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G.R. No.

188653 January 29, 2014

LITO LOPEZ, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Assailed. in this petition is the Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of petitioner Lito Lopez by
1

the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Criminal Case No. T-3476, which found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
2

illegal possession of dangerous drugs.

Petitioner was charged with violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, in an Information which
reads:

That on or about the 31st day of July, 2000, at 7:30 o'clock in the evening, more or less, at Purok 1, Brgy.
Baranghawon, Municipality of Tabaco, Province of Albay, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, with intent to possess and violate the law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and criminally have in his possession and control 0.0849 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly
known as "shabu", a regulated drug contained in four (4) small transparent packets; four (4) pieces of aluminum foil
and one (1) transparent plastic packet, both containing "shabu" residue, without authority, license or permit from the
government or its duly authorized representatives. 3

Upon arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.

The witnesses for the prosecution testified on the following facts:

Senior Police Officer 4 Benito Bognalos (SPO4 Bognalos) was the team leader of the group of police officers
assigned to implement the search warrant issued by Judge Arsenio Base of the Municipal Trial Court of Tabaco,
Albay, on the house of petitioner located at Purok 1, Barangay Baranghawon, Tabaco, Albay. The search group was
composed of SPO3 Domingo Borigas (SPO3 Borigas), PO3 Carlos Desuasido (PO3 Desuasido), and PO3
Ferdinand Telado (PO3 Telado) while another group, consisting of SPO1 Venancio Rolda, PO3 Cesar Templonuevo
and SPO2 Melchor Codornes, were tasked to secure the perimeter area. SPO4 Bognalos contacted the barangay
officials to ask for assistance in the conduct of the search.

At around 7:30 p.m. of 31 July 2000, the search team, together with three (3) barangay officials, went to the house
of petitioner and presented the search warrant to him. He eventually relented to the conduct of search. PO3
Desuasido seized a piece of folded paper containing four (4) 1/4 x 1/2 inch transparent plastic packets of white
powder, two (2) 2x1-1/2 inch plastic sachets containing white powder, and a crystal-like stone measuring 2 inches in
contoured diameter concealed in the kitchen. SPO3 Borigas found two (2) 2x1-1/2 inch plastic sachets containing
4

white powder in the bathroom. PO3 Telado seized one (1) 1/4 x 1/2 inch plastic packet containing suspected residue
of shabu inside the masters bedroom. PO3 Telado also recovered one (1) 1x1-1/2 inch plastic sachet containing
suspected residue of shabu, four aluminum rolls, and a piece of paper partly burned at one end. Barangay Captain
5

Angeles Brutas witnessed the conduct by the policemen of the search in petitioners kitchen and saw how the plastic
sachets containing the suspected shabu were recovered. Barangay Kagawad Leticia Bongon also saw how the
6

policemen found outside the house a white, round, hard and "tawas-like" object in the kitchen and aluminum foils,
which were allegedly used as shabu paraphernalia. After the search, the seized items were photographed and a
7

seizure receipt, properly acknowledged by petitioner, was issued. Petitioner was then brought to the police station
while the seized plastic sachets were brought by the Chief of Police to the Legazpi City Crime Laboratory for
examination. 8

Forensic Chemist Police Superintendent Lorlie Arroyo in her Chemistry Report No. D-111-2000, found that the
9

seized plastic sachets are positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. She likewise testified on her
findings.

Testifying on his own behalf, petitioner narrated that at exactly 7:30 p.m. on 31 July 2000, more than ten (10)
policemen barged into his house. Petitioner initially asked them for their purpose and he was told that they had a
search warrant. Petitioner was not able to take a good look at the search warrant because one Butch Gonzales
pushed him aside while the others entered his house. The policemen searched different parts of his house while he
was made to sit in the living room by PO3 Desuasido. From where he was seated, he could not see what was
happening inside the kitchen or in the bedroom, where policemen allegedly recovered plastic sachets containing
shabu. He was asked to sign a seizure receipt but refused to do so. After the search, he was taken into custody and
brought to the police station. Salvacion Posadas, petitioners former common-law partner, was also inside
10

petitioners house at the time of the search. She corroborated petitioners testimony that they were not able to
witness the search because they were made to sit in the living room. She also claimed that the barangay officials did
not accompany the policemen in the search inside the kitchen and bedroom. 11

On 23 May 2007, the RTC convicted petitioner of the charge of illegal possession of shabu in violation of Section 16,
Article III of Republic Act No. 6425.

The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered, finding accused Lito Lopez GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 16, Article III, Republic Act 6425 and considering the quantity of the
methamphetamine hydrochloride seized from the accused, which is 0.0849 gram, and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, this Court hereby sentences him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from four (4) months and one
(1) day of arresto mayor in its medium period as minimum, to three (3) years of prision correccional in its medium
period as maximum.

The Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, subject matter of this case is forfeited in favor of the government, and the
Branch Clerk of Court is directed to turn over the same to the Dangerous Drugs Board for proper disposition, upon
finality of this decision.
12

In convicting petitioner of illegal possession of shabu, the trial court lent more credence to the evidence of the
prosecution. The trial court held that the prosecution was able to prove all elements of the crime charged, more
particularly, that petitioner was in possession of the shabu. The trial court dismissed petitioners claim that the
seized shabu was planted by the policemen by explaining that these police officers have no ill-motive to falsely
testify against petitioner.

In his Brief filed before the Court of Appeals, petitioner contended that there was an irregularity in the conduct of the
search when it was witnessed only by barangay officials while petitioners view from the living room was blocked by
a concrete wall partition. Petitioner thus advanced the possibility of indiscriminate search and planting of evidence.
Petitioner also questioned the time when the search was conducted. Petitioner pointed out that one Butch
Gonzales, who is not a part of the search team, participated in the search and was able to seize a plastic sachet
allegedly containing shabu. Petitioner averred that the seized items were not delivered to the court which issued the
warrant. In addition, petitioner claimed that the police officers did not properly observe the chain of custody rule,
such that the pieces of evidence were not properly marked in the house of petitioner but were marked at the police
station.

On 31 March 2009, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTCs Decision convicting petitioner of illegal possession of
shabu. The appellate court upheld the valid implementation of the search warrant by police officers. According to the
appellate court, petitioner was present during the search and his movement was not restricted as he was free to
follow the policemen conducting the search. The appellate court considered the time of the search as reasonable.
With respect to the argument that the seized items were not delivered to the court, the appellate court observed that
said issue was not raised during trial, hence, the objection is deemed waived.

Petitioner filed the instant petition for review on certiorari zeroing in on the argument that the identity and integrity of
the seized items were not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Petitioner insists that the records were bereft of
evidence showing every link in the chain of custody of the seized shabu. Petitioner points out that the person in the
crime laboratory who allegedly handled the seized items was not presented during the trial and there was no
testimony made on the disposition of the alleged shabu after its examination by the forensic chemist and prior to its
presentation in court. Petitioner also notes that the alleged seized drugs were not immediately marked at the time of
the alleged seizure.

In the prosecution of drug cases, it is of paramount importance that the existence of the drug, the corpus delicti of
the crime, be established beyond doubt. To successfully prosecute a case involving illegal drugs, the identity and
integrity of the corpus delicti 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. Thus, 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 accused-petitioner. 13

In both cases of illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the prosecution must show the chain of
custody over the dangerous drug in order to establish the corpus delicti, which is the dangerous drug itself. The
14

chain of custody rule comes into play as a mode of authenticating the seized illegal drug as evidence. It includes
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. Indeed, 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. This step initiates the process of protecting innocent
15

persons from dubious and concocted searches, and of protecting as well the apprehending officers from harassment
suits based on planting of evidence and on allegations of robbery or theft. 16

The rule requires that the marking of the seized items should be done in the presence of the apprehended violator
and immediately upon confiscation to ensure that they are the same items that enter the chain and are eventually
the ones offered in evidence. 17

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 specimens will use the markings as reference. The
marking of the evidence serves to separate the marked evidence from the corpus of all other similar or related
evidence from the time they are seized from the accused until they are disposed at the end of criminal proceedings,
obviating switching, "planting," or contamination of evidence. 18

According to PO3 Telado, all the seized items were marked only at the police station. But when asked who put the
markings, PO3 Telado surmised that it was PO3 Desuasido. Aside from PO3 Telado, no other witnesses testified
19

on the supposed markings. PO3 Desuasido was not asked on the witness stand about the markings. When cross-
examined how the seized items were handled, SP04 Bognalos testified:

Q: After you have searched and found these sachets containing "Shabu" what did you and your party do?

A: It was photographed, given seizure receipt properly acknowledged by the respondent. And later on for proper
disposition and then Lito Lopez was brought to the police station for proper booking and further investigation.

Q: You said these recovered sachets found in the house of the accused were photographed. Do you have copies of
these photographs?

A: No, sir.

Q: Why?

A: Because it was submitted to the Municipal Trial Court, Tabaco together with the filing of the case.

Q: What did you do with these seized sachets containing "Shabu" after the same was brought to the police station?

A: It was sent to the Legazpi City Crime Laboratory for proper examination. 20

There are occasions when the chain of custody rule is relaxed such as when the marking of the seized items
immediately after seizure and confiscation is allowed to be undertaken at the police station rather than at the place
of arrest for as long as it is done in the presence of an accused in illegal drugs cases. However, even a less-than-
21

stringent application of the requirement would not suffice to sustain the conviction in this case. There was no
categorical statement from any of the prosecution witnesses that markings were made, much less immediately upon
confiscation of the seized items. There was also no showing that markings were made in the presence of the
accused in this case.

Evidently, there is an irregularity in the first link of the chain of custody.


We have consistently held that failure of the authorities to immediately mark the seized drugs raises reasonable
doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti and suffices to rebut the presumption of regularity in the performance
of official duties. Failure to mark the drugs immediately after they were seized from the accused casts doubt on the
prosecution evidence, warranting acquittal on reasonable doubt. 22

Furthermore, the Chemistry Report, containing a description of the items seized, does not show or make any
mention of any markings made on all the items seized. As a matter of fact, during the trial, PO3 Desuasido
seemingly could not readily identify the plastic sachets he allegedly seized inside petitioners house, thus:

Q: If I show to you the four (4) plastic sachets containing "shabu" will you be able to recognize it?

ATTY. BROTAMONTE:

Same objection. No basis.

COURT:

Let the witness answer.

PROSECUTOR PIFANO:

Q: Showing to you [these] plastic sachets. Kindly examine the same and tell the court if these were the ones that
were found in the house of the accused?

WITNESS:

A: If it were the ones that came from the crime laboratory then it is, sir. 23

On the other hand, PO3 Telado identified the plastic sachets he seized based only on their sizes, to wit:

Q: Now, you identified the supposed sachets that you had found in the house of the accused. What made you
identify them today as the ones that you had found?

A: Because I can distinctly remember those aluminum foils.

Q: Okay. No, Im referring to the sachets?

A: I can remember it because of the size.

Q: Of course, you will agree with me that you did not first measure the size of those two (2) sachets at that time
before you actually identified them today?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How were you able to identify today that the aluminum foils shown to you by the Fiscal were the ones used as
supposedly found in the house of the accused?

A: Because its crumpled and folded.

ATTY. BROTAMONTE:

Q: Was that your only basis as you have identified it today?

WITNESS:

A: Yes, sir.
24
Even the evidence presented in court were not identified with certainty as the ones which were seized by the police
officers.

As already stated, it is the unique characteristic of dangerous and illegal drugs which renders imperative strict
compliance with the prescribed measures to be observed during and after the seizure of dangerous drugs and
related paraphernalia, during the custody and transfer thereof for examination, and at all times up to their
presentation in court.25

The conflicting testimonies of the police officers and lack of evidence lead to a reasonable conclusion that no
markings were actually made on the seized items. It is also worth mentioning that the photographs which the
prosecution witnesses claim to have been taken after the seizure do not appear on the records nor were they
presented or offered as evidence.

A substantial gap in the chain of custody renders the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti dubious.

We ruled in People v. Kamad that the links that must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation
26

are: 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. 27

There were indeed substantial gaps in the chain of custody from the initial stage with the apparent lack of markings.
Upon confiscation of the shabu, the prosecution witnesses never recounted which police officer had initial control
and custody upon their confiscation and while in transit. At the police station, nobody witnessed if and how the
seized items were marked. SPO4 Bognalos alleged that it was the Chief of Police who forwarded the seized sachets
to the crime laboratory, while PO3 Telado intimated that it was the investigator who turned them over to the crime
28

laboratory. Their records were likewise bereft of any detail as to who exercised custody and possession of the
seized items after their chemical examination and before they were offered as evidence in court. All these weak links
in the chain of custody significantly affected the integrity of the items seized, which in turn, created a reasonable
doubt on the guilt of the accused.

In this light, we are constrained to acquit petitioner on reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the 31 March 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
30939 affirming the conviction by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 17, Tabaco City, in Criminal Case No. T-3476 for
illegal possession of shabu under Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, is hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Petitioner LITO LOPEZ is ACQUITTED and ordered immediately RELEASED from detention, unless he is
confined for any other lawful cause.

The Jail Warden, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Tabaco District Jail, San Lorenzo, Tabaco City is
DIRECTED to IMPLEMENT this Decision and to report to this Court the action taken hereon within five (5) days
from receipt.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 198804 January 22, 2014

CARLITO VALENCIA y CANDELARIA, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to annul and set
1

aside the Decision dated May 25, 2011 and the Resolution dated September 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
2 3

in CA-G.R. CR No. 33194. The CA affirmed with modification the Decision dated February 18, 2010 of the Regional
4

Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 127 in Criminal Case No. C-75090 finding Carlita Valencia y Candelaria
(Valencia) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of possession of dangerous drugs, punished under Section
11, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002."

The Facts

Valencia was charged in an Information with illegal possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II of
R.A. No. 9165, docketed as Criminal Case No. C-75090 before the RTC, viz:

That on or about the 8th day of April 2006, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without having authorized by law, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously, have in his possession, custody and control two (2) small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet
containing white crystalline substance weighing 0.02 gram, 0.02 gram of METHYLAMPHETAMINE
HYDROCHLORIDE (Shabu), a dangerous drug, when subjected for chemistry examination gave positive result of
METHYLAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE, knowing the same to be such.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (Citation omitted)


5

Upon arraignment on March 10, 2006, Valencia pleaded "not guilty" to the offense charged. 6

Version of the Prosecution

On April 7, 2006, Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Napoleon L. Cuaton (Cuaton), the Officer-in-Charge of the Station
Anti-Illegal DrugsSpecial Operation Unit, Caloocan City Police Station, received a call from a concerned citizen
regarding the rampant sale of illegal drugs in Barangay 18, Caloocan City. Thus, P/Supt. Cuaton organized a team,
composed of several police officers headed by Police Officer 3 (PO3) Ferdinand Modina (Modina), to conduct
surveillance and a possible buy-bust operation in the said area. The team immediately proceeded to the target
area.7

On April 8, 2006, at around one oclock in the morning, the team arrived at Barangay 18, Caloocan City. PO3
Modina and PO2 Joel Rosales (Rosales) alighted from their vehicle and approached a group of six persons playing
cara y cruz; PO3 Modina posed as a bettor. While watching the game, PO3 Modina saw a man, later identified to be
Valencia, place a plastic sachet containing a white crystalline substance as a bet. Thereupon, PO3 Modina
introduced himself as a police officer, confiscated the plastic sachet, and arrested Valencia. The other persons who
were playing cara y cruz scampered away. 8

When asked to empty his pockets, Valencia brought out another transparent plastic sachet containing white
crystalline substance from his right pocket. PO3 Modina then apprised Valencia of his constitutional rights. Valencia
was then brought to the police station, together with the confiscated transparent plastic sachets containing white
crystalline substance.9

At the police station, the two plastic sachets that were confiscated from Valencia were turned over to PO2 Randulfo
Hipolito (Hipolito) for investigation. The plastic sachets were then marked by PO2 Hipolito as "CVC-1" and "CVC-2"
and were placed in a sachet marked "SAID SOU EVIDENCE dtd 04-08-06." PO2 Hipolito then prepared the request
to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for the examination of the contents of the plastic sachets
that were confiscated from Valencia. 10
Upon examination, the white crystalline substance contained in the plastic sachets confiscated from Valencia
yielded a positive result for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu. 11

Version of the Defense

Valencia denied the allegations against him. He claimed that, at the time of the incident, he was standing in front of
his house when several men came running from an alley. Thereupon, he saw that two of his neighbors were already
handcuffed and are already being escorted by three (3) armed men clad in civilian clothes. One of the armed men
then asked him if he knew where a certain "Fe" resides. When Valencia told them that he did not know where "Fe"
resides, the armed men brought him to the police station together with his two neighbors. 12

At the police station, Valencia was immediately placed in a cell. When he asked the reason for his detention, the
police officers told him "samahan mo na lang ang dalawa." Thereafter, the police officers demanded from Valencia
13

and his two neighbors, who were also detained, the amount of P5,000.00 each. When Valencia failed to pay the said
amount, he was charged with possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165; his two
neighbors were however released from detention upon payment of the said amount. 14

Ruling of the RTC

On February 18, 2010, the RTC rendered a Decision finding Valencia guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
15

offense of possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, viz:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring Accused CARLITO VALENCIA y
CANDELARIA GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of the offense of Violation of Section 11, Art. II. R.A. 9165,
otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Accordingly, this Court hereby sentences
him to suffer an imprisonment of Twelve (12) years and one (1) day as the minimum to Seventeen (17) years and
Eight (8) months as the maximum and to pay the fine of Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00).

The subject drug subject matter of this case is hereby ordered confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government
to be dealt with in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED. 16

Ruling of the CA

Valencia appealed, claiming that the RTC erred in finding him guilty as charged. He insists that the prosecution
failed to show an unbroken chain of custody of the seized dangerous drug in violation of Section 21 of R.A. No.
9165.17

On May 25, 2011, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision which affirmed the RTCs Decision dated February
18

18, 2010. The CA ruled that, contrary to Valencias claim, the prosecution was able to show an unbroken chain of
custody of the seized dangerous drug. Thus:

The prosecutions evidence convincingly demonstrated the unbroken chain of custody of the seized drugs beginning
from the arresting officers, to the investigating officer, then to the forensic chemist, until such time that they were
offered in evidence before the court a quo. The plastic sachets seized were not tampered with or switched before
the same were delivered to and chemically examined by the forensic chemist. Perforce, all persons who obtained
and received the plastic sachets did so in the performance of their official duties. Appellants adduced not a speck of
proof to overthrow the presumption that official duty was regularly performed.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, the Appeal is hereby DENIED. The Decision of conviction dated 18 February 2010 of the Regional
Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 127, in Criminal Case No. C-75090, is

AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 19
Valencia sought a reconsideration of the Decision dated May 25, 2011, but it was denied by the CA in its
20

Resolution dated September 26, 2011.


21

Issue

Essentially, the issue presented for the Courts resolution is whether the CA erred in affirming Valencias conviction
for the offense of possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 pertinently provides that:

Sec. 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five
hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person,
who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the
degree of purity thereof:

xxxx

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be graduated as follows:

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 opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or
marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu," or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited
to, MDMA or "ecstacy," PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their
derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic
requirements; or three hundred (300) grams or more but less than five hundred (500) grams of marijuana.

The elements of the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, are the following: first, the accused was in
possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited or dangerous drug; second, such possession
was not authorized by law; and third, the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug. 22

In the prosecution of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus
delicti of the offense and, in sustaining a conviction therefor, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must
definitely be shown to have been preserved. This requirement necessarily arises from the illegal drugs unique
characteristic that renders it indistinct, not readily identifiable, and easily open to tampering, alteration or substitution
either by accident or otherwise. Thus, 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 accused-appellant; otherwise, the prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs under
R.A. No. 9165 fails. 23

There must be strict compliance with the prescribed measures to be observed during and after the seizure of
dangerous drugs and related paraphernalia, during the custody and transfer thereof for examination, and at all times
up to their presentation in court. In this regard, Section 21,
24

Article II of R.A. No. 9165 outlines the procedure to be observed by the apprehending officers in the seizure and
custody of dangerous drugs, viz:

Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;

x x x x (Emphasis ours)

Further, Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165 similarly provides that:

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 precurses and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be
conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of
the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-
compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of
the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such
seizures of and custody over said items;

x x x x (Emphasis ours)

The rule on chain of custody under the foregoing enactments expressly demands the identification of the persons
who handle the confiscated items for the purpose of duly monitoring the authorized movements of the illegal drugs
and/or drug paraphernalia from the time they are seized from the accused until the time they are presented in
court. Moreover, as a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of
25

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 in 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. 26

Crucial in proving the chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or other related items immediately after
they are seized from the accused. In People v. Gonzales, the Court explained that:
27 28

The first stage in the chain of custody rule is the marking of the dangerous drugs or related items. Marking, which is
the affixing on the dangerous drugs or related items by the apprehending officer or the poseur-buyer of his initials or
signature or other identifying signs, should be made in the presence of the apprehended violator immediately upon
arrest. The importance of the prompt marking cannot be denied, because succeeding handlers of dangerous drugs
or related items will use the marking as reference. Also, the marking operates to set apart as evidence the
dangerous drugs or related items from other material from the moment they are confiscated until they are disposed
of at the close of the criminal proceedings, thereby forestalling switching, planting or contamination of evidence. In
short, the marking immediately upon confiscation or recovery of the dangerous drugs or related items is
indispensable in the preservation of their integrity and evidentiary value. (Emphasis ours)
29

To prove the chain of custody of the seized plastic sachets, which were confiscated from Valencia, the prosecution
presented PO3 Modina, who testified that:

PROS. GALLO:

Q. And what happened to the shabu which the accused placed as his bet?
WITNESS:

A. When I introduced myself as a policeman I took the shabu, maam.

Q. If that shabu which you confiscated will be seen by you again, will you be able to identify the same?

A. Yes, maam.

Q. How will you be able to identify?

A. Because of the markings, maam.

Q. What marking are you referring to?

A. CV[C]-1 and CV[C]-2, maam.

xxxx

PROS. GALLO:

Q. Now, Mr. Witness, what did you do after you asked the accused to bring out the contents of his pocket which
yielded another plastic sachet?

WITNESS:

A. I apprised him of his constitutional rights and boarded him to our vehicle and brought him to our office, maam.

Q. What happened now to the plastic sachet marked CVC-2?

A. I was in possession of the plastic sachets including the plastic sachet which he placed as a bet, maam.

xxxx

Q. And what did you do next?

A. We proceeded to our office, maam.

Q. What did you do upon arrival at your office?

A. We turned over the accused to the investigator including the shabu I recovered, maam.

Q. Was there any document evidencing the turn over of the person of the accused and the two plastic sachets you
recovered from the possession of the accused?

A. Yes, maam, the evidence acknowledge (sic) receipt.

xxxx

Q. Did you come to know what happened to the plastic sachets you turned over to PO2 Hipolito?

A. PO2 Hipolito made a request addressed to crime laboratory, maam.

Q. Did you see that document?

A. Yes, maam.

Q. How about the result, have you seen the result?


A. Yes, maam.

Q. What was the result?

A. Positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, maam. 30

On the other hand, PO2 Rosales testified that

Q. Who marked these two plastic sachets CVC-1 and CVC-2?

A. The investigator, maam.

Q. Who turned over to the investigator CVC-1?

A. PO3 Modina, maam.

Q. How about CVC-2?

A. I was the one, maam.

Q. Who was in possession of CVC-1 from the time it was recovered from accused by PO3 Modina up to the time it
was turned over to the investigator?

A. PO3 Modina, maam.

Q. How about the item CVC-2 when you said it was handed to you by the accused at the place of the incident until it
was turned over to the investigator and marked by him, who was in possession thereof?

A. Me, maam.

Q. At that time, was there any other apprehension that you conducted?

A. None, maam.

THE COURT: x x x

Q. Were you present when the investigator put the marking on the specimen?

THE WITNESS:

A. Yes, your Honor. When it was handed by PO3 Modina it was marked by the investigator. 31

A perusal of the foregoing testimonies of PO3 Modina and PO2 Rosales shows that there are significant lapses in
the chain of custody of the plastic sachets that were confiscated from Valencia. Indeed, while the prosecution was
able to prove that the two plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance that were confiscated from Valencia
were marked as "CVC-1" and "CVC-2" by PO2 Hipolito, after the same were turned over to him at the police station
for investigation, there was no showing that the marking had been done in the presence of Valencia or his
representatives.

Further, although PO3 Modina testified that he turned over the said plastic sachets to PO2 Hipolito, who
subsequently made the request for examination of the contents of the plastic sachet, it was not clear who actually
brought the plastic sachets to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination. It is likewise unclear who actually received
the confiscated plastic sachets in the PNP Crime Laboratory and who exercised custody and possession of the
same after it was examined and before it was presented before the RTC.

Verily, the records are bereft of any evidence, which would clearly show that the said plastic sachets were indeed
marked in the presence of Valencia. Nor was there any evidence as to the identity of the individual who brought the
seized plastic sachets from the police station to the PNP
Crime Laboratory for examination. That the plastic sachets that were confiscated from Valencia were not marked in
his presence or that of his representative and the indeterminateness of the identities of the individuals who had
actually taken custody of the plastic sachets effectively broke the chain of custody, which thus taints the integrity of
the sachets of shabu that were presented before the RTC. The foregoing lapses create reasonable doubt as to
whether the plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance that were presented before the RTC are the same
ones that were confiscated from Valencia.

In Gonzales, the Court acquitted the accused for the failure of the prosecution to prove that the arresting officers
32

therein had marked the confiscated sachet of shabu in the presence of the accused and its failure to identify the
individual who brought the sachet of shabu to the PNP Crime Laboratory. The foregoing circumstances, the Court
ruled, are fatal to the prosecutions case, viz:

Although PO1 Dimla, the States lone witness, testified that he had marked the sachet of shabu with his own initials
of "ED" following Gonzales arrest, he did not explain, either in his court testimony or in the joint affidavit of arrest,
whether his marking had been done in the presence of Gonzales, or done immediately upon the arrest of Gonzales.
Nor did he show by testimony or otherwise who had taken custody of the sachet of shabu after he had done his
marking, and who had subsequently brought the sachet of shabu to the police station, and, still later on, to the
laboratory. Given the possibility of just anyone bringing any quantity of shabu to the laboratory for examination, there
is now no assurance that the quantity presented here as evidence was the same article that had been the subject of
the sale by Gonzales. The indeterminateness of the identities of the individuals who could have handled the sachet
of shabu after PO1 Dimlas marking broke the chain of custody, and tainted the integrity of the shabu ultimately
presented as evidence to the trial court. We hardly need to reiterate that the chain of custody, which Section 1(b) of
DDB Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, supra, explicitly describes 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," demands such record of movements and custody of seized items to include the identities
and signatures of the persons who held temporary custody of the seized item, the dates and times when such
transfers of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final
disposition. (Citations omitted and emphasis ours)
33

Similarly, in Fajardo v. People, the prosecution failed to establish that the plastic sachets containing shabu were
34

marked in the presence of the accused therein; the individual who actually brought the confiscated plastic sachets to
the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination was also not identified by the prosecution. The Court likewise acquitted
the accused therein, ruling that:

Another phase of the first link to the chain of custody is the marking of seized items. The rule requires that it should
be done in the presence of the apprehended violator and immediately upon confiscation to ensure that they are the
same items that enter the chain and are eventually the ones offered in evidence. Evidently, the marking was not
done at the scene of the crime. In fact, PO1 Bernardo testified that it was an investigator of the crime laboratory,
whose name he cannot recall, who made the markings. Indeed, PO1 Bernardo could not explain the actual
markings.

The prosecution miserably failed to establish the crucial first link in the chain of custody. The plastic sachets, while
1wphi1

tested positive for shabu, could not be considered as the primary proof of the corpus delicti because the persons
from whom they were seized were not positively and categorically identified by prosecution witnesses. The
prosecution likewise failed to show how the integrity and evidentiary value of the item seized had been preserved
when it was not explained who made the markings, how and where they were made.

xxxx

The third link in the chain should detail who brought the seized shabu to the crime laboratory, who received the
shabu at the crime laboratory and, who exercised custody and possession of the shabu after it was examined and
before it was presented in court. Once again, these crucial details were nowhere to be found in the records. PO2
Tugo allegedly brought them to the crime laboratory but he was not presented to affirm and corroborate PO1
Tuscanos statement, nor was any document shown to evidence the turnover of the seized items. The Request for
Laboratory Examination was signed by a certain Police Senior Inspector Rodolfo Tababan. But his participation in
the custody and handling of the seized items were never mentioned by the prosecution witnesses.

Considering these huge discrepancies in the chain of custody, the claim of regularity in the conduct of police
operation will certainly not hold water. It bears stressing that the presumption of regularity only arises in the absence
of contradicting details that would raise doubts on the regularity in the performance of official duties. Where the
police officers failed to comply with the standard procedure prescribed by law, there is no occasion to apply the
presumption. (Citations omitted and emphases supplied)
35

Although the Court has ruled that non-compliance with the directives of Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 is not
necessarily fatal to the prosecutions case, the prosecution must still prove that (a) there is a justifiable ground for
36

the non-compliance, and (b) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items were properly
preserved. Further, the non-compliance with the procedures must be justified by the States agents
37

themselves. The arresting officers are under obligation, should they be unable to comply with the procedures laid
38

down under Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, to explain why the procedure was not followed and prove that the
reason provided a justifiable ground. Otherwise, the requisites under the law would merely be fancy ornaments that
may or may not be disregarded by the arresting officers at their own convenience. 39

Thus, in People v. Almorfe, the Court stressed that:


40

Respecting the teams non-compliance with the inventory, not to mention the photograph, requirement of R.A. No.
9165, the same does not necessarily render void and invalid the seizure of the dangerous drugs. There must,
however, be justifiable grounds to warrant exception herefrom, and provided that the integrity and evidentiary value
of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/s.

For the saving clause to apply, it is important that the prosecution should explain the reasons behind the procedural
lapses and that the integrity and value of the seized evidence had been preserved:

x x x [N]on-compliance with the strict directive of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 is not necessarily fatal to the
prosecutions case; police procedures in the handling of confiscated evidence may still have lapses, as in the
present case. These lapses, however, must be recognized and explained in terms of their justifiable grounds and the
integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized must be shown to have been preserved. (Citations omitted
41

and emphasis ours)

The arresting officers in this case tendered no justification in court for their non-compliance with the procedures.
Indeed, a thorough perusal of the records of this case yielded no result as to any explanation or justification
tendered by the apprehending officers as regards their non-compliance with the procedures laid down under Section
21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165. It was thus a grave error for the RTC and the CA to rule that there was an unbroken
chain of custody despite the failure of the arresting officers to mark the confiscated plastic sachets in the presence
of Valencia and to identify all the individuals who took custody of the same from the time the said plastic sachets
were confiscated until the time they were presented in the RTC.

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the Decision dated May 25, 2011 and the Resolution
dated September 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 33194, which affirmed the Decision dated
February 18, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 127, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The petitioner Carli to Valencia y Candelaria is hereby ACQUITTED for the failure of the prosecution to prove his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He is ordered to be immediately RELEASED from detention, unless he is being
detained for some other lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to IMPLEMENT this Decision and to report to this Court the
action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 198452 February 19, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
VICENTE ROM, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

On appeal is the Decision dated 9 August 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00579 affirming
1

with modification the Decision dated 24 June 2002 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City, Branch 10, in
2

Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062, CBU-55063 and CBU-55067, finding herein appellant Vicente Rom guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violating Sections 15 (illegal sale of shabu), 15-A (maintenance of a drug den) and 16 (illegal
3 4 5

possession of shabu), Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, also known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as
amended by Republic Act No. 7659. In Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063, for respectively violating
6

Sections 15 and 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the trial court imposed on the appellant the
penalty of prision correccional in its medium period ranging between two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day,
as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months, as maximum. While in Criminal Case No. CBU-55067, that is for
violating Section 15-A, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the trial court sentenced the appellant to
reclusion perpetua and he was likewise ordered to pay a fine of P500,000.00. The Court of Appeals, however,
modified and reduced the penalty in Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063 to an imprisonment of six (6)
months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as maximum,
after applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law.

In three separate Informations all dated 1 September 2000, the appellant was charged with violation of Sections 15,
7

15-A and 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended. The three Informations read:

Criminal Case No. CBU-55062

That on or about the 31st day of August 2000, at about 10:30 P.M. in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [herein appellant], with deliberate intent and without being authorized by law, did
then and there sell, deliver or give away to a poseur buyer one (1) heat sealed plastic packet of white crystalline
substance weighing 0.03 gram locally known as "shabu", containing Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated
drug. (Emphasis and italics supplied).
8

Criminal Case No. CBU-55063

That on or about the 31st day of August 2000, at about 10:30 P.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [appellant], with deliberate intent and without being authorized by law, did then
and there have in [his] possession and control or use the following:

Four (4) heat sealed plastic packets of white crystalline substance weighing 0.15 gram locally known as "shabu",
containing Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without the corresponding license or
prescription. (Emphasis and italics supplied).
9

Criminal Case No. CBU-55067

That on the 31s[t] day of August, 2000, at about 10:30 P.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, [appellant], with deliberate intent, did then and there knowingly maintain a den
for regulated users along the interior portion of Barangay T. Padilla in violation to (sic) the provision of Sec. 15-A of
Art. III of RA 6425. (Emphasis supplied).
10

On arraignment, the appellant, with the assistance of counsel de parte, pleaded NOT GUILTY to all the charges. A
11

pre-trial conference was conducted on 2 April 2001, but no stipulation or agreement was arrived at. The pre-trial
12

conference was then terminated and trial on the merits thereafter ensued.

