILTY to the offenses charged against him. 44

Trial ensued and on 12 October 2007, the trial court found the accused guilty of the offenses
45

charged against him. The disposition reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused Ricardo Remigio is found guilty of the offense
charged in the Informations and is sentenced to Reclusion Perpetua in Criminal Case No. 03-25497.
In Criminal case No. 03-25498, accused Ricardo Remigio is sentenced to suffer an Imprisonment of
Twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine of ₱300,000.00 as provided for
under Section 11, Par. (3) [o]f RA 9165. As amended. 46

Upon appeal, the accused-appellant argued that the trial court erred in finding that the prosecution
was able to prove the requisites of a buy-bust operation. He doubted the entrapment operation as
47

there was already an existing warrant of arrest against him. Further, he emphasized the failure of
48

the prosecution to establish the corpus delicti of the case as the five plastic sachets allegedly
containing dangerous drug were not presented in court. What were presented were only pictures
which do not prove that those in the pictures were the same ones tested at the forensic
laboratory. Finally, he questioned the non-adherence to the procedures to establish the chain of
49

custody of evidence such as the marking of the five sachets of confiscated drugs at the time and in
the place where the accused was arrested. 50
The People, through the Office of the Solicitor General, stressed the legality of a buy-bust
operation. It relied on the presumption of regularity of performance of police officers in fulfilling their
51

duties, and on the prosecution’s proof of all the elements of illegal sale of shabu.
52 53

After review, the CA affirmed the ruling of the trial court with modification on the penalty imposed.
The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing, the decision subject of the present appeal is
hereby AFFIRMED save for a modification in the penalty imposed by the trial court. Accordingly, the
accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer life imprisonment and a fine of five hundred thousand
pesos (₱500,000.00). 54

The appellate court gave great weight on the findings of facts of the trial court and full credit to the
presumption of regularity of performance of the arresting officer Ramos. It discredited the argument
of the defense of frame-up and upheld the presence of the requisites to prove illegal sale of
dangerous drugs. No weight was given by the CA to the argument about non-compliance with the
55

procedures laid down in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 to establish the chain of custody of evidence
ruling that there was no taint in the integrity of the evidentiary value of the seized items. 56

This appeal is moored on the contention about the break in the chain of custody and the absence of
identification of illegal drugs. Appellant capitalizes on the non-marking of the sachets allegedly
57

recovered from his wallet and compartment of his motorcycle, the non-preparation of an inventory
report, the absence of photographs of the arrest, and non-presentation of the actual dangerous
drugs before the court. The argument is that without the requisite proof, there is insurmountable
doubt whether the sachets allegedly confiscated from him were the same ones delivered to the
forensic laboratory for examination, and then presented during the trial.
58

We agree fully with the accused-appellant.

In order to successfully prosecute an offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the
following elements must first be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object
and consideration of the sale; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. 59

On the other hand, a case of illegal possession of dangerous drugs will prosper if the following
elements are present: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a
prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and
consciously possessed the drug. 60

In both cases of illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs, it is important for the
prosecution to show the chain of custody over the dangerous drug in order to establish the corpus
delicti.
61

Jurisprudence consistently pronounces that the dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus
delicti of the offense and the fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of conviction. As such, the
62

presentation in court of the corpus delicti – the body or substance of the crime – establishes the fact
that a crime has actually been committed. 63

In this case, no illegal drug was presented as evidence before the trial court. As pointed out by
appellant, what were presented were pictures of the supposedly confiscated items. But, in the
current course of drugs case decisions, a picture is not worth a thousand words. The image without
64
the thing even prevents the telling of a story. It is indispensable for the prosecution to present the
1âwphi1

drug itself in court.

We have decided that in prosecutions involving narcotics, the narcotic substance itself constitutes
the corpus delicti of the offense and its existence is vital to sustain a judgment of conviction beyond
reasonable doubt. To emphasize the importance of the corpus delicti in drug charges, we have held
that 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 be established with
the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make a finding of guilt. 65

Thus, there are two indispensables. The illegal drug must be offered before the court as exhibit and
that which is exhibited must be the very same substance recovered from the suspect. The
needfulness of both was stressed in People v. Lorena, where We, after reiterating the elements of
66

the crime of sale of illegal drug, proceeded to state that all these require evidence that the sale
transaction transpired coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti, i.e. the body or
substance of the crime, which in People v. Martinez, equates as simply in People v. Gutierrez, was
67 68

referred to as "the drug itself."

In this case, there is no corpus delicti.

The prosecution failed to present the drug itself in court; it relied only on the pictures of the alleged
drugs. Nowhere in the records is it shown that the prosecution made any effort to present the
very corpus delicti of the two drug offenses. This is evident in the pertinent portions of the direct
testimony of PO2 Ramos:

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR: May we request Your Honor that this picture be marked as Exhibit "C" and
another picture showing the whole body of motorcycle be marked as Exhibit "C-1."

COURT: Mark them.

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR:

Q: Where is the coin purse here, Mister witness?

A: Witness pointing to white object.

Q: Where is the plastic sachet?

A: Witness pointing to other 3 white objects depicting (sic) in the picture.

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR:May we request Your Honor that this picture be marked as Exhibit "C-2." 69

As already above indicated, the vitalness in court of both the recovered substance and the certainty
that what was recovered from the accused is that which is presented in evidence are underscored by
the rule on the chain of custody of evidence. Compliance with the chain of custody of evidence is
provided for in Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165. We quote:

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:

(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;

xxxx

(8) Transitory Provision: a) Within twenty-four (24) hours from the effectivity of this Act, dangerous
drugs defined herein which are presently in possession of law enforcement agencies shall, with
leave of court, be burned or destroyed, in the presence of representatives of the Court, DOJ,
Department of Health (DOH) and the accused/and or his/her counsel, and, b) Pending the
organization of the PDEA, the custody, disposition, and burning or destruction of seized/surrendered
dangerous drugs provided under this Section shall be implemented by the DOH.

These requirements are substantially complied with through the proviso in Section 21(a) of the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165:

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 so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for 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 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 copy
thereof. Provided, that the physical inventory and the photograph shall be conducted at the place
where the search warrant is served; or at least 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 team/officer, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody
over said items. (Emphasis supplied)

By definition, "chain of custody" means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of
70

seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of
each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping
to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall
include the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the
date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in
court as evidence, and the final disposition.

The case of People v. Kamad enumerates the different links that the prosecution must prove in
71

order to establish the chain of custody in a buy-bust operation, namely:


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 by the forensic
chemist to the court.72

We could have stopped at the point where the prosecution failed to present the substance allegedly
recovered from the appellant. The failure already renders fatally flawed the decision of conviction.
Indeed, an examination of the chain of custody of the substance, without the substance itself, is
nonsensical. We, however, see more than an academic need for a discussion of the concept of
chain of custody. We want to depict the carelessness, if not the brazen unlawfulness, of the law
enforcers in the implementation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. What
happened in this case is a one-man operation, seemingly towards the objective of the law, but by
means of outlawing those specifically outlined in the statute, in the rules implementing the statute
and in our decisions interpreting law and rule. As testified to by the prosecution’s sole witness, PO2
Ramos, he was the one who conceived the operation; who, although with his informant as the lone
actor, conducted the operation by himself being the poseur-buyer with a one hundred peso bill he
himself pre-marked and recorded in the police blotter only after the arrest. PO2 Ramos was himself
the apprehending officer who confiscated the sachets of illegal drugs together with the wallet of the
accused.

There was no showing when, where and how the seized plastic sachets were marked. It was not
shown that there was a marking of evidence at the place of arrest or at the police station. It was
unexplained why the five plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance were already marked
as "RZR-1," "RZR-2," "RZR-3," "RZR-4" and "RZR-5" when transmitted to the forensic chemist.

Already, the omission of the first link in the chain tainted the identification of the drugs that was
allegedly seized from the accused. What followed was no less a series of violations of the procedure
in the conduct of buy-bust operations.

As testified by PO2 Ramos, he did not transfer the seized items to the investigating officer. And
nothing in the records reveals that there was such a transfer. From his statements, he kept the
alleged shabu from the time of confiscation until the time he transferred them to the forensic chemist.
We quote:

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR: Now, what happened to the plastic sachets of alleged shabu which were
taken from Alyas Footer?

A: It was brought to the Camp Crame laboratory for examination, Sir.

Q: If you know, Mister witness, who personally transmitted the request for chemist and actual testing
of said sachet of shabu.

A: Me, Sir. 73
PO2 Ramos testified that he personally brought the seized items to the forensic chemist. In further
muddlement of the prosecution’s evidence, in the records of the Request for Laboratory
Examination, a different person named as PO2 Halim was indicated as having delivered the five
pieces of heat-sealed plastic sachets to the laboratory for examination. No document or testimony
74

was offered to clarify who PO2 Halim is and what his participation was in the chain of custody of the
alleged illegal drug.

The failure to produce the corpus delicti in court cannot be remedied by the stipulation regarding the
forensic chemist.

Forensic Chemist Annalee Forro failed to testify in court regarding the result of the qualitative
examination of the substance in the sachets. The prosecution proposed a stipulation about her
findings. This was admitted by the defense but with qualification. We quote the pertinent portions:

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR: I am offering the following for stipulations: that Annalee Forro is a forensic
chemist officer connected with the PNP Crime Laboratory Service and that on April 18, 2003, she
conducted the chemical examination on the contents of the five plastic sachets with markings RZR-1
to RZR-5 and found the same to be positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug
and the name of the suspect as mentioned in the information is Ricardo Remigio.

DEFENSE COUNSEL: Admitted with qualification that she merely copied the name of the suspect
on the request for laboratory examination delivered by member of the Cainta Police Station. 75

Proceeding from the vacuity of proof of identification of the supposedly seized item and of the
transfer of its custody, from the arresting officer to the forensic chemist, no value can be given to the
document that merely states that the sachets presented to the forensic chemist contained prohibited
drugs.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The 29 May 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03169 affirming the judgment of conviction dated 12 October 2007 of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 73 of Antipolo City in Criminal Case Nos. 03-25497 and 03- 25498 is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Ricardo Remigio y Zapanta is
hereby ACQUITTED and ordered immediately released from detention unless his continued
confinement is warranted for some other cause or ground.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 192050 January 9, 2013

NELSON VALLENO y LUCITO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Subject of this petition for review is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
03433, dated 29 October 2009, affirming the Judgement 2 of the Regional Trial Court of Naga City
(RTC), in Criminal Case No. 2004-0308. The trial court found petitioner Nelson Valleno y
Lucito3 guilty of violation of Section 11 of Article II, Republic Act No. 9165 and sentenced him to
suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Four Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P400,000.00)

The Information charged petitioner of illegal possession of shabu. It reads:

That on or about the 12th day of March, 2004, in Barangay San Antonio, Milaor, Camarines Sur, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, without any authority of law, did then
and there, wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously possess, control and have in custody nine (9)
transparent plastic sachets, containing Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, locally known as
"SHABU", a prohibited drug, weighing no less than 34.7011 grams, with an estimated cost or market
value of P69,402.20, to the great damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines. 4

Upon arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued.

Five police officers, two barangay officials and one forensic chemist testified for the prosecution.

P/Insp. Perfecto De Lima (P/Insp. De Lima) was the group director of the 504th Provincial Mobile
Group located at Camarines Sur Police Provincial Office in Naga City. He ordered PO3 Jaime Villano
(PO3 Villano) to conduct a surveillance in connection with the illegal drug trade of petitioner. PO3
Villano was tasked to conduct a test-buy operation. The specimen he obtained from petitioner was
submitted to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, which, in turn, was tested
positive for the presence of shabu. Subsequently, P/Insp. De Lima ordered SPO4 Romulo Fabiano
(SPO4 Fabiano) to apply for a search warrant. Branch 24 of the RTC of Naga City issued Search
Warrant No. 2004-006.5
In the early morning of 12 March 2004, P/Insp. De Lima organized two (2) teams to enforce the
search warrant. SPO4 Feliciano was in charge of the security team, which was tasked to secure the
area to be searched, while the search team composed of PO3 Villano, PO3 Emilio Edrano (PO3
Edrano) and PO2 Sergio Valenzuela (PO2 Valenzuela), were designated to search the target house
in LRV Village, Barangay San Antonio, Milaor, Camarines Sur. 6

At around 4:30 a.m., the group left the police station and proceeded to petitioner’s house. They
arrived at 5:00 a.m. P/Insp. De Lima instructed PO3 Villano to coordinate with the barangay
officials.7 At 6:00 a.m. and upon arrival of the two (2) barangay officials, SPO4 Fabiano knocked on
the door of petitioner’s house. Petitioner opened the door located at the back of the house. PO3
Villano, who was armed with the search warrant, informed petitioner that his group would conduct a
search inside the house.8

Before entering petitioner’s house, P/Insp. De Lima instructed the search team to raise their hands
and shirts to show that they have nothing in their possession. P/Insp. De Lima explained that his
purpose was to prevent any speculation that they intend to plant evidence. 9

The search team, together with the barangay officials, went inside the house, while P/Insp. De Lima,
petitioner and his wife were waiting just outside the house. PO3 Edrano and PO2 Valenzuela started
searching a cabinet located in the kitchen. PO3 Edrano stood up on a chair to look at the top portion
of the cabinet while PO2 Valenzuela was searching the bottom part. PO3 Edrano saw a black Natel
bag with a red stripe on it on top of the cabinet. He passed it to PO2 Valenzuela, who handed the
bag over to PO3 Villano. PO3 Villano unzipped the bag and uncovered 3 different sizes of white
plastic bags containing white granules. The bag also contained a weighing scale and a bamboo
stick. Thereafter, he closed the bag and brought it outside to P/Insp. De Lima. 10

PO3 Villano put his markings "JV" on the plastic sachets, the weighing scale and bamboo stick in the
presence of the barangay officials. He likewise prepared the Inventory Receipt, which was signed by
the barangay officials. Petitioner, however, refused to sign the Inventory Receipt. 11