The prosecution presented as witnesses Police Officer 2 Marvin Martinez (PO2 Martinez), the designated poseur-
buyer; PO3 Franco Mateo Yanson (PO3 Yanson); and Police Senior Inspector Marvin Sanchez (P/Sr. Insp.
Sanchez), the team leader of the buy-bust operation against the appellant. They were all assigned at the Vice
Control Section of the Cebu City Police Office (VCS-CCPO). The testimony, however, of P/Sr. Insp. Mutchit G.
Salinas (P/Sr. Insp. Salinas), the forensic analyst, was dispensed with in view of the admission made by the
13

defense as to the authenticity and due existence of Chemistry Report No. D-1782-2000 dated 1 September 2000
14

and the expertise of the forensic analyst.

The prosecutions evidence established the following facts:

Two weeks prior to 31 August 2000, the VCS-CCPO received confidential information from their informant that alias
Dodong, who turned out later to be the appellant, whose real name is Vicente Rom, was engaged in the illegal sale
of shabu and also maintained a drug den at his residence in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City. Thus, the VCS-CCPO,
particularly PO2 Martinez, conducted surveillance and monitoring operation. 15

On 31 August 2000, at around 10:15 p.m., P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, Chief of VCS-CCPO, formed a team to conduct a
buy-bust operation against the appellant. The buy-bust team was composed of PO2 Martinez (poseur-buyer), Senior
Police Officer 1 Jesus Elmer Fernandez (SPO1 Fernandez), PO3 Yanson, PO3 Benicer Tamboboy (PO3
Tamboboy), PO3 Jaime Otadoy (PO3 Otadoy) and P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez (team leader). Being the designated poseur-
buyer, PO2 Martinez was provided with a P100.00 peso bill and a P10.00 peso bill buy-bust money bearing Serial
Nos. AD336230 and AM740786, respectively, and both were marked with the initials of PO2 Martinez, i.e. "MM." The
former amount would be used to buy shabu while the latter amount would serve as payment for the use of the drug
den.16

After the briefing, the buy-bust team proceeded to the target area and upon arrival there at around 10:20 p.m., PO2
Martinez proceeded directly to the appellants house, which was earlier pointed to by their informant, who was also
with them during the buy-bust operation. The rest of the buy-bust team strategically positioned themselves nearby.
Once PO2 Martinez reached the appellants house, he knocked on the door, which the appellant opened. PO2
Martinez subsequently told the appellant that he wanted to buy shabu worth P100.00. The appellant looked around
to check if PO2 Martinez had a companion. Seeing none, the appellant took out his wallet from his pocket and got
one heat-sealed plastic packet containing white crystalline substance, later confirmed to be shabu, and gave it to
PO2 Martinez. The latter, in turn, gave the P100.00 peso bill marked money to the appellant. While this sale
transaction was going on, PO3 Yanson and P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez were only five to eight meters away from PO2
Martinez and the appellant. P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez clearly witnessed the sale transaction as it happened right outside
the door of the appellants house.17

Afterwards, PO2 Martinez told the appellant that he wanted to sniff the shabu, so the latter required the former to
pay an additional amount of P10.00 as rental fee for the use of his place. After paying the said amount, the appellant
allowed PO2 Martinez to enter his house. Once inside the house, PO2 Martinez was directed by the appellant to
proceed to the room located at the right side of the sala. Upon entering the said room, PO2 Martinez saw three
persons, later identified to be Jose Delloso (Delloso), Danilo Empuerto (Empuerto) and Arnie Ogong (Ogong),
already sniffing shabu.18

Thereupon, PO2 Martinez made a missed call to P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, which was their pre-arranged signal, to signify
that the whole transaction was consummated. After the lapsed of about 10 to 15 seconds, the rest of the team, who
were just few meters away from the appellants house, barged in and identified themselves as police officers. PO2
Martinez then told PO3 Yanson to hold the appellant. PO3 Yanson grabbed the appellant and made a body search
on the latter that led to the recovery of four heat-sealed transparent plastic packets containing white crystalline
substance, which were inside the appellants brown wallet that was tucked in his pocket; the buy-bust money
consisting of P100.00 peso bill and P10.00 peso bill; and P280.00 consisting of two P100.00 peso bills, one P50.00
peso bill and three P10.00 peso bills believed to be the proceeds of the appellants illegal activities. The one heat-
sealed plastic packet of shabu bought by PO2 Martinez from the appellant remained in the possession of the
former. 19

The appellant, Delloso, Empuerto and Ogong were informed of their constitutional rights and were later brought by
the buy-bust team to their office, together with the confiscated items, for documentation. At the office of the buy-bust
team, the confiscated items were given to their investigator, SPO1 Fernandez, who marked the one heat-sealed
plastic packet containing white crystalline substance, which was the subject of the sale transaction, with VRR-8-31-
2000-01 (buy-bust) while the other four heat-sealed plastic packets containing white crystalline substance, which
were recovered from the appellant, were similarly marked with VRR-8-31-2000-02 to VRR-8-31-2000-05. The "VRR"
in the markings are the initials of the appellant, i.e., Vicente Ramonida Rom.20

Thereafter, all the five heat-sealed plastic packets containing white crystalline substance, together with the Request
for Laboratory Examination, were brought by PO3 Yanson to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory
for chemical analysis, which examination yielded positive results for the presence of methylamphetamine
hydrochloride or "shabu,"21 as evidenced by Chemistry Report No. D-1782-2000. 22

For its part, the defense presented the appellant and Teresita Bitos, whose testimonies consist of sheer denials.
Their version of the 31 August 2000 incident is as follows:

At around 10:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. of 31 August 2000, the appellant was at the house of his daughter, Lorena
Cochera (Lorena), in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, as Lorena had asked her father to get the monthly house rental
fee from Teresita Bitos, whose nickname is "Nene." While the appellant and Nene were talking, the police officers
suddenly barged in. The appellant noticed that PO2 Martinez proceeded to the inner portion of the house and
opened the door of the rooms. Nene stopped them but the police officers told her to just keep quiet. The police
officers went on opening the door of the two rooms, where they saw three male persons. The police officers frisked
the appellant and the three other men. The police officers likewise took appellants wallet containing P360.00. The
appellant then requested Nene to tell his daughter that he was arrested. Thereafter, the police officers brought the
appellant and the three other men to the police station.
23

The appellant denied that he sold shabu to PO2 Martinez. He also denied that he was maintaining a drug den and
that he allowed persons to sniff shabu inside the house in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, in exchange for a sum of
money. The appellant likewise denied that he knew the three other men who were arrested inside the room in the
said house. The appellant claimed instead that he knew PO2 Martinez prior to 31 August 2000 because the latter
usually stayed at the house to apprehend snatchers. Also, a week before 31 August 2000, he and PO2 Martinez had
a conversation and he was asked to pinpoint the "fat fish," which is the code for the big time pusher. When he said
that he does not know of such pusher, PO2 Martinez got angry. The appellant maintained that on 31 August 2000,
he was no longer living in the house in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, as his daughter had already brought him to
Minglanilla, Cebu, as early as July 1999. On the said date, Nene was already occupying the house and had
subleased one of its rooms as his daughter Maya told him so. The appellant admitted that a year prior to 31 August
2000, and before he transferred to Minglanilla, he was apprehended for illegal possession of shabu. 24

The narration of the appellant was corroborated by Nene on all material points.

Testifying on rebuttal, PO2 Martinez denied that he knew the appellant prior to 31 August 2000. PO2 Martinez
clarified that he came to know the appellant only on the night that they conducted the buy-bust operation.25

Finding the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses to be credible, competent and convincing as they were able to
satisfactorily prove all the elements of the offenses charged against the appellant, the trial court, in its Decision
dated 24 June 2002, held the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Sections 15, 15-A and 16,
Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended. The trial court disposed of the case as follows:

IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING CIRCUMSTANCES, the Court finds the [herein appellant] for

1) Criminal Case No. CBU-55062, for violating Section 15, Article III, Republic Act No. 6425, as amended,
GUILTY. There being no mitigating nor any aggravating circumstance proven, the Court hereby imposes the
penalty of PRISION CORRECCIONAL in the MEDIUM PERIOD ranging between TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR
(4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY, as minimum[,] to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS, as maximum;

2) Criminal Case No. CBU-55063, for violating Section 16, Article III, Republic Act No. 6425, as amended,
GUILTY. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the Court imposes the penalty of
PRISION CORRECCIONAL in the MEDIUM PERIOD ranging between TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4)
MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY, as minimum to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS, as maximum; and

3) Criminal Case No. CBU-55067, for violating Section 15-A, Article III, Republic Act No. 6425, as amended,
GUILTY. The court hereby imposes upon the [appellant] the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA and a FINE
of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND (P500,000.00) PESOS.

The five (5) heat-sealed plastic packets of white crystalline substance containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride,
locally known as shabu, are hereby CONFISCATED in favor of the government and shall be destroyed in
accordance with the law prohibiting said drug. (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied).
26

The appellant appealed the trial courts Decision to this Court via Notice of Appeal. However, pursuant to this
27

Courts decision in People v. Mateo, the case was transferred to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review.
28
On 9 August 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered the now assailed Decision affirming with modification the ruling of
the trial court. Its decretal portion reads, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Decision of the RTC, Branch 10, Cebu City in Criminal Cases No.
CBU-55062, CBU-55063 and CBU-55067 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION concerning Criminal Cases
No. CBU-55062 and CBU-55063, for which [the herein appellant] is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment
from six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional, as maximum of
the Indeterminate Sentence Law. 29

The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of the appellant on all the charges against him as the prosecution was
able to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt since all the essential elements of illegal sale and possession of
shabu were duly proven by the prosecution. As to the charge of maintaining a drug den, the same was also
established by the fact that PO2 Martinez himself paid P10.00 to sniff the shabu in one of the rooms of the
appellants house. The appellants denial, therefore, cannot prevail over the evidence hurled against him.

The Court of Appeals, however, deemed it necessary to modify the penalty in Criminal Case Nos. CBU-55062 and
CBU-55063. It explained that the sale of less than 200 grams of shabu is punishable with a penalty ranging from
prision correccional to reclusion temporal, depending on the quantity. In this case, the quantity of shabu illegally sold
to the poseur-buyer by the appellant was 0.03 gram. Pursuant to the second paragraph of Section 20, Article IV of
30

Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, the proper penalty to be imposed for the illegal sale of 0.03 gram of shabu
would be prision correccional. Also, in this case, the appellant had in his possession 0.15 gram of shabu, which is
punishable also with imprisonment of prision correccional. Thus, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the
appellant must be sentenced to an imprisonment of six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to four years and two
months of prision correccional, as maximum, in Criminal Case No. CBU-55062, as well as in Criminal Case No.
CBU-55063. 31

Still unsatisfied, the appellant appealed the Court of Appeals Decision to this Court via Notice of Appeal. 32

Both the appellant and the Office of the Solicitor General manifested that they would no longer file their respective
33

supplemental briefs as the issues have already been fully discussed in their respective appeal briefs with the Court
34

of Appeals.

The appellants assignment of errors as stated in his Appellants Brief are as follows:

I. The Regional Trial Court erred in convicting the [herein appellant] notwithstanding the inherent incredibility
of evidence for the prosecution;

II. The Regional Trial Court gravely erred in allowing the evidence of the prosecution despite the indubitable
evidence that the [appellant] i[s] innocent of the crime[s] charged; [and]

III. The Regional Trial Court erred in convicting the [appellant] in spite of the failure of the prosecution to
prove the guilt of the [appellant] beyond reasonable doubt. 35

The appellant avers that the testimony of the poseur-buyer was absurd, illogical, contrary to reason and highly
incredible for no person who is engaged in an illegal transaction would leave the door of the house open after such
transaction. Moreover, no person would sell shabu to a buyer when he knew all along that the said buyer was a
police officer as it was ridiculous to expose oneself to the danger of being caught and arrested.

The appellant similarly holds that the entry in the house was illegal and there was certainly no transaction that took
place therein. The search and the seizure made in connection thereto were also invalid. Thus, the pieces of
evidence allegedly obtained by the police officers were inadmissible for being the "fruit of a poisonous tree." The
same cannot be used against him in violation of his rights.

The appellant believes that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt as their testimonies as
to the facts and circumstances surrounding the case were contrary to human conduct, especially with regard to the
allegation that he knowingly maintained a drug den, since he was no longer the owner of the house, which was the
subject of the search, and he did not live there anymore.

The appellants contentions are devoid of merit.


In essence, the issues in this case hinge on the credibility of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.

It is a fundamental rule that findings of the trial court which are factual in nature and which involve the credibility of
witnesses are accorded with respect, more so, when no glaring errors, gross misapprehension of facts, and
speculative, arbitrary, and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings. The reason behind this rule
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
36

application where the trial courts findings are sustained by the Court of Appeals. 37

After a careful perusal of the records, this Court finds no cogent or compelling reason to overturn the findings of
both lower courts, which were adequately supported by the evidence on record.

To secure a conviction for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following essential elements must be duly
established: (1) identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing
sold and the payment therefor. Succinctly, the delivery of the illicit drug to the poseur-buyer, as well as the receipt
38

of the marked money by the seller, successfully consummates the buy-bust transaction. Hence, what is material is
the proof that the transaction or sale transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as
evidence. 39

In the case at bench, the prosecution was able to establish the above-enumerated elements beyond moral certainty.
The prosecution witnesses adequately proved that a buy-bust operation actually took place on which occasion the
appellant was caught red-handed giving one heat-sealed plastic packet containing white crystalline substance to
PO2 Martinez, the poseur-buyer, in exchange for P100.00. PO2 Martinez, being the poseur-buyer, positively
identified the appellant in open court to be the same person who sold to him the said one-heat sealed plastic packet
of white crystalline substance for a consideration of P100.00, which when examined was confirmed to be
40

methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu per Chemistry Report No. D-1782-2000 issued by P/Sr. Insp. Salinas,
Head, Chemistry Branch, PNP Regional Crime Laboratory Office 7. Upon presentation thereof in open court, PO2
Martinez duly identified it to be the same object sold to him by the appellant as it had the marking "VRR-8-31-2000
(buy-bust)," which SPO1 Fernandez had written thereon in their presence. This testimony of PO2 Martinez was
41

corroborated by P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez, who was just five to eight meters away from the former and the appellant
during the sale transaction. 42

Evidently, the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt the appellants guilt for the offense of illegal
sale of shabu in violation of Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended.

We already had occasion to show the unacceptability of the contention of the appellant that the testimony of the
poseur-buyer was absurd, illogical, contrary to reason and highly incredible for no person who is engaged in an
illegal transaction would leave the door of the house open after such transaction. In case after case, we observed
that drug pushers sell their prohibited articles to any prospective customer, be he a stranger or not, in private as well
as in public places, even in the daytime. Indeed, the drug pushers have become increasingly daring, dangerous
and, worse, openly defiant of the law. Hence, what matters is not the existing familiarity between the buyer and the
seller or the time and venue of the sale, but the fact of agreement and the acts constituting the sale and the delivery
of the prohibited drugs.43

With regard to the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following elements must be
proven: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object that is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such
possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possesses the said drug. All these
44

elements have been established in this case.

On the occasion of the appellants arrest for having been caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu, PO3 Yanson
conducted a body search on the former resulting to the recovery of four more heat-sealed plastic packets containing
white crystalline substance inside his wallet that was tucked in his pocket with an aggregate weight of 0.15 gram,
which were later confirmed to be methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. PO3 Yanson identified in open the
court the said four heat-sealed plastic packets of shabu with markings "VRR-8-31-2000-02" to "VRR-8-31-2000-05"
written thereon by SPO1 Fernandez to be the same objects recovered from the appellant. PO2 Martinez, the
45

poseur-buyer, corroborated this testimony of PO3 Yanson. 46

Definitely, the records do not show that the appellant has the legal authority to possess the four heat-sealed plastic
packets of shabu. Settled is the rule that possession of dangerous drugs constitutes prima facie evidence of
knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an accused in the absence of a satisfactory explanation of
such possession. As such, the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused to explain the absence of knowledge or
animus possidendi, which the appellant in this case miserably failed to do.
47

There is also no truth on the appellants claim that the entry in the house was illegal making the search and the
seizure in connection thereto invalid, rendering the pieces of evidence obtained by the police officers inadmissible
for being the "fruit of a poisonous tree."

This Court in Dimacuha v. People clearly states:


48

The Constitution enshrines in the Bill of Rights the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers
and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose. To give full
protection to it, the Bill of Rights also ordains the exclusionary principle that any evidence obtained in violation of
said right is inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.

In People v. Chua Ho San [citation omitted] we pointed out that the interdiction against warrantless searches and
seizures is not absolute and that warrantless searches and seizures have long been deemed permissible by
jurisprudence in the following instances: (1) search of moving vehicles; (2) seizure in plain view; (3) customs
searches; (4) waiver or consented searches; (5) stop and frisk situations (Terry search); and (6) search incidental to
a lawful arrest. The last includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuant to an equally warrantless arrest,
for, while as a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a valid warrant of arrest, the Rules of Court
recognizes permissible warrantless arrest, to wit: (1) arrest in flagrante delicto; (2) arrest effected in hot pursuit; and
(3) arrest of escaped prisoners.

Here, the petitioner was caught in flagrante delicto while in the act of delivering 1.15 grams and in actual possession
of another 10.78 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) as a result of an entrapment operation
conducted by the police on the basis of information received from Benito Marcelo regarding petitioner's illegal drug
trade. Petitioner's arrest, therefore, was lawful and the subsequent seizure of a bag of shabu inserted inside the
cover of her checkbook was justified and legal in light of the prevailing rule that an officer making an arrest may take
from the person arrested any property found upon his person in order to find and seize things connected with the
crime. The seized regulated drug is, therefore, admissible in evidence, being the fruit of the crime. (Emphasis
49

supplied).

To repeat, the appellant, in this case, was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu, thus, he was lawfully arrested.
Following Dimacuha, the subsequent seizure of four heat-sealed plastic packets of shabu in the appellants wallet
that was tucked in his pocket was justified and admissible in evidence for being the fruit of the crime.

With the foregoing, this Court is fully convinced that the prosecution had likewise proved beyond a shadow of
reasonable doubt that the appellant is guilty of the offense of illegal possession of shabu in violation of Section 16,
Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended.

Going to the charge of maintaining a drug den in violation of Section 15-A, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as
amended, the prosecution had also established appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

A drug den is a lair or hideaway where prohibited or regulated drugs are used in any form or are found. Its existence
may be proved not only by direct evidence but may also be established by proof of facts and circumstances,
including evidence of the general reputation of the house, or its general reputation among police officers. In this
50

case, this fact was proven by none other than the testimony of PO2 Martinez, the poseur-buyer, who after buying
the shabu had told the appellant that he wanted to sniff the same to which the latter responded by requiring the
former to pay a rental fee of P10.00. The appellant, thereafter, allowed PO2 Martinez to enter his house and
directed him to proceed to one of the rooms located at the right side of the sala. Upon entering the said room, PO2
Martinez saw three other persons already sniffing shabu. This testimony of PO2 Martinez was corroborated by PO3
51

Yanson and P/Sr. Insp. Sanchez. 52

Moreover, as aptly observed by the Court of Appeals, several peso bills were found in the appellants wallet,
including three P10.00 peso bills, which circumstances bolstered the prosecutions assertion that the appellant has
indeed allowed his house to be used as a drug den for a fee of P10.00 per person. 53

In his attempt to exonerate himself, the appellant vehemently asserts that he was no longer the owner of the house
in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, and he was no longer residing therein. The defense also presented Teresita Bitos
to corroborate this claim of the appellant.
The testimony of Teresita Bitos corroborating the appellants testimony was not credible. She herself admitted that
1wphi1

the appellant requested her to testify in his favor. 54

Also, considering the seriousness of the charges against the appellant, he did not bother to present his daughter,
who is the alleged owner of the house in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City, to bolster his claim.

Time and again, this Court held that denial is an inherently weak defense and has always been viewed upon with
disfavor by the courts due to the ease with which it can be concocted. Inherently weak, denial as a defense
crumbles in the light of positive identification of the appellant, as in this case. The defense of denial assumes
significance only when the prosecutions evidence is such that it does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,
which is not the case here. Verily, mere denial, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is negative self-
serving evidence which cannot be given greater evidentiary weight than the testimony of the prosecution witness
who testified on affirmative matters. Moreover, there is a presumption that public officers, including the arresting
55

officers, regularly perform their official duties. In this case, the defense failed to overcome this presumption by
56

presenting clear and convincing evidence. Furthermore, this Court finds no ill motive that could be attributed to the
police officers who had conducted the buy-bust operation. Even the allegation of the appellant that PO2 Martinez
got angry with him when he failed to pinpoint the big time pusher cannot be considered as the ill motive in
implicating the appellant on all the three charges against him for this is self-serving and uncorroborated.

Given all the foregoing, this Court sustains the appellant's conviction on all the charges against him.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00579 dated 9
August 2010 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No Costs.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO BIENVENIDO L. REYES*


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN**


Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 200915 February 12, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
MERLITA PALOMARES y COSTUNA, Appellant.

DECISION

ABAD, J.:

This case is about the need for police officers involved in buy-bust operations to mark the items they seize (1) in the
presence of the apprehended violator and (2) immediately upon seizure.

The Facts and the Case

On March 21, 2007 the City Public Prosecutor charged the accused-appellant Merlita Palomares y Costuna (Merlita)
with selling prohibited drugs in violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) 9165 before the Regional Trial
1

Court (R TC) of Manila in Criminal Case 07-251767. 2

PO2 Reynaldo Mallari and PO2 Marvin Flores testified that at around 4:00 p.m. on March 16, 2007 an informant
came to their station with the report that a certain Inday Kirat, later identified as accused Merlita, was selling shabu
at Paradise Heights, Balut, Tondo, Manila. PO2 Mallari relayed this information to their chief who then formed a
team composed of PO2 Mallari, PO2 Flores, and PO2 Dranreb Cipriano that would undertake a buy-bust operation
with Mallari as poseur buyer. With the marked money ready, the team proceeded to the target place: Unit 52,
3

Building 8, of Paradise Heights.

After the team deployed, PO2 Mallari and the informant found Merlita outside Unit 52 and in conversation with a
certain Teresa Ortega (Ortega). Mallari approached Merlita who asked him, "Iskor ka ba friend?" Mallari replied,
4

"Dalawang piso lang friend." He then handed over the money to Merlita who pocketed it, went inside the unit, and
5

returned with a white plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance. She handed this over to Mallari. Mallari
scratched his head as a pre-arranged signal to his companions, introduced himself as a policeman, took back the
marked money, and arrested Merlita.

PO2 Flores and PO2 Cipriano came out of hiding and approached Ortega while PO2 Mallari took accused Merlita
downstairs to the police service vehicle and waited for the others to come down. Mallari retained custody of the
plastic sachet he bought from Merlita as well as the buy-bust money he seized from her. He placed the marking
MCP on the sachet and turned it over at the police station to P/Insp. John Guiagui. The latter in turn prepared the
report for laboratory examination and forwarded the seized items to the crime laboratory on the same day. The
laboratory examination showed that the plastic sachet from Merlita tested positive for methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu.

Accused Merlita testified that at about 5:00 a.m. on March 16, 2007 she was at her shanty located at Pier 18,
Dumpsite, Vitas, Tondo, with her live-in partner Rolando Palomares when PO2 Mallari and his companions roused
her from sleep. They told her to go with them, she having been pinpointed by a certain Teresa as selling illegal
drugs. Merlita denied the accusation but went with the police officers to avoid harm. As she came out of her shanty,
she saw her mother-in-law, Teresa Ortega, with other policemen. The police brought the two women to the police
station where they were told to pay P100,000.00 or face an illegal drugs case. Rolando Palomares corroborated
6

Merlitas testimony. Barangay kagawad Louie Lizano testified that he saw the police officers on the day in question
enter Merlitas shanty and arrest her.7

On March 18, 2008, the trial court found Merlita guilty as charged and sentenced her to life imprisonment with a fine
of P500,000.00 and liability for the cost of suit. Upon review in CA-G.R. CR-HC 03373, the CA rendered
8

judgment on June 23, 2011, affirming in full the RTC Decision, hence, the present appeal to this Court.
9 10

The Issue Presented

The issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in finding, like the RTC before it, that the prosecution
succeeded in proving beyond reasonable doubt that accused Merlita sold dangerous drugs in violation of Section 5,
Article II of R.A. 9165.
The Courts Rulings

To secure conviction for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the identity of the prohibited drug seized from the accused
must be proved with moral certainty. The prosecution must establish with such measure of certitude that the
substance bought or seized during the buy-bust operation is the same substance offered as evidence in
court. Proof of the chain of custody from the time of seizure to the time such evidence is presented in court ensures
11

the absence of doubt concerning the integrity of such vital evidence. This requires as a minimum that the police
12

mark the seized item (1) in the presence of the apprehended violator and (2) immediately upon confiscation. 13

Of course, the Court has ruled that immediate marking could be made at the nearest police station or office of the
apprehending team. Here, however, the evidence is unclear as to where the responsible police officer marked the
14

seized substance and whether it was done in Merlitas presence.

In fact, it is also not clear from the evidence which police officer did the marking since P02 Mallari and P02 Flores
gave conflicting testimonies on this point. This uncertainty concerning a vital element of the crime warrants
15

overturning the judgment of conviction. 16

Besides, neither P02 Mallari nor P02 Flores testified that they conducted a physical inventory and took photos of the
article that was seized from Merlita. In fact, their joint affidavit of arrest made no mention of any inventory taking or
photographing of the same. And they did not bother at all to offer some justification for the omission.
1wphi1
17

Parenthetically, barangay kagawad Lizano, an elected public official, testified that he saw the police officers enter
Merlita's shanty and arrest her on the date in question. This testimony from a neutral party strikes at the heart of the
prosecution's theory that they arrested Merlita at Unit 52, Building 8, of Paradise Heights in Balut, Tondo. Though
Merlita's denial and alibi as a defense are weak, such cannot relieve the prosecution the burden of presenting proof
beyond reasonable doubt that an illegal transaction actually took place. 18

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the appeal, REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the judgments of conviction of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC 03373 dated June 23, 2011 and the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Criminal
Case 07-251767, and ACQUITS accused-appellant Merlita Palomares y Costuna of the charge of violation of
Section 5, Article

II of Republic Act 9165 against her.

The Court ORDERS the Director of the Bureau of Corrections to immediately RELEASE accused-appellant from
custody, unless she is detained for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes

1
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.
G.R. No. 190621 February 10, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PIDLIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GLENN SALVADOR y BAL VERDE, and DORY ANN PARCON y DEL ROSARIO, Accused,
GLENN SALVADOR y BALVERDE, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

In a buy-bust operation, the failure to conduct a physical inventory and to photograph the items seized from the
accused will not render his arrest illegal or the items confiscated from him inadmissible in evidence as long as the
integrity and evidentiary value of the said items have been preserved. 1

Factual Antecedents

For review is the Decision dated September 24, 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR H.C. No. 03230
2

that affirmed in toto the January 15, 2008 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 82, Quezon City, in
3

Criminal Case Nos. Q-03-120799-800. The said RTC Decision found. Glenn Salvador y Balverde (appellant) guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 5 (illegal sale), and accused Dory Ann Parcon y Del Rosario
(Parcon) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11 (illegal possession), both of Article II, Republic
Act No. 9165 (RA9165), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Information for violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 filed against appellant in Criminal Case No. Q-03-
4

120799 has the following accusatory portion:

That on or about the 3rd day of September, 2003 in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, 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, one (1) plastic
sachet of white crystalline substance containing zero point zero four (0.04) gram of Methylamphetamine
Hydrochloride a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 5

While the pertinent portion of the Information for violation of Section 11 of Article II, RA 9165 filed against Parcon in
6

Criminal Case No. Q-03-120800 is as follows:

That on or about the 3rd day of September, 2003 in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, not being
authorized by law to possess or use any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have
in his/her possession and control one (1) plastic sachet of white crystalline substance containing zero point zero four
(0.04) gram of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 7

Upon motion of the prosecution, the cases were consolidated. On November 4, 2003, appellant and Parcon were
8

arraigned. They entered separate pleas of not guilty. 9

During the pre-trial conference, appellant admitted the following facts which the prosecution offered for stipulation:

x x x [T]hat [Police Inspector Leonard T. Arban (P/Insp. Arban)] is a Forensic Chemist of the PNP; that he received a
letter-request for Laboratory Examination for certain specimen which was marked as Exhibit "A"; that together with
the said request is a brown envelope marked as Exhibit "B"; that said brown envelope contained a plastic sachet
marked as Exhibit "B-1" and thereafter he conducted the examination of the said specimen and submitted a report
marked as Exhibit "C"; the findings thereon that the specimen was positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride
was marked as Exhibit "C-1" and the signature of the said police officer was marked as Exhibit "C-2". Thereafter,
said police officer turned over the said evidence to the Evidence Custodian and retrieved the same for purposes of
the hearing today. 10
Trial ensued. Parcon failed to attend the scheduled hearings, hence, she was tried in absentia. 11

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented PO2 Sofjan Soriano (PO2 Soriano) to testify on the entrapment operation that resulted in
the arrest of appellant and Parcon. From his testimony, the following facts emerged:
12

While PO2 Soriano was on duty in Police Station 2, Baler Street, Quezon City on September 2, 2003, a confidential
informant (CI) arrived at around 9:00 a.m. and reported that a certain alias Bumski was engaged in the illicit sale of
dangerous drugs in Barangay Pag-asa, Quezon City. PO2 Soriano immediately relayed this information to Police
Chief Inspector Joseph De Vera (P/C Insp. De Vera). A surveillance operation conducted the same day on alias
Bumski, who turned out to be the appellant, confirmed the report. Thus, a police team was formed to conduct a buy-
bust operation. PO2 Soriano was designated as poseur-buyer while PO2 Richard Vecida, PO1 Alexander Pancho,
PO1 Alvin Pineda (PO1 Pineda) and P/C Insp. De Vera would serve as his backup.

At around 2:45 p.m. of September 3, 2003, the team arrived at Road 10, Barangay Pag-asa, Quezon City. PO2
Soriano and the CI proceeded to appellants house while the rest of the buy-bust team positioned themselves within
viewing distance. The CI introduced PO2 Soriano to appellant as a drug dependent who wanted to
purchase P200.00 worth of shabu. During their conversation, Parcon arrived and asked appellant for shabu.
Appellant gave her a small heat-sealed plastic sachet that she placed in her coin purse. Thereafter, PO2 Soriano
handed to appellant the buy-bust money consisting of two 100-peso bills and the latter, in turn, gave him a heat-
sealed plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance. PO2 Soriano then immediately arrested appellant and
recovered from his right hand pocket the buy bust money. At this juncture, PO2 Sorianos teammates rushed to the
scene. PO1 Pineda arrested Parcon and recovered from her a plastic sachet also containing white crystalline
substance.

Appellant and Parcon were then taken to the Baler Police Station. The items recovered during the buy-bust
operation were marked by PO2 Soriano as "SJ-03" and "AP-03" and turned over to the designated investigator, PO1
Vicente Calatay (PO1 Calatay). PO1 Calatay then prepared a letter-request for laboratory examination, which,
together with the confiscated specimen, was brought by PO2 Soriano to the PNP Crime Laboratory.

The prosecution intended to present PO1 Calatay and PO1 Pineda as witnesses, but their testimonies were likewise
dispensed with after the defense agreed to stipulate on the following facts:

PO1 Calatay

[T]hat he was the police investigator assigned to investigate these cases; that in connection with the investigation
that he conducted, he took the Joint Affidavit of Arrest of PO2 Richard Vecida, PO2 Sofjan Soriano, PO1 Alvin
Pineda, and PO1Alexander Pancho marked as Exhibits "F" and "F-1"; that the specimen[s] consisting of two (2)
plastic sachets marked as Exhibits "B-1" and "B-2" were turned over to him by the arresting officers; that in
connection therewith, he prepared the request for laboratory examination marked as Exhibit "A" and received a copy
of the Chemistry Report, the original of which was earlier marked as Exhibit "C"; that the buy-bust money consisting
of two (2) pieces of Php100.00 bill marked as Exhibits "D" and "E" were likewise turned over to him by the arresting
officer; that he thereafter prepared a letter referral to the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City marked as
Exhibits "G" and "G-1".13

PO1 Pineda

[T]hat he was part of the buy-bust team which conducted a buy[-]bust operation on September 3, 2003 at about 2:45
a.m. at Road 10, Pag-asa, Quezon City; that he acted as back-up to PO2 Sofjan Soriano, the poseur buyer in the
said operation; that he was with PO2 [Richard] Vecida and PO1 Alexander Pancho during said operation; that after
the consummation of the transaction between PO2 Sofjan Soriano and Glenn Salvador, he assisted in the arrest of
accused Doryann Parcon; that upon [body] search of accused Parcon, he recovered from the latter a plastic sachet
containing white crystalline substance; that said plastic sachet was marked as Exhibit "B-2".14

Version of the Defense

In his testimony, appellant claimed that at about 11:00 p.m. of September 2, 2003, he was parking his tricycle
15

outside his residence at 135 Road 10, Brgy. Pag-asa, Quezon City when a patrol car suddenly stopped in front of
his house. Three policemen alighted, aimed their guns at him, and forced him to board their vehicle. Already inside
were two men in handcuffs sitting on the floor. The police car then proceeded to Police Station 2 in Baler, Quezon
City, where he and the two other men were taken to a room and frisked by policemen who demandedP20,000.00
from each of them. They were told to call their relatives to inform them of their arrest for engaging in a pot session.
When appellant refused to oblige, PO2 Soriano said to him: "matigas ka, hindi ka marunong makisama dapat sayo
ikulong." He was thereafter detained and no longer saw the two men he mentioned. Two days later, he was
presented to the Prosecutors Office for inquest.

Appellant accused the police officers of falsehood but could not file a case against them since his parents were in
the Unites States of America and he did not know anyone else who could help him. He denied knowing Parcon and
the arresting officers and claimed that he saw Parcon for the first time during the inquest and the arresting officers
when they arrested him.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

The RTC held that the evidence adduced by the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of
appellant and Parcon for the crimes charged. It did not find impressive appellants claim of extortion by the police
officers and instead upheld the buy-bust operation which it found to have been carried out with due regard to
constitutional and legal safeguards. It ruled that absent proof of evil motive on the part of the police, the presumption
of regularity which runs in their favor stands. Thus, the dispositive portion of the RTCs Decision:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused GLENN SALVADOR y
BALVERDE guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 charged in
Criminal Case No. Q-03-120799. Accordingly, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT
and to pay a fine in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) PESOS.

On the other hand, judgment is likewise rendered in Criminal Case No. Q-03-120800 finding accused DORY ANN
PARCON y DEL ROSARIO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation of Section 11, Article II of the same Act.
Accordingly, she is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of TWELVE (12) YEARS
and ONE (1) DAY as MINIMUM to FOURTEEN (14) YEARS as MAXIMUM and to pay a fine in the amount of
THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND (P300,000.00) PESOS.

SO ORDERED. 16

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal. In his Brief, he imputed to the RTC the following errors:
17 18

THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN DECLARING THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT
DESPITE THE NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PROPER CUSTODY OF
SEIZED DANGEROUS DRUGS UNDER R.A. No. 9165.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING FULL WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE
PROSECUTIONS EVIDENCE NOTWITHSTANDING THE FAILURE OF THE APPREHENDING TEAM TO
PROVE ITS INTEGRITY.

III

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT BASED ONLY ON
PO2 SOFJAN SORIANOS TESTIMONY. 19

Aside from the prosecutions failure to prove the elements constituting the crime of illegal sale of shabu, appellant
asserted that the apprehending officers failed to immediately conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and
photograph the same as mandated by Section 21 of the Implementing Rules of RA 9165; that the chain of custody
was broken since PO2 Soriano could not determine with certainty whether the plastic sachet allegedly seized from
him was the same specimen subjected to laboratory examination; that the prosecution was unable to substantiate
its claim that the two 100-peso bills were the same money used in purchasing shabu since the said bills were
neither dusted with fluorescent powder nor was he subjected to fingerprint examination; that the failure to coordinate
the buy-bust operation with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was prejudicial to his substantive right;
and, that PO2 Soriano and the buy-bust team did not accord him due process by failing to apprise him of his rights
after he was arrested.

The People of the Philippines, on the other hand, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asserted in its
Brief that the Decision of the RTC must be affirmed since the guilt of appellant was established beyond reasonable
20

doubt; that the prosecution proved all the elements of the illegal sale of drugs; that the testimonies of the police
officers who conducted the buy-bust operation and their positive identification of appellant as the seller of the shabu
prevail over the latters denial; that the chain of custody of the illegal drug seized from appellant was sufficiently
established; that the failure to use fluorescent powder in the marked money does not result in a failure of the buy-
bust operation since the same is not a prerequisite to such operation; that the failure of the law enforcers to conduct
a physical inventory or to photograph the seized items in accordance with Section 21, Article II of RA 9165 is not
fatal; that the failure of the buy-bust team to coordinate with the PDEA does not invalidate appellants arrest; that
PO2 Sorianos failure to recall the markings on the specimen shows that he was not coached as a witness; that
appellants defenses of denial and frame-up are unconvincing; and that the failure to apprise appellant of his
constitutional rights at the time of his arrest is not fatal since such rights apply only against extrajudicial confessions.

In its Decision, the CA affirmed the findings of the RTC. Anent the defects in the chain of custody alleged by
appellant, the said court ruled that the evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that the illegal drugs sold by
appellant to PO2 Soriano was taken to the police station and marked therein and then forwarded to the crime
laboratory where it was found positive for shabu; the marked money used in the buy-bust operation was the same
money introduced in evidence; and that the failure of the arresting team to faithfully observe the requirements of
conducting physical inventory and coordinating the buy-bust operation with PDEA are not fatal since the integrity
and evidentiary value of the confiscated items were preserved. Thus, the dispositive portion of the CAs Decision,
viz:

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing premises, the instant appeal is perforce dismissed. Accordingly, the
assailed decision dated January 15, 2008 insofar as the accused-appellant Glenn Salvador Y Balverde is affirmed in
toto.

SO ORDERED. 21

Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal. 22

On February 8, 2010, the parties were directed to file their supplemental briefs. The OSG opted to adopt the brief it
23

submitted before the CA as its appeal brief while appellant filed a Supplemental Brief which, however, contains
24

practically the same arguments he advanced before the CA. Again, aside from questioning the finding of guilt
beyond reasonable doubt against him, appellant questions the arresting officers alleged failure to comply with the
chain of custody rule.

Our Ruling

The appeal is unmeritorious.


All the elements for the prosecution of
illegal sale of shabu were sufficiently
established in this case.

In a successful prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, the following elements must be
established: "(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. x x x What is material in a 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 the corpus delicti" or
25

the illicit drug in evidence. "[T]he commission of the offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs x x x merely requires
the consummation of the selling transaction, which happens the moment the exchange of money and drugs
between the buyer and the seller takes place." 26

In this case, the prosecution successfully established all the elements of illegal sale of shabu. The testimony of PO2
Soriano reveals that an entrapment operation was organized and conducted after they confirmed through a
surveillance operation the information that appellant is engaged in drug peddling activities. Designated as a poseur-
buyer, PO2 Soriano, together with the CI, approached appellant outside his residence. After having been introduced
by the CI to appellant as a drug user, PO2 Soriano asked appellant if he could purchase P200.00 worth of shabu.
PO2 Soriano handed to appellant the marked money consisting of two P100 bills and the latter, in turn, gave him a
plastic sachet of shabu. PO2 Soriano then arrested appellant and recovered the buy-bust money from the latter.
Immediately thereafter his back-up who were monitoring the transaction from viewing distance arrived. Forensic
examination subsequently confirmed that the contents of the sachets bought from appellant and recovered from
Parcon were indeed shabu.

Prosecutions for illegal drugs depend largely on the credibility of the police officers who conducted the buy-bust
operation. Their narration of the incident, "buttressed by the presumption that they have regularly performed their
duties in the absence of convincing proof to the contrary, must be given weight." Here, the CA affirmed the RTCs
27

ruling that the testimonies and facts stipulated upon were consistent with each other as well as with the physical
evidence. Thus, there is no justification to disturb the findings of the RTC, as sustained by the CA, on the matter.

The defenses of denial and frame-up


are unavailing.

The Court cannot convince itself to reverse the finding of facts of the lower courts on the basis of appellants self-
serving allegations of denial and extortion/frame-up.

Denial cannot prevail against the positive testimony of a prosecution witness. "A defense of denial which is
unsupported and unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence becomes negative and self-serving, deserving
no weight in law, and cannot be given greater evidentiary value over convincing, straightforward and probable
testimony on affirmative matters." 28

Appellant cannot likewise avail of the defense of frame-up which "is viewed with disfavor since, like alibi, it can
easily be concocted and is a common ploy in most prosecutions for violations of the Dangerous Drugs Law." To 29

substantiate this defense, the evidence must be clear and convincing and should show that the buy-bust team was
inspired by improper motive or was not properly performing its duty. Here, there is no evidence that there was ill
30

motive on the part of the buy-bust team. In fact, appellant himself admitted that he did not know the police officers
prior to his arrest. There could therefore be no bad blood between him and the said police officers. Moreover, there
was no proof that the arresting officers improperly performed their duty in arresting appellant and Parcon.

Non-compliance with Section 21,


Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 is
not fatal.

In arguing for his acquittal, appellant heavily relies on the failure of the buy-bust team to immediately photograph
and conduct a physical inventory of the seized items in his presence. In this regard, Section 21(1), Art. II of RA 9165
provides:

Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;

However, failure to strictly comply with the above procedure will not render an arrest illegal or the seized items
inadmissible in evidence. Substantial compliance is allowed as provided for in Section 21(a) of the Implementing
Rules and Regulations of RA 9165. This provision reads:
31

(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. (Emphasis supplied).

The failure of the prosecution to show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory and
photographed the objects confiscated does not ipso facto result in the unlawful arrest of the accused or render
inadmissible in evidence the items seized. This is due to the proviso added in the implementing rules stating that it
must still be shown that there exists justifiable grounds and proof that the integrity and evidentiary value of the
evidence have not been preserved. "What is crucial is that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
32

are preserved for they will be used in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused." 33

The links in the chain of custody must be established.

"The integrity and evidentiary value of seized items are properly preserved for as long as the chain of custody of the
same are duly established." "Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of
34

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.
Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who
had temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody was made in the course
of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition." 35

There are links that must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation, 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 from the forensic chemist to the court." 36

In this case, the prosecution established clearly the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated shabu. There is
no evidence that PO2 Soriano lost possession and control of the seized shabu from the time it was recovered from
the appellant until its turnover to the police station. He marked the seized item immediately upon arrival at the police
station. He turned it over to PO1 Calatay, the investigating officer, who prepared the letter request for the laboratory
examination of the contents of the plastic sachets. These facts were admitted by the appellant. 37

On the same day, PO2 Soriano personally brought the letter request and specimens to the PNP Crime Laboratory
where they were received by Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Arban who conducted the examination on the specimens
submitted. During the pre-trial conference, appellant admitted the purpose for which P/Insp. Arbans testimony was
being offered. The marked sachet of shabu and the marked money used in purchasing the same were both
38

presented in evidence.

Appellants contention that the marking of the seized sachets of shabu should have been made in his presence
while at the scene of the crime instead of in the police station fails to impress. It is clear from the earlier cited Sec.
21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165 that in a buy-bust situation, the marking of the
dangerous drug may be done in the presence of the violator in the nearest police station or the nearest office of the
apprehending team. Appellant should not confuse buy-bust situation from search and seizure conducted by virtue of
a court-issued warrant. It is in the latter case that physical inventory (which includes the marking) is made at the
place where the search warrant is served. Nonetheless, "non-compliance with [the] 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." 39

Appellants claim that the testimony of PO2 Soriano does not deserve credence due to his failure to identify and/or
recall the markings he made on the subject specimen also fails to convince. His failure to immediately recall the
markings on the specimens only show that he is an uncoached witness. "Such momentary lapse in memory does
40

not detract from the credibility of his testimony as to the essential details of the incident." It must also be considered
41

that aside from the fact that police officers handle numerous cases daily, he testified three years after appellants
arrest. It is therefore understandable that PO2 Soriano could no longer easily remember all the details of the
incident.
Lastly, appellants argument that the entrapment operation is fatally flawed for failure of the buy-bust team to
coordinate with the PDEA deserves scant consideration. "[C]oordination with PDEA, while perhaps ideal, is not an
indispensable element of a proper buy-bust operation;" it is not invalidated by mere non-coordination with the
42

PDEA. 43

Penalty

All told, there is no reason to disturb the finding of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, that appellant is guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of illegal sale of shabu, as defined and penalized under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165. Under this
law, the penalty for the unauthorized sale of shabu, regardless of its quantity and purity, is life imprisonment to death
and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10 million. However, with the enactment of RA 9346, only life
44

imprisonment and fine shall be imposed. Thus, the penalty imposed by the RTC and affirmed by the CA is proper.
45

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals that affirmed in toto the Decision of
the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 82, insofar as the conviction of Glenn Salvador y Balverde for
violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, as amended by Republic Act No. 9346, and the penalty of
life imprisonment and payment of fine of P500,000.00 imposed upon him are concerned, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 189833 February 5, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
JAVIER MORILLA Y AVELLANO, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

PEREZ, J.:

Before us is an appeal filed by accused-appellant Javier Morilla y Avellano (Morilla) from the Decision of the Court
1

of Appeals which affirmed his conviction and that of his co-accused Ronnie Mitra y Tena (Mayor Mitra) by the trial
court, sentencing them to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P10,000,000.00 each.
2

The Regional Trial Court Judgment

On 15 October 2001, Morilla, Mayor Mitra, Willie Yang y Yao (Yang) and Ruel Dequilla y Regodan (Dequilla) were
charged in a criminal information as follows:

That on or about October 13, 2001, in Barangay Kiloloran, Municipality of Real, Province of Quezon, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, one of them an incumbent mayor of
the Municipality of Panukulan, Quezon Province, who all belong to an organized/syndicate crime group as they all
help one another, for purposes of gain in the transport of illegal drugs, and in fact, conspiring and confederating
together and mutually aiding and abetting one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously
transport by means of two (2) motor vehicles, namely a Starex van bearing plate number RWT-888 with
commemorative plate to read "Mayor" and a municipal ambulance of Panukulan, Quezon Province,
methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug which is commonly known as shabu, and with an approximate
weight of five hundred three point sixty eight (503.68) kilos, without authority whatsoever.
3

After trial, the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City on 1 August 2007 convicted Morilla and his co-accused Mayor
4

Mitra, then incumbent Mayor of Panukulan, Quezon, of illegal transport of methamphetamine hydrochloride,
5

commonly known as shabu, with an approximate weight of five hundred three point sixty eight (503.68) kilos.
However, it absolved Dequilla and Yang due to the prosecutions failure to present sufficient evidence to convict
them of the offense charged. The dispositive of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Ronnie Mitra y Tena and Javier
Morilla y Avellana GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged. Accordingly, both accused are hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P10,000,000.00 each. Accused Willie Yang
y Yao and Ruel Dequilla y Regodan are hereby ACQUITTED for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond
reasonable doubt and are ordered immediately released from custody unless held for some other lawful cause.

The methamphetamine hydrochloride ordered retained by the Court as representative sample which is still in the
custody of the PNP Crime Laboratory is ordered turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for proper
disposition.
6

The trial court found valid the search conducted by police officers on the vehicles driven by Mayor Mitra and Morilla,
one with control number 888 and the other an ambulance with plate number SFK-372, as the police officers have
already acquired prior knowledge that the said vehicles were suspected to be used for transportation of dangerous
drugs. During the checkpoint in Real, Quezon, the information turned out to be accurate and indeed, the two
accused had in their motor vehicles more than five hundred kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride. 7

The trial court dismissed the arguments of Mayor Mitra that he was without any knowledge of the contents of the
sacks and that he was merely requested to transport them to Manila on board his Starex van. He explained that he
only accommodated the request of a certain Ben Tan because the latter bought his fishing boat. It likewise
dismissed the defense of ambulance driver Morilla of lack of knowledge of the illegality of the contents. Morilla
insisted that he thought that he was just transporting wooden tiles and electronic spare parts together with Dequilla.
The other passenger of the ambulance, Yang, in his defense, did not bother to inquire about the contents of the
vehicle as he was merely an accommodated passenger of the ambulance.

The court rejected the defenses presented by Morilla and Mayor Mitra as they were caught in flagrante delicto of
transporting dangerous drugs in two vehicles driven by each of them. Absent any convincing circumstance to
corroborate their explanations, the validity of their apprehension was sustained. 8

The ruling of conspiracy between Mayor Mitra and Morilla was based on the testimonies of the four accused
themselves. It was found by the trial court that the two vehicles, the Starex van driven by Mayor Mitra and the
ambulance van driven by Morilla, left Infanta, Quezon en route to Manila. The Starex van which was ahead of the
ambulance was able to pass the checkpoint set up by the police officers. However, the ambulance driven by Morilla
was stopped by police officers. Through the untinted window, one of the police officers noticed several sacks inside
the van. Upon inquiry of the contents, Morilla replied that the sacks contained narra wooden tiles.

Unconvinced, the police officers requested Morilla to open the rear door of the car for further inspection. When it
was opened, the operatives noticed that white crystalline granules were scattered on the floor, prompting them to
request Morilla to open the sacks. At this moment, Morilla told the police officers that he was with Mayor Mitra in an
attempt to persuade them to let him pass. His request was rejected by the police officers and upon inspection, the
9

contents of the sacks turned out to be sacks of methamphetamine hydrochloride. This discovery prompted the
10

operatives to chase the Starex van of Mayor Mitra. The police officers were able to overtake the van and Mayor
Mitra was asked to stop. They then inquired if the mayor knew Morilla. On plain view, the operatives noticed that his
van was also loaded with sacks like the ones found in the ambulance. Thus, Mayor Mitra was also requested to
open the door of the vehicle for inspection. At this instance, Mayor Mitra offered to settle the matter but the same
was rejected. Upon examination, the contents of the sacks were likewise found to contain sacks of
methamphetamine hydrochloride. 11

The two other accused in this case, Dequilla and Yang, were acquitted by the trial court for failure on the part of the
prosecution to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The court ruled that Dequillas and Yangs mere
presence inside the vehicle as passengers was inadequate to prove that they were also conspirators of Mayor Mitra
and Morilla. 12

The Court of Appeals Decision

On 13 July 2009, the appellate court affirmed the ruling of the trial court. It upheld the finding of conspiracy between
Mayor Mitra and Morilla in their common intent to transport several sacks containing methamphetamine
hydrochloride on board their respective vehicles. The singularity of their intent to illegally transport
methamphetamine hydrochloride was readily shown when Morilla agreed to drive the ambulance van from Infanta,
Quezon to Manila together with Mayor Mitra, who drove the lead vehicle, the Starex van. 13

The appellate court likewise dismissed the argument of lack of knowledge of the illegal contents of the sacks. The
claim that the sacks were loaded with wooden tiles was implausible due to the obvious disparity of texture and
volume. 14

Courts Ruling

We affirm the ruling but modify the penalty imposed.

In his supplemental brief, Morilla raised the issues: (1) whether he may be convicted for conspiracy to commit the
offense charged sans allegation of conspiracy in the Information, and (2) whether the prosecution was able to prove
his culpability as alleged in the Information. 15

We dismiss his arguments.

Morilla primarily cites the provision on Sec. 1(b), Rule 115 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure to substantiate his
16

argument that he should have been informed first of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. He pointed
out that the Information itself failed to state the word conspiracy but instead, the statement "the above-named
accused, one of them an incumbent mayor of the Municipality of Panukulan, Quezon Province, who all belong to an
organized/syndicated crime group as they all help one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously
transport x x x." He argued that conspiracy was only inferred from the words used in the Information. 17
Even assuming that his assertion is correct, the issue of defect in the information, at this point, is deemed to have
been waived due to Morillas failure to assert it as a ground in a motion to quash before entering his plea. 18

Further, it must be noted that accused Morilla participated and presented his defenses to contradict the allegation of
conspiracy before the trial and appellate courts. His failure or neglect to assert a right within a reasonable time
warrants a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. 19

The finding of conspiracy by both courts is correct.

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and
decide to commit it. To determine conspiracy, there must be a common design to commit a felony.
20 21

Morilla argues that the mere act of driving the ambulance on the date he was apprehended is not sufficient to prove
that he was part of a syndicated group involved in the illegal transportation of dangerous drugs.

This argument is misplaced.

In conspiracy, it need not be shown that the parties actually came together and agreed in express terms to enter into
and pursue a common design. The assent of the minds may be and, from the secrecy of the crime, usually inferred
from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken together, indicate that they are parts of some complete
whole. In this case, the totality of the factual circumstances leads to a conclusion that Morilla conspired with Mayor
22

Mitra in a common desire to transport the dangerous drugs. Both vehicles loaded with several sacks of dangerous
drugs, were on convoy from Quezon to Manila. Mayor Mitra was able to drive through the checkpoint set up by the
police operatives. When it was Morillas turn to pass through the checkpoint, he was requested to open the rear door
for a routinary check. Noticing white granules scattered on the floor, the police officers requested Morilla to open the
sacks. If indeed he was not involved in conspiracy with Mayor Mitra, he would not have told the police officers that
he was with the mayor.

His insistence that he was without any knowledge of the contents of the sacks and he just obeyed the instruction of
his immediate superior Mayor Mitra in driving the said vehicle likewise bears no merit.

Here, Morilla and Mayor Mitra were caught in flagrante delicto in the act of transporting the dangerous drugs on
board their vehicles. "Transport" as used under the Dangerous Drugs Act means "to carry or convey from one place
to another." It was well established during trial that Morilla was driving the ambulance following the lead of Mayor
23

Mitra, who was driving a Starex van going to Manila. The very act of transporting methamphetamine hydrochloride is
malum prohibitum since it is punished as an offense under a special law. The fact of transportation of the sacks
containing dangerous drugs need not be accompanied by proof of criminal intent, motive or knowledge. 24

In a similar case of People v. Libnao, this Court upheld the conviction for illegal transportation of marijuana of
25

Libnao and Nunga, who were caught carrying a bag full of marijuana leaves when they were flagged down on board
a passing tricycle at a checkpoint.

However, we modify the penalty imposed by the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Originally, under Section 15 of Republic Act No. 6425, the penalty for illegal transportation of methamphetamine
26

hydrochloride was imprisonment ranging from six years and one day to twelve years and a fine ranging from six
thousand to twelve thousand pesos. Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1683, the penalty was amended to life
27

imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from twenty to thirty thousand pesos. The penalty was further amended in
Republic Act No. 7659, where the penalty was changed to reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five
28

hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos.

From the foregoing, we sustain the imposed penalty of fine of P10,000,00.00 to be paid by each of the accused but
amend the penalty to reclusion perpetua following the provisions of Republic Act No. 7659 and the principle of
retroactive application of lighter penalty. Reclusion perpetua entails imprisonment for at least thirty (30) years after
which the convict becomes eligible for pardon. It also carries with it accessory penalties, namely: perpetual special
disqualification, etc. Life imprisonment, on the other hand, does not appear to have any definite extent or duration
and carries no accessory penalties. 29

The full particulars are in Ho Wai Pang v. People, thus:


30
As to the penalties imposed by the trial court and as affirmed by the appellate court, we find the same in accord with
law and jurisprudence. It should be recalled that at the time of the commission of the crime on September 6, 1991,
Section 15 of R.A. No. 6425 was already amended by Presidential Decree No. 1683. The decree provided that for
violation of said Section 15, the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P20,000.00
to P30,000.00 shall be imposed. Subsequently, however, R.A. No. 7659 further introduced new amendments to
Section 15, Article III and Section 20, Article IV of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. Under the new amendments, the
penalty prescribed in Section 15 was changed from "life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging fromP20,000.00
to P30,000.00" to "reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10 million." On the other
hand, Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659 amended Section 20, Article IV of R.A. No. 6425 in that the new penalty provided
by the amendatory law shall be applied depending on the quantity of the dangerous drugs involved.

The trial court, in this case, imposed on petitioner the penalty of reclusion perpetua under R.A. No. 7659 rather than
life imprisonment ratiocinating that R.A. No. 7659 could be given retroactive application, it being more favorable to
the petitioner in view of its having a less stricter punishment.
1wphi1

We agree. In People v. Doroja, we held:

"In People v. Martin Simon (G.R. No. 93028, 29 July 1994) this Court ruled (a) that the amendatory law, being more
lenient and favorable to the accused than the original provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act, should be accorded
retroactive application, x x x."

And, since "reclusion perpetua is a lighter penalty than life imprisonment, and considering the rule that criminal
statutes with a favorable effect to the accused, have, as to him, a retroactive effect," the penalty imposed by the trial
court upon petitioner is proper. Consequently, the Court sustains the penalty of imprisonment, which is reclusion
perpetua, as well as the amount of fine imposed by the trial court upon petitioner, the same being more favorable to
him.31

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED and the assailed 13 July 2009 Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. 02967 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION with respect to the penalty to be imposed
as Reclusion Perpetua instead of Life Imprisonment and payment of fine of P10,000,000.00 by each of the accused.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Second Division Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes

1
Penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo with Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang
and Ramon M. Bato, Jr., concurring. Rollo, pp. 2-24.

2
From the Records of the case, no appeal was timely made by the other accused, Mayor Mitra.

3
Records, Vol. I, p. 2.

4
In a Letter dated 23 October 2001, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito R. Zuo of the Department of Justice
requested then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, through Court Administrator (now Associate Justice of this
Court) Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. for a transfer of venue of the case from Real, Quezon to any Regional Trial
Court in Metro Manila, preferably in Quezon City, due to the large quantity of the confiscated drugs and
difficulty on the part of the Government to prosecute the case in Quezon from Metro Manila. (Records, pp.
49-50). The said request was granted by this Court in a Resolution dated 6 March 2002. (Id. at 97).

5
Republic Act No. 6425 or The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. Art. III, Section 15. Sale, Administration,
Dispension, Delivery, Transportation and Distribution of Regulated Drugs. The penalty of imprisonment
ranging from six years and one day to twelve years and a fine ranging from six thousand to twelve thousand
pesos shall be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, dispense, deliver,
transport or distribute any regulated drug. In case of a practitioner, the maximum of the penalty herein
prescribed and the additional penalty of the revocation of his license to practice his profession shall be
imposed.
G.R. No. 199689 March 12, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
HERMANOS CONSTANTINO, JR. y BINAYUG, a.k.a. "JOJIT," Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This appeal challenges the Decision dated July 29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 03353,
1

affirming the Decision dated April 15, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court (R TC), Branch 5 of Tuguegarao City,
2

Cagayan, in Criminal Case No. 10516, which found accused-appellant Hermanos Constantino, Jr. y Binayug, a.k.a.
"Jojit" (Constantino), guilty of the crime of illegal sale of methamphetamine hydrochloride, more popularly known as
shabu, under Article II, Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002.

The Information filed before the R TC charged Constantino, as follows:


3

That on January 20, 2005, in the City of Tuguegarao, Province of Cagayan and within the jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority of law and without permit to sell, transport, deliver
and distribute dangerous drugs, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, transport, distribute and
deliver two (2) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing 0.14 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride
commonly known as "shabu", a dangerous drug to a member of the PNP, Tuguegarao City who acted as a poseur-
buyer; that after receiving the two (2) plastic sachets, the poseur-buyer simultaneously handed to the accused the
marked money consisting of one (1) piece of FIVE HUNDRED PESO BILL (P500.00) with Serial No. QP278070 and
five (5) pieces of ONE HUNDRED PESO BILL with Serial Nos. SM989053, PS724429, XM484584, BB048002, and
EK6900025 or a total of P1,000.00 and this led to the apprehension of the accused and the confiscation of the
dangerous drug together with the buy-bust money by the said apprehending law enforcers of the Tuguegarao City
Police Station who formed the buy bust team in coordination with the PDEA.

When arraigned on July 8, 2005, Constantino pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. Thereafter, pre-trial and trial
4

on the merits ensued.

Evidence for the prosecution presented the following version of events:

On January 20, 2005, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Mariano Rodriguez
(Rodriquez), the Chief of Police of Tuguegarao City, received a report from a confidential informant (CI) that a
certain Jojit was selling illegal drugs in the said city. P/Supt.

Rodriguez immediately formed a buy-bust group composed of Senior Police Officer (SPO) 2 Noel Taguiam
(Taguiam), SPO2 Alexander Tamang (Tamang), SPO1 Arthur Blaquera (Blaquera), Police Officer (PO) 3 Edwin
Hernandez (Hernandez), and PO3 Rolando Domingo (Domingo). PO3 Domingo was designated as the poseur-
buyer. The buy-bust money, consisting of one P500.00 bill and five P100.00 bills, were dusted with fluorescent
powder and their respective serial numbers were recorded in the police blotter. 5

Around 8:00 in the evening of the same day, the team proceeded to Reynovilla St., Caritan Centro, Tuguegarao City,
the place where, according to the CI, Jojit was selling shabu. PO3 Domingo positioned himself beside a street light
while the rest of the team hid behind a nearby concrete fence. After waiting for about 45 minutes, Constantino
arrived on board a tricycle. PO3 Domingo recognized Constantino as the Jojit described by the CI. PO3 Domingo
approached Constantino and asked him if he was Jojit. When Constantino replied in the affirmative, PO3 Domingo
next asked, "Mayroon ka bang stuff?" ("Do you have stuff?") In response, Constantino inquired of PO3 Domingo
how much he wanted to buy. PO3 Domingo said he wanted to buy P1,000.00 worth of shabu, simultaneously
handing over the buy-bust money to Constantino, who, in turn, handed two plastic sachets to PO3 Domingo.
Thereupon, PO3 Domingo turned his cap backwards, the pre-arranged signal for the consummated sale. Upon
seeing the signal, the other members of the buy-bust team approached the scene at once and arrested Constantino,
from whom SPO2 Taguiam recovered the buy-bust money. 6

Thereafter, Constantino was brought to the police station where the recovered drugs and money were turned over to
the investigator, SPO2 Tamang. The recovered drugs were then marked with the initials "A-1" and "A-2." The
7

incident was recorded in the police blotter with an inventory of the recovered drugs and money. 8

Later that evening, at around ten oclock, P/Supt. Rodriguez and SPO2 Tamang submitted to the Philippine National
Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory Services, Camp Marcelo Adduru, Tuguegarao City, a request for laboratory
examination of two plastic sachets with white crystalline substance marked as "A-1" and "A-2" to determine the
presence of dangerous drugs; as well as both hands of Constantino, one piece P500.00 bill, and five
9

pieces P100.00 bills, to determine the presence of the ultra violet powder. Per Chemistry Report No. D-08-
10

2005 and Physical Identification Report No. PI-04-2005, prepared by Police Senior Inspector (P/SInsp.) Mayra
11 12

Matote Madria, Forensic Chemist, the contents of the two plastic sachets tested positive for Methamphetamine
13

Hydrochloride; while the other specimens tested positive for the presence of bright-yellow ultraviolet fluorescent
powder.

Constantino denied the accusation against him and asserted that he was merely framed-up.

According to Constantino, at around 8:00 in the evening on January 20, 2005, he was enjoying a joyride with his
friend, Jeff Abarriao, on the latters motorcycle, within the vicinity of Caritan Centro. After 30 minutes, Constantino
decided to go home. While walking along Reyno or Reynovilla St., two vehicles suddenly stopped, one in front and
the other behind him. Five men, all in civilian clothes, alighted from the two vehicles. Two of the men held
Constantinos hands, while another poked a gun at him, asking him where he came from and ordering him to bring
out the shabu. Constantino answered that he did not know what the men were talking about. The men then forced
Constantino into one of the vehicles. Inside the vehicle, one of the men frisked and searched Constantino, and told
him that he was being arrested for selling shabu. The men, who were now apparently police officers, brought
Constantino to the Tuguegarao City Police Station. At the police station, the police officers took Constantinos
cellphone and wallet. Also at the police station, one of the arresting police officers brought out two pieces of plastic
sachets and money and turned it over to one of his companions. At around 9:30 in the evening, the police officers
brought Constantino to the PNP Crime Laboratory, but nothing happened because he heard that the person who
was supposed to conduct the examination was not around, so, Constantino was brought back to the police station. 14

The following day, January 21, 2005, the police officers again brought Constantino to the PNP Crime Laboratory.
Along the way, one of the police escorts forced Constantino to hold a certain amount of money. Constantino tried to
resist but he could not really do anything because he was handcuffed. After his examination, Constantino was
detained and was told that he was suspected of selling shabu.