After the search, petitioner was handcuffed and brought to the police station. PO3 Villano turned
over the seized items to a certain PO3 Molina.12 While in the police station, PO3 Villano prepared the
return of the search warrant. He then brought the Return of the Search Warrant, accompanied by the
seized items, to the RTC of Naga City. The court ordered him to bring them to the PNP Crime
Laboratory for examination.13

Reynaldo Brito, a barangay tanod, testified that the police officers found one plastic sachet
containing shabu underneath the bed of petitioner. 14 Wilfredo Brito, another barangay tanod,
corroborated the statements of the police officers that a black bag was taken from the top of the
cabinet and that the black bag contained the seized items. 15

Josephine Macura Clemen (Clemen), a forensic chemist, was presented as an expert witness. She
related that after taking a representative sample from the nine (9) plastic sachets seized from
petitioner, they were tested positive for the presence of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or
shabu.16 Her findings were reflected in Chemistry Report No. D-052-04. 17

Petitioner interposed denial. He countered that around 6:00 a.m. of 12 March 2004, he heard a
knock at the bedroom door.18 He opened the door and the policemen introduced themselves, showed
him the search warrant and asked him to come out of the house while they searched it. After a while,
the police officers emerged from the house and told him that they have found a tawas-like
substance.19 He refused to sign the inventory receipt because he did not understand the contents of
the document. He was then brought to the police station. 20
On 13 June 2008, the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt
for illegal possession of shabu. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt for
illegal possession of methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug, defined and
penalized under Sec. 11(1)(1), Art. II of R.A. 9165, otherwise known as The Comprehensive Drugs
Act of 2002, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of Four
Hundred Thousand pesos (P400,000.00).

The bail bond posted for the provisional liberty of the accused is hereby CANCELLED. 21

In convicting petitioner, the trial court lent credence to the straightforward testimonies of the police
officers over the mere denial of the accused. The trial court ruled that the chain of custody over the
illegal drugs seized was properly established.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed petitioner’s conviction on 29 October 2009 and denied
petitioner’s motion for reconsideration on 13 April 2010. Petitioner now seeks relief before this Court
via a petition for review. On 11 August 2010, this Court treated the petition as a notice of appeal and
required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desire, within thirty days
from notice.22 The Office of the Solicitor General manifested that it would no longer file a
supplemental brief.23

Petitioner filed his supplemental brief and harped on the inconsistencies of the testimonies of
prosecution witnesses.

In his petition for review, petitioner ascribes upon the Court of Appeals the following errors:

(A)

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE PROSECUTION WAS
NOT ABLE TO DISCHARGE ITS BURDEN OF PROVING BY PROOF BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT THAT PETITIONER HAS COMMITTED THE CRIME OF
VIOLATION OF SECTION 11, ARTICLE II OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165.

(B)

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN INTERPRETING THAT THE REQUIREMENTS


PROVIDED FOR UNDER SECTION 21 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 ARE NOT
MANDATORY AND THAT NON-COMPLIANCE THEREOF IS NOT FATAL TO THE CAUSE
OF THE PROSECUTION.

(C)

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE ALLEGED
PROHIBITED DRUGS SUBJECT OF THE CASE WERE A PRODUCT OF AN IRREGULAR
SEARCH AND SEIZURE.24

The primordial issue here, as in any criminal case, is whether the guilt of the accused has been
established beyond reasonable doubt.
It is hornbook doctrine that the factual findings of the appellate court affirming those of the trial court
are binding on this Court unless there is a clear showing that such findings are tainted with
arbitrariness, capriciousness or palpable error.25 After an exhaustive review of the records of this
case, we see no sufficient reason for resort to the exception to the rule.

In order for prosecution for illegal possession of a dangerous drug to prosper, there must be proof
that (1) the accused was in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or
regulated drug, (2) such possession is not authorized by law, and (3) the accused was freely and
consciously aware of being in possession of the drug. 26

All these elements were duly established by the prosecution. During the search, PO3 Edrano found
a bag on top of a cabinet inside the house of petitioner. He handed the same to PO3 Villano, who in
turn opened it, and found nine (9) plastic sachets of shabu, thus:

Q Where did you start searching the house?

A We started at the cabinet.

Q Where is that cabinet located?

A Inside his house in front of the dining table.

Q While you were starting to search the cabinet, do you know where your companions were at that
time?

A Yes sir.

Q Where were they?

A The house of the accused was just a small house, so we were just back to back with each other.

Q While you were searching the cabinet, at what particular part of the cabinet did you start?

A I started at the lower portion of the cabinet.

Q What did you find at the lower portion of the cabinet?

ATTY. GENERAL:

Leading, it is presumed that something was found.

COURT:

Reform.

PROS. ABONAL:

Q What happened when you started to look at the lower portion of the cabinet?

A I saw different kitchen utensils.


Q After searching the lower portion of the cabinet, what happened next?

A I took a chair which I could use in order to see the top portion of the cabinet.

Q What happened after you took a chair?

A I stood at the chair and I saw a natel bag colored black with red stripe on it.

Q After finding that black bag, what happened next?

A I gave the bag to PO3 Villano.

Q When you handed over the bag to Villano, where were you at that time?

A I was still standing by the chair and looking for other things.

Q After giving the bag to Villano, what happened?

A I went down from the chair and told our team leader to check the bag.

Q Did your team leader accede to your request?

A Yes sir.

Q What happened after checking the bag?

A In front of the 2 barangay officials, our team leader opened the bag and we saw different sizes of
plastic bag containing white granules. Our team leader told us that those things are what we are
looking for, then he closed the bag.27

PO3 Villano confirmed receiving the bag and finding white plastic sachets inside:

PROS. TADEO:

Q Why, according to you, you proceeded to search the premises of the accused. Now, what
happened to your search?

A We were able to recover inside his house the nine (9) pieces transparent plastic sachets
containing shabu and several pieces of "PP Bags: which we believed they used in repacking of the
shabu, and a weighing scale. And others I cannot recall, sir.

Q Now, we will go to the specifics. You said that there was actually nine (9) pieces sachets of shabu
recovered from the place, who actually recovered these items?

A PO2 (sic) Edrano and PO1 Valenzuela, sir.

PROS. TADEO:

Q How about you?


A I was only informed that they recovered shabu inside the black bag, sir.

Q When you were informed that these items, these shabu were recovered by Edrano and
Valenzuela?

A Yes, sir.

Q What was your distance from them?

A More or less one (1) arm length, sir.

Q By the way, tell us, how were you able to, because according to you, you heard, in what manner
this information reached you during the conduct of the search?

A I heard from them that they saw plastic sachets containing shabu, sir.

Q Meaning to say, they uttered words?

A Yes, sir. They uttered words.

Q When you heard them uttered that words, what exactly the words?

A In Bicol dialect they said: "Yaon digdi an shabu sa bag." (The shabu is in the bag.)

Q Upon hearing this matter, what was your reaction?