The RTC promulgated its Decision on April 15, 2008, finding Constantino guilty as charged. The trial court rejected
the arguments of the defense, thus:

1. The Prosecution failed to give a detailed account of the arrangement with the accused for the purchase of the
shabu.

The Courts response: The testimony of PO3 Domingo was detailed enough, corroborated by other witnesses. It is
the defense that has failed to show in what crucial detail the prosecutions account is wanting.

2. The police officers categorically admitted that they did not personally know the accused until they were at the
alleged place of transaction.

The Courts response: Substantive law does not require this; the rules of evidence do not. Did they know he was
Jojit? Yes, from the description given the informant. Domingo asked whether he was Jojit. He answered "Yes".

3. The arresting officers failed to comply with the requirements of Article II, Section 21 of R.A. 9165 that requires that
an inventory be taken and that photographs be taken of the items seized.

The Courts comment: The Police Blotter Entry No. 0270 enumerates the items seized. This, the Court holds to be
substantial compliance. Even assuming, without admitting, that not all the requirements may not have been
complied with, these omissions do not operate to exclude the evidence nor to cause suppression thereof. They are
directory, not mandatory provisions.

4. The chain of custody was not established with certainty.

The Courts comment: The chain is not difficult to trace, and has been established by evidence, thus:

a. Exhibit "B": The police blotter recording that on 20 January 2005 at 2100 hours, mentioning the
two sachets of shabu which according to the blotter the accused admitted he handed over to
Domingo; Domingo had testified that the markings A-1 NBT and A-2 NBT were placed on the
sachets by Investigator Alexander Tamang;

b. Exhibit "F": Dated January 20, 2005, a request to the PNP Crime Lab Services for the examination
of "two plastic sachet (sic) with white crystalline substance marked A1 and A2";

c. Exhibit "D": Chemistry Report No. D-08-2005 completed 21 January 2005 reporting a qualitative
examination of the contents of two heat-sealed sachets marked as A1 NBT and A2 NBT and
identifying the substance as "Methamphetamine Hydrochloride".

5. There was no prior coordination with PDEA.

The Courts response: None was needed. Exhibit "H" clearly evidences that SPO1 Blaquera was authorized to
conduct anti-drug operations. Domingo also answered the question about coordination with PDEA when he testified:
"During that time 3 representatives of the Intelligence Operatives were deputized in the PDEA in the persons of Noel
Taguiam, Arthur Blaquera and the Chief of Police."

Hermanos testified in his behalf and his testimony can be reduced to the following story:

1 He went on a joy-ride that night with his friend aboard a motorcycle;

2 Tiring, he alighted and started to walk along Reyno Villa Street;

3 He was accosted by police officers who, at the time, he did not know to be police officers;

4 They took him to the police station and produced the sachets;

5 Next day, while on the way to the Crime Lab, they forced him to hold marked bills, although he was cuffed.

All told, it is a story that is meant to endeavor to explain the circumstances around the accuseds arrest and
apprehension. For one thing, it is self-serving; for another, we are not told any reason why the police officers should
have wanted to apprehend him a supposedly guiltless man; third, the Court never heard the testimony of his friend
with whom he was supposed to have had a joy-ride that night. In sum, his story does not convince this
Court. (Citations omitted.)
15

The RTC imposed the following sentence upon Constantino:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Sec. 5, Art. II of R.A.
9165 and sentences him to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and a fine of P500,000.00. 16

Maintaining his innocence, Constantino appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that:

1. The trial court gravely erred in giving full credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses despite
the patent irregularities in the conduct of the buy-bust operation.

2. The trial court gravely erred in convicting accused-appellant despite the prosecutions failure to establish
that chain of custody of the drug specimens allegedly confiscated from the accused-appellant.

3. The trial court gravely erred in convicting the accused-appellant despite the prosecutions failure to
establish the identity of the prohibited drugs constituting the corpus delicti of the offense.
In its Decision dated July 29, 2011, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the judgment of conviction of the RTC
against Constantino. The appellate court held that Constantinos defense of frame-up was not worthy of credence as
his version of the incident was not at all corroborated.

Constantino was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu to PO3 Domingo, who acted as the poseur-buyer,
therefore, he was legally arrested without a warrant. The appellate court also found that the chain of custody of the
shabu had been preserved from the time said drugs were confiscated from Constantino to the time the same drugs
were delivered to the crime laboratory and thereafter retrieved and presented as evidence before the trial court.
Lastly, the appellate court stressed that between the positive and categorical declarations of the prosecution
witnesses, on one hand, and the unsubstantial denial or negative statements of the appellant, on the other hand, the
former generally prevails; and that negative averments, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, deserve
no weight in law, especially vis-a-vis the time-tested presumption of regularity of performance of official duty on the
part of the apprehending officers.

In the end, the Court of Appeals decreed:

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Tuguegarao City, Branch 5, dated 15 April 2008, in
Criminal Case No. 10516, is AFFIRMED. 17

Consequently, Constantino comes before this Court seeking the reversal of his conviction by the trial court and the
Court of Appeals.

In his Supplemental Brief, Constantino contests his conviction, averring inconsistencies in the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses, particularly, on the circumstances of the marking of the two plastic sachets containing shabu
allegedly confiscated from him. Different people claim to have made the marking "NBT" on the two plastic sachets
and gave various explanations as to what the initials "NBT" stand for. In short, Constantino argues that the
prosecution failed to establish a crucial link in the chain of custody of the shabu in this case.

The appeal is impressed with merit.

Admittedly, denial is an inherently weak defense, consistently viewed with disfavor by the courts, being a self-
serving negative evidence. In view, however, of the constitutional presumption that an accused is innocent until the
contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt, the burden lies on the prosecution to overcome such presumption by
presenting the required quantum of evidence. In so doing, the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not
rely on the weakness of the defense. 18

In a prosecution for the sale of a dangerous drug, the following elements must be proven: (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. Simply put, "[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." And in the
19

prosecution of these offenses, the primary consideration is to ensure that the identity and integrity of the seized
drugs and other related articles have been preserved from the time they were confiscated from the accused until
their presentation as evidence in court. 20

Article II, Section 21(1) of Republic Act No. 9165 lays down the procedure to be followed in the seizure and custody
of dangerous drugs:

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[.]
Article II, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9165 describes in
more detail how the foregoing procedure is to be applied:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources
of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be
conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of
the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-
compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and 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[.]

While police officers are enjoined to strictly comply with the procedure prescribed by law, the IRR also explicitly
excuses non-compliance under justifiable grounds, but only if the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
have been properly preserved by the apprehending officers. The integrity and evidentiary value of seized items are
properly preserved for as long as the chain of custody of the same are duly established.

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, series of 2002, defines "chain of custody" as follows:
21

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.

In Mallillin v. People, the Court discussed how the chain of custody of seized items is established:
22

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. (Citations omitted.)

Thus, the following links must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation: first, the seizure and
marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turn
over of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turn over by the
investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turn over
and submission of the marked illegal drugs seized from the forensic chemist to the court. 23

After a careful scrutiny of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, the Court finds glaring inconsistencies
affecting the integrity of the shabu purportedly confiscated from Constantino. The inconsistent testimonies of PO3
Domingo, PO3 Hernandez, and P/SInsp. Tulauan as to who, when, and where the two plastic sachets of shabu
were marked lead the Court to question whether the two plastic sachets of shabu identified in court were the very
same ones confiscated from Constantino. The doubtful markings already broke the chain of custody of the seized
shabu at a very early stage.

To recall, the first crucial link in the chain of custody is seizure and marking of the illegal drug. In this case, PO3
Domingo, as poseur-buyer, received two plastic sachets of shabu from Constantino in exchange for P1,000.
However, PO3 Domingo himself did not put any markings on the two plastic sachets of shabu. Instead, upon arrival
of the buy-bust team with Constantino at the police station, PO3 Domingo turned over the two plastic sachets of
shabu to the investigator, SPO2 Tamang, who was also a member of the buy-bust team. PO3 Domingo testified that
it was SPO2 Tamang who put the marking "NBT" on the said sachets of shabu. Below are the excerpts from PO3
Domingos testimony:

Q If that plastic sachets which was sold to you by Hermanos Constantino is shown to you will you be able to identify
the same?

A Yes, maam.

Q How were you able to identify the plastic sachets?

A There is an initials (sic), maam.

Q What initials are you referring to?

A A-1 initial NBT and A-2 initial NBT.

Q Who placed those initials in the plastic sachets?

A The Investigator, maam.

Q And who is the investigator?

A Alexander Tamang, maam.

Q Where did he place those initials?

A In the police station after the apprehension, maam. (Emphasis supplied.)


24

However, PO3 Hernandez, another member of the buy-bust team, categorically pointed to SPO2 Taguiam, also a
member of the buy-bust team, as the one who put the marking "NBT" on the plastic sachets upon the teams return
to the police station, thus:

PROS. NICOLAS:

Q During the buy bust operation you stated that the accused handed to the poseur buyer in the person of PO3
Rolando Domingo two plastic sachets containing as you claimed methamphetamine hydrochloride, have you seen
these plastic sachets at that time when they handed to PO3 Rolando Domingo?

A Yes, sir.

Q If these two plastic sachets will be shown to you again today will you be able to tell that these two plastic sachets
were the same plastic sachets that were handed by the accused to PO3 Rolando Domingo?

A Yes, sir.

Q I am showing to you these two plastic sachets kindly tell us if these are the plastic sachets that were handed to
PO3 Rolando Domingo?

A These are the ones, sir.

Q Why do you say that these are the two plastic sachets handed by the accused?

A Because I was there and I saw the accused handed the two plastic sachets to PO3 Rolando Domingo, sir.

Q Why do you know that these are the same plastic sachets?
A These are the ones, sir.

Q Mr. Witness, there are markings on these two plastic sachets, do you know whose markings are these?

xxxx

A It was Noel B. Taguiam, sir.

The witness is pointing to the marking NBT partly hidden.

COURT:

Q Who is Noel B. Taguiam?

A A member of the buy bust team also, sir.

PROS. NICOLAS:

Q You stated this NBT was placed by one Noel B. Taguiam, why do you know that he was the one who placed this?

A Because I was present during that time when he placed his initial, sir.

Q Do you know when this Noel B. Taguiam placed those initials on those two plastic sachets?

A After we conducted the buy bust operation, sir.

Q How soon Noel B. Taguiam placed those initials after the conduct of the buy bust operation?

A After a few hours, sir.

Q Where did he place those initials?

A In our office, sir. (Emphasis supplied.)


25

To complicate things even further, P/SInsp Tulauan, the Forensic Chemist, also declared before the trial court that
26

the marking "NBT" on the two plastic sachets of shabu were made by SPO3 Nelson B. Tamaray (Tamaray), the duty
officer who received the specimens at the crime laboratory. P/SInsp. Tulauan testified:

PROS. ISRAEL:

Q When you received these two specimens Madam Witness, will you please tell us the physical appearance of
these items when you received the same?

A They were heat-sealed and with markings "A-1" and "A-2," your Honor.

B And will you please point to us these markings "A-1" and "A-2" when you received these items Madam Witness?

A This is the markings "A-1" and "A-2," Maam.

INTERPRETER:

The witness is pointing to the markings "A-1" and "A-2" with the use of a black pentel pen.

PROS. ISRAEL:

Q There is another marking in this plastic sachet Madam Witness marked as NBT, what is this marking all about?

A That is the marking of SPO3 Nelson B. Tamaray, Maam.


Q Is he authorized to make the necessary marking which was requested to be examined Madam Witness?

A Yes, Maam because he is the one who received the specimen from the one who deliver it, Maam.

Q In this second plastic sachet Madam Witness which you identified earlier, that there is a marking "A-1," there is
another marking NBT, what is this marking all about Madam Witness?

A That is the marking of SPO3 Nelson B. Tamaray, Maam. (Emphases supplied.)


27

On cross-examination, P/SInsp. Tulauan confirmed her previous declaration that SPO3 Tamaray had claimed
making the marking on the sachets of shabu:

Atty. Aquino

Madam Witness, with respect to that marking made which are "A1" and "A-2", they are not your markings, is it not?

A Yes, sir.

Q And with respect also to that NBT marked and placed in that exhibit which you have earlier identified, you did not
see this duty officer placed his markings thereon, is it not?

A Yes sir but I asked him who placed that marking and he said that he was the one who placed the initial NBT, sir. 28

The Court already emphasized in People v. Zakaria the importance of marking the seized item right after seizure:
29

Crucial in proving the chain of custody is the marking of the seized dangerous drugs or other related items
immediately after they are seized from the accused, for the marking upon seizure is the starting point in the
custodial link that succeeding handlers of the evidence will use as reference point. Moreover, the value of marking
of the evidence is to separate the marked evidence from the corpus of all other similar or related evidence from the
time of seizure from the accused until disposition at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching, "planting"
or contamination of evidence. A failure to mark at the time of taking of initial custody imperils the integrity of the
chain of custody that the law requires. (Citation omitted.)
1wphi1

Herein, the prosecution is completely silent as to why PO3 Domingo, the poseur-buyer, despite having immediate
custody of the two plastic sachets of shabu purchased from Constantino, failed to immediately mark the seized
drugs before turning over the custody of the same to another police officer. This lapse in procedure opened the door
for confusion and doubt as to the identity of the drugs actually seized from Constantino during the buy-bust and the
ones presented before the trial court, especially considering that three different people, during the interval,
supposedly received and marked the same. To clarify the matter, the prosecution could have presented as witness
either SPO2 Tamang or SPO2 Taguiam to directly validate the marking in court, but unfortunately, the prosecution
chose to dispense with the testimonies of both officers. This omission diminished the importance of the markings as
the reference point for the subsequent handling of the evidence. As a consequence, an objective person could now
justifiably suspect the shabu ultimately presented as evidence in court to be planted or contaminated. 30

The failure of the prosecution to establish the evidences chain of custody is fatal to its case as the Court can no
longer consider or even safely assume that the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated dangerous drug
were properly preserved. 31

In light of the foregoing, Constantino is acquitted of the crime charged, not because the Court accords credence to
his defense of frame-up, but because the prosecution failed to discharge its burden of proving his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated July 29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-
H.C. No. 03353, affirming the Decision dated April 15, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 5 of Tuguegarao
City, Cagayan, in Criminal Case No. 10516, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant Hermanos Constantino, Jr. y
Binayug, a.k.a. "Jojit," is ACQUITTED for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt and is
ORDERED to be immediately released from detention unless he is confined for another lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision, had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 191360 March 10, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
SHERWIN BIS y AVELLANEDA, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

In prosecutions involving narcotics, the narcotic substance itself constitutes the corpus delicti of the offense and the
fact of its existence is vital to sustain a judgment of conviction beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution is duty-
bound to establish with unwavering exactitude that the dangerous drug presented in court as evidence against the
accused is the same prohibited substance seized from him.

For final review is the September 22, 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03348
1

which affirmed the Regional Trial Court's (RTC) January 31, 2008 Decision in Criminal Case No. 7555 finding
2

appellant Sherwin Bis y Avellaneda (appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article II of
3

Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine
4

ofP500,000.00.

Factual Antecedents

Appellant was charged before the San Fernando, La Union RTC, Branch 29 with violation of Section 5, Article II of
RA 9165 committed as follows:

That on or about the 28th day of November 2006, in the City of San Fernando, Province of La Union, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above[-]named accused did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously distribute, sell and deliver three (3) heat sealed transparent plastic sachet[s] containing
methamphetamine hydrochloride otherwise known as "shabu", with a corresponding weight of ZERO POINT ZERO
FORTY THREE (0.043) gram; ZERO POINT ZERO SIXTEEN (0.016) gram; and ZERO POINT ZERO TEN (0.010)
gram with a total weight of ZERO POINT ZERO SIXTY NINE (0.069) gram to PO2 Manuel Espejo who posed as the
poseur-buyer thereof and in consideration of said shabu, used marked money, a piece of One thousand peso bill
(P1,000.00) with serial number EB 893087, without first securing the necessary permit, license from the proper
government agency.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 5

On January 23, 2007, appellant assisted by his counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.

Version of the Prosecution

On November 26, 2006, a civilian informant tipped the San Fernando City Police Station about the alleged drug
pushing activity of appellant at his residence in Pagdalagan Norte, San Fernando City, La Union. Hence, a team
composed of Police Officers Manuel Espejo (Espejo), Jose Arce (Arce) and Joselito Casem (Casem) went to the
area on the same day to conduct a surveillance. They stayed at a store about 10 meters away from appellants
house and from there saw people coming in and out. Another surveillance conducted by the same team on the
following evening confirmed that drug activities were indeed happening in that place.

The said police officers immediately reported the matter to their superior who ordered them to conduct a buy-bust
operation on November 28, 2006. Espejo was designated as poseur-buyer while Arce and Casem were to serve as
back-ups. Following the usual procedure, Espejo was provided with a P1,000.00 bill bearing the initials "MCE" as
marked money.
At about 10:40 p.m., the team proceeded to the target area on a tricycle. Upon arriving at the locus criminis, Arce
and Casem posted themselves at a store near appellants house while Espejo approached appellant who was
standing in front of his house. He told him, "Pards pakikuha ng isang bulto." Appellant looked at Espejo and asked
"where is your money?" After Espejo handed the P1,000.00 bill to appellant, the latter went inside the house. He
emerged after a while and gave Espejo three plastic sachets placed in another plastic container. Convinced that the
white crystalline substance inside the plastic sachets is shabu, Espejo made the pre-arranged signal by putting his
hand on top of his head. At once, Espejo introduced himself together with Arce and Casem who already rushed to
assist him, as members of the San Fernando City Police. Forthwith, appellant was placed under arrest and apprised
of his constitutional rights.

Thereafter, he was brought to the police station wherein a further search on him by Espejo yielded aluminum
foils and the marked money.
6

In the meantime, Espejo marked the three plastic sachets he bought from appellant with the initials "MC-1," "MC-2"
and "MC-3." Afterwards, the team brought the Request for Laboratory Examination together with the confiscated
7 8

items to the Regional Chief of the PNP Crime Laboratory Service. The results of the laboratory examination on the
specimen yielded positive for the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. 9

Version of the Defense

Appellant denied all the allegations against him. He claimed that while he was going out of his house at around
10:00 p.m. of November 28, 2006, Espejo, whom he did not know at the time, suddenly grabbed him. He was then
taken to a place near the highway where he was frisked. When nothing was found on his possession, he was taken
to the police station at Pagdalagan. From there, he was whisked away to the main police station in San Fernando
City on the pretext that he would be asked on something and would be released the following day. Upon reaching
the main police station, however, Espejo showed him three aluminum foils and three plastic sachets containing
white crystalline substance which were allegedly found on him.

On cross examination, appellant claimed to not know Espejo, Arce and Casem prior to the November 28, 2006
incident. That except for the said incident, there was no other reason for the said police officers to file a case against
him.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

According full faith and credence to the version of the prosecution, the RTC found that the elements necessary to
prove the illegal sale of dangerous drugs have been sufficiently established. It debunked appellants denial after
10

considering the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses in line with the presumption that law enforcement
officers have performed their duties in a regular manner. Consequently, the RTC found appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged in its Decision of January 31, 2008, the dispositive portion of which reads:
11

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Sherwin Bis, GUILTY as charged and sentences him to suffer the
penalty of Life Imprisonment and to pay a fine of Php500,000.00 and to pay costs. 1wphi1

The three (3) sachets of shabu with a total weight of 0.069 gram is hereby confiscated and ordered turned over to
PDEA for proper disposition.

SO ORDERED. 12

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On appeal, appellant questioned the RTC Decision on the ground that his guilt was not proved beyond reasonable
doubt. He also averred that the police officers failed to regularly perform their official functions.

Concurring with the findings and conclusions of the RTC, the CA affirmed the said lower courts judgment in its now
assailed Decision of September 22, 2009, disposing thusly:
13

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the January 31, 2008 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando,
La Union, Branch 29, in Criminal Case No. 7555, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 14
Unable to accept both lower courts verdict of conviction, appellant is now before this Court for final determination of
the very same issues he submitted before the CA.

Our Ruling

We find no merit in the appeal.

Credibility of witnesses not affected by minor inconsistencies.

Appellant points out inconsistencies in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses Espejo and Arce, to wit: (1) Espejo
testified that he found the aluminum foils and the marked money tucked on appellants waistline while Arce testified
that he saw Espejo frisk appellant and found the specimen in the latters pocket; (2) Espejo stated that appellant
was then wearing basketball shorts while Arce described him as wearing a six-pocket short pants. Appellant argues
that these inconsistent statements render Espejo and Arce incredible witnesses.

The Court is not convinced. While there are indeed minor contradictions in Espejo and Arces testimonies, the same
are nevertheless inconsequential and do not detract from the proven elements of the offense of illegal sale of
dangerous drugs. As the CA correctly observed:

The foregoing inconsistencies, however, relate only to minor matters and do not touch on the essence of the crime.
Jurisprudence is replete with pronouncement by the Supreme Court that a few discrepancies and inconsistencies in
the testimonies of witnesses referring to minor details which do not touch the essence of the crime do not impair
their credibility.
15

It is now too well-settled to require extensive documentation that "inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses,
which refer only to minor details and collateral matters, do not affect the veracity and weight of their testimonies
where there is consistency in relating the principal occurrence and the positive identification of the
accused." Significantly, in the case at bench, the testimonies of the said witnesses for the prosecution were in
16

harmony with respect to their positive identification of appellant as the one who sold the illegal drugs to Espejo, the
poseur-buyer, in a planned buy-bust operation, as well as to the other surrounding circumstances that transpired
during the said operation.

Chain of custody properly established.

Appellant posits that the prosecution did not strictly comply with the procedures laid down in Section 21, Article II of
RA 9165 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations regarding the physical inventory and photograph of the seized
items. Non-compliance therewith, he argues, casts doubt on the validity of his arrest and the identity of the
suspected shabu allegedly bought and confiscated from him.

On the matter of handling the confiscated illegal drugs after a buy-bust operation, Section 21(1), Article II of RA
9165 provides:

(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;

Accordingly, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165 which implements the afore-
quoted provision 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;

Case law has it that non-compliance with the abovequoted provision of RA 9165 and its Implementing Rules and
Regulations is not fatal and will not render an accuseds 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." 17

In the present case, the totality of the prosecutions evidence shows the integrity of the drugs seized to be
intact. The identity of the drugs was proven and the chain of its custody and possession has been duly accounted
1wphi1

for and not broken. This can be gleaned from the testimonies of Espejo and Arce who narrated that from the
moment the items were seized from appellant, the same were brought to the police station where Espejo marked
them with his initials "MC-1," "MC-2" and "MC-3," properly inventoried, and, together with the laboratory request,
were immediately delivered by Espejo himself to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination to determine the
presence of dangerous drugs. Police Inspector Melanie Joy Ordoo conducted an examination on the specimens
submitted with the corresponding markings and concluded that the three heat sealed transparent plastic sachets
contained methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. Incidentally, this conclusion is bolstered by
the defenses admission of the existence and due execution of the request for laboratory examination, the
18

Chemistry Report and the specimens submitted. Moreover, Espejo, when confronted during trial, identified the three
plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance as the very same items confiscated from the
appellant. Under the situation, this Court finds no circumstance whatsoever that would hint any doubt as to the
19

identity, integrity and evidentiary value of the items subject matter of this case. "Besides, 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" and in such case, the burden of proof rests on the appellant. Here, appellant miserably failed
20 21

to discharge this burden. Moreover, and as aptly observed by the CA, appellant did not seasonably question these
procedural gaps before the trial court. Suffice it to say that objection to evidence cannot be raised for the first time
on appeal. 22

In fine, the prosecutions evidence positively identified appellant as the seller of white crystalline substance found to
be methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug, for P1,000.00 to Espejo, a police officer who acted
as a poseur-buyer in a buy-bust operation. The plastic sachets containing the said substance presented during the
trial as Exhibits "F-1 to F-3" were positively identified by Espejo as the same substance which were sold and
delivered to him by appellant during the said operation.

Appellants defense of denial properly rejected.

Appellants defense hinges principally on denial. But such a defense is unavailing considering that appellant was
caught in flagrante delicto in a legitimate buy-bust operation. "The defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been
invariably viewed by the courts with disfavor for it can just as easily be concocted and is a common and standard
defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act." 23

Penalty

Section 5 of RA 9165 provides the penalty for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs, viz:

Section 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transporation 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.

Pursuant to the above-quoted provision of the law, appellant was properly sentenced by the lower courts to suffer
the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine off P500,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated September 22, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03348,
which affirmed the Decision dated January 31, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 29, San Fernando City, La
Union in Criminal Case No. 7555 finding accused-appellant SHERWIN BIS y AVELLANEDA guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of Life Imprisonment and to pay a fine off P500,000.00, is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 193856 April 21, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
SUKARNO JUNAIDE y AGGA, Appellant.

DECISION

ABAD, J.:

The Court addresses Sukarno A. Junaide's motion for reconsideration of the Court's Resolution of January 20, 2014.

It may be recalled that the prosecution witnesses in this case testified that on November 25, 2004 the Zamboanga
Drug Enforcement Unit received a tip that accused Junaide was selling prohibited drugs at Lower Calarian,
Zamboanga City. The police unit formed a buy-bust team with SPOI Roberto Roca as poseur-buyer. It then went to
the place mentioned. As the informant and SPOl Roca saw accused Junaide standing near a store, they
approached him. The informant told Junaide that his companion wanted to buy PI00.00 worth of shabu.

Accused Junaide took a sachet from his pocket and handed it to SPOI Roca who in turn gave him a marked PI00.00
bill. The police officer then signaled the rest of the police team to come. When SPO 1 Roca let it known that he was
a police officer, Junaide tried to flee but the police stopped him. SPO 1 Amado Mirasol, Jr. searched and found four
sachets of suspected shabu and the marked money on Junaide.

Subsequently, the police brought accused Junaide to the police station where SPO1 Mirasol marked the four
sachets seized from him and turned these over to the case investigator, SPO1 Federico Lindo, Jr. The latter then
turned over the seized items to the police crime laboratory. The sachet Junaide sold was found to contain 0.0101
gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu; the other sachets contained a total of 0.0235 gram.

Accused Junaide, on the other hand, testified that he was napping at home when sounds of commotion outside his
house woke him up. As he took a look, he saw people being chased and his neighbors getting arrested. Junaide left
his house a little later to fetch his nephew from school but while waiting for the boy, two armed men alighted from a
white jeep and handcuffed him. They frisked him but found nothing. They showed him a sachet of shabu and said
that they would use it as evidence against him. Junaide later identified the two men as SPO1 Roca and SPO1
Mirasol. Two neighbors claimed that they had seen the incident and corroborated Junaides story.
1wphi1

The Public Prosecutor charged accused Junaide before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Zamboanga City with (1)
illegal sale of shabu in violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) 9165 in Criminal Case 5601 (21215)
1

and (2) illegal possession of shabu in violation of Section 11, Article II of the same law in Criminal Case 5602
(21216).

On January 30, 2008 the RTC found accused Junaide guilty of both charges. The trial court sentenced him to suffer
the penalties of life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000.00 for selling dangerous drugs and 12 years and 1 day to
16 years of imprisonment and a fine of P300,000.00 for illegal possession of dangerous drugs. On January 29, 2010
the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered judgment in CA-G.R. CR-HC 00593-MIN affirming the RTC Decision in toto,
hence, the appeal in this case.

On January 20, 2014 the Court affirmed the CAs Decision. It held that, despite a few deviations from the required
procedure, the prosecution sufficiently proved the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items.

On February 24, 2014 Junaide filed a motion for reconsideration pleading for a reexamination of the Courts finding
that the police officers involved substantially complied with the requirements of Section 21, Article II of the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 9165. The Court has accommodated the plea.

In a prosecution for the sale and possession of the prohibited drugs known as shabu, the State does not only carry
the heavy burden of proving the elements of the offense. It also bears the obligation to prove the corpus delicti,
failing in which the State would not have proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. 2
And, to prove the corpus delicti, it is indispensable for the prosecution to show that the dangerous drugs subject of
the sale and examined in the police laboratory are the same drugs presented in court as evidence. The first stage in
3

the chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or related items. Marking is the affixing of the initials or other
4

identifying signs on the seized items by the arresting officer or the poseur-buyer. This must be done in the presence
of the accused shortly after arrest.
5

Here, compliance with the requirement of marking is not clear. SPO1 Roca testified that he marked the plastic
sachet of shabu that he bought with his initials "RR" but when the supposed sachet was presented to him in court
for identification, it instead carried the marking "RR-1." This may be just a mistake but he denied having made a
mistake and admitted that the "RR-1" marking could have been made by just anybody. Thus: 6

Prosecutor Pajarito:

Q: If this one sachet of shabu be shown to you, the one which you said sold to you by Sukarno will you recognize it?

A: Yes Maam.

Q: How would you be able to recognize it Mr. witness?

A: I mark my initial Maam.

Q: What initial did you place?

A: RR means Roberto Roca.

xxxx

Q: I have one sachet of white crystalline substance bearing RR marking what relation has this to the one sachet
which you bought from the accused and turned over to the investigator?

A: This is the very one that I bought from Sukarno here is my RR marking.

Atty. Talip: May I manifest for the record Your Honor that the actual marking that appears on the shabu is RR-1 and
not RR.

xxxx

Atty. Talip:

Q: You said double R, you ever mentioned RR-1 and when shown to you it was RR-1 can you tell us why?

A: I was not able to mention the -1 but it is RR-1.

Q: It would been a different item RR is different from RR-1.

A: Yes Maam.

Q: Do you agree?

A: But RR s my very initial marking.

Q: How many times have you been designated as poseur buyer?

A: I can not recall Maam if as poseur buyer for how many times.

Q: Just an estimate Mr. witness?

A: More or less 10 times.


Q: In those instances your marking would be RR only?

A: Yes Maam.

Q: Thats why you mention a while ago, that what you place is RR only?

A: Yes Maam.

xxxx

Prosecutor Pajarito:

Q: Mr. witness on that day November 25, 2004 there was only how many sachet did you have from your
possession?

A: Only one sachet Maam.

Q: This was the result of the buy bust operation?

A: Yes Maam.

Q: How many bills did you also have on that day?

A: Only one Maam.

Q: So you could not be confused with it?

A: Yes Maam.

xxxx

Atty. Talip:

Q: Mr. witness, regarding the discrepancy, you said there was no buy bust operation, do you agree to the letter RR-1
could have been written by anybody else?

A: Yes maam. (Emphasis supplied)

SPO1 Roca may have truly marked the item of shabu he seized from accused Sukarno as "RR" which he insisted
he did. Someone else, therefore, replaced the item by another one, now marked as "RR-1." Indeed, Roca has not
ruled out the possibility that the latter marking on the shabu item presented in court may have been made by
someone else. This leads the Court to conclude that there may have been switching of evidence in the selling
charge. Guilt in that charge has not, therefore, been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, the Court PARTIALLY GRANTS the accused Sukarno A. Junaide's Motion for Reconsideration and
ACQUITS him on the ground of reasonable doubt of the charge of selling dangerous drugs in violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act 9165 in Criminal Case 5601 (21215) of the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City. His
conviction, however, in Criminal Case 5602 (21216) on the charge of possession of dangerous drugs in violation of
Section 11, Article II of the same law remains.

SO ORDERED.

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I ce1iify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 184758 April 21, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
SONNY SABDULA y AMANDA, Appellant.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

We review the February 8, 2008 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR. H.C. No. 02726, which
1

affirmed the January 29, 2007 decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 82, Quezon City. The RTC
2

decision found appellant Sonny Sabdula y Amanda guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article II3

of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002). The trial court imposed on him
the penalty of life imprisonment.

THE 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 February, 2004, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused 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, 0.10 (zero point ten)
gram of white crystalline substance containing Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 4

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. The prosecution presented Police Officer (PO) 2 Bernard Centeno at
5

the trial, while the testimonies of PO3 Joselito Chantengco and PO1 Alan Fortea became the subject of the parties
stipulations. The appellant and Shirley Sabdula, on the other hand, took the witness stand for the defense.

The evidence for the prosecution established that in the morning of February 1, 2004, a confidential informant told
the members of the Central Police District (CPD) in Baler, Quezon City about the illegal drug activities of one alias
"Moneb" at a squatters area in San Roque II, Quezon City. Acting on this information, operatives of the Station
Intelligence and Investigation Branch, Baler Police Station 2, CPD formed a buy-bust team composed of PO2
Centeno (the designated poseur-buyer), PO1 Fortea, PO2 Rolando Daduya, PO1 Victor Porte, PO1 Louise
Escarlan and PO1 Noel de Guzman. 6

At around 7:00 p.m., the buy-bust team and the informant went to the target area. When they arrived there, the
informant introduced PO2 Centeno as his "kumpare" to the appellant. PO2 Centeno asked the appellant if he could
"score" two hundred pesos worth of shabu. The appellant responded by taking out a plastic sachet from his pocket,
7

and handing it to PO2 Centeno. PO2 Centeno in turn handed P200.00 to the appellant, and then gave the pre-
arranged signal.