A I was surprised, sir. But I already expected that we will be able to recover shabu because that is
the subject of our search warrant, sir.

PROS. TADEO:

Q According to you, you heard somebody uttered the words, "here is the shabu inside the bag?"

A Yes, sir.

Q When for the first time did you see the bag?

A It was placed on top of the cabinet and it was placed on the table, sir.

Q Who was responsible for the placing of this item from the cabinet down to the table?

A PO2 (sic) Edrano and PO1 Valenzuela, including the two (2) barangay officials, sir.

Q So, if that bag will be shown to you, will you be able to identify it?

A Yes, sir.

xxxx
Q Did you see any bag that was recovered?

A Yes, your honor.

Q And were you able to find out what were the contents of that bag?

A Yes, your honor, when it was scrutinized in my presence, I saw the other plastic sachets containing
the shabu itself.

xxxx

PROS. TADEO:

Q When the contents were put out from this bag, were you present?

A Yes, sir.

Q And what were those contents?

A The nine (9) pieces of transparent plastic sachets containing shabu. 28

Although the shabu was not found by the searching team on petitioner’s person, it was found inside
a bag which was hidden on top of a cabinet in the house of petitioner. Thus, petitioner is deemed in
possession thereof. Petitioner was not lawfully authorized to possess the same. It can also be
inferred that petitioner was privy to the existence of the shabu. Mere possession of a regulated drug
per se constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an
accused absent a satisfactory explanation of such possession – the onus probandi is shifted to the
accused, to explain the absence of knowledge or animus possidendi. With the burden of evidence
shifted to the petitioner, it was his duty to explain his innocence about the regulated drug seized from
his possession.29 This, petitioner failed to do.

The petitioner’s proposition that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt is
anchored on his claim that the prosecution failed to prove and establish the chain of custody of the
subject prohibited drugs allegedly seized from his house.

The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and in sustaining a
conviction under Republic Act No. 9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely
be shown to have been preserved. In other words, the evidence must definitely show that the illegal
drug presented in court is the same illegal drug actually recovered from the accused. 30

Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 provides the procedure to be followed in the seizure and
custody of prohibited drugs, to wit:

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:
(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;

xxxx

The provisions of Article II, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of
Republic Act No. 9165 provide:

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.

Petitioner highlights the following acts of non-compliance with the aforementioned rule: 1) there was
failure to present the alleged photographs of the seized substance in court; 2) there were no
representatives from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the conduct of the
inventory of the seized items; 3) there was a major contradiction from among prosecution witnesses
on who actually brought the seized items to the PNP Crime Laboratory; and 4) the manner of
conducting the physical inventory of the alleged drugs taken from petitioner’s house appeared to be
irregular as the seized items were allowed to be handled by persons not authorized to do so.

The Implementing Rules of Republic Act No. 9165 offer some flexibility when a proviso added 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." 31

In People v. Concepcion,32 this Court ruled that the failure to submit in evidence the required physical
inventory of the seized drugs and the photograph, as well as the absence of a member of media or
the DOJ, pursuant to Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 is not fatal and 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.33

In the instant case, the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs was not broken. The prosecution
established that PO3 Edrano recovered the white plastic sachets, later on confirmed positive for
traces of shabu. PO3 Edrano handed them over to PO3 Villano, who made markings on the seized
items and prepared an inventory of the same while inside petitioner’s house. It was also shown that
PO3 Villano brought the seized illegal drugs to the police station where he himself prepared the
inventory. While he presented the same to a certain PO3 Molina, it was still PO3 Villano and SPO4
Fabiano who first brought the seized illegal drugs to the court, who in turn ordered him to bring it to
the PNP Crime Laboratory. In the letter request addressed to the forensic chemist, it was PO3
Villano who signed as the requesting party. Clearly therefore, the recovery and handling of the
seized illegal drugs were more than satisfactorily established in this case.

This Court notes the inconsistencies in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, particularly that of
barangay tanod Reynaldo Brito and PO3 Molina, relating to the place where one of the plastic
sachets was found and to the person who brought the illegal drugs to the crime laboratory,
respectively. We however brush aside these inconsistencies as inconsequential. Indeed, one can
hardly expect their testimonies to be in perfect agreement. As held in the past, it is perhaps too much
to hope that different eyewitnesses shall give, at all times, testimonies that are in all fours with the
realities on the ground. Minor discrepancies in their testimonies are, in fact, to be expected; they
neither vitiate the essential integrity of the evidence in its material entirety nor reflect adversely on
the credibility of witnesses. For a successful appeal, the inconsistencies brought up should pertain to
that crucial moment when the accused was caught selling shabu, not to peripheral matters.
Testimonies of witnesses need only corroborate each other on important and relevant details
concerning the principal occurrence. 34

The inconsistent testimony of Reynaldo Brito deserves little weight in light of the consonant
testimonies of all the police officers who testified in court. It is well-settled that the testimonies of the
police officers in dangerous drugs cases carry with it the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official functions. Absent any clear showing that the arresting officers had ill-motive to
falsely testify against the petitioner, their testimonies must be respected and the presumption of
regularity in the performance of their duties must be upheld. Petitioner himself testified that he never
had any personal encounter with the police prior to his arrest, thus negating any ill-motive on the part
of the police officers.35

Finally, there was nothing irregular in the conduct of search of petitioner’s house. There were
variations in the witnesses’ testimonies as to whether petitioner was inside the house during the
search. One witness testified that petitioner was coming in and out of the house during the search
while the other witnesses claimed that petitioner was waiting just outside the house. Assuming that
petitioner was indeed outside the house, it does not taint the regularity of the search. Section 8, Rule
126 of the Rules of Court allows the absence of the lawful occupant provided that two witnesses are
present.

Section 8. Search of house, room, or premises to be made in presence of two witnesses. — No


search of a house, room, or any other premises shall be made except in the presence of the lawful
occupant thereof or any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of
sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.

The presence of the two barangay officials was not disputed by petitioner. As elucidated by the
1âwphi1

appellate court:

As correctly found by the trial court, accused-appellant and his wife were not prevented from
entering their house to observe the search conducted therein. This is bolstered by the testimonies of
police officers. Thus, PO3 Villano testified on cross-examination that the wife of the accused was
inside, watching x x x. Likewise, P/C Insp. Perfecto de Lima, Jr. Testified that the accused-appellant
and his wife went in and out of their house while the team was conducting a search inside said
house: that Valleno and his wife stood outside and sometimes, came in while the search was being
conducted; and that before the search the Valleno spouses were requested not to go inside the
house but during the search they kept going in and out of said house. In addition, the search was
conducted in the presence of two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same
locality, in the persons of Brgy. Kgd. Reynaldo Brito and Chief Tanod Wilfredo Brito. Resultantly, the
seized items cannot, therefore, be considered as "fruits of the poisonous tree." 36

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed 29 October 2009 Decision and the 13 April
2010 Resolution of the Court or Appeals in CA-GR. CR-H.C. No. 03433 are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 177164
Appellee,
Present:

QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,


- versus - YNARES-SANTIAGO,*
CHICO-NAZARIO,**
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,*** and
BRION, JJ.