As the other members of the buy-bust team were rushing to the scene, PO2 Centeno introduced himself as a police
officer and arrested the appellant. Afterwards, he frisked the appellant and recovered the buy-bust money from his
right pocket.8

The police thereafter brought the appellant to the Baler Police Station 2 for investigation. Upon arrival, PO2 Centeno
gave the seized plastic sachet to SPO2 Salinel who, in turn, handed it to PO3 Chantengco who made a request for
laboratory examination that PO3 Centeno brought, together with the seized item to the Central Police District Crime
Laboratory for analysis. Per Chemistry Report No. D-140-2004 of Engr. Leonard Jabonillo (the forensic chemist),
9

the submitted specimen tested positive for the presence of methylamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). 10
In his defense, the appellant testified that between 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. on January 29, 2004, he was on board a taxi at
C5 Road, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, when a group of about five (5) men pointed their guns at him and told him to
get out of the vehicle. After he alighted, the armed men told him to board a mobile car and brought him to the Baler
11

Police Station. At the station, the police asked him to remove his clothes, and confiscated his wallet, bracelet, cap
and P300.00. The police then told him that he would be detained for drug charges and that he would be jailed for 40
years.12

Shirleys testimony was summarized by the RTC as follows:

x x x On February 1, 2004, she was at home when her brother was brought to Precinct 2, Baler[,] Quezon City. On
January 29, 2004, at about 11:00 p.m., she received a text message from Allan Fortea, a policeman, telling her to
call a certain number if she loves her brother. The next day, at about 8:00 a.m., she called Fortea at the number he
gave her. He told her that his brother at Station 2 Baler Quezon City and asked her to produceP200,000.00 as
ransom for her brother. She asked him if he could talk to him. He allowed her and her brother to talk and the latter
pleaded to her for help and cried. Fortea told her not to talk in their dialect and took the phone. Fortea then told her
to see him at SM North Edsa Car Park on January 30, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. Fortea did not come. At about 9:00 p.m.,
she proceeded to Station 2 and met Fortea. He asked her about the money but she told him she cannot afford it.
Her brother was then detained when she failed to give in to the said demand. 13

The RTC, in its decision dated January 29, 2007, found the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal sale
of shabu, and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment. It also ordered the appellant to pay
aP500,000.00 fine.

THE CASE BEFORE THE CA

The appellant appealed his conviction to the CA where his appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. CR. H.C. No. 02726. In
its decision of February 8, 2008, the CA affirmed the RTC decision.

The CA held that the prosecution successfully established all the elements of illegal sale of shabu: PO2 Centeno,
the poseur-buyer, positively identified the appellant as the person who gave him shabu weighing 0.10 gram in
exchange for P200.00. The CA also ruled that the buy-bust team were presumed to have performed their duties
regularly. It added that the appellant failed to impute improper motive on the part of the arresting officers.

The CA further held that the chain of custody over the seized plastic sachet were properly established, even if the
time of the actual marking of the seized item had not been shown.

THE PETITION

In his present petition, the petitioner claims that he was not selling drugs when the police arrested him. He adds
14

that his alibi was corroborated by his sister, Shirley. He also argues that the seized plastic sachet was not properly
marked by the police.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) counters that the police were presumed to have performed their duties in
a regular manner. It further maintains that the chain of custody over the seized drug was not broken. 15

THE COURTS RULING

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

We restate at the outset the constitutional mandate that an accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is
proven beyond reasonable doubt. The burden lies with the prosecution to overcome this presumption of innocence
by presenting the required quantum evidence; the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not rely on the
weakness of the defense. If the prosecution fails to meet the required evidence, the defense does not even need to
present evidence in its own behalf; the presumption prevails and the accused should be declared acquitted. 16

I. No moral certainty on the corpus delicti


A successful prosecution for the sale of illegal drugs requires more than the perfunctory presentation of evidence
establishing each element of the crime, namely: the identities of the buyer and seller, the transaction or sale of the
illegal drug and the existence of the corpus delicti.

In securing or sustaining a conviction under RA No. 9165, the intrinsic worth of these pieces of evidence, especially
the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti, 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.

Thus, 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 accused-appellant;
otherwise, the prosecution for possession or for drug pushing under RA No. 9165 fails. 17

a. The Marking Requirement vis--vis the Chain of Custody Rule

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 the
receipt in the forensic laboratory, to safekeeping and the presentation in court for identification and eventual
destruction.

The Court explained the importance of establishing the chain of custody over the seized drug in the recent case of
People of the Philippines v. Joselito Beran y Zapanta @ "Jose," as follows:
18

The purpose of the requirement of proof of the chain of custody is to ensure that the integrity and evidentiary value
of the seized drug are preserved, as thus dispel unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence. To be
admissible, the prosecution must establish by records or testimony the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit, from
the time it came into the possession of the police officers, until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its
composition, and all the way to the time it was offered in evidence.

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. 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.

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. 19

The records in the present case do not show that the police marked the seized plastic sachet immediately upon
confiscation, or at the police station. Nowhere in the court testimony of PO2 Centeno, or in the stipulated
testimonies of PO3 Chantengco and PO1 Fortea, did they indicate that the seized item had ever been marked.
Notably, the members of the buy-bust team did not also mention that they marked the seized plastic sachet in their
Joint Affidavit of Arrest.

How the apprehending team could have omitted such a basic and vital procedure in the initial handling of the seized
drugs truly baffles and alarms us. We point out that succeeding handlers of the specimen would use the markings
as reference. If at the first or the earliest reasonably available opportunity, the apprehending team did not mark the
seized items, then there was nothing to identify it later on as it passed from hand to hand. Due to the procedural
lapse in the first link of the chain of custody, serious uncertainty hangs over the identification of the seized shabu
that the prosecution introduced into evidence.

We are not unaware that the seized plastic sachet already bore the markings "BC 02-01-04" when it was examined
by Forensic Chemist Jabonillo. 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 required
chain of custody requirement. There was also no stipulation between the parties regarding the circumstances
surrounding this marking. We note in this regard that it is not enough that the seized drug be marked; the marking
must likewise be made in the presence of the apprehended violator. As earlier stated, the police did not at any time
ever hint that they marked the seized drug.

In Lito Lopez v. People of the Philippines we acquitted the accused for failure of the police to mark the seized
20

drugs. The Court had a similar ruling in People of the Philippines v. Merlita Palomares y Costuna; the Court
21

acquitted the accused for the prosecutions failure to clearly establish the identity of the person who marked the
seized drugs; the place where marking was made; and whether the marking had been made in the accuseds
presence. These recent cases show that the Court will not hesitate to free an accused if irregularities attended the
first stage of the chain of custody over the seized drugs.

b. The requirements of paragraph 1, Section 21 of Article II of R.A. No. 9165, and its Implementing Rules and
Regulations

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. [Emphasis ours]

This is implemented by Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations 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; [Emphasis ours]

In the present case, no evidence was produced showing that the members of the buy-bust team had extended
reasonable efforts to comply with these requirements in handling the evidence. The lapse is patent from the
following exchanges during trial:

FISCAL ROGELIO ANTERO:

Q: x x x After the body frisk and the recovery of the buy-bust money from the person of the accused, what happened
next?

PO2 CENTENO:

A: We went to the station and turned over to the desk officer for proper disposition.

xxxx

Q: How about the pieces of evidence you recovered?

A: I also turned it over to the desk officer, sir.

Q: Who was the desk officer?

A: SPO2 Salinel, sir.


Q: What did the desk officer do with the evidence?

A: He designated the investigator. Then, the investigator made the proper request for Crime Lab.

Q: Who was the investigator?

A: PO3 Chantengco.

xxxx

Q: Why do you know that the duty desk officer turned over the pieces of evidence to Chantengco?

A: I was there, sir.

Q: What happened when this pieces of evidence was turned over to the investigator?

A: The investigator made the request for Crime Lab.

Q: After the request for laboratory examination of specimen was made. [W]hat happened next?

A: We immediately brought [sic] to the Crime Lab. for examination. 22

These exchanges further show that the apprehending team never conducted an inventory nor did they photograph
the confiscated item in the presence of the appellant or his counsel, a representative from the media and the
Department of Justice, or an elective official either at the place of seizure, or at the police station. The Joint Affidavit
of the police did not also mention any inventory conducted of any photograph taken. Corollarily, there was no
certificate of inventory or inventory receipt and photographs of the seized drugs attached to the records.

In People v. Gonzales, the police failed to conduct an inventory and to photograph the seized plastic sachet. In
23

acquitting the accused based on reasonable doubt, we explained that [t]he omission of the inventory and
photographing exposed another weakness of the evidence of guilt, considering that the inventory and photographing
to be made in the presence of the accused or his representative, or within the presence of any representative
from the media, Department of Justice or any elected official, who must sign the inventory, or be given a copy of the
inventory were really significant stages of the procedures outlined by the law and its IRR. 24

We recognize that strict compliance with the legal prescriptions of R.A. No. 9165 may not always be possible.
Section 21(a), Article II of the IRR, in fact, 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 cited
justifiable grounds to explain them. In all cases, the prosecution must have established that the integrity and
evidentiary value of the evidence seized had been preserved. 25

These conditions were not met in the present case as the prosecution did not even attempt to offer any justification
for the failure of the apprehending team to follow the prescribed procedures in the handling of the seized drug. We
stress that the justifiable ground for non-compliance must be adequately explained; the Court cannot presume what
these grounds are or that they even exist.

II. No Presumption of Regularity


in the Performance of Official Duties

The CA relied on the presumption that regular duties have been regularly performed in sustaining the appellants
conviction. This presumption of regularity, however, is disputable; any taint of irregularity taints the performance
undertaken and negates the presumption. It cannot by itself overcome the presumption of innocence nor constitute
26

proof beyond reasonable doubt. 27

In the present case, the lack of conclusive identification of the illegal drugs allegedly seized from petitioner due to
the failure of the police to mark, inventory and photograph the seized plastic sachet effectively negated the
presumption of regularity. The procedural lapses by the police put in doubt the identity and evidentiary value of the
seized plastic sachet. Our ruling in People v. Cantalejo on this point is particularly instructive:
28

As a general rule, the testimony of the police officers who apprehended the accused is usually 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.

While 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 is merely just that - a mere presumption
disputable by contrary proof and which when challenged by evidence cannot be regarded as binding truth. 29

In fine, we hold that the totality of the presented evidence do not support a finding of guilt with the certainty that
criminal cases require. The procedural lapses committed by the apprehending team show glaring gaps in the chain
of custody, creating a reasonable doubt on whether the shabu seized from the appellant was the same shabu that
were brought to the crime laboratory for chemical analysis, and eventually offered in court as evidence. In the
absence of concrete evidence on the illegal drug bought and sold, the body of the crime - the corpus delicti - has not
been adequately proven. In effect, the prosecution failed to fully prove the elements of the crime charged. 1wphi1

The Court is one with all the agencies concerned in pursuing a serious and unrelenting campaign against illicit
drugs. But we remind our law enforcers to be ever mindful of the procedures required in the seizure, handling and
safekeeping of confiscated drugs. Observance of these procedures is necessary to dispel any doubt of the outcome
of arrests and buy-bust operations, and to avoid wasting the efforts and the resources in the apprehension and
prosecution of violators of our drug laws.
30

WHEREFORE, in light of all these premises, we REVERSE and SET ASIDE the February 8, 2008 decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR. H.C. No. 02726. Appellant Sonny Sabdula y Amanda is hereby ACQUITTED for
failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He is ordered immediately RELEASED from
detention unless he is otherwise legally confined for another cause.

Let a copy of this Decision be sent the Director, Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City, 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.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.*


Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

G.R. No. 200358 April 7, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GERRY YABLE y USMAN, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

For review of this Court is the appeal filed by Gerry Yable y Usman (Gerry) assailing the 23 May 2011 Decision of 1

the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03303. The CA affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 78, Quezon City finding the accused guilty of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No.
9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002.

The Antecedents

On 3 May 2005, an Information was filed against Gerry before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Quezon City for
violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A No. 9165, to wit:

That on or about the 27th day of April 2005, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, 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, one (1) sachet of white crystalline
substance containing zero point fifteen (0.15) gram of [Methamphetamine] Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. 2

COUNTERSTATEMENT OF FACTS

Version of the Prosecution

Acting on a tip given by a confidential informer, the Quezon City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (QC-ADAC) assembled a
team to conduct a buy-bust operation in Payatas area, where a certain Gerry Yable was alleged to be selling illegal
drugs Police Officer 1 Peggy Lynne Vargas (PO1 Vargas) who was designated to act as poseur-buyer was given a
Five Hundred Peso bill representing the buy-bust money. To mark the buy-bust money, she placed her initials on the
forehead of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. It was planned that PO1 Vargas would be introduced by the informer to
3

Gerry as a buyer. After the exchange of money and shabu, PO1 Vargas would scratch her forehead to indicate the
consummation of the sale and as signal for the back-up team to approach and apprehend Gerry. A pre-operation
report was prepared to coordinate the buy-bust operation with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). 4

At 12:00 o:clock noon of 27 April 2005, the team proceeded to the target area. PO1 Vargas and the informant met
Gerry at Lower Yasmin Street, Payatas, Quezon City. After being introduced, Gerry allegedly asked PO1 Vargas if
she will score and the latter answered "five pesos (Php 5.00) only." Gerry asked for the money and took from his
5

pocket the plastic sachet containing shabu and handed it over to PO1 Vargas. Thereafter, PO1 Vargas made the
pre-arranged signal by scratching her forehead and the back-up policemen approached and introduced themselves
to Gerry. PO2 Joseph Ortiz (PO2 Ortiz) searched Gerry and found in his pocket the five hundred peso (Php500.00)
bill which contained the "PV" initials. PO2 Ortiz apprised Gerry of his right to remain silent and his right to engage
6

the services of a lawyer because they would be filing a case for violation of R.A. No. 9165 against him. Gerry chose
to remain silent and the team boarded him in their vehicle. He was brought to the City Hall of Quezon City to be
turned over to the police investigator. 7

Version of the Defense

Gerry denied the charges against him. He maintained that he was in a store to buy rice when the police officers
passed by while pursuing a certain "Mags." He alleged that he was approached by the policemen and was asked
where "Mags" was. When he answered in the negative, he was made to ride on a motorcycle and was brought to
Quezon City Hall. He further alleged that the witnesses, however, positively identified him as the one selling shabu
8

at Lower Yasmin Street and was the one apprehended by Police Officers Vargas and Ortiz.

Ruling of the RTC

On 28 March 2008, the trial court rendered a Decision finding Gerry guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense
charged. The RTC found that the prosecution succeeded in proving beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Gerry for
violation of Section 5, Article II, R.A. No. 9165. It ruled that the evidence presented during the trial adequately
established that a valid buy-bust operation was conducted by the operatives of the QC-ADAC, in coordination with
PDEA. On the other hand, Gerry failed to present substantial evidence to establish his defense of frame-up. The
RTC ruled that frame-up, as advanced by Gerry, is generally looked upon with disfavor on account of its aridity and
the facility with which an accused could concoct the same to suit his defense. With the positive identification made
9

by the government witnesses as the perpetrator of the crime, his self-serving denial is worthless. Since there was
10

nothing in the record to show that the arresting team and the prosecution witnesses were actuated by improper
motives, their affirmative statements proving Gerrys culpability was respected by the trial court.

With caution by the court because it is easy to contrive and difficult to disprove. Like alibi, frame-up as a defense
had invariably been viewed with disfavor as it is common and standard line of defense in most prosecutions arising
from violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. 11

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA affirmed the Decision of the RTC, upon a finding that all of the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drug
have been sufficiently established by the prosecution. It found credible the statements of prosecution witnesses
PO1Vargas and PO2 Ortiz about what transpired during and after the buy-bust operation. Further, it ruled that the
prosecution has proven as unbroken the chain of custody of evidence. The CA likewise upheld the findings of the
trial court that the buy-bust operation conducted enjoyed the presumption of regularity, absent any showing of ill-
motive on the part of the police operatives who conducted the same.

The CA likewise found Gerrys defenses of denial and frame-up unconvincing and lacked strong corroboration.

Hence, this appeal.

ISSUE

Gerry raised in his brief the following errors on the part of the appellate court, to wit:

The trial court gravely erred in finding the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.

The trial court gravely erred in convicting the accused-appellant despite the prosecutions failure to establish the
chain of custody of the alleged confiscated drug. 12

Our Ruling

The appeal is bereft of merit.

Gerry submits that the trial court and the CA failed to consider the procedural flaws committed by the arresting
officers in the seizure and custody of drugs as embodied in Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II, R.A. No. 9165. Gerry
13

alleges that no physical inventory or photograph was conducted at the crime scene or in his presence. Instead, the
marking of the confiscated drug was done in front of the investigator at the police precinct. Such lapses on the part
of the apprehending officers raises doubt on whether the shabu submitted for laboratory examination and
subsequently presented in court as evidence, was the same one confiscated from Gerry. 14

Relevant to Gerrys case is the procedure to be followed in the custody and handling of the seized dangerous drugs
as outlined in Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II, R.A. No. 9165, which 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 elaborated in Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165,
which states:

(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. (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the aforecited rule authorizes substantial compliance with the procedure to establish a chain of custody, as
long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item is properly preserved by the apprehending officers. In
People v. Pringas, the Court recognized that the strict compliance with the requirements of Section 21 may not
15

always be possible under field conditions; the police operates under varied conditions, and cannot at all times attend
to all the niceties of the procedures in the handling of confiscated evidence.

Here, the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses and exerted efforts to cite justifiable grounds. During the re-
direct examination of PO2 Ortiz, he testified as follows:

Q: Were there no photographs taken?

A: None, Sir.

Q: Why?

A: Because there were many people who created a commotion in the area, Sir.

Q: What commotion are you saying?

A: The people were curious at the time, Sir.

Q: And why was there no barangay official who witnessed the arrest of the accused?

A: We did not see any barangay official, Sir.

Q: Why did you not coordinate first with the barangay officials of the place?

A: We just secured permission, Sir.

Q: But under the provisions of Republic Act No. 9165, you are likewise [directed] to coordinate with the barangay
officials, why did you not coordinate with them?

A: We did not do it anymore, Sir.

Q: Any reason for that?

A: Because according to the informant if we coordinate with the barangay officials, the suspect may come to know
about it, Sir.
16

Moreover, the fact that the marking on the seized item was done at the police station, and not at alleged crime
scene, did not compromise the integrity of the seized evidence. As ruled by this Court in Marquez v. People, the
17
phrase "marking upon immediate confiscation" contemplates even marking at the nearest police station or office of
the apprehending team. What is important is that the seized item marked at the police station is identified as the
same item produced in court.

As correctly ruled by the CA, the prosecution was able to establish the integrity of corpus delicti and the unbroken
chain of custody. PO1 Vargas identified in open court the sachet of shabu that was offered in evidence against
Gerry as the same one she seized from the latter and marked immediately thereafter in the presence of the police
investigator.
18

The police investigator continued the chain when he testified that he saw PO1 Vargas making the appropriate
markings on the sachet, as well as issuance of an inventory receipt as evidence of transfer of custody. 19

At the pre-trial conference, both the prosecution and defense stipulated on the findings of the chemist or laboratory
examination report. The report on the laboratory examination showed that the marking "PV-04-27-05" was indicated
on the seized item. Such marking, as testified by the police investigator, was made by PO1 Vargas in his presence
at the time the evidence was turned over to him. This admission of the parties completed the chain of custody of the
seized item.

Furthermore, this Court has consistently ruled that even in instances where the arresting officers failed to take a
photograph of the seized drugs as required under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, such procedural lapse is not fatal
and will not render the items seized inadmissible in evidence. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of
20

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. In other words, to be admissible in evidence, the prosecution must be able to present
21

through records or testimony, the whereabouts of the dangerous drugs from the time these were seized from the
accused by the arresting officers; turned-over to the investigating officer; forwarded to the laboratory for
determination of their composition; and up to the time these are offered in evidence. For as long as the chain of
custody remains unbroken, as in this case, even though the procedural requirements provided for in Section 21 of
R.A. No. 9165 was not faithfully observed, the guilt of the accused will not be affected.22

The integrity of the evidence is presumed to have been preserved unless there is a showing of bad faith, ill will, or
proof that the evidence has been tampered with. Gerry bears the burden of showing that the evidence was
tampered or meddled with in order to overcome the presumption of regularity in the handling of exhibits by public
officers and the presumption that public officers properly discharged their duties. Gerry in this case failed to present
23

any plausible reason to impute ill motive on the part of the arresting officers. Thus, the testimonies of the
apprehending officers deserve full faith and credit. In fact, Gerry did not even question the credibility of the
24

prosecution .witnesses. He anchored his appeal solely on the alleged broken chain of the custody of the seized
drugs.

On the basis of the aforesaid disquisition, we find no reason to modify or set aside the Decision of the CA. Gerry
was correctly found to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5; Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED and the 23 May 2011 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R CR-HC No.
03303 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, it is hereby
certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to
the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 205227 April 7, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
MARCO P. ALEJANDRO, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

On appeal is the Decision dated November 11, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03483
1

which affirmed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204 convicting appellant
2

of illegal sale of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165
(The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002). In its Resolution dated March 14, 2012, the CA denied the
3

motion for reconsideration filed by appellant.

The Facts

Marco P. Alejandro (appellant), along with Imelda G. Solema and Jenny V. del Rosario, were charged with violation
of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9 l 65 under the following Information:

That on or about the 12th day of July, 2006, in the City of Muntinlupa, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping and aiding
one another, not being authorized by law did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, trade deliver and
give away to another, Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug weighing 98.51 grams contained in one
(1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, in violation of the above-cited law.

Contrary to law. 4

When arraigned, all three accused pleaded not guilty. Upon demurrer to evidence filed by accused Jenny del
Rosario, the trial court rendered judgment acquitting her of the crime charged considering that her mere presence in
the car used by appellant is not indicative of conspiracy in the sale of illegal drugs.
5

At the pre-trial, the parties stipulated on the following:

1. The identity of the accused as the persons charged;

2. The jurisdiction of this Court over the persons of the accused;

3. Police Inspector Ruben Mamaril Apostol Jr. is a member of a PNP Crime Laboratory Office as of July 12,
2006 and he is an expert in Forensic Chemistry;

4. That a request for laboratory examination was made for the specimens allegedly confiscated from the
accused;

5. The existence and authenticity of the request for examination of the seized items and Request for a drug
test on the persons of the accused;

6. That pursuant to the requests for the drug test and examination of the specimens, the corresponding
Regional Crime Laboratory Office, Calabarzon issued two (2) chemistry reports, D-267-06 and CRIM[D]T-
286-06 that subject specimens submitted are positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride; and
7. That only a representative sample of the specimens submitted were examined by the Forensic Chemist
which consist of one (1) transparent sachet containing white crystalline substance in black and red
markings. 6

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented the following factual milieu based on the testimonies of SPO1 Jaime A. Cariaso (poseur-
buyer), SPO1 Norman Jesus P. Platon and Police Inspector Ruben M. Apostol, Jr. (Forensic Chemical Officer):

In the morning of July 11, 2006, a Confidential Informant (CI) went to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
(PDEA) Regional Office 4-A (CALABARZON) at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna. The CI informed
Regional Director P/Supt. Raul L. Bargamento that he was able to set up a deal with a certain "Aida" who directed
him to look for a buyer of 100 grams of shabu for the price of P360,000.00. 7

Immediately, P/Supt. Bargamento instructed Police Chief Inspector Julius Ceasar V. Ablang to form a team who will
conduct a buy-bust operation. PCI Ablang organized the team composed of eleven police officers and made the
proper coordination with PDEA. Since the target area is situated in Barangay Bayanan, Muntinlupa City, Metro
Manila, the team likewise obtained the requisite "Authority to Operate Outside AOR". During the briefing, SPO1
8

Cariaso was designated as poseur-buyer while SPO1 Platon will be his back-up arresting officer. Four pieces of five
hundred peso (P500) bills were then prepared and marked by SPO1 Cariaso. The said bills stacked on the boodle
money were placed inside SPO1 Cariasos belt bag. On the same day, SPO1 Cariaso and SPO1 Platon, along with
the CI, conducted a surveillance of the house of "Aida" and vicinity. Prior to these preparations, the CI had contacted
"Aida" through her cellphone and arranged the 2:00 p.m. meeting/sale transaction the following day. 9

The next day, July 12, 2006, at around 12:00 noon, the team accompanied by the CI boarded two service vehicles
and proceeded to the target area. They arrived at Barangay Bayanan at 1:45 p.m. SPO1 Cariaso and the CI parked
the Toyota Revo infront of the house of "Aida" while SPO1 Platon and the rest of the team, who rode on another
vehicle (Isuzu Crosswind), waited at a distance. As agreed during the briefing, SPO1 Platon positioned himself in a
spot where he could see SPO1 Cariaso. The other police officers posted themselves where they could see SPO1
Platon as the latter will wait for a "missed call" from SPO1 Cariaso.
10

SPO1 Cariaso and the CI alighted from the Revo and went to the gate of the house of "Aida". They called the
attention of a woman whom the CI identified as "Aida". The woman came out of the house and the CI introduced
SPO1 Cariaso to her as the buyer of shabu. After the introduction, the CI left. The woman asked SPO1 Cariaso
where the money is and he opened his belt bag to show her the money. SPO1 Cariaso in turn asked her where the
shabu is and she replied that he should wait for Marco (appellant). SPO1 Cariaso and the woman then went inside
the Revo and waited for appellant. After about five minutes, a Toyota Vios arrived and parked infront of the Revo.
The woman told SPO1 Cariaso that the driver of the Vios was appellant. 11

Appellant alighted from the Vios and went inside the Revo. The woman introduced appellant to SPO1 Cariaso as
the buyer. After appellant ascertained that SPO1 Cariaso had the money with him, he went down and got something
from the Vios. When appellant returned, he was carrying an item wrapped in newspaper. Inside the Revo, appellant
uncovered the item and SPO1 Cariaso saw a transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance
which appellant handed to him. Appellant then demanded for the money. SPO1 Cariaso gave appellant the belt bag
containing the marked bills and boodle money and quickly pressed the call key of his cellphone, the pre-arranged
signal for the team that the sale had been consummated. 12

Within fifteen seconds, SPO1 Platon rushed towards the Revo and the rest of the team followed. The team
introduced themselves as PDEA agents. SPO1 Cariaso arrested appellant and the woman ("Aida") who was later
identified as Imelda G. Solema. Meanwhile, SPO1 Platon arrested the woman passenger in the Vios who was later
identified as Jenny del Rosario.

The seized plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance was marked by SPO1 Cariaso with his initials
"EXH. A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" and signed it at the bottom. SPO1 Cariaso also recovered the marked P500 bills and
boodle money from appellant. The three accused and the confiscated items were brought to the PDEA Regional
Office in Camp Vicente Lim. 13

At the PDEA regional office, appellant and his co-accused were booked and the confiscated items were inventoried
by the investigator in the presence of SPO1 Cariaso, a media representative and a barangay councilor. A request for
laboratory examination of the seized transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance, weighing
98.51 grams, was prepared and signed by P/Supt. Bargamento. There were also requests made for the physical
examination and drug test of the arrested persons. The request for laboratory examination and the specimen
marked "EXH. A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" were brought by SPO1 Cariaso to the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Regional Crime Laboratory Office 4A. Result of the chemical analysis performed by Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr. showed
that the said specimen is positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. Appellant and his co-accused
likewise were found positive for methamphetamine based on screening and confirmatory test done on their urine
samples. 14

The prosecution presented and offered the following evidence: (1) Pre-Operation Report dated July 12, 2006
submitted by PCI Ablang (Team Leader) and noted by P/Supt. Bargamento; (2) Authority to Operate Outside AOR
dated July 12, 2006 granted by PDEA Police Chief Inspector Emmanuel Salvador L. Enriquez; (3) Certificate of
Coordination dated July 12, 2006 from PDEA; (4) Request for Laboratory Examination dated July 12, 2006 of
specimen marked "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" with signature of poseur-buyer; (5) Request for Drug Test of
arrested persons dated July 12, 2006 signed by P/Supt. Bargamento; (6) Request for Physical/Medical Examination
of arrested persons signed by P/Supt. Bargamento; (7) Chemistry Report No. D-267-06 dated July 13, 2006
submitted by Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr. showing positive findings on specimen marked "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006"; (8)
Chemistry Report No. CRIMDT-268-06 to 270-06 submitted by Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr. showing positive findings on
the urine samples taken from appellant and his co-accused; (9) Certification dated July 12, 2006 issued by Medico-
Legal Officer Dr. Roy A. Camarillo of the PNP Regional Crime Laboratory 4A stating that "there are no external signs
of recent application of any form of trauma noted during the time of examination" on the persons of appellant and his
co-accused; (10) Certificate of Inventory prepared by PCI Ablang and signed/witnessed by a media representative
(Lyka Manalo) and Barangay Councilor (Jerusalem Jordan); (11) One transparent plastic sachet containing white
crystalline substance with markings "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" and signed by poseur-buyer SPO1 Cariaso; (12)
Affidavit of Poseur-Buyer dated July 13, 2006 executed by SPO1 Cariaso; (13) Affidavit of Back-Up/Arresting Officer
dated July 13, 2006 executed by SPO1 Platon; (14) Booking Sheet and Arrest Reports of appellant and his co-
accused containing their fingerprints, but which only Imelda Solema signed while appellant and Jenny del Rosario
refused to sign; and (15) four pieces P500 bills marked money with serial numbers CM180235, YA867249,
ZS853938 and ZW337843. 15

Version of the Defense

Appellants defense is anchored on the claim that no buy-bust took place. He testified that on July 12, 2006, at
around 1:30 p.m., he went to the house of his co-accused Imelda Solema whom he knows is called "Im". The
purpose of his visit to Im was to rent her apartment because his girlfriend is arriving from Japan. Along the way, he
saw Jenny del Rosario with her baby and let them rode on his car (Vios) as they were going the same way. Upon
reaching Ims house at 1:45 p.m., he parked his vehicle infront of said house but a barangay tanod told him not to
park there as it was a towing area. And so he parked his Vios inside the garage of Ims house which has a steel gate
and knocked at its door. Meanwhile, Jenny del Rosario was left inside the Vios.16

Upon entering the house of Im, appellant claimed he was immediately grabbed by a man who made him lie down.
He would later learn at PDEA that the mans name is "Toto" and his female companion is Maam Carla. These PDEA
agents took his belt bag containing cash (P48,000) and his jewelry. He was also handcuffed and brought inside his
car where Toto, Ablang and a driver also boarded. He saw SPO1 Cariaso for the first time at the PDEA office. He
likewise does not know SPO1 Platon. At the PDEA office, appellant and his co-accused were photographed after
they were made to change clothes. Appellant further claimed that PCI Ablang demanded money (P1 million) from
him in exchange for his release. When he was unable to give such amount, they just detained him and his co-
accused. Their urine samples were taken and submitted for drug testing. 17

As to the shabu allegedly seized from him in a buy-bust operation, appellant vehemently denied having such drug in
his possession at the time. They have already been detained for two days when they were photographed with the
said item. The taking of photographs was done in the presence of PDEA personnel, barangay officials from
Canlubang and the media. 18

On cross-examination, appellant explained that he had talked to his lawyer regarding the filing of a case against the
PDEA officers who tried to extort money from him but his lawyer suggested they should first do something about this
case. He added that he does not know of any reason why SPO1 Cariaso is accusing him of selling an illegal drug. 19

Imelda G. Solema testified that on July 12, 2006 between 1:00 to 2:00 in the afternoon, she was inside her house
watching TV together with her seven-year-old son when some persons carrying long firearms arrived asking if she is
"Aida". She shouted to them that she is not "Aida" but "Im." These armed persons searched her house for shabu
and when she shouted she was pushed into a chair. After ten minutes of searching, nothing was found in her house.
When somebody knocked on the door, one of the armed men opened it and they saw appellant. They pulled
appellant inside, poked a gun at him, made him lie down and handcuffed him. She and appellant were brought
outside the house and boarded into the Revo. They waited for the other car for the armed men to board appellant
there. Thereafter, they were brought to the PDEA office in Canlubang where they were detained. 20

On cross-examination, Imelda Solema admitted that appellant was her friend even prior to their arrest because he
was the "kumpare" of her sister. Appellant went to her house at the time as they had an agreement that he will rent
one of the units of her apartment.21

The defense presented another witness, Rowena S. Gutierrez, a siomai/sago vendor who allegedly saw what
transpired at the house of Imelda Solema from a distance of 6-8 meters. She testified that on July 12, 2006 at past
2:00 p.m., a red car immediately parked infront of the house of Imelda Solema, whom they call "Im." A man and a
woman (whom she later learned were police officers) alighted from said car and entered the house of Im. Not too
long after, a silver car also arrived which was supposed to park in the area but there were barangay tanods and so it
parked instead in the garage of the mother of Im. She later learned that the driver of the silver car was appellant.
Appellant went out of his car and proceeded to Ims house. When appellant was already inside Ims house, two
vehicles (Revo and Crosswind) suddenly arrived and there were armed men who alighted from said vehicles and
entered Ims house. Thereafter, she heard Im crying as she was being held by a woman and a man. The armed men
forced Im and appellant into the Revo. The persons left were a female and a child who eventually drove the silver
car.
22

On cross-examination, the witness admitted that the relatives of her friend Im asked her to testify because the
others who also saw the incident were afraid to do so. 23

Ruling of the RTC

The RTC found that the police officers complied with all the requirements in conducting a buy-bust operation, and
that their testimonies were spontaneous, straightforward and consistent on all material points. On the other hand,
the RTC observed that the testimonies of defense witnesses do not jibe or are inconsistent with each other. It held
that appellants denial of the crime charged is a negative self-serving evidence and cannot prevail over the positive
and straightforward testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution who, being police officers, are presumed to
have performed their duties in accordance with law, and who have no reason to fabricate the charges against the
accused.

Convinced that appellant and his co-accused Imelda Solema had conspired in selling shabu, the RTC noted that it
was the latter who called up the former about the offer of the poseur-buyer SPO1 Cariaso to buy shabu. Appellant
thus brought the pack of shabu to be sold to SPO1 Cariaso, unaware of the entrapment plan of the police officers.
As to their warrantless arrest, the RTC held that such arrest was legal since the accused were caught in flagrante
delicto selling shabu, a dangerous drug, to a poseur-buyer who turned out to be a police officer, in a legitimate buy-
bust operation.

Accordingly, the RTC rendered judgment as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered and finding the accused MARCO ALEJANDRO y PINEDA and IMELDA
SOLEMA y GUTIERREZ GUILTY of violating Sec. 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 beyond
reasonable doubt, they are sentenced to LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to suffer all the accessory penalties provided
by law and to pay a fine of ONE MILLION PESOS (Php 1,000,000.00) each with subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency.

The Acting Branch Clerk of Court is directed to transmit the subject "shabu" contained in a transparent plastic sachet
which was marked as Exhibit "J" to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for proper disposition.

Accused MARCO ALEJANDRO y PINEDA is ordered committed to the National Bilibid Prisons and accused
IMELDA SOLEMA y GUTIERREZ is ordered committed to the Philippine Correctional for Women until further orders.

The preventive imprisonment undergone by the accused shall be credited in their favor.

SO ORDERED. 24

Ruling of the CA
By Decision dated November 11, 2011, the CA affirmed appellants conviction. The CA rejected appellants
argument that there is no proof beyond reasonable doubt that a sale transaction of illegal drugs took place as there
appeared to be no prior meeting or conversation between him and appellant, and hence they could not have agreed
on a price certain for a specified weight of drugs to be sold. It stressed that from the prosecutions narration of facts,
the basis of the meeting between the poseur-buyer and "Aida" was the arrangement made by the CI for the sale of
shabu; hence there was already an agreement for the sale of 100 grams of shabu for the amount of P360,000.00.

The CA was likewise convinced that the corpus delicti of the crime has been established. It held that the failure to
strictly comply with the requirements of Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 does not necessarily render an
accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized from him inadmissible.

Our Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

Firmly established in our jurisprudence is the rule 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. 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. 25

What determines if there was, indeed, a sale of dangerous drugs in a buy-bust operation is proof of the concurrence
of all the elements of the offense, to wit: (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. 26

The above elements were satisfactorily established by the prosecution. Poseur-buyer SPO1 Cariaso identified
appellant as the seller of shabu. While the police officers were initially unaware of the identity of appellant, as their
CI had only informed them about appellants co-accused, "Aida" (Imelda Solema) with whom the CI had set up a
drug deal for 100 grams of shabu for the price of P360,000.00, appellants presence at the buy-bust scene, and his
act of delivering the shabu directly to SPO1 Cariaso clearly identified him as the seller who himself demanded and
received the payment from SPO1 Cariaso after giving the shabu to the latter.

Appellants arrival at the house of Imelda Solema at the appointed time of the sale transaction arranged the previous
day by the CI, and with Imelda Solema informing SPO1 Cariaso that they should wait for appellant after SPO1
Cariaso asked for the shabu, were clear indications that they acted in coordination and conspiracy to effect the sale
of shabu to a buyer brought by the CI and who turned out to be a police officer detailed with the PDEA. SPO1
Cariaso placed his initials and date of buy-bust on the plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance sold to
him by appellant. After Forensic Chemical Officer Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr. conducted a chemical analysis of the said
specimen, the result yielded positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. The same
specimen was presented in court as evidence after it was properly identified by SPO1 Cariaso and Pol. Insp.
Apostol, Jr. to be the same substance handed by appellant to SPO1 Cariaso and examined by Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr.

SPO1 Platon corroborated the testimony of SPO1 Cariaso that they conducted a buy-bust operation as he
positioned himself across the street 15 meters from the house of Imelda Solema. From his vantage, SPO1 Platon
saw the following transpired: SPOI Cariaso accompanied by the CI in front of the house of Imelda Solema; SPO1
Cariaso conversing with Imelda Solema; the subsequent arrival of appellant on board the Vios; appellant going
inside the Revo where SPO1 Cariaso and Imelda Solema waited for him; appellant getting something from the Vios
and returning to the Revo carrying the said item. Upon hearing the call from SPO1 Cariasos cellphone, SPO1
Platon immediately proceeded to the scene and arrested Jenny del Rosario who was still inside the Vios. At that
moment, SPO1 Cariaso had already arrested appellant and Imelda Solema, confiscated the transparent plastic
sachet containing white crystalline substance and recovered the marked money from appellant.

Clearly, all the elements of the crime were established by both the oral and object evidence presented in court. It is
settled that in cases involving violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act, credence is given to prosecution witnesses
who are police officers for they enjoy the presumption of having performed their duties in a regular manner, unless,
of course, there is evidence to the contrary suggesting ill-motive on their part or deviation from the regular
performance of their duties. Since no proof of such ill-motive on the part of the PDEA buy-bust team was adduced
27

by appellant, the RTC and CA did not err in giving full faith and credence to the prosecutions account of the buy-
bust operation. This Court has repeatedly stressed that a buy-bust operation (which is a form of entrapment) is a
valid means of arresting violators of R.A. No. 9165. 28
Appellant assails the CA in not correctly interpreting the requirements set forth in Section 21, Article II of R.A. No.
9165 and its implementing rules and regulations. He harps on the failure to immediately mark the seized shabu at
the scene of the incident and photograph the same, and the inventory of the confiscated items which was not shown
to have been done in the presence of the accused. As to the absence of testimony by the investigator and the
receiving employee of the PNP Regional Crime Laboratory, appellant argues this is fatal to the case of the
prosecution. He thus contends that the chain of custody was broken in this case.

We sustain the CAs ruling on the chain of custody issue.

Under Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which implements R.A. No. 9165,
"chain of custody" is defined 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. 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.

Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 laid down the procedure for the custody and disposition of confiscated, seized
or surrendered dangerous drugs.

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 twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment, the same shall be submitted to the PDEA Forensic Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative
examination;

(3) A certification of the forensic laboratory examination results, which shall be done under oath by the
forensic laboratory examiner, shall be issued within twenty-four (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 twenty-four
(24) hours;

xxxx

On the other hand, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 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[.] (Emphasis supplied.)
In this case, while SPO1 Cariaso testified that he immediately marked the transparent plastic sachet containing
white crystalline substance sold to him by appellant, there was no statement as to whether such marking was made
at the place of arrest. From the records it is clear that such marking was done upon reaching the PDEA office before
its turnover to the investigator on duty. What is important is that the seized specimen never left the custody of SPO1
Cariaso as he was present throughout the physical inventory being conducted by the said investigator.

This Court has already ruled in several cases that the failure of the prosecution to show that the police officers
conducted the required physical inventory and photograph of the evidence confiscated pursuant to the guidelines, is
not fatal. It does not automatically render accused-appellants arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him
inadmissible. 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 of the accused. 29

Records reveal that only the marked money was photographed at the PDEA office. The Certificate of Inventory,
though not signed by the accused, was duly signed by team leader PCI Ablang, a representative from the media
and a barangay councilor. We thus find substantial compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165
and IRR.

Time and again, jurisprudence is consistent in stating that substantial compliance with the procedural aspect of the
chain of custody rule does not necessarily render the seized drug items inadmissible. In the instant case, although
30

the police officers did not strictly comply with the requirements of Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, their
noncompliance did not affect the evidentiary weight of the drugs seized from appellant as the chain of custody of the
evidence was shown to be unbroken under the circumstances of the case.

In the case of People v. Kamad, the Court enumerated the links that the prosecution must establish in the chain of
31

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. 32

The first link in the chain of custody starts with the seizure of the transparent plastic sachet containing shabu during
the buy-bust operation. Records show that from the time appellant handed to SPO1 Cariaso the said item, only
SPO1 Cariaso was in possession of the same until it was brought to the PDEA office. SPO1 Cariaso himself marked
the said sachet of shabu with his initials and date of buy-bust: "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006." While the marking was
not immediately made at the crime scene, it does 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. 33

The second link is the turnover of the shabu at the PDEA office. SPO1 Cariaso testified that he turned over the
seized plastic sachet containing shabu with his markings "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" to the investigator who
proceeded with the inventory thereof, along with the marked money also confiscated from appellant. He was present
next to the investigator while the latter was conducting the inventory.

The third link constitutes the delivery of the request for laboratory examination and the specimen to the PNP
Regional Crime Laboratory. It was likewise SPO1 Cariaso who brought the said request and the specimen to the
PNP Regional Crime Laboratory on the same day. He personally turned over the specimen marked "EXH A J.A.C.
July 12, 2006" to the receiving clerk as evidenced by the stamp receipt on the said request bearing the time and
date received as "10:25 PM July 12, 2006." 34

The fourth link seeks to establish that the specimen submitted for laboratory examination is the one presented in
court. Forensic Chemical Officer Pol. Insp. Apostol, Jr. testified that the transparent plastic sachet containing white
crystalline substance which was marked "EXH A J.A.C. July 12, 2006", was given to him by the receiving clerk.
Within twenty-four hours, he conducted the chemical analysis by taking a representative sample from the specimen,
even explaining in detail the process of testing the specimen for shabu. He identified the specimen with markings
"EXH. A J.A.C. July 12, 2006" presented as evidence in court (Exhibit "J") as the same specimen he examined and
which he found positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. 1wphi1

The non-presentation as witnesses of other persons such as the investigator and the receiving clerk of the PNP
Regional Crime Laboratory is not a crucial point against the prosecution. The matter of presentation of witnesses by
the prosecution is not for the court to decide. The prosecution has the discretion as to how to present its case and it
has the right to choose whom it wishes to present as witnesses. Further, there is nothing in R.A. No. 9165 or in its
35

implementing rules, which requires each and every one 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." 36

With the unbroken chain of custody duly established by the prosecution evidence, the CA did not err in giving the
same full credence in contrast to the denial by appellant who failed to substantiate his allegation of frame-up and
extortion. Frame-up, like alibi, is generally viewed with caution by the Court because it is easy to contrive and
difficult to disprove. It is a common and standard line of defense in prosecutions of violations of the Dangerous
Drugs Act. To substantiate such defense, the evidence must be clear and convincing and should show that the
37

members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty.
Otherwise, the police officers' testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit. No such evidence was
38

presented by appellant in this case. The CA even quoted in part the decision of the RTC which highlighted the
irreconcilable inconsistencies in the testimonies of defense witnesses on what transpired during the buy-bust
operation.

Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, the penalty of life imprisonment to death and fine, ranging
fromP500,000.00 to 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. Hence, the RTC,
as affirmed by the CA, correctly imposed the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine ofP1,000,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the present appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated November 11, 2011 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-GR. CR-H.C. No. 03483 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

With costs against the accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 206770 April 2, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
NOEL PRAJES and ALIPA MALA, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before the Court is an appeal from the Decision dated May 30, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB
1

CR-HC No. 00462, which affirmed the Decision dated June 29, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City,
2

Branch 15, finding Noel Prajes (Prajes) and Alipa Mala (Mala) (accused-appellants) guilty for violation of Section 5,
Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Antecedents

The accused-appellants were accused of violating Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 via an Information filed with
the RTC of Cebu and docketed as Crim. Case No. CBU-63836. The accusatory portion of the Information reads:

That sometime on 04 September 2002, in the City of Cebu, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, conniving and confederating with each other and mutually helping one another,
with deliberate intent, did then and there sell, trade, dispense, deliver and/or give away to a National Bureau of
Investigation Operative who posed as buyer: White Crystalline substances having a total net weight of 195.6580
grams placed inside three (3) transparent plastic packs: positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous
drug locally known as shabu, without authority of law. 3

The accused-appellants pleaded "not guilty" when arraigned. After pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued. 4

According to the prosecution, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Cebu City received reports that the
accused-appellants were engaged in the sale of illegal drugs. Following surveillance operations conducted during
the last week of August 2002, a buy-bust operation was organized by the NBI for September 4, 2002. 5

Thus, at around 1:00 p.m. on September 4, 2002, NBIs informant, Rene Sabayton (Sabayton) transacted with the
accused-appellants for a supposed buyers purchase of shabu weighing 200 grams for P180,000.00. At 4:00 p.m.,
6

the buy-bust team, headed by Senior Agent Atty. Angelito Magno (Atty. Magno) and composed of NBI Supervising
Agent Vicente Minguez (SA Minguez), Special Investigator Teodoro Saavedra (SI Saavedra), SI Ray Tumalon (SI
Tumalon), SI Danilo Garay and SA Rennan Oliva, proceeded to Kinasang-an, Pardo, Cebu City where the purchase
would be made. SI Tumalon was designated the poseur-buyer. Atty. Magno prepared the buy-bust money
amounting to P4,500.00, composed of nine P500.00 bills dusted with fluorescent powder and which were combined
with boodle money. 7

As previously arranged with Sabayton, Prajes met up with Sabayton and SI Tumalon in a makeshift house in
Kinasang-an, where Mala later joined them. Since Prajes had not brought with him the illegal drugs to be sold, the
group proceeded to his fathers house which was only 15 to 20 meters away from the makeshift house and there, SI
8

Tumalon received the illegal drugs from Prajes.

While they were at the ground floor of the house, Prajes handed to SI Tumalon two packs of shabu having a total
weight of 100 grams. When SI Tumalon pointed out that he needed 200 grams, Prajes instructed Mala to produce
more stock. Mala left the house, then later came back with another pack, which he handed to SI Tumalon.
Thereafter, SI Tumalon gave one bundle of the buy-bust money to Prajes, and the other bundle to Mala. 9
Upon the accused-appellants receipt of the buy-bust money, SI Tumalon introduced himself to them as an NBI
agent. SI Tumalon made a "missed call" to SA Minguezs phone, the teams pre-agreed signal to indicate that the
sale had been consummated, and then arrested the accused-appellants. Soon thereafter, the other members of the
10

buy-bust team arrived. The accused-appellants were handcuffed and brought to the NBI office, where their
photographs and fingerprints were taken. At the NBI office, SI Tumalon handed the buy-bust money and three
11

packs of shabu to SI Saavedra, who placed his markings on the packs of shabu. SI Saavedra also prepared the
letter-request for examination of the illegal drugs, which he personally turned over to Chemist Rommel
Paglinawan of the Forensic Chemistry Section, Central Visayas Regional Office of the NBI. A laboratory
12

examination of the three packs sold by the accused-appellants to SI Tumalon confirmed that the specimen
contained methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. An ultraviolet examination performed by the NBI also
confirmed the presence of fluorescent powder on the accused-appellants hands.

The accused-appellants denied the charge against them. Prajes claimed that at about 4:00 p.m. on September 4,
2002, he was sleeping at his house in Kinasang-an when a neighbor, Renante Paradero (Paradero), woke him up to
inform him that some persons were looking for him. He then proceeded to Paraderos house and there saw
Sabayton, whom he had previously met in a "sniffing session" and who had called him up at around 1:00 p.m. on
September 4, 2002 for the purchase of shabu. Sabayton was with two companions, who inquired from Prajes about
the purchase. Prajes, Sabayton and his two companions then proceeded to the house of Prajes father, where
Prajes received the drugs from a person sent by a certain "Alex". Prajes handed the pack of shabu to Sabayton,
then was immediately handcuffed by SI Tumalon. Sabayton hit Prajes handcuffed right hand with money that was
brought by the buy-bust team. Thereafter, Prajes was taken to the NBI Office.

For Malas defense, witness Magdalena Abarquez claimed that at around 4:00 p.m. on September 4, 2002, she saw
Mala enter the house of Prajes. When he tried to leave the house, he was prevented by someone who was inside
the house. 13

Sabayton was called on the witness stand by the defense as a hostile witness. He claimed that he was arrested by
NBI operatives on September 3, 2002. While at the NBI office, the operatives asked for a gift or "regalo" by giving
names of persons whom they could arrest, in exchange for his freedom. Thus, he gave the name of Prajes and
coordinated with the latter for the drug purchase. After Prajes presented the shabu to Sabayton during the buy-bust
14

operation, he called on Mala to test and sniff the shabu. Before the latter could do so, SI Tumalon pointed a gun at
the accused-appellants and handcuffed them. When Prajes refused to receive the buy-bust money, SI Tumalon
slapped the money on Prajes handcuffed hands. Notwithstanding Sabaytons participation in the buy-bust which led
to the arrest of the accused-appellants, he was neither released from jail nor relieved from prosecution for his
violation of R.A. No. 9165.15

The RTC Ruling

On June 29, 2004, the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 15, rendered a Decision finding the accused-appellants guilty for
16

violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, and sentencing them to each suffer the penalty of life imprisonment
and to pay fine of P500,000.00. Dissatisfied with the trial courts ruling, the accused-appellants appealed to the CA.
17

The CA Ruling

In a Decision dated May 30, 2012, the CA affirmed in toto the decision of the RTC. The appellate court found no
18

credence in the denials that were posed by the accused-appellants. Instead, it found credible the evidence
presented by the prosecution to prove the elements of the crime of illegal sale of drugs, as well as its showing that
there was sufficient compliance by the NBI operatives with the rule on chain of custody.

The Present Appeal

Hence, the present appeal wherein the accused-appellants insist on the prosecutions failure to prove their guilt
beyond reasonable doubt. The accused-appellants also question the subject drugs identity and the NBIs
observance of the rule on the chain of custody. They argue that it was unclear as to who actually marked the subject
packs of shabu, and that there were no photographs and physical inventory of the seized items, even when the
same are required under the law.

This Courts Ruling

The appeal is bereft of merit.


At the outset, the Court reiterates the settled rule that "the findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies
of the witnesses, and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well as its conclusions anchored on said
findings are accorded respect if not conclusive effect. This is truer if such findings were affirmed by the appellate
court. When the trial courts findings have been affirmed by the appellate court, x x x, said findings are generally
binding upon us[,]" save in settled exceptions such as: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd
19

or impossible; (2) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the findings are grounded entirely on
speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the CA is based on misapprehension of facts; (5)
when the CA, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions
of both appellant and appellee; (6) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based; (7) when the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and
which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and (8) when the findings of fact of the CA are
premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record. Upon review, the Court has
20

determined that the present case does not fall under any of these exceptions. We find no cogent reason to deviate
from the factual findings, and consequent rulings, of the trial and appellate courts.

On the issue of chain of custody, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 mandates that "[t]he apprehending team having initial
custody and control of the [seized] 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[.]" In relation thereto, Section 21 of the laws Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) provides in part:

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. x x x:

(a) x x x 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[.]

These "[s]tatutory 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." 21

In a line of cases, the Court has nonetheless explained that "while the chain of custody should ideally be perfect, in
reality it is not, as it is almost always impossible to obtain an unbroken chain." The limitation on chain of custody is
22

also recognized in the afore-quoted Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165s IRR, as it states that non-compliance with the
rules requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are
properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody
over said items. In resolving drug cases, we then repeatedly emphasize 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." 23

On the issue of the subject drugs marking as part of the chain of custody requirement, the accused-appellants point
out that SI Tumalon and SI Saavedra both named SI Saavedra as the one who marked the seized drugs, but
witnesses SA Minguez and Atty. Magno each testified that it was SI Tumalon and the forensic chemist, respectively,
who effected such marking. The Court, however, agrees with the CAs observation that although there were
conflicting accounts by the prosecution witnesses as to the person who actually marked the seized drugs, the failure
of SA Minguez and Atty. Magno to identify the said person could be readily explained by the fact that they had no
actual participation in the evidences marking. As against their conflicting statements, what were significant were the
testimonies of SI Tumalon and SI Saavedra, being the persons who actually seized, endorsed and marked the
evidence. Both agreed that following the accused-appellants arrest, the seized packs of shabu were handed by SI
Tumalon to SI Saavedra, who was the one who placed the markings on the evidence, before the same were
24

brought to the laboratory for examination. As aptly explained by the appellate court:

SA Minguez may have incorrectly assumed that it was SI Tumalon, their poseur-buyer, who made the markings on
the packs of shabu that were confiscated in the ensuing confusion. However, SI Tumalon himself testified that he
turned-over the drugs to SA Saavedra. Atty. Magnos statement that it was "maybe our Forensic Chemist" who made
the markings on the three packs is inconsequential when considered with the positive testimonies of SI Tumalon
and SA Saavedra. SA Minguez and Atty. Magno assumed supporting roles. It was SI Tumalon who was in the thick
of things so to speak, as he was the poseur-buyer and he was the one who took the shabu from accused-appellants
and handed it to SA Saavedra for marking. Moreover, SA Saavedras identification of his own handwriting puts any
doubt to rest. (Citations omitted)
25

The fact that the marking was performed by SA Saavedra only upon the buy-bust teams arrival at the NBI office did
not adversely affect the prosecutions case against the accused-appellants. Given the situation at the house where
the accused-appellants were caught in flagrante delicto and then arrested by the buy-bust team, the failure of SA
Saavedra to mark the seized drugs at the said site was justified. In his testimony before the trial court, SA Minguez
described that after the accused-appellants arrest, their neighbors interfered and rallied for the accused-appellants,
even compelling members of the buy-bust team inside the house to seek the immediate aid of their peers so that
they could leave the premises. 26

Even the failure of the prosecution to present a physical inventory and photograph of the seized drugs did not
render inadmissible the packs of shabu that were seized from the accused-appellants, especially as we consider
that the integrity and evidentiary value of the drugs did not appear to have been compromised. This was similar with
the Court's ruling in People v. Torres and Ambre v. People, wherein we affirmed the conviction of the accused
27 28

notwithstanding some deviations from the required procedure on physical inventory and photographs of the seized
items.1wphi1

As against the accused-appellants' denial, an inherently weak defense, the evidence presented by the prosecution
deserves credence. The following elements of illegal sale of shabu were sufficiently established during the trial: (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. During a planned buy-bust operation, SI Tumalon served as a poseur-
29

buyer and was able to successfully purchase packs of shabu weighing 195 grams, more or less, from the accused-
appellants for a total consideration of P180,000.00. The payment was handed to the accused-appellants by SI
Tumalon. An examination conducted by the Forensic Chemistry Section, Central Visayas Regional Office, NBI in
Capitol Site, Cebu City, confirmed that the packs contained methylamphetamine hydrochloride. There was nothing
30

on record which would indicate that the substance purchased by SI Tumalon from the accused-appellants during the
buy-bust operation was different from the subject of the NBI Forensic Chemistry Section's examination, and that
which was eventually presented by the prosecution in court to establish their case against the accused-appellants.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated May 30, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB CR-HC No. 00462 is
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice
Chief Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 207664 June 25, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GIL SALVIDAR y GARLAN, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

REYES, J.:

For review is the Decision rendered by the Court of Appeals (CA) on October 31, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No.
1 2

04989 affirming, albeit with modification as to the wordings of one of the penalties imposed, the Decision dated April
3

11, 2011 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 120 in Criminal Case Nos. C-78532-33,
convicting Gil Salvidar y Garlan (accused-appellant) for violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act
4 5

(R.A.) No. 9165. 6

Factual Antecedents

The informations filed before the RTC against the accused-appellant partially read as follows:

CRIM CASE NO. 78532


Violation of Section 5, Art. II, RA 9165

"That on or about the 12th day of November 2007 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, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously sell and deliver to PO3 RAMON GALVEZ, who posed, as buyer, ten (10) heat-sealed transparent plastic
sachets each containing dried MARIJUANA fruiting tops weighing 0.37 gram, 0.35 gram, 0.40 gram, 0.28 gram, 0.35
gram, 0.36 gram, 0.32 gram, 0.36 gram, 0.67 gram & 0.57 gram, a dangerous drug, without the corresponding
license or prescription therefore, knowing the same to be such.

Contrary to law."

CRIM CASE NO. 78533


Violation of Section 11, Art. II, RA 9165

"That on or about the 12th day of November 2007, in Caloocan City[,] Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being authorized by law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control one (1) transparent plastic box containing dried
MARIJUANA fruiting tops weighing 29.01 grams, when subjected for laboratory examination gave positive result to
the tests of Marijuana, a dangerous drug.

Contrary to law." 7

During arraignment, the accused-appellant entered a "not guilty" plea. Pre-trial then ensued. Since the two cases
were filed against the same accused and revolve around the same facts and evidence, they were consolidated and
tried jointly.

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution offered the following as witnesses: (a) Police Officer 3 Ramon Galvez (PO3 Galvez), the poseur-
buyer in the buy-bust operation conducted against the accused-appellant; (b) PO2 Randulfo Hipolito (PO2 Hipolito),
likewise a member of the buy-bust operation; (c) Senior Police Officer 1 Fernando Moran (SPO1 Moran), then the
investigator-on-duty to whom the accused-appellant and the seized evidence were turned over at the police station;
and (d) Police Chief Inspector Albert S. Arturo (PCI Arturo), Forensic Chemical Officer of the Northern Police District
Crime Laboratory Office, Caloocan City, who conducted the examination on the evidence seized from the accused-
appellant.

PO3 Galvez testified that on November 12, 2007, he was ordered by their chief to conduct a surveillance operation
to verify reported illegal drug selling activities in Don Antonio Street, Barangay19, Caloocan City. A confidential
informant told the police that a certain "Keempee," who would later on be identified as the herein accused-appellant,
was notoriously selling marijuanain the area. A buy-bust team was thereafter formed. PO3 Galvez was designated
as the poseur-buyer, PO3 Fernando Modina (PO3 Modina) as team leader, and PO2 Hipolito as back-up member. A
hundred peso bill, marked with PO3 Galvezs initials, was prepared. To send a signal to the other members of the
buy-bust team of the consummation of the transaction with the accused-appellant, PO3 Galvez was instructed to
throw a lit cigarette.
8

The buy-bust team proceeded to the target area. PO3 Galvez and the informant saw the accused-appellant near the
front door of his house, stripping marijuana leaves. The rest of the team remained in the perimeter. PO3 Galvez
approached the house, uttered "Keempee, pakuha nga ng damo, halagang isang daan," and gave the latter the
100.00 marked money. The accused-appellant then held ten (10) pieces of plastic, which appeared to contain
marijuana and white pieces of paper, placed them inside a Marlboro pack, and handed them all to PO3 Galvez.
When PO3 Galvez threw a lit cigarette, PO2 Hipolito joined him in arresting the accused-appellant, who was
apprised of his constitutional rights. After a further search, one transparent plastic box containing what likewise
appeared to be dried marijuana leaves, one plastic sachet with white pieces of paper, and a few empty transparent
plastic sachets were also seized from the accused-appellant. 9

PO3 Galvez marked the ten (10) plastic sachets with "GSG/RG 11/12/07" representing his and the accused-
appellants initials and the date the imprint was made. The rest of the items seized were marked with "GSG/RH," the
last two letters representing PO2 Hipolitos initials. The accused-appellant and the seized items were thereafter
taken to the police station and turned over to SPO1 Moran, who prepared the letter request for laboratory
examination. The crime laboratory tested the seized items and found the same to be marijuana. 10

PO2 Hipolito corroborated PO3 Galvezs testimony about the conduct of a buy-bust operation and the turnover of
the accused-appellant and the seized items to the investigator at the police station. Additionally, PO2 Hipolito stated
that he held the accused-appellant whilePO3 Galvez was marking some of the seized items. The accused-appellant
was turned over to PO3 Modina upon the latters arrival, while PO2 Hipolito marked the rest of the seized items. 11

The prosecution and the defense entered into stipulations and admissions of facts anent:

(a) SPO1 Morans (1) having caused the buy-bust money to be photographed; (2) receipt, while at the police
station, of the person of the accused-appellant and the items allegedly seized from him; (3) preparation of
the evidence acknowledgment receipt, affidavit of arrest of the police officers, and referral slip to the inquest
prosecutor; (4) preparation of a letter request for laboratory examination of the seized items; and (5) receipt
of the result of the laboratory examination, which yielded positive for marijuana; and
12

(b) PCI Arturos (1) receipt of a letter request for laboratory examination of ten (10) heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachets containing white pieces of paper and dried marijuana fruiting/flowering tops; (2) conduct of a
laboratory examination Science Report No. D-382-07 stating therein the result of the laboratory
examination. 13

The testimonies of SPO1 Moran and PCI Arturo were thus dispensed with.

Version of the Defense

The defense, on its part, offered the testimonies of the accused-appellant and his son, Guillar Salvidar (Guillar).

The accused-appellant claimed that contrary to the prosecutions statements, he was instead arrested at around
4:00 p.m. of November 11, 2007. While playing a video game with Guillar, he stood up to get snacks for the latter.
Several men arrived, brought him to their vehicle, and handcuffed him. He was subsequently asked to reveal the
identities of big time drug pushers in the area. The accused-appellant was unable to comply with the order and was
brought to the Sangandaan precinct. The men, who seized the accused-appellant, turned out to be police officers.
PO3 Galvez and SPO1 Moran belonged to the group. They inquired from him about his and his wifes employment.
The men then asked him to settle the case for 30,000.00. He told them that he did not have money. When his wife
arrived, she argued with the police officers. The officers got angry and informed him that he would be indicted. 14
Guillar corroborated the accused-appellants testimony about the date of the arrest and their whereabouts at that
time. He added that three policemen arrived. They dragged his father out of the video game shop and the latter, in
turn, resisted. Guillar cried while he chased his father who was taken away, but the formers attempt was futile.
Guillar went home to inform his mother about the incident. 15

Ruling of the RTC

On April 11, 2011, the RTC rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
16

Premises considered, this court finds and so holds the accused Gil Salvidar y Garlan GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt for violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of [R.A. No. 9165], x x x and imposes upon him the following:

(1) In Crim. Case No. C-78532, the penalty of Life Imprisonment and a fine of Five Hundred Thousand
Pesos ([P]500,000.00); and

(2) In Crim. Case No. C-78533, the penalty of Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to
Fourteen (14) years and a fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos ([P]300,000.00).

The drugs subject matter of these cases consisting of ten (10) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each
containing dried MARIJUANA fruiting tops weighing 0.37 gram, 0.35 gram, 0.40 gram, 0.28 gram, 0.35 gram, 0.36
gram, 0.32 gram, 0.36 gram, 0.67 gram & 0.57 gram[,] as well as the one (1) transparent plastic box containing
dried MARIJUANA fruiting tops weighing 29.01 grams[,] are hereby confiscated and forfeited in favor of the
government to be dealt with in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED. 17

The RTC found the accused-appellants defense of denial and claim of attempted police extortion as bare, hence,
unmeritorious. The trial court declared that the testimonies of the members of the buy-bust team deserve full faith
and credit, unless it can be shown that they did not properly perform their duties, or that they were inspired by ill
motives. The accused-appellant, in this case, did not personally know the policemen and had no previous altercation
with any of them, which could have otherwise prompted the filing of fabricated charges against him. Besides, the
police officers could not have been oblivious of the fact that Section 29 of R.A. No. 9165 imposes the penalty of
death upon persons found guilty of planting dangerous drugs as evidence. 18

Citing People v. Cueno and People v. Rigodon, the RTC emphasized that only two basic elements must be
19 20

present for the charge of illegal sale of drugs to prosper, namely: (a) the determination of the identities of the buyer
and the seller, the object and the consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. In
the case at bar, PO3 Galvez gave a detailed account of how the sale involving the accused-appellant was
consummated and his testimony was corroborated by PO2 Hipolito. The seized items were also positively identified
and the unbroken chain of custody over the same was established. 21

The Parties Arguments Before the CA and its Ruling

The accused-appellant challenged the above ruling before the CA claiming that the prosecutions version of what
transpired was highly incredible. The members of the buy-bust team narrated that the accused-appellant was
packing and selling his illegal merchandise in public view. This, however, is improbable and contrary to common
experience. 22

The accused-appellant also alleged that the prosecution failed to establish an unbroken chain of custody over the
evidence. There was no explicit testimony that the specimens were marked in the presence of the accused-
appellant. There was likewise no proof that the items were photographed and inventoried in the presence of a
member of the media, a Department of Justice (DOJ) representative, and an elective government official. 23

Further, not all who had custody of the specimens testified on the condition of the same upon receipt and the
precautions they took to preserve their integrity. It is perplexing as well why SPO1 Moran delivered the seized items
twice to the crime laboratory at first to a certain PO1 Bolora at 9:40 p.m. of November 12, 2007, and subsequently
to PCI Arturo at 9:45 p.m. of the same date. While PO1 Boloras custody over the seized items merely lasted for a
few minutes, still, he should have testified because that short span of time was more than sufficient to destroy the
integrity of the evidence. 24
Admittedly, there are exceptions to the strict implementation of the rules and procedures mandated by R.A. No.
9165. However, the prosecution should have, at the outset, recognized the procedural lapses and cite justifiable
grounds for the omissions, failing at which, a taint of doubt is cast upon the presumption that official duties have
been performed with regularity. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) opposed the appeal arguing that drug
25

pushers have become more daring in selling their wares without regard for place and time. 26

The prosecution had likewise proven beyond reasonable doubt that an illegal sale of ten (10) plastic sachets
containing marijuana was consummated and the accused-appellant was the vendor. The same ten (10) plastic
sachets were seized from the accused-appellant, then later on, identified and offered as evidence during the trial.
PO3 Galvez and PO2 Hipolito had testified in detail about the conduct of the buy-bust operation, including the
markings done on the plastic sachets and transparent box seized from the accused-appellant in the place where he
was arrested, and no irregularity can be ascribed as to the concerned police officers performance of duties. 27

On October 31, 2012, the CA rendered the herein assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Br. 120 in 1) Crim.
Case No. C-78532 sentencing the Accused-Appellant to suffer life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Five Hundred
Thousand Pesos(PhP500,000.00) is AFFIRMED; and, 2) Crim. Case No. C-78533 is likewise AFFIRMED but with
MODIFICATION as to the penalty imposed in that the Accused-Appellant is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate
penalty of Twelve(12) years and One(1) day, as minimum, to Fourteen(14) years, as maximum. Costs against the
Accused-Appellant.