RAMON FRONDOZO y DALIDA, Promulgated:


Appellant. June 30, 2009
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

On appeal is the Decision[1] dated January 31, 2007 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01582, affirming the Decision [2] dated August 3, 2005 of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 120 in Criminal Case
No. C-67810. The trial court found appellant Ramon Frondozo y Dalida guilty of
violation of Section 5,[3] Article II of Republic Act
No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.[4]

The information charging Frondozo with violation of Section 5, Article II of Rep.


Act No. 9165, reads:
xxxx

That on or about the 27th day of March, 2003 in Caloocan City, Metro
Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused without authority of law, did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously sell and deliver to PO1 ABNER BUTAY who
posed, as buyer [of] METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE
(SHABU) weighing 0.02 gram drug, without the corresponding license
or prescription therefore, knowing the same to be [s]uch.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]

xxxx

On his arraignment, Frondozo pleaded not guilty.

As found by the RTC and confirmed by the Court of Appeals, the testimonies of
(1) PO1 Abner Butay, police operative of Caloocan City Hall North Detachment
who acted as poseur-buyer; (2) P/Insp. Albert Arturo, forensic chemist of NPD
Crime Laboratory; and (3) P/Insp. Richard Ang, then police investigator of the
Caloocan City Hall North Detachment, establish the following facts:

On March 27, 2003, acting on information from a police asset about the drug
activities of Frondozo, a team was organized by Major Mario M. Dapilloza,
composed of PO2 Hector Ortencio, PO2 Michael Conrad Martin Miranda,
PO1 Roderick Medrano and PO1 Abner Butay to conduct surveillance and buy-
bust operation to entrap Frondozo. PO1 Butay testified that he came late during the
briefing so it was PO1 Medrano who relayed to him that he was designated as
poseur-buyer and the P100 buy-bust money was given to him. They agreed that he
will remove his cap as a signal to indicate that their mission was accomplished.[6]

Guided by the informants sketch of Frondozos house and a tip that he is the
only male residing there,[7] the team proceeded to the site of operation
before midnight of the same day.They positioned themselves strategically in
different positions where they could see PO1 Butay. Thereafter, PO1 Butay
approached Frondozos house and knocked at the door several times. When a man
came out, PO1 Butay told him pakuha. The man asked, magkano? and he
replied piso lang.The man said, sandali lang then went back inside the
house. Moments later, the man returned and handed a plastic sachet to PO1
Butay. PO1 Butay examined its content and was satisfied that the plastic sachet
contained shabu. PO1 Butay then handed the man the P100 buy-bust money and
put the plastic sachet of shabu inside his pocket. PO1 Butay then removed his
baseball cap as pre-arranged to signal to his teammates that the sale was already
consummated. He introduced himself to the man and stated pulis ako pare and
showed him his badge. He frisked the mans body and found two arrows with sling,
one fan knife (balisong) and the P100 buy-bust money from the mans hand. PO1
Butay testified that his teammates never went inside the house.[8]

Together with the members of the team, PO1 Butay brought the man, who was
later on identified as Frondozo, to the police station. The specimen and the items
seized from Frondozos body were turned over to P/Insp. Richard Ang who marked
the specimen RFD-01 and prepared the request for laboratory examination.

P/Insp. Albert Arturo made a laboratory examination of the contents of the plastic
sachet. Based on the physical, chemical and chromatographic examinations he
conducted, it was found that the specimen yielded positive results for the presence
of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.[9]

During trial, PO1 Butay positively identified Frondozo as the man who sold
him the prohibited drug. He also identified Exhibit D-4 marked as RFD-01 as
the shabu he bought from Frondozo.[10]

Thereafter, P/Insp. Ang presented in court the P100 bill used in the buy-bust
operation against Frondozo. He also testified that he entered the serial number of
the buy-bust money in their logbook at their station. He said he attached the
referral slip, pre-operational report and the booking sheet arrest report to the case
envelope but he no longer has access to it since he is now assigned in
Malabon. P/Insp. Ang further testified that there was a coordination sheet faxed to
the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). However, he was not able to
present the documents in court since he did not receive any subpoena and the
scheduled hearing was relayed to him only through a text message.[11]

In his defense, Frondozo denied the accusations against him. He testified that
on March 27, 2003at about 10:00 p.m., a group of police officers arrived at his
residence in Brgy. Pag-asa, Camarin, Caloocan City. He was then washing clothes
while his wife was inside the house since the latter could not do the chore due to
her menstruation. He asked the police officers what they wanted and was in turn
asked by PO2 Miranda if he knew a certain alias Monching. When he admitted that
he was Monching, he said that he was instructed to face the wall and was
frisked. According to Frondozo, he was ordered to turn over the shabu which they
accused him of keeping. Despite his denial of the accusation, he was still
handcuffed, arrested and made to board a vehicle. Frondozo further averred that
PO1 Butay, PO2 Ortencio and PO1 Medrano entered and searched his
house. He claimed that the police officers found the fan knife on the table and the
two arrows with sling under the sink.[12]

Frondozo further narrated that he was thereafter brought to the Mini City
Hall Annex Police Station. While in the detention cell, PO1 Butay confronted and
accused him of stealing his 13 fighting cocks. [13] He denied stealing the fighting
cocks but PO1 Butay refused to believe him. He claimed that PO1 Butay laughed
when he told him tarantado ka and insisted even more that he stole the fighting
cocks. Frondozo admitted knowing PO1 Butays caretaker, alias July, who lives
about 50 meters away from his house, but maintained that prior to his arrest he
never knew PO1 Butay or any of the police officers who apprehended him. He
came to know their names only at the precinct.[14]

Moreover, Frondozo claimed that PO1 Butay extorted money from him.
While in the detention cell, PO1 Butay told him to pay P50,000 for his release but
the amount was later reduced to P20,000.[15] He said he was unable to pay since he
has not yet received his salary. He further claimed that he only learned of the case
filed against him after he was transferred to the City Jail. He also claimed he has
never seen shabu in his entire life.[16]

On August 3, 2005, the court a quo convicted Frondozo. The dispositive portion of
the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, from the foregoing, this Court finds accused RAMON
FRONDOZO Y DALIDA, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for
Violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 and hereby imposes upon
him the penalty of Life Imprisonment and a fine of Five Hundred
Thousand Pesos without subsidiary imprisonment.

SO ORDERED.[17]

On January 31, 2007, the appellate court affirmed in toto the court a
quos decision. The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, appeal is
hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit and RAMON FRONDOZO y
DALIDA should be made to suffer the penalty correctly imposed by the
trial court.

SO ORDERED.[18]

Aggrieved, Frondozo filed the instant appeal.

On July 4, 2007, we accepted the appeal and required Frondozo and the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG) to file their respective supplemental briefs if they so
desire.

Both parties, however, opted to file Manifestations in lieu of Supplemental


Briefs, and adopted their respective briefs filed before the Court of Appeals.[19]

In his brief, Frondozo alleges that:


I.
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND
CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION
WITNESSES.