SO ORDERED. 28

In affirming the accused-appellants conviction, the CA cited the following grounds:

Settled is the rule that in the prosecution for illegal sale of drugs, it is material to prove that the transaction or sale
actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the evidence of corpus delicti. Said otherwise, the
essential elements of the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs are: 1)the accused sold and delivered a prohibited
drug to another; and 2) he knew that what he had sold and delivered was a prohibited drug.

In the instant case, PO3 Galvez[s] testimony proves that the sale of illegal drugs actually took place. x x x [T]he
Accused-Appellant was caught in a buy-bust operation freely and knowingly selling and delivering prohibited drugs.
x x x.

x x x The prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused-Appellant committed the crime of
illegal possession of dangerous drugs. It was able to prove the following elements: 1) the accused is in possession
of an object identified as a prohibited drug; 2) such possession is not authorized by law; and, 3) he freely and
consciously possessed the said drug.

The records manifestly show that, after the buy-bust team arrested the Accused-Appellant, the procedural body
search was conducted on his person. The search led to the discovery of one (1) transparent plastic box containing
an undetermined amount of suspected dried marijuana leaves(later weighed at 29.01 grams), which he freely
possessed knowing the same to be prohibited drugs. After the conduct of laboratory examinations, the same yielded
positive for marijuana. Further, he failed to present any document authorizing him by law to possess the same. x x x.

The Accused-Appellants allegation that the prosecution failed to preserve the integrity and prove the identity of the
seized drugs, holds no water.

In all cases involving the handling and custody of dangerous drugs, the police officers are guided by Sec. 21 of the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165. The language of the foregoing provision shows that the
failure of the police officers to strictly comply with it is not fatal and does not render the evidence adduced against
the Accused-Appellant void and inadmissible. What is important 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.

At bench, there was compliance with the said provision and the integrity of the drugs confiscated from the Accused-
Appellant remained intact. The chain of custody of the seized drugs, later on determined to be marijuana, was not
shown to have been broken. The records show that, after PO3 Galvez bought ten(10) pieces of plastic sachets
suspected of containing marijuana, the Accused-Appellant was bodily searched and found to be in possession of
one(1) transparent plastic box containing an undetermined amount of suspected dried marijuana leaves.
Immediately thereafter, the confiscated drugs were marked with the initials "GSG/RG 11/12/07" and "GSG/RH" and
inventoried at the place of arrest and in the presence of the Accused-Appellant. PO3 Galvez and PO2 Hipolito then
brought the Accused-Appellant to the Sangandaan police station where the same were turned over to SPO1 Moran.
Thereafter, the latter prepared the Evidence Acknowledgment Receipt and the letter-request for laboratory
examination of the seized substances for determination of the presence of any dangerous drugs. PCI Arturo
conducted the laboratory test and found them positive for marijuana, a dangerous drug.

What is more, during the trial, PO3 Galvez and PO2 Hipolito were able to positively identify all the plastic sachets
containing marijuana with markings "GSG/RG 11/12/07" and "GSG/RH" as the same ones that they confiscated
from the Accused-Appellant. x x x.

In comparison to the prosecutions evidence, all that the Accused- Appellant could raise is the defense of denial. x x 1wphi1

x The defense of denial in drug cases requires strong and convincing evidence because of the presumption that the
law enforcement agencies acted in the regular performance of their official duties. Bare denial of the Accused-
Appellant cannot prevail over the positive testimony of the prosecution witness. x x x.

The Accused-Appellants allegation that the police officers were exacting Thirty Thousand Pesos(PhP30,000.00)
from him has no basis. Other than his bare allegations, unsupported by concrete proof, We cannot give such
imputation a second look. (Citations omitted)
29

The CA modified the wordings of the penalty imposed by the RTC on the accused-appellant for violation of Section
11 of R.A. No. 9165. The CA emphasized that the Indeterminate Sentence Law should be applied. Consequently,
the proper penalty should be "expressed at a range whose maximum term shall not exceed the maximum fixed by
the special law, and the minimum term shall not be less than the minimum prescribed." 30

Issues

The accused-appellant and the OSG both manifested that they no longer intended to file supplemental briefs. 31

Hence, the issues before this Court are the same ones raised before and disposed of by the CA. Essentially then,
the Court is once again asked to determine whether or not: (a) the testimonies of the members of the buy-bust team
about the accused-appellants illegal selling activities and possession of marijuana while the latter was at the front
door of his house and within public view are credible; and (b) the prosecution had complied with the procedural
requirements mandated by Section 21 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 as
32

regards the chain of custody over the evidence seized from the accused-appellant.

Ruling of the Court

The instant appeal lacks merit.

In cases involving violations of the Dangerous Drugs Law, appellate courts tend to rely heavily on the trial courts
assessment of the credibility of witnesses, because the latter had the unique opportunity, denied to the appellate
courts, to observe the witnesses and to note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under direct and cross-
examination. Hence, its factual findings are accorded great respect, even finality, absent any showing that certain
facts of weight and substance bearing on the elements of the crime have been overlooked, misapprehended, or
misapplied. 33

In the instant appeal, the RTC and CA uniformly found that PO3 Galvezs and PO2 Hipolitos testimonies anent the
conduct of the buy-bust operation were categorical, detailed, and credible. Moreover, the accused-appellant had
34

not ascribed any ill motive against the two police officers which could have otherwise induced them to fabricate the
charges.

As the first issue, the accused-appellant claimed that it was highly improbable for him to peddle and possess
marijuana right in front of his house and within public view. This allegation fails to persuade especially in the light of
the courts observation that of late, drug pushers have turned more daring and defiant in the conduct of their illegal
activities.
35

Anent the second issue, the Court finds the chain of custody over the evidence seized from the accused-appellant
as unbroken and that there was sufficient compliance with Section 21 of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165.
PO3 Galvez positively testified that he marked the ten (10) plastic sachets containing marijuana and the pieces of
white paper while still in the place where the accused-appellant was arrested, and in the presence of the latter. PO2 36

Hipolito did the same relative to the plastic container with marijuana likewise found in the accused-appellants
possession. When the members of the buy-bust team arrived in the police station, they turned-over the person of
37

the accused-appellant and the items seized from him to SPO1 Moran, who in turn, prepared the Evidence
Acknowledgment Receipt and letter request for laboratory examination. Thereafter, PCI Arturo conducted the
38

laboratory examinations and found the specimens to be marijuana. These were the same items identified by the
39

prosecution witnesses and presented to the trial court as evidence.

The accused-appellant lamented that the evidence seized were not photographed and inventoried in the presence
of a member of the media, a representative from the DOJ, and an elective government official. While this factual
allegation is admitted, the Court stresses that what Section 21 of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 requires is "substantial"
and not necessarily "perfect adherence," as long as it can be proven that the integrity and the evidentiary value of
40

the seized items are preserved as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the
accused. 41

The accused-appellant attempted to establish that there was a breach in the chain of custody over the evidence
seized from him by pointing out that SPO1 Moran twice delivered the items to the crime laboratory at first to a
certain PO1 Bolora and later, to PCI Arturo. The Court notes that despite the foregoing allegation, the defense
42

agreed with the prosecution to dispense with the testimonies of SPO1 Moran and PCI Arturo. The parties entered
into stipulations and admissions of facts as regards the participation of the aforementioned two. This is no less than
an admission on the part of the defense that there was nothing irregular in SPO1 Moran and PCI Arturos
performance of their duties relative to preserving the integrity of the evidence which fell in their custody. Had the
accused-appellant sincerely believed that there was indeed a breach in the chain of custody over the seized items,
he would have insisted on putting SPO1 Moran and PCI Arturo on the witness stand for cross-examination. 1wphi1

In sum, the Court finds the herein assailed decision affirming the RTCs conviction of the accused-appellant for
violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 as amply supported by both evidence and jurisprudence.
The Court agrees as well with the CA in its modification of the wordings of the penalty imposed on the accused-
appellant for violation of the above-mentioned Section 11, as the same is mandated by Section 1 of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 31, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR-HC
No. 04989 is AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Footnotes

1
Please see the Notice of Appeal filed with the Court of Appeals by the Public Attorney's Office, rollo, pp. 20-
21.

2
Penned by Associate Justice Normandie B. Pizarro, with Associate Justices Remedios A. Salazar-
Fernando and Manuel M. Barrios, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 115-132.

3
Issued by Presiding Judge Aurelio R. Ralar, Jr.; id. at 18-28.

4
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 ([P]500,000.00) to Ten million pesos
([P]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.

5
xxxx

Section 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. - The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine
ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos ([P]500,000.00) to Ten million pesos ([P]10,000,000.00)
shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous
drug in the following quantities, regardless of the degree of purity thereof:

x x x x (7) 500 grams or more of marijuana; and

xxxx

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be
graduated as follows:

x x x x (3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging
from Three hundred thousand pesos ([P]300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos
([P]400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) grams of opium,
morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil,
methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to,
MDMA or "ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs
and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond
therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana.
G.R. No. 193478 June 23, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
RODOLFO P. FERNANDEZ, NELSON E. TOBIAS, and FRANK R. BAAY, Accused,
NELSON E. TOBIAS, Accused-appellant.

DECISION

SERENO, CJ:

This is an appeal filed by accused-appellant Nelson E. Tobias from the Decision dated 28 August 2009 issued by
2

the Special Third Division and from the Resolution dated 9 February 2010 issued by the Special Former Special
3

Third Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02838.

THE ANTECEDENT FACTS

Rodolfo P. Fernandez, Nelson E. Tobias, Frank R. Baay, Joel B. Uy, Eduardo D. Manuel and Nenita P. Manuel were
charged with violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 26, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or The
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The Information reads:
4

That on or about the 22nd day of June 2004 in the City of Mandaluyong, Philippines, a place within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without any lawful authority, conspiring and confederating together
and mutually helping and aiding one another, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell and deliver
or distribute to a PDEA poseur-buyer one (1) kilo of white powder substance which was found positive to the test of
cocaine, for an agreed amount of Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00), Philippine Currency without the corresponding
license or prescription, in violation of the above cited law. CONTRARY TO LAW. 5

All the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge. 6

PROSECUTIONS VERSION

The prosecution presented eight witnesses, namely: (1) Police Inspector (P/Insp.) Antonietta Abillonar of the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory; (2) Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives,
Senior Police Officer (SPO) 3 Pedro Barbero, (3) Police Senior Inspector (P S/Insp.) Prospero Bona; (4) Police
Officer (PO) 2 Martin Francia; (5) PO1 Rogelio Hernando; (6) SPO1 Catalino Gonzales, Jr.; (7) PO1 Narciso Padua;
and (8) P S/Insp. Sandra Decena Go of the PNP Crime Laboratory.

Their testimonies reveal that on 16 June 2004, PO1 Padua met with the accused Fernandez, a retired Makati City
police at the latters house to negotiate Fernandezs possible surrender of 150 kilos of cocaine in exchange for a
monetary reward. The two were known to each other due to their past positions in the police force. Not satisfied with
the monetary award being offered, Fernandez instead asked Padua to find a buyer of the cocaine. Pretending to
have a buyer, Padua asked for samples. Hence, on the night of 20 June 2004, Fernandez called up to tell him to go
to the office of the Eagles of Makati on 21 June2004 to receive the samples. The samples given by Fernandez were
delivered to Bona, who brought it to a forensic chemist at the crime laboratory for examination. They turned out to
be cocaine. Bona then formed a buy-bust team composed of Barbero, Hernando, and Gonzales as back-ups and
Padua as the poseur-buyer. Also prepared was boodle money consisting of cut newspapers and photocopies
of P1,000 bills supposedly amounting to P2 million, which was to be used as buy-bust money. 7

On the morning of 22 June 2004, the team went to the house of Fernandez on board two vehicles and parked 20
meters away. Padua alighted, took a taxi and proceeded to the house where Fernandez was waiting. The latter told
him to wait because the person bringing the cocaine had not yet arrived. Twenty minutes after, a car with three
persons on board stopped in front of the house and one of them, later identified as Tobias, alighted carrying a bag.
Tobias, Fernandez and Padua went inside while the car, with the two remaining persons on board, left. 8

Inside the house, Tobias showed the cocaine and gave it to Padua, while the latter handed the boodle money to the
former. After the exchange, Padua sent missed calls to the team through his cellphone, the prearranged signal that
the sale had been consummated. The team rushed to the house and arrested Fernandez and Tobias. The boodle
money was found in the latters possession. When interrogated, Tobias admitted that the two other persons in the
car were Baay and Uy, who were waiting for him at the nearby McDonalds restaurant. The police officers went to
the restaurant and arrested both men. Upon further interrogation, Fernandez and Tobias told the police that the
cocaine came from Cagayan Valley and was brought to Manila by the spouses Manuel, who at that time were
staying at the house of Tobias in Fort Bonifacio. The police proceeded to the identified house and arrested the
spouses. A forensic chemist examined the seized evidence which yielded a positive result for cocaine. 9

DEFENSES VERSION

Accused Fernandez interposed the defense of denial. He asserted that he had invited Padua to help facilitate the
10

licensing of the formers firearm. Upon learning that Padua had been assigned to PDEA, Fernandez asked him
about the reward money if someone surrendered cocaine to PDEA. Padua asked for a sample as he handed him a
brochure, "Operation Private Eye," in which the reward system for the surrender of drugs was spelled out.
Fernandez supposedly relayed this information to Tobias and told the latter to bring samples. On 20 June 2004,
Tobias said that he would arrive with the cocaine the next day. Fernandez then scheduled their meeting at his house
on 21 June 2004. Padua arrived at 8:00 a.m., while Tobias and his friend "Mar" arrived an hour later. Allegedly,
Fernandez asked if they brought the drugs, and Tobias answered in the affirmative. Meanwhile "Mar" brought out a
wrapped item and gaveit to Padua, who eventually left with the sample for testing. On the evening of the same day,
Padua allegedly called up Fernandez and informed him that the item had been found positive for cocaine. The latter
immediately told Tobias to bring the 150-kilo cocaine to be surrendered to Padua the following morning.

At 9:00 a.m. the following morning, Tobias arrived at the house of Fernandez. Padua, along with a companion,
arrived looking for "Mar." Upon learning that "Mar" was not around, Padua poked a gun at both Tobias and
Fernandez, handcuffed them, and placed them under arrest. The other PDEA operatives arrived and searched the
house for the drugs, but Fernandez argued that it was with "Mar" who had not arrived. Padua insisted that he should
tell them where "Mar" was, but Fernandez did not know. The latter also claimed that there was no cocaine
confiscated from his house on 22 June 2004.

Nelson Tobias , on the other hand, claimed having known Padua for a long time, but denied having knowledge of
11

the existence of the 150 kilos of cocaine. Tobias also testified that he had accompanied his friend, PO Marino
Manuel, to Fernandezs house. They were supposed to meet Fernandez and Padua. Tobias was eventually told that
the substance was really cocaine, and that he should bring the remaining stuff to be surrendered the following
morning. He told Marino Manuel about the meeting and both agreed to meet at the designated place. When Tobias
met with Fernandez the following morning, Padua and the other operatives arrived. They immediately looked for
Marino Manuel, but he failed to show up. Tobias and Fernandez were arrested. Tobias claimed that his wallet, wrist
watch, drivers license, firearm license, ATM card and .45 cal pistol were confiscated by the PDEA operatives. 12

After Tobias was arrested, he was brought inside a parked van and interrogated regarding his companions. He
identified one of them as Joel Uy, whose name was in the phone book of the mobile phone confiscated from the
former. The police officers then began contacting Joel Uy and asking about the whereabouts of Frank Baay. Thus,
Tobias brought them to a McDonalds branch along Boni Avenue, where they nabbed Baay and later, Joel Uy, whom
they asked to return tothat place. Thereafter they were all brought to the PDEA office in Quezon City, where they
were investigated. 13

Tobias admitted that he was a member of the Philippine Air Force, but that he had gone AWOL when he went to
Japan to work. He denied that Padua showed him a belt bag containing money as payment for the cocaine.
14 15

Meanwhile, Frank Baay alleged that hewas at the McDonalds branch located at the corner of Boni and Barangka
Streets to meet Joel Uy. The latter was supposed to give him the price quotation for a glass door and panel to be
installed at the house of Baays neighbor. Around ten oclock in the morning, Joel Uy arrived and invited Baay for a
ride, as the former would just drop off a friend at a place nearby. When Baay boarded the car, he was introduced by
Joel Uy to Nelson Tobias, the friend who later dropped off on Fabella St., after which they returned to McDonalds.
But after their brief conversation, Joey Uy left while Baay stayed behind to wait for a friend from whom Baay would
borrow money to pay for the latters electric bills. While waiting for that friend, however, Baay was arrested by
operatives from PDEA. 16

For his part, Joel Uy claimed to be a businessman engaged in contracting and installing glass windows, aluminum
17

panels and aquariums. He admitted owning the green Mazda car driven by Nelson Tobias when the latter went to
the house of Fernandez at No. 19 Fabella St., Mandaluyong City, at about ten oclock in the morning of 22 June
2004. Joel Uy also admitted that he and Baay were also in that car driven by Tobias, who alighted upon reaching the
destination. Joel Uy then took the wheels, made a U-turn and returned to McDonalds to drop off Baay. The latter
proceeded to Malate to meet Engineer Arnel Alarcon, Paul Peteros and Wilson Seguerra. While he was in Malate,
Baay called and texted Joel Uy to ask him to come over. Past 2:00 p.m. the latter returned to McDonalds to look for
Baay. Someone whom he later identified as Padua poked a gun at him. Joel Uy testified later that Padua took his
car key, cell phone, wrist watch and wallet, which had not been returned to him until now. 18

Finally, Eduardo Manuel claimed that when he was arrested by Barbero, Bona and Hernando of PDEA, he was
19

with his wife inside the house of Nelson Tobias in Fort Bonifacio. Prior to that date, he had known Tobias for four
years, but met Fernandez, Baay and Uy only for the first time on that same date at the PDEA office. Earlier that day,
he and his wife had just arrived at the house of Tobias from their hometown in Cagayan Valley. He was
accompanying his wife, who was applying for a job. While he was resting in the living room, he heard someone
knocking on the door. He opened it and three armed men entered introducing themselves as members of the police,
whom he later identified as Hernando, Bona and Barbero. Then they poked him with their guns and searched the
house looking for Marino Manuel. When Eduardo told them that Marino Manuel was his cousin, they got mad. They
handcuffed him, brought him to the waiting car and left. Not long after, they decided to return to the house of Tobias
because somebody said, "Pare balikan natinang babae dahil sigurado akong nanduon ang pera." Thus, they also
took Eduardos wife, and the two of them were brought to the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City.

THE RULING OF THE RTC

The Regional Trial Court (RTC),Branch 214 of Mandaluyong City, rendered its Decision dated 16 February 2007,
20

the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

(a) accused Rodolfo Fernandez, Nelson Tobias, Joel Uy and Frank R. Baay are hereby found guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of unlawfully selling, delivering, distributing one (1) kilo of cocaine in violation of Section 5,
in relation to Section 26 of Article II of R.A. 9165, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE
IMPRISONMENT and to pay a fine of TWO MILLION (P2,000,000.00) PESOS each; and

(b) accused Eduardo D. Manuel and Nenita P. Manuelare hereby ACQUITTED for insufficiency of evidence
and are hereby ordered RELEASED immediately from detention unless detained for some other legal cause
or causes.

Further, the cocaine taken and seized from the accused during the aforesaid operation are forfeited and confiscated
in favor of the Government and shall be turned over to the PDEA pursuant to law for proper disposal without delay.
Likewise, the green Mazda car used by accused in the perpetration of the crime is ordered confiscated and forfeited
in favor of the Government, and the evidence custodian of the said vehicle is directed to turn over the same to this
court for its scheduled auction pursuant to Section 20, Article II of R.A. 9165.

SO ORDERED. 21

Pending the appeal of Fernandez, Tobias, and Baay, Fernandez died of cardiac arrest on 22 February 2008. His
death resulted in the dismissal of his appeal on 27 June 2008, insofar as he was concerned, in a Resolution dated
22 23

12 January 2011 issued by the Supreme Court Third Division. Henceforth, the appeal pertained only to Tobias and
Baay.

In his Brief, Tobias claimed that the arresting officers failed to comply with the chain-of-custody requirement and to
24

preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized dangerous drug. On the other hand, Baay claimed in his
25

Brief that the prosecution had failed to establish the identity of the cocaine, as well as the whereabouts and the
26

identity of the boodle money. 27

THE RULING OF THE CA

The CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC.

For failure of co-accused-appellant Frank Baay to file a Petition before the Supreme Court from the CA Resolution
dated 9 February 2010 denying his Motion for Reconsideration, the CA Decision became final and executory on 27
February 2009. In a Resolution dated 31 May 2010, Partial Entry of Judgment was ordered issued by the CA as far
28

as he was concerned. Hence, this appeal solely concerning Tobias on the issue of the police officers
noncompliance with the chain-of-custody requirement. This issue, stated in his Brief and reiterated in his
Supplemental Brief, has been brought before this Court.
29

THIS COURTS RULING

We sustain the conviction of accused-appellant Nelson Tobias.

As stated in the Information, the accused were charged not only with the sale of cocaine but also with the delivery
and distribution thereof, which is committed by the mere delivery of the prohibited drug. The consideration therefor is
of no moment. The law has defined "deliver" as "[a]ny act of knowingly passing a dangerous drug to another,
30

personally or otherwise, and by any means, with or without consideration." Upon a careful review of the records,
31

we find that the elements of the crime as stated above were proven by the prosecution.

Padua clearly and convincingly testified that Fernandez had agreed to sell or deliver the cocaine to the former. This
testimony, complemented by the testimonies of the other police officers, provided a clear picture of the transaction
as well as the roles of Fernandez, Tobias, Baay and Uy. As observed by the trial court, Padua "testified in a clear,
straightforward manner and despite the rigorous cross-examination by the defense counsels, did not waver or
hesitate in his testimony, a clear proof that he was telling the truth."
32

The accused failed to destroy the credibility of the police officers. They failed to show a plausible reason or ill motive
on the part of the arresting officers to falsely impute to them such a serious and unfounded charge. What the
accused offered were merely denials and allegations of frame-up. But these allegations are invariably viewed by this
Court with disfavor, for they can easily be concocted but are difficult to prove. Further, their bare denials were not
33

proven by convincing evidence. Hence, full faith and credit are accorded to the police officers, for they are presumed
to have performed their duties in a regular manner in the absence of proof to the contrary. 34

The accused, too, in their attempt to discredit the police officers testimonies, point to inconsistencies. In any event,
1wphi1

we have time and again said that a few discrepancies and inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses referring
to minor details and not actually touching upon the central fact of the crime do not impair their credibility. Instead of
weakening their testimonies, these inconsistencies tend to strengthen their credibility, because they discount the
possibility of their being rehearsed.
35

Meanwhile, in the present Petition, Tobias harps solely and exclusively on the absence of compliance with the chain-
of-custody rule.

The rule on the chain of custody under R.A. 9165, together with its implementing rules and regulations
36

(IRR), expressly demands the identification of the persons who handled the confiscated items for the purpose of
37

duly monitoring the authorized movements of the illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia from the time these items
were seized from the accused until the time they were presented in court. 38

The rule also requires that the presentation and admission of the seized prohibited drug as an exhibit be preceded
by evidence to support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. This requirement
39

is essential to obviate the possibility of substitution, as well as to ensure that doubts regarding the identity of the
evidence are removed. The rule is meant to ensure the monitoring and tracking of the movements and custody of
the seized prohibited item from the accused, to the police, to the forensic laboratory for examination, and finally to
its presentation in evidence in court. Ideally, the custodial chain would include testimony about every link in the
chain or movement of the illegal drug, from the moment it is seized until itis finally adduced in evidence. It cannot
40

be overemphasized, however, that testimony supporting a perfect chain is almost always impossible to obtain. 41

We have held that the failure of the prosecution to show compliance with the procedural requirements provided in
Section 21 of Article II of R.A. 9165 and its IRR is not fatal. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the
42

integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, as these would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or
innocence of the accused. As long as the chain of custody remains unbroken, the guilt of the accused will not be
43

affected. 44

A careful scrutiny of the records reveals through testimonial, documentary and object evidence that the chain-of-
custody requirement was not broken.
The trial court notes that when SPO1 Padua, who "testified in a clear, straightforward manner and despite the
45

rigorous cross-examination by the defense counsels, did not waver or hesitate in his testimony," was asked how
46

the evidence was preserved, he stated as follows:

A: Immediately upon confiscation of the said evidence it was turned over to the possession of Captain Bona and
delivered to the Philippine National Crime Laboratory for examination and the PNCL is the one who holding [sic] the
cocaine, sir.47

P S/Insp. Prospero Bona also took the witness stand and narrated how the seized item was handled as follows:

Q: Immediately after the taking from Tobias, what did you do to the item?

A: SPO1 Padua gave me the item, sir.

xxxx

A: x x x. I ordered the investigator to take hold of the items because the team leader is not the one who handles the
evidences [sic], it is the office[r] on case. It was the investigator who take possession of the items, sir.48

SPO1 Catalino Gonzales, Jr., the investigator of the case, likewise took the witness stand and testified thus:
49

Q: Now, Mr. Witness, what did you do with this? You said you carry this from the place of arrest up to the PDEA
office?

A: I let one of my colleagues, SPO3 Barbero, one of the arresting officers, to mark the evidence, maam.

SPO3 Barbero testified, too, that he had marked the item with his initials "PGB," the date and his signature, after
50

which, he submitted it to the crime laboratory together with a letter-request dated 22 June 2004. 51

Finally, P/Insp. Antonietta Abillonar of the PNP Crime Laboratory testified that she had conducted an examination of
52

the submitted specimen and found it positive for the presence of cocaine as indicated in Chemistry Report No. D-
271-04, which was presented in court and made part of the evidence for the prosecution.
53

The links of the chain of custody ofthe illegal drug are all accounted for by the testimonies of the police officers who
formed the buy-bust team: from the confiscation of the cocaine from petitioner Tobias by the poseur-buyer, SPO1
Padua; its turnover to the buy-bust team leader, P S/Insp. Bona, who gave it to SPO1 Gonzales, the investigator,
and eventually to SPO3 Barbero who made the marking; to the forwarding of the seized item to the crime laboratory
for a forensic examination; up to the presentation of the results to the court by P/Insp. Antonietta Abillonar. It is clear,
then, that the chain-of-custody requirement was properly observed by the police officers and proven by the
prosecution.

In the light of the foregoing, we see no reason to deviate from the RTC ruling and its affirmation by the CA. As to
1wphi1

the penalty imposed by the RTC, we, too, find it in order and proper. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the
appeal is hereby DENIED. The assailed Decision dated 28 August 2009 issued by the Special Third Division and the
Resolution dated 9 February 2010 issued by the Special Former Special Third Division of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02838 are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice, Chairperson
WE CONCUR:
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. 1

Associate Justice
TERESITA.J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
C E R TI F I C ATI O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

G.R. No. 192432 June 23, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
LARRY MENDOZA y ESTRADA, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The law enforcement agents who conduct buy-bust operations against persons suspected of drug trafficking in
violation of Republic Act No. 9165 (RA No. 9165), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of
2002, should comply with the statutory requirements for preserving the chain of custody of the seized evidence.
Failing this, they are required to render sufficient reasons for their non-compliance during the trial; otherwise, the
presumption that they have regularly performed their official duties cannot obtain, and the persons they charge
should be acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt.

The Case

This appeal seeks the review and reversal of the decision promulgated on April 26, 2010 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
03901 entitled People of the Philippines v. Larry Mendoza y Estrada, whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed
1

the judgment rendered on February 24, 2009 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 67, in Binangonan, Rizal
finding accused Larry Mendoza y Estrada guilty of a violation of Section 5 and a violation of Section 11, Article II of
RA No. 9165. 2

Antecedents

The accusatory portion of the information charging the violation of Section 5 of RA No. 9165 reads:

That on or about the 28th day of August 2007, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without having been authorized by law,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell, deliver and give away to a poseur buyer (PO1 Arnel D.
Diocena), 0.03 gram and 0.01 gram or a total weight of 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance contained in two (2)
heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets, which substance was found positive to the test for Methylamphetamine
hydrochloride alsoknown as "shabu", a dangerous drug, in consideration of the amountof Php 500.00, in violation of
the above-cited law.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 3

The accusatory portion of the information charging the violation of Section 11 of RA No. 9165 alleges:

That, on or about the 28th day of August 2007, in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province of Rizal, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess
any dangerous drug, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly possess and have in his custody and
control 0.01 gram of white crystalline substance contained in one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, which
substance was found positive to the test for Methylamphetamine hydrochloride also known as "shabu", a dangerous
drug, in violation of the above-cited law.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 4

After the accused pleaded not guiltyto both informations, the State presented Sr. Insp. Vivian C. Sumobay, PO1
5

Arnel D. Diocena and Insp. Alfredo DG Lim as its witnesses, while the witnesses for the Defense were the accused
himself, Lolita Flores and Analiza Acapin.
The CA summarized the respective versions of the parties in the decision under review as follows:

Evidence for the Prosecution

As culled from the herein assailed Decision, the prosecution presented the following witnesses:

"x x x Policemen Arnel Diocenaand Alfredo DG Limtestified that, on September 29, 2007, they received reports that
an alias Larry was selling shabuat St. Claire Street, Barangay Calumpang, Binangonan, Rizal. They organized a
buy-bust operationwhere Diocena acted as the poseur buyer while Lim servedas back-up. They proceeded to the
target area with their asset at around 10:45 p.m. There Diocena and the asset waited in the corner on their
motorcycle while Lim and the other cops positioned themselves in the perimeter. The asset texted Larry and they
waited for him to arrive. Later,Larry arrived and told them, Pasensya na at ngayon lang dumating ang mga items.
Larry then asked them how much they were buying and Diocena told P500.00 worth. Larry took out two plastic
sachets of shabuand gave it to Diocena who gave him a marked P500 bill (exhibit D). Diocenalit the left signal light
of his motorcycle to signal Lim and the other cops that the deal was done. They then arrested Larry who turned out
to be the accused. After frisking him, they recovered another sachet of shabufrom him. Diocena marked the first two
LEM-1and LEM-2while the one taken after the frisk he marked LEM-3(TSN dated April 23 and July 17, 2008,
exhibits D, E and F). These were sent to the police crime lab for forensic testing where they tested positive for
0.03 (LEM-1), 0.01 (LEM-2) and 0.01 (LEM-3) grams for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu
respectively (TSN dated December 5, 2007, exhibits A,B and C). LEM-1 and LEM-2 were made the basis of the
pushing charge while LEM-3 the one for possession."