II.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-
APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT FOR
VIOLATION OF SECTION 5, ARTICLE II, R.A. NO. 9165.[20]
This appeal hangs mainly on the alleged lack of credibility of the
prosecutions witnesses and the frame-up theory.

Frondozo insists that no buy-bust operation was conducted and instead, he


was a victim of a frame-up. He claims that PO1 Butay framed him because PO1
Butay suspected him of stealing his fighting cocks three months before his
arrest. He also accuses PO1 Butay of extorting P50,000 from him for his liberty.[21]

Furthermore, Frondozo assails the credibility of PO1 Butay (poseur-


buyer). He contends that the following details cast doubt on the veracity of the
alleged buy-bust operation: (1) PO1 Butay claimed to have no knowledge whether
the buy-bust money had been dusted with fluorescent powder; [22] (2) he cannot
recall whether the plastic sachet of shabu was properly marked;[23] and (3) he
cannot recall the serial number of the buy-bust money. [24] Frondozo also asserts that
the prosecution not only failed to present as evidence the dispatch book where the
serial number of the buy-bust money was supposedly entered,[25] the prosecution
also failed to present evidence showing that the police officers previously
coordinated with PDEA regarding the buy-bust operation launched against him.
[26]
Further, he doubts the identity of the shabubecause it was marked only after it
was turned over to P/Insp. Ang and not immediately after seizure as a standard
procedure in anti-narcotics operation.[27]

Given these circumstances, Frondozo insists that the presumption of


regularity in the performance of official duty, by itself, could not sustain his
conviction, let alone prevail over the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of
innocence in his favor.[28]

The OSG, on the other hand, submits that Frondozos guilt had been proven
beyond reasonable doubt. The OSG insists that the evidence on record shows that
Frondozo was caught in flagrante delicto. They maintain that Frondozos defense of
frame-up and extortion deserves scant consideration since it was unsubstantiated
by any evidence other than his self-serving testimony. The OSG further asserts that
while the specimen was marked only after it was turned-over to P/Insp. Ang, such
fact did not vitiate the identity and chain of custody of the specimen sold by
Frondozo. Likewise, the OSG insists that the lack of documents showing that there
was prior coordination with PDEA is immaterial because what is more important is
that Frondozo was arrested in a valid buy-bust operation.[29]

Finally, the OSG maintains that in the absence of proof to the contrary, the
police officers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their
official duties.[30]

The appeal is meritorious.

Jurisprudence clearly sets the essential elements to be established in the


prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, viz.: (1) the transaction or sale took
place, (2) the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence, and (3)
the buyer and seller were identified.[31]

What is material in the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is


proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation
in court of evidence of corpus delicti.[32] Prosecutions for illegal sale of prohibited
drugs necessitate that the elemental act of possession of prohibited substance be
established with moral certainty, together with the fact that the same is not
authorized by law. The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of
the offense and the fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of
conviction. Therefore, it is essential that the identity of the prohibited drug be
established beyond doubt.[33]

To establish the identity of the shabu seized from Frondozo, the procedures
laid down in Rep. Act No. 9165 should be complied with. Section 21 of the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of Rep. Act No. 9165 clearly outlines the
post-seizure procedure in taking custody of seized drugs. It states:
(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. [Emphasis supplied.]
In this case, the arresting officers failed to strictly comply with the
procedures for the custody and disposition of confiscated dangerous drugs as
prescribed by Rep. Act No. 9165. The arresting officers did not mark
the shabu immediately after they arrested Frondozo. Further, while there was
testimony regarding the marking of the shabu after it was turned over to the police
investigator, no evidence was presented to prove that the marking thereof was done
in the presence of Frondozo.

Also, fatal in the prosecutions case is the failure of the arresting officers to
take a photograph and make an inventory of the confiscated materials in the
presence of Frondozo.Likewise, there was no mention that any representative from
the media, DOJ or any elected public official had been present during the inventory
or that any of these persons had been required to sign the copies of the inventory.

Clearly, none of the statutory safeguards mandated by Rep. Act No. 9165
was observed.Hence, the failure of the buy-bust team to comply with the procedure
in the custody of the seized drugs raises doubt as to its origins.

Nevertheless, while the seized drugs may be admitted in evidence, it does


not necessarily follow that the same should be given evidentiary weight if the
procedures provided by Rep. Act No. 9165 were not complied with. The
admissibility of the seized dangerous drugs in evidence should not be equated with
its probative value in proving the corpus delicti. The admissibility of evidence
depends on its relevance and competence while the weight of evidence pertains to
evidence already admitted and its tendency to convince and persuade.[34]

Finally, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty


relied upon by the lower courts cannot by itself overcome the presumption of
innocence nor constitute proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. As a rule, the
testimony of police officers who apprehended Frondozo is accorded full faith and
credit because of the presumption that they have performed their duties
regularly. However, when the performance of their duties is tainted with
irregularities, such presumption is effectively destroyed.[35]

All told, the corpus delicti in this case does not exist.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision dated January 31, 2007 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01582 is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Appellant RAMON FRONDOZO y DALIDA is ACQUITTED of the
crime charged on the ground of reasonable doubt and ordered
immediately RELEASED from custody, unless he is being held for some other
lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to implement this


decision forthwith and to INFORM this Court, within five (5) days from receipt
thereof, of the date appellant was actually released from confinement.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 181318 April 16, 2009

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
GERMAN AGOJO y LUNA, Appellant.

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

Subject of this appeal is the March 30, 2007 decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 00946, affirming the November 11, 2002 judgment 2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Tanauan, Batangas, finding appellant German Agojo y Luna guilty of violation of Section 15, Article
III of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425.

Appellant was charged with illegal sale of shabu in an Information dated October 14, 1999, the
accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 27th day of August 1999 at about 11:30 o’clock in the evening at Poblacion,
Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, 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, and deliver (4) plastic bags of methamphetamine hydrochloride
commonly known as "shabu," weighing 51.00, 51.10, 52.67 and 51.55 grams, with a total weight of
206.32 grams, a regulated dangerous drug.

Contrary to law.3

Appellant was also charged with violation of Presidential Decree No. 1866 (P.D. No. 1866) as
amended by Republic Act No. 8294 in an Information, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 27th day of August 1999 at about 11:30 o’clock in the evening at Poblacion,
Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
have in his possession, custody and control one (1) caliber .45 pistol Ithaca with defaced serial
number, one (1) magazine and seven (7) rounds of live ammunitions for caliber .45, without having
secured the necessary license and/or permit from the proper authorities to possess the same.

Contrary to law. 4
Appellant entered a not guilty plea upon arraignment. 5 Thereafter, trial ensued. As culled from the
record, the evidence for the prosecution is as follows:

On August 23, 1999, Rodolfo Alonzo, a civilian informant, reported the drug trading activities of
appellant to Police Chief Inspector Ablang. 6 Alonzo narrated that appellant agreed to sell him 200
grams of shabu for ₱70,000.00 on a 50% cash and 50% credit basis. The sale was to take place in
front of the Mercado Hospital in Tanauan, Batangas, on August 27, 1999 at 11:30 p.m. Ablang
formed a team to conduct the buy-bust operation. 7

On August 27, 1999, the team proceeded to Mercado Hospital. Ablang then entrusted Alonzo with
₱71,000.00 each marked "JUA." Alonzo was instructed to remove his hat to signal the team that the
sale had been consummated. The buy-bust team arrived at Mercado Hospital at 11:00 p.m. The
team members immediately took strategic positions. Alonzo stayed in an eatery in front of the
hospital.8

Agojo arrived at 11:30 p.m. aboard a white Mitsubishi Lancer (Lancer) with plate number DRW-392.
Appellant then approached Alonzo to ask if the latter had the money. Alonzo handed appellant the
marked money. Appellant took a VHS box from his car and handed it to Alonzo. Appellant and Alonzo
then walked along the hospital gate near the emergency room. Appellant then entered the hospital.

Alonzo examined the VHS box then took off his cap to signal the buy-bust team. The buy-bust team
immediately proceeded to the scene. Alonzo told the team that appellant had entered the hospital.
Alonzo handed the VHS box to Ablang. Upon examination, the box was found to contain four (4)
plastic bags of a crystalline substance which the team suspected was shabu. Ablang instructed
Salazar to inform the appellant that his car had been bumped.

Appellant then exited from the hospital via the emergency room door. Salazar introduced himself as
a policeman and attempted to arrest HIM.9 Appellant resisted, but the other team members
handcuffed appellant. The team recovered ₱10,000.00 of the buy-bust money. Ablang opened
appellant’s Lancer and recovered a .45 caliber pistol containing seven (7) bullets and a Panasonic
cellular phone from the passenger seat.

Arsenio Ricero, the Chief of the PNP Batangas Intelligence and Investigation Section, later
requested a laboratory examination of the contents of the four (4) plastic sachets confiscated from
appellant.10 Lorna Tria, a chemist at the Philippine National Police (PNP) crime laboratory in Camp
Vicente Lim conducted an examination of the four (4) plastic sachets. The examination revealed that
the sachets contained methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total weight of 206.32 grams.

Appellant presented a different version of the facts, in support of the defenses of denial and frame
up. He said that on August 27, 1999, appellant arrived at Mercado Hospital at 8:25 p.m. Thereafter,
he stayed in the room of a certain Imelda Papasin. At this time, his wife, Precilla was also confined in
the hospital. She had asked him to bring money to settle her bills, so she could be discharged the
next day. Upon being informed by a security guard that his car had been sideswiped, he went down.
The police later arrested him when he reached the ground floor. The police later opened his car. He
was made to board a police vehicle. While aboard, the police confiscated ₱6,000.00 in cash, a wrist
watch and a necklace from him. He was brought to the police headquarters in Kumintang Ilaya,
Batangas City.

In a Decision11 dated November 11, 2002, the RTC found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the charge against him for violation of Section 1512 of R.A. No. 6425 and acquitted him of the
charge of violation of P.D. No. 1866 for lack of sufficient evidence. The case was brought on
automatic review before the Supreme Court, since appellant was sentenced to death by the trial
court.13

In his brief dated July 30, 2003, 14 appellant imputed three (3) errors to the trial court, namely: (1) the
trial court convicted him despite failure of the prosecution to overcome the presumption of innocence
and to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred in relying on the weakness of
the defense rather than on the strength of the prosecution evidence; and (3) the trial court erred in
considering the aggravating circumstances of nighttime and use of a motor vehicle.

On September 28, 2003, Agojo moved for new trial ad cautelam. 15 Appellant claimed to have
secured the statistical data list from the cash department of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that seven
(7) of the ₱71,000.00 peso bills used in the buy-bust operation on September 4, 2003 were bogus.
Appellant claimed that Ablang must have merely copied the serial numbers of bills of other
denominations when he ran out of serial numbers of one thousand peso bills.

In his brief dated January 30, 2004, for the People, the Solicitor General asserted that the positive
declarations of Alonzo and the buy-bust team should prevail over Agojo’s self-serving denial and
allegations of having been framed up.16 However, he urged the court to lower Agojo’s penalty
to reclusion perpetua, as the trial court erred in ruling that nighttime and the use of a motor vehicle
had attended the offense.

On March 2, 2004, the Solicitor General filed its comment on Agojo’s motion for new trial, 17 averring
that the motion lacked merit since, during the trial, appellant could have secured during the trial the
BSP’s certification which was relied upon for the new trial sought.

In a resolution dated August 31, 2004, this Court transferred the case to the appellate court for
intermediate review, following the ruling in People v. Mateo. 18 An exchange of pleadings before the
appellate court followed, wherein the parties reiterated their earlier stances.

On March 30, 2007, the appellate court addressed both the errors raised in the appellant’s brief and
the appellant’s motion for new trial. It affirmed with modification the decision of the trial court, but
reduced the penalty to reclusion perpetua in line with Republic Act No. 9346, "An Act Prohibiting the
Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines," and because of the finding that aggravating
circumstances were not present.19

The case was again elevated to this Court. In a resolution dated March 19, 2008, this Court required
the parties to file their supplemental briefs.20

The Solicitor General demurred, averring that the brief earlier filed with the Court was sufficient. 21

Appellant filed a supplemental memorandum, reiterating that the appellate court had
erred.22 Appellant maintains that the prosecution was not able to prove his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt.23 He also claims that the evidence proves that he was in fact framed-up by the buy-bust team.

The appeal lacks merit.

The errors raised by the appellant boil down to the issue of whether appellant’s guilt was proven
beyond reasonable doubt, as well as to the question whether appellant was framed-up by the buy-
bust team.
A thorough review of the records clearly shows that the prosecution proved beyond
reasonable doubt that appellant sold the shabu to the poseur-buyer. The testimony of Alonzo
on the sale of illegal drugs and the identification of appellant as the seller is clear and
straightforward, thus:24

xxx

Q: And after you were informed by German Agojo that he has only 200 grams available, what
else did you tell him, if any?

A: We talked about the price and we agreed that ½ will be in cash and ½ will be on
consignment which is ₱70,000.00 per 100 grams, sir. 25

xxxx

Q: Did you call up German Agojo on the date you agreed?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: When was that?

A: In the evening of August of 27, 1999 at about 7:00 o’clock in the evening, sir.

Q: And what was the subject of your conversation?

A: We agreed that we will meet at the Mercado Hospital, sir. 26

xxxx

Q: After you talked with German Agojo about the deal to be performed at the Mercado
Hospital at 11:00 o’clock in the evening of August 27, 1999, what happen next?

A: Major Ablang organized a team who will be proceeding to Mercado Hospital, sir. 27

xxxx

Q: What else did Major Ablang do, if any, aside from organizing a team to proceed to
Mercado Hospital, Tanauan, Batangas?

A: Major Ablang gave me the money, ₱70,000.00, supposed to be paid for the 100 grams
of shabu, sir.28

xxxx

Q: Did he give instruction to you on that night when to proceed to Tanauan, Batangas?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What was the instruction?


A: He told me that whatever is my agreement with German Agojo, I have to do it and he even
instructed me to give signal to his men, sir.29

xxxx

Q: What was then that signal you agreed with SPO4 Calapati?

A: To remove my hat or cap, sir.

Q: And after that instruction was made by Major Ablang, what else happened?

A: We waited for a while and after [sic] few hours, we proceeded to Tanauan, Batangas, sir. 30

xxxx

Q: Was there a time that German Agojo arrived?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How many minutes interval from your arrival up to the time German Agojo arrived?

A: Around thirty minutes, sir.

Q: When he arrived, were you inside your vehicle or outside?

A: Outside, sir.

Q: When he arrived, what happened?

A: He approached me and asked me if I brought the money.

Q: And what was your answer?

A: I told him that I have the money and gave it to him, sir.

Q: You gave the ₱70,000.00 to German Agojo?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: After you gave the money to him, what happened?

A: After that he returned to his car and took something, sir, and when he came back he
presented to me a cassette tape case saying "it is there," sir.

Q: After you received the cassette tape case, what did you do?

A: After that he placed his hand on my shoulder. We went to the emergency room near the
gate and he entered the hospital, sir.
Q: What did you do with the cassette tape case?

A: After examining the cassette tape case and [sic] I found that there was shabu inside and I
gave a signal to SPO4 Calapati, sir.

Q: What else happened after you made that signal?

A: SPO4 Calapati and PO3 Salazar approached me and inquired if it is shabu and I told
them that it is shabu then they informed Major Ablang, sir.31

xxx

Q: After that, what else happened?

A: Major Ablang approached me and I handed to him the cassette tape case, sir.

Q: How about the suspected shabu which according to you was placed inside the cassette
tape case?

A: I handed it also to Major Ablang, sir.

Q: After you handed the same to Major Ablang, what else happened?

A: They requested the security guard of Mercado Hospital to inform German Agojo that his
car was bumped for him to get out of the hospital, sir.

Q: Did the security guard inform(ed) German Agojo?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What happened after that?

A: He went down, sir.

Q: In what particular place of Mercado Hospital did he go when you said he went down?

A: At the lobby of the hospital, sir, near the emergency room.

Q: After he went down the hospital, what happened?

A: PO3 Salazar introduced himself as a policeman to German Agojo and informed him that
he is arresting him, sir, and there was a scuffle because German Agojo resisted, arrest, sir. 32

The testimony of Alonzo was corroborated by members of the buy-bust team, particularly
Calapati33 and Salazar,34who both testified that they saw appellant hand Alonzo the VHS tape
containing the shabu despite only partial payment for the shabu.

Appellant’s assertion that he was framed-up has no merit. In almost every case involving a buy-bust
operation, the accused puts up the defense of frame-up. This court has repeatedly emphasized that
the defense of "frame-up" is viewed with disfavor,35 since the defense is easily concocted and is a
common ploy of the accused.36 Therefore, clear and convincing evidence of the frame-up must be
shown for such a defense to be given merit. 37

In this case, appellant points to the arrest not being in flagrante delicto, the existence of
discrepancies in the serial numbers of the buy-bust money and a prior attempt to frame him up as
proofs of the frame-up. However, the fact that the arrest was not in flagrante delicto is of no
consequence. The arrest was validly executed pursuant to Section 5, paragraph (b) of Rule 113 of
the Rules of Court, which states:

Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. — A peace officer or a private person may, without a
warrant, arrest a person: (a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is
actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (b) When an offense has in fact been
committed and he has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has
committed it; and, (c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from penal
establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or temporarily confined while his case is
pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. (Emphasis
supplied)1avvphi1

The second instance of lawful warrantless arrest covered by paragraph (b) cited above necessitates
two stringent requirements before a warrantless arrest can be effected: (1) an offense has just been
committed; and (2) the person making the arrest has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the
person to be arrested has committed it.38 A review of the records shows that both requirements were
met in this case.

From the spot where the buy-bust team was, they definitely witnessed the sale of shabu took place.
So, too, there was a large measure of immediacy between the time of commission of the offense and
the time of the arrest.39 After Alonzo had signaled the buy-bust team when he received the VHS tape
from appellant, Ablang approached Alonzo and immediately examined the tape. 40 Soon thereafter, he
executed the ruse to make appellant to go down, as the latter had in the meantime gone up. The
ruse succeeded when appellant went down, and he was arrested right then and there.

There is similarly little weight in the claim of appellant that the inconsistencies revealed by the
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) certification in the serial numbers of the marked money, as well
as the fact that only a fraction of the money was recovered, should exonerate him. The marked
money used in the buy-bust operation is not indispensable in drug cases. 41 Otherwise stated, the
absence of marked money does not create a hiatus in the evidences provided that the prosecution
adequately proves the sale.42 Only appellant would know what happened to the rest of the marked
money since only ₱10,000.00 out of the ₱70,000.00 was recovered from him. In any event, the
partial recovery of the marked money from appellant would indicate that the buy-bust operation did
take place.

Questions have been raised in connection with the admitted peculiar business sense of the
appellant–selling 200 grams of shabu for ₱70,000.00 and accepting payment by installments for the
contraband. This aspect of the tale may strike as incredulous, but the evidence is plain that it did
happen. Truth may sometimes be stranger than fiction, and as long as such truth is corroborated by
evidence, the Court is bound by the facts.43

This Court has also taken judicial notice that drug pushers sell their wares to any prospective
customer, stranger or not, in both public or private places, with no regard for time as they have
become increasingly daring and blatantly defiant of the law. 44 It is therefore not surprising that drug
pushers will even accept partial payment for their wares with the balance payable on installment.
Appellant’s assertion that the chain of custody over the drugs was not preserved also lacks merit. A
thorough review of the records of this case reveals that the chain of custody of the seized substance
was not broken, and that the prosecution properly identified the drugs seized in this case. Appellant
sold the drugs to Alonzo in a legitimate buy-bust operation. 45 Alonzo then handed the VHS tape
containing the drugs to Major Ablang,46 who kept the drugs during appellant’s

detention, and then turned them over to Ricero, so that the packets could be marked when the buy-
bust team returned with Agojo to the Police Provincial Office in Kumintang Ilaya, Batangas. 47 The
drugs, along with a letter request, were then sent by Ricero to the PNP crime laboratory in Camp
Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna for examination. Lorna Tria, a PNP chemist working at Camp
Vicente Lim, examined the marked packets, which had tested positive for shabu.48 These same
marked packets were identified in open court by Major Ablang, 49 Ricero50and Tria.51 Thus, the
unbroken chain of custody of the shabu, from their seizure from appellant until their presentation in
court, was clearly established.

Finally, the assertion that the buy-bust team had the habit of framing him up is similarly misleading.
The appellate court acquitted appellant of a previous charge of possession of shabu, because he
was charged with illegal sale rather than mere possession of shabu.52 Hence, there was no attempt
to frame him up in a prior case, nor was there any evidence that such an attempt to frame him up
was made in this case.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED, the decision dated March 30, 2007 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00946 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.