Evidence for the Defense

The defense witnesses version of facts, as summarized in the herein assailed Decision, is as follows:

"x x x On that day, he was minding his own business, eating with his wife when his friend Rolly Lopez knocked on
the door. Rolly was wanted by the cops (may atraso) and asked Mendoza for help to get them off his back.Rolly
texted somebody and after there was another knock. It was the police led by one Dennis Gorospewho asked
Mendoza for his identity. When he said yes, Gorospe cuffed him after showing him sachets of shabuwith his initials.
Gorospe was then taken to the police station where he was interrogated and asked how much protection money he
can cough up. When he refused, he was arrested and drug tested. He claims that he was supposed to be a regaloto
the new police chief. (TSN dated August 27, October 9, November 26, 2008 and February 18, 2009) 6

Ruling of the RTC

On February 24, 2009, the RTC convicted the accused of the crimes charged, disposing:
7

We thus find accused Larry Mendoza GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165 and
sentence him to suffer a penalty of life imprisonment and topay a fine of P500,000.00. We also find him
GUILTYbeyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 11 of R.A. No. 9165 and illegally possessing a total of 0.01
grams of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabuand accordingly sentence him to suffer an indeterminate
penalty of 12 years and 1 day as minimum to 13 years as maximum and to pay a fine of P300,000.00

Let the drug samples in this case be forwarded to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper
disposition. Furnish PDEA with a copy of this Decision per OCA Circular No. 70-2007.

SO ORDERED. 8

Judgment of the CA

The accused appealed, contendingthat the identity of the corpus delictiand the fact of illegal sale had notbeen
established beyond reasonable doubt; that PO1 Diocenas testimony on the sale of the illegal drugs and on the buy-
bust operation had not been corroborated; that the Prosecution had patently failed to show compliance with the
requirements of Section 21 of RA No. 9165; and that such failure to show compliance had negated the presumption
of regularity accorded to the apprehending police officers, and should warrant his acquittal.9

On April 26, 2010, the CA affirmed the conviction of the accused, holding and ruling thusly:
10
x x x [I]t is worthy of mention that prosecution of cases for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act arising from buy-
bust operations largely depend on the credibility of the police officers who conducted them. Unless clear and
convincing evidence is proffered showing that the members of the buy-bust team were driven by any improper
motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit.

Here, accused-appellant failed to present any plausible reason or ill-motive on the part of the police officers to
falsely impute to him such a serious and unfounded charge. We thus are obliged to accord great respect to and treat
with finality the findings of the trial court on the prosecution witnesses credibility. After all, it is settled doctrine that
the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of a testimony is accorded the highest respect, for the trial court has the
distinct opportunity of directly observing the demeanor of a witness and, thus, to determine whether he is telling the
truth.

Accused-appellants argument that the procedural requirements of Section 21, paragraph 1 of ArticleII of Republic
Act No. 9165 with respect to the custody and disposition of confiscated drugs were not complied with is equally
bereft of merit.

xxxx

Verily, failure of the police officers to strictly comply with the subject procedure isnot fatal [to] the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the confiscated/seized items having been properly preservedby the apprehending officer/team.
Its non-compliance will not render an accuseds arrest illegal or items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. For,
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.

xxxx

It thus behooves Us to believe that all the links in the chain from the moment it was seized from the accused-
appellant, marked in evidence and submitted to the crime laboratory, up to the time it was offered in evidence
were sufficiently establishedin this case.

We are thus constrained to uphold accused-appellants conviction.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated February 24, 2009 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 11

Issue

In this appeal, the accused presentsthe lone issue of whether the CA erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the violations of Section 5 and Section 11 of RA No. 9165.

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

1.

The State did not satisfactorilyexplain substantial lapses

committed by the buy-bust team in the chain of custody;

hence, the guilt of the accused for the crime charged

was not established beyond reasonable doubt

The presentation of the dangerous drugs as evidence in court is material if not indispensable in every prosecution
for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs. As such, the identityof the dangerous drugs should be established beyond
doubt by showing thatthe dangerous drugs offered in court were the same substances boughtduring the buy-bust
operation. This rigorous requirement, known under RA No. 9165 as the chain of custody, performs the function of
ensuring thatunnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. As the Court has
12

expounded in People v. Catalan, the dangerous drugs are themselves the corpus delicti; hence:
13

To discharge its duty of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, therefore, the Prosecution
must prove the corpus delicti.That proof is vital to a judgment of conviction. On the other hand, the Prosecution does
not comply with the indispensable requirement of proving the violation of Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 when
the dangerous drugs are missing but also when there are substantial gaps in the chain of custody of the seized
dangerous drugs that raise doubts about the authenticity of the evidence presented in court. 14

As the means of ensuring the establishment of the chain of custody, Section 21 (1) of RA No. 9165 specifies that:

(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 following guideline in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA No. 9165 complements Section 21
(1) of RA No. 9165, to wit:

(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 inthe presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom suchitems were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative orcounsel, 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
suchseizures of and custody over said items;

Based on the foregoing statutory rules, the manner and timing of the marking of the seized drugs or related items
are crucial in proving the chain of custody. Certainly, the marking after seizure by the arresting officer, being the
starting point in the custodial link, should be made immediately upon the seizure, or, if that is not possible, as close
to the time and place of the seizure as practicable under the obtaining circumstances. This stricture is essential
because the succeeding handlers of the contraband would use the markings as their reference to the seizure. The
marking further serves to separate the marked seized drugs fromall other evidence from the time of seizure from the
accused until the drugs are disposed of upon the termination of the criminal proceedings. The deliberate taking of
these identifying steps is statutorily aimed at obviating switching, "planting" or contamination of the
evidence. Indeed, the preservation of the chain of custody vis--vis the contraband ensures the integrity of the
15

evidence incriminating the accused, and relates to the element of relevancy as one of the requisites for the
admissibility of the evidence.

An examination of the records reveals that the buy-bust team did not observe the statutory procedures on
preserving the chain of custody.

To start with, the State did not show the presence during the seizure and confiscation of the contraband, aswell as
during the physical inventory and photographing of the contraband, ofthe representatives from the media or the
Department of Justice, or of any elected public official. Such presence was precisely necessary to insulatethe
apprehension and incrimination proceedings from any taint of illegitimacy or irregularity.16

It is notable that PO1 Diocena, although specifically recalling having marked the confiscated sachets of shabuwith
the initials of the accused immediately after the seizure, did not state, as the following excerpts from his testimony
indicate, if he had madehis marking in the presence of the accused himself or of his representative, and in the
presence of a representative from the media or the Department of Justice, or any elected public official, to wit:

Q - What did you do with the plasticsachets you bought or the plastic sachets handed to you and the other plastic
sachet Insp. Lim recovered from him?
A - I put markings, Maam.

Q - What markings did you place on the plastic sachets?

A - LEM-1, LEM-2 and LEM-3.

Q - And after marking those specimen, what did you do with them?

A - We brought them to the police station.

Q - What did the police station do with the plastic sachets?

A - Our investigator took pictures and brought them to the PNP Crime Laboratory.

xxxx

Q - You said that you put markings on the specimen at the target area?

A - Yes, Maam.

Q - You prepared the listing of all the specimen and marked money you recovered from the accused?

A - No, Maam.

Q - When you returned to the police station that was the only time that you took pictures of the marked money?

A - Yes, Maam.

Q - To whom did you turn it over?

A - To our investigator, Maam.

Q - What is the name of your investigator?

A - PO1 Dennis Gorospe, Maam. 17

Similarly, P/Insp. Lim did not mention in his testimony, the relevant portions of which are quoted hereunder, that a
representative from the media or the Department of Justice, or any elected public official was present during the
seizure and marking of the sachets of shabu, as follows:

Q - What did you do with the subject sale and the one you recovered from the accused?

A - I told PO1 Diocena to mark it, the three heat-sealed plastic sachets.

Q - Do you know the markings placed on the plastic sachets?

A - LEM-1, LEM-2 and LEM-3.

Q - And aside from marking the specimen, what did you do with them?

A - I apprised the suspect of his rights, then right after that we went to the headquarters.

Q - And after you brought the accused and the specimen to the headquarters, what did you do next with the
specimen?

A - We submitted them to the Crime Laboratory for verification.

Q - Who personally brought them to the Crime Laboratory?


A - If I am not mistaken it was also PO1 Diocena and the other men.

xxxx

Q - Where was Officer Diocena when heput markings on the three plastic sachets you recovered?

A - When I arrested the subject, he alighted from the motorcycle and he helped me in arresting the accused, it was
just then beneath the Meralco post.

Q - And the markings represent the initials of the accused?

A - I dont know, Maam, LEM, maybe, Maam.

Q - But it was Officer Diocena who put the markings?

A - Yes, Maam.

Q - Was there an inventory or list of the things you recovered from the accused?

A - Yes, Maam.

Q - Did you ask the accused to sign that inventory?

A - I was not able, Maam. 18

The consequences of the failure ofthe arresting lawmen to comply with the requirements of Section 21(1), supra,
were dire as far as the Prosecution was concerned. Without the insulating presence of the representative from the
media or the Department of Justice, or any elected public official during the seizure and marking of the sachets of
shabu, the evils of switching, "planting" or contamination of the evidence that had tainted the buy-busts conducted
under the regime of RA No. 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972) again reared their ugly heads as to negate the
integrity and credibility of the seizure and confiscation of the sachets of shabu that were evidence herein of
thecorpus delicti, and thus adversely affected the trustworthiness of the incrimination of the accused. Indeed, the
insulating presence of such witnesses would have preserved an unbroken chain of custody.

Secondly, the records nowhere indicated, contrary to the claim of P/Insp. Lim, that the buy-bust team, orany
member thereof, had conducted the physical inventory of the confiscated items. We know this because the States
formal offer of evidence did not include such inventory, to wit:

PROSECUTOR ARAGONES:

Your Honor, we formally offer Exhibit "A", the Chemistry Report No. D-221-07; Exhibit "B", the request for laboratory
examination from the Binangonan Police Station; and Exhibit "C", the subject specimen. This is to prove that after
request made by the Binangonan Police Station, examined by the forensic chemical officer, and after examination
proved positive to the test for methamphetamine hydrochloride. These exhibits are offered as part of the testimony
of the forensic chemist. Exhibit "D", the buy bust money, the P500.00 bill used during the operation; Exhibit "D-1" is
the marking placed by Police Officer Diocena. This is to prove that this is the xerox copy of the original buy bust
money used during the buy bust operation conducted against the accused. Exhibit "E" is the sworn statement of
Police Officer Diocena. This is to prove all the facts alleged in the information and as part of the testimony of the
said police officer. Exhibit "F" is the sworn statement of P/Insp. Alfredo Lim to prove all the facts alleged in the
information and as part of the testimony of said witness. That would be all for our formal offer of evidence. Without
19

the inventory having beenmade by the seizing lawmen, it became doubtful whether any shabu had been seized
from the accused at all.

And, thirdly, although PO1 Diocena asserted that photographs of the confiscated items and the marked money were
taken at the police station, it still behooved him to justify why the photographs of the seized shabuwas not taken
20

immediately upon the seizure,and at the place of seizure. The State did not explain this lapse. The pictorial evidence
of the latter kind would have more firmly established the identity of the seizedshabufor purposes of preserving the
chain of custody.
The last paragraph of Section 21(1) of the IRR of RA No. 9165 expressly provides a saving mechanism tothe effect
that not every case of non-compliance with the statutory requirements for the physical inventory and photograph of
the dangerous drugs being made "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" would prejudice the States case against the accused. But in order for that saving mechanism
to apply, and thus save the day for the States cause, the Prosecution must have to recognize first the lapse or
lapses, and then credibly explain them. 21

It appears that the application ofthe saving mechanism in this case was not warranted. The Prosecution did
notconcede that the lawmen had not complied with the requirement for "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." Also, the Prosecution did not tender any justification why no
representatives from the media or the Department of Justice, or any elected public official had been present during
the seizure and confiscation of the shabu. The omissions, particularly the failure to justify on the part of the lawmen,
were strange and improbable, particularly because the records indicated that the lawmen had sufficient time and the
opportunity to prepare for the proper conductof the buy-bust operation against the accused due to such operation
having come in the aftermath of a successful test buy.

Anent the test buy, PO1 Diocena mentioned the same in his sinumpaang salaysay, thusly:

x x x Na itong sinasabi ng aming asset na alyas "Larry" ay matagal na naming minamanmanan at sa katunayan ay
nagsagawa na kami ng Test Buy noong Hulyo 10, 2007 at kami ay nakabili sa kanya ng isang pirasong maliit na
plastic na may lamang shabu at amin itong ipinasuri sa RIZAL PNP Crime Laboratory Office na nagbigay ng
positibong resulta sa pinagbabawal na droga at siya ay di namin kaagad nahuli sapagkat siya ay huminto
pansamantala sa pagbebenta ng iligal na droga. x x x 22

Similarly, P/Insp. Lim adverted to the test buy in his own sinumpaang salaysayas follows:

x x x Sapagkat ako ay bago lamang dito sa himpilan ng Binangonan, napagalaman ko mula saaking mga
kasamahan na itong sinasabi ng aming asset na alyas "Larry" ay matagal na nilang minamanmanan at sa
katunayan aynagsagawa ng Test Buy noong Hulyo 10, 2007 laban dito kay alyas "Larry" at ang nabiling
pinaghihinalaang shabu ay ipinasuri sa RIZAL PNP Crime Laboratory Office na nagbigay ng positibong resulta sa
pinagbabawal na droga na kaya lamang hindi nahuhuli itong si alyas "Larry" sa dahilang siya at huminto
pansamantala sa pagbebenta ng iligal na droga. 23

P/Insp. Lim reiterated his story on direct examination, viz:

Q - And what report, if any, was madeby that asset aside from there was an ongoing sale of drugs in Calumpang?

A - That there was an ongoing sale byalias Larry na matagal na nilang minamatyagan, in fact they havealready
testbuy noong mga nakaraang taon, eh, wala pa ho ako noon. 24

In all, the buy-bust team had about 48 days the period intervening between July 10, 2007, when the test buy was
conducted, and August 28, 2007, when the crimes charged were committed within which to have the media and
the Department of Justice be represented during the buy-bust operation, as well as to invite an elected public official
of the place of operation to witness the operation. It puzzles the Court, therefore, that the buy-bust team did not
prudently follow the procedures outlined in Section 21(1), supra, despite their being experienced policemen who
knew the significance of the procedures in the preservation of the chain of custody.

With the chain of custody being demonstrably broken, the accused deserved to be acquitted of the seriouscharges.
Even if we rejected the frame-up defense of the accused, the unexplained failures and lapses committed by the buy-
bust team could not be fairly ignored. At the very least, they raised a reasonable doubt on his guilt. "A reasonable
doubt of guilt," according toUnited States v. Youthsey: 25

x x x is a doubt growing reasonably out of evidence or the lack of it. It is not a captious doubt; not a doubt
engendered merely by sympathy for the unfortunate position of the defendant, or a dislike to accept the
responsibility of convicting a fellowman. If, having weighed the evidence on both sides, you reach the conclusion
that the defendant is guilty, to that degree of certainty as would lead you toact on the faith of it in the most important
and crucial affairs of your life, you may properly convict him. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is notproof to a
mathematical demonstration. It is not proof beyond the possibility of mistake.

Thus, the accused was entitled to beacquitted and freed, for, as we pointed out in People v. Belocura: 26

x x x in all criminal prosecutions, the Prosecution bears the burden to establish the guilt of the accused beyond
reasonable doubt. In discharging this burden, the Prosecutions duty is to prove each and every element of the
crime charged in the information to warrant a finding of guilt for that crime or for any other crime necessarily
included therein. The Prosecution must further prove the participation of the accused in the commission of the
offense. In doing all these, the Prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence, and not anchor its success
upon the weakness of the evidence of the accused. The burden of proof placed on the Prosecution arises from the
presumption of innocence in favor of the accused that no less thanthe Constitution has guaranteed. Conversely, as
to his innocence, the accused has no burden of proof, that he must then be acquitted and set free should the
Prosecution not overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor. In other words, the weakness of the defense
put up bythe accused is inconsequential in the proceedings for as long as the Prosecution has not discharged its
burden of proof in establishing the commission of the crime charged and in identifying the accused as the
malefactor responsible for it.

2.

The CA and the RTC erred in relying

on the presumption of regularity in the

performance of duty of the arresting officers

Even if the foregoing conclusion already renders any further discussion of the applicability of the presumption of
regularity in favor of the members of the buy-bust team superfluous, we need to dwell a bit on the matter if only to
remind the lower courtsnot to give too much primacy to the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duty at the expense of the higher and stronger presumption of innocence in favor of the accused in a prosecution for
violation of the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002.

We have usually presumed the regularity of performance of their official duties in favor of the members of buy-bust
teams enforcing our laws against the illegal sale of dangerous drugs. Such presumption is based on three
fundamental reasons, namely: first, innocence, and not wrong-doing, is to be presumed; second, an official oath will
not be violated; and, third, a republican form of government cannot survive long unless a limit is placed upon
controversies and certain trust and confidence reposed in each governmental department or agent by every other
such department or agent, at least to the extent of such presumption. But the presumption is rebuttable by
27

affirmative evidence of irregularity or of any failure to perform a duty. Judicial reliance on the presumption despite
28

any hint of irregularity in the procedures undertaken by the agents of the law will thus be fundamentally unsound
because such hint is itself affirmative proof of irregularity.

The presumption of regularity of performance of official duty stands only when no reason exists in the records by
which to doubt the regularity of the performance of official duty. And even in that instance the presumption of
regularity will not be stronger than the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. Otherwise, a mere rule of
evidence will defeat the constitutionally enshrined right to be presumed innocent. Trial courts are instructed to apply
this differentiation, and to always bear in mind the following reminder issued in People v. Catalan:29

x x x We remind the lower courts that the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty could not prevail over
the stronger presumption of innocence favoring the accused. Otherwise, the constitutional guarantee of the accused
being presumed innocent would be held sut ordinate to a mere rule of evidence allocating the burden of evidence.
Where, like here, the proof adduced against the accused has not even overcome the presumption of innocence, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of duty could not be a factor to adjudge the accused guilty of the crime
charged.

Moreover, the regularity of the performance of their duty could not be properly presumed in favor of the policemen
because the records were replete with indicia of their serious lapses. As a rule, a presumed fact like the regularity of
performance by a police officer must be inferred only from an established basic fact, not plucked out from thin air. To
say it differently, it is the established basic fact that triggers the presumed fact of regular performance. Where there
is any hint of irregularity committed by the police officers in arresting the accused and thereafter, several of which
we have earlier noted, there can be no presumption of regularity of performance in their favor.

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision promulgated on April 26, 2010 by the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03901 entitled People of the Philippines v. Larry Mendoza y Estrada; ACQUITS
LARRY MENDOZA y ESTRADA on the ground of reasonable doubt; and ORDERS his immediate release from
detention at the National Penitentiary, unless there are other lawful causes warranting his continued detention.

The Director of Bureau of Corrections is directed to forthwith implement this decision and to report to this Court his
action hereon within ten (10) days from receipt.

No pronouncement on costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 203984 June 18, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
MEDARIO CALANTIAO y DIMALANTA, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an appeal from the January 1 7, 2012 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04069,
1

affirming in toto the July 23, 2009 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 127, finding
2

accused-appellant Medario Calantiao y Dimalanta (Calantiao) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section
11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

On November 13, 2003, Calantiao was charged before the RTC of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act
No. 9165 in an Information, the pertinent portion of which reads: That on or about the 11th day of November, 2003
3

in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without any authority of law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession,
custody and control two (2) bricks of dried marijuana fruiting tops with a total weight of 997 .9 grams, knowing the
same to be a dangerous drug.

The facts, as synthesized by the RTC and adopted by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:

EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION

On November 13, 2003[,] at around 5:30 x x x in the afternoon, while PO1 NELSON MARIANO and PO3
EDUARDO RAMIREZ were on duty, a certain EDWIN LOJERA arrived at their office and asked for police assistance
regarding a shooting incident. Per report of the latter, it appears that while driving a towing truck and traversing
along EDSA, Balintawak, Quezon City, he had a traffic dispute (gitgitan) with a white taxi cab prompting him to
follow said vehicle until they reached along 8th Avenue Street corner C-3 Road, Caloocan City. Thereat, the
passengers of said taxi cab, one of them was accused Calantiao, alighted and fired their guns. Surprised, Lojera
could not do anything but continued his driving until he reached a police station nearby where he reported the
incident.

The police officers on duty then were PO1 NELSON MARIANO and PO3 EDUARDO RAMIREZ. PO1 Mariano
testified that they immediately responded to said complaint by proceeding to 5th Avenue corner 8th Street, Caloocan
City where they found the white taxi. While approaching said vehicle, two armed men alighted therefrom, fired their
guns towards them (police officers) and ran away. PO1 Mariano and PO3 Ramirez chased them but they were
subdued. PO1 Mariano recovered from Calantiao a black bag containing two (2) bricks of dried marijuana fruiting
tops and a magazine of super 38 stainless with ammos, while PO3 Ramirez recovered from Calantiaos companion
[a] .38 revolver.

The suspects and the confiscated items were then turned over to SPO3 PABLO TEMENA, police investigator at
Bagong Barrio Police Station for investigation. Thereat, PO1 Mariano marked the bricks of marijuana contained in a
black bag with his initials, "NM". Thereafter, said specimen were forwarded to the PNP Crime Laboratory for
chemical analysis. The result of the examination conducted by P/SINSP. JESSSE DELA ROSA revealed that the
same was positive for marijuana, a dangerous drug.

The foregoing testimony of PO1 MARIANO was corroborated by PO3 RAMIREZ who testified that he personally
saw those bricks of marijuana confiscated from the accused. He confirmed that he was with PO1 Mariano when they
apprehended said accused and his companion and testified that while PO1 Mariano recovered from the accused a
black bag containing marijuana, on his part, he confiscated from accuseds companion a .38 revolver.

MR. CRISENDO AMANSEC, the driver of the taxi where the suspects boarded was also presented in open court
and testified as to what he knows about the incident. He confirmed that on that date, two (2) persons boarded on his
taxi and upon reaching C-3 Road, they alighted and fired three (3) shots and ran away.

Aside from the oral testimonies of the witnesses, the prosecution also offered the following documentary evidence to
boost their charge against the accused:

Exh. "A" Request for Laboratory Examination dated November 12, 2003

Exh. "B" Physical Sciences Report No. D-1423-03 dated November 12, 2003

Exh. "C-1" Picture of First brick of marijuana fruiting tops

Exh. "C-2" Picture of Second brick of marijuana fruiting tops

Exh. "D" Referral Slip dated November 12, 2003

Exh. "E" Pinagsamang Sinumpaang Salaysay dated November 12, 2003 of PO3 Eduardo Ramirez and
PO1 Nelson Mariano

Exh. "E-1" Their respective signatures

Exh. "F" Sinumpaang Salaysay of Crisendo Amansec (Erroneously marked as Exh. "E")

EVIDENCE OF THE DEFENSE

The accused offered a different version of the story. According to his testimony, this instant case originated from a
traffic mishap where the taxi he and his companion Rommel Reyes were riding almost collided with another car.
Reyes then opened the window and made a "fuck you" sign against the persons on board of that car. That prompted
the latter to chase them and when they were caught in a traffic jam, PO1 Nelson Mariano, one of the persons on
board of that other car alighted and kicked their taxi. Calantiao and Reyes alighted and PO1 Mariano slapped the
latter and uttered, "Putang ina mo bakit mo ako pinakyu hindi mo ba ako kilala?" Said police officer poked his gun
again[st] Reyes and when Calantiao tried to grab it, the gun fired. Calantiao and Reyes were then handcuffed and
were brought to the police station. Thereat, they were subjected to body frisking and their wallets and money were
taken. PO1 Mariano then prepared some documents and informed them that they will be charged for drugs. A
newspaper containing marijuana was shown to them and said police officer told them that it would be sufficient
evidence against them. They were detained and subjected to medical examination before they were submitted for
inquest at the prosecutors office.4

Ruling of the RTC

On July 23, 2009, the RTC rendered its Decision giving credence to the prosecutions case. The dispositive portion
of the Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring accused MEDARIO CALANTIAO y
DIMALANTA, GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of the offense of Violation of Section 11, Article II, R.A.
9165, for illegally possessing997.9 grams of marijuana fruiting tops. Henceforth, this Court hereby sentences him to
suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php500,000.00). 5

In convicting Calantiao, the RTC held that the illegal drug seized was admissible in evidence as it was discovered
during a body search after Calantiao was caught in flagrante delicto of possessing a gun and firing at the police
officers. Moreover, the RTC found all the elements of the offense to have been duly established by the prosecution. 6

Aggrieved, Calantiao appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals, assigning the following errors:
7

I
THE COURT A QUOGRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT FOR VIOLATION OF SECTION 11, ARTICLE II, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165,
NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT THE ALLEGEDLY SEIZED ITEMS ARE INADMISSIBLE IN
EVIDENCE.

II

THE COURT A QUOGRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE


ARRESTING OFFICERS PATENT NON-COMPLIANCE WITHTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PROPER
CUSTODY OF SEIZED DANGEROUS DRUGS.

III

THE COURT A QUOGRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE


PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO PROVE THE PROPER CHAIN OF CUSTODY OF THE SEIZED
DANGEROUS DRUGS. 8

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals found no reason to overturn Calantiaos conviction. It found that there was sufficient reason to
justify a warrantless arrest, as the police officers were acting on a legitimate complaint and had a reasonable
suspicion that the persons identified at the scene were the perpetrators of the offense. Likewise, the Court of
Appeals held that the search and subsequent seizure of the marijuana in question was lawful and valid, being
incidental to a lawful arrest. Finding that all the elements of the charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs to
9

be present and duly proven, the Court of Appeals, on January 17, 2012, promulgated its Decision, affirming in toto
10

the RTCs ruling.

Undaunted, Calantiao is now before this Court praying for an acquittal, adding the following arguments in support of
his position:

First, the plain view doctrine is not an exception to a search incident to a valid warrantless arrest.

xxxx

Second, Calantiao did not waive the inadmissibility of the seized items.

xxxx

Finally, the seized items custodial chain is broken. 11

In essence, Calantiao is questioning the admissibility of the marijuana found in his possession, as evidence against
him on the grounds of either it was discovered via an illegal search, or because its custodial chain was broken.

Ruling of this Court

This Court finds no merit in Calantiaos arguments.

Search and Seizure of


Marijuana valid

This Court cannot subscribe to Calantiaos contention that the marijuana in his possession cannot be admitted as
evidence against him because it was illegally discovered and seized, not having been within the apprehending
officers "plain view."
12

Searches and seizure incident to a lawful arrest are governed by Section 13, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, to wit:

Section 13.Search incident to lawful arrest. A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous weapons or
anything which may have been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a search warrant.
The purpose of allowing a warrantless search and seizure incident to a lawful arrest is "to protect the arresting
officer from being harmed by the person arrested, who might be armed with a concealed weapon, and to prevent the
latter from destroying evidence within reach." It is therefore a reasonable exercise of the States police power to
13

protect (1) law enforcers from the injury that may be inflicted on them by a person they have lawfully arrested; and
(2) evidence from being destroyed by the arrestee. It seeks to ensure the safety of the arresting officers and the
integrity of the evidence under the control and within the reach of the arrestee.

In People v. Valeroso, this Court had the occasion to reiterate the permissible reach of a valid warrantless search
14

and seizure incident to a lawful arrest, viz:

When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove
any weapon that the latter might use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officers safety
might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer
to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestees person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction.

Moreover, in lawful arrests, it becomes both the duty and the right of the apprehending officers to conduct a
warrantless search not only on the person of the suspect, but also in the permissible area within the latters reach.
Otherwise stated, a valid arrest allows the seizure of evidence or dangerous weapons either on the person of the
one arrested or within the area of his immediate control. The phrase "within the area of his immediate control"
means the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. A gun on a table
or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the
clothing of the person arrested. (Citations omitted.)

In Valeroso, however, the Court held that the evidence searched and seized from him could not be used against him
because they were discovered in a room, different from where he was being detained, and was in a locked cabinet.
Thus, the area searched could not be considered as one within his immediate control that he could take any
weapon or destroy any evidence against him. 15

In the case at bar, the marijuana was found in a black bag in Calantiaos possession and within his immediate
control. He could have easily taken any weapon from the bag or dumped it to destroy the evidence inside it. As the
black bag containing the marijuana was in Calantiaos possession, it was within the permissible area that the
apprehending officers could validly conduct a warrantless search.

Calantiaos argument that the marijuana cannot be used as evidence against him because its discovery was in
violation of the Plain View Doctrine, is misplaced.

The Plain View Doctrine is actually the exception to the inadmissibility of evidence obtained in a warrantless search
incident to a lawful arrest outside the suspects person and premises under his immediate control. This is so
because "[o]bjects in the plain view of an officer who has the right to be in the position to have that view are subject
to seizure and may be presented as evidence." "The doctrine is usually applied where a police officer is not
16

searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object x x
x. [It] serves to supplement the prior justification whether it be a warrant for another object, hot pursuit, search
incident to lawful arrest, or some other legitimate reason for being present unconnected with a search directed
against the accused and permits the warrantless seizure." 17

The Plain View Doctrine thus finds no applicability in Calantiaos situation because the police officers purposely
searched him upon his arrest. The police officers did not inadvertently come across the black bag, which was in
Calantiaos possession; they deliberately opened it, as part of the search incident to Calantiaos lawful arrest.

Inventory and Chain of


Custody of Evidence

Calantiao claims that even if the search and seizure were validly effected, the marijuana is still inadmissible as
evidence against him for failure of the apprehending officers to comply with the rules on chain of custody, as the
item was marked at the police station. 18

The pertinent provisions 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[.]

Its Implementing Rules and Regulations state:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources
of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after
seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or
the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall
be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; Provided, that the physical
inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the
nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in
case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under
justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and 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[.] (Emphasis supplied.)

This Court has held that the failure to strictly comply with Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, such as
immediately marking seized drugs, will not automatically impair the integrity of chain of custody because 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. 19

Section 21 and its IRR do not even mention "marking." What they require are (1) physical inventory, and (2) taking
of photographs. As this Court held in People v. Ocfemia : 20

What Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 and its implementing rule do not expressly specify is the matter of "marking" of
the seized items in warrantless seizures to ensure that the evidence seized upon apprehension is the same
evidence subjected to inventory and photography when these activities are undertaken at the police station rather
than at the place of arrest. Consistency with the "chain of custody" rule requires that the "marking" of the seized
items to truly ensure that they are the same items that enter the chain and are eventually the ones offered in
evidence should be done (1) in the presence of the apprehended violator (2) immediately upon confiscation.

The prosecution was able to establish the chain of custody of the seized marijuana from the time the police officers
confiscated it, to the time it was turned over to the investigating officer, up to the time it was brought to the forensic
chemist for laboratory examination. This Court has no reason to overrule the RTC and the Court of Appeals, which
21

both found the chain of custody of the seized drugs to have not been broken so as to render the marijuana seized
from Calantiao inadmissible in evidence.

Furthermore, unless it can be shown that there was bad faith, ill will, or tampering of the evidence, the presumption
that the integrity of the evidence has been preserved will remain. 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 is on Calantiao. Unfortunately, Calantiao failed to discharge such burden. 22

It is worthy to note that these arguments were only raised by Calantiao on his appeal. He himself admits this. His 23

theory, from the very beginning, was that he did not do it, and that he was being framed for having offended the
police officers. Simply put, his defense tactic was one of denial and frame-up. However, those defenses have
always been frowned upon by the Court, to wit:
The defenses of denial and frame-up 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 frame-up 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 self-serving
assertions, no plausible proof was presented to bolster his allegations. 24

Hence, as Calantiao failed to show clear and convincing evidence that the apprehending officers were stirred by
illicit motive or failed to properly perform their duties, their testimonies deserve full faith and credit.
25

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the January 17, 2012 Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04069.

SO ORDERED.

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 200598 June 18, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
DENNIS E. TANCINCO, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Before us is an appeal via a Notice of Appeal of the Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-HC No. 00807
1

affirming the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 58, Cebu City which, in turn, convicted accused-
2

appellant Dennis Tancinco (Tancinco) of violation of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Tancinco was charged in an Information for illegal possession of shabu, a dangerous drug:

That on or about the 5th day of March 2006, at about 4:35 oclock in the afternoon, in the City of Cebu, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, without authority of law, with deliberate intent,
did then and there have in his possession, use and control three (3) heat sealed transparent plastic packet of white
crystalline substance with a total weight of 5.36 grams locally known as "Shabu" containing methylamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. 3

Upon arraignment, Tancinco pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The prosecution presented in evidence the testimonies of: (1) Jude Daniel Mendoza (Mendoza), a Medical
Technologist who conducted a qualitative examination on the specimens found in the possession of Tancinco during
his arrest on 5 March 2006; (2) and the team of police officers who arrested Tancinco consisting of PO2 Melbert Dio
(PO2 Dio); (3) SPO1 Filomeno Mendaros (SPO1 Mendaros) and PO2 Edward Abatayo (PO2 Abatayo).

The prosecutions story narrates that in the afternoon of 5 March 2006, a team of police officers, led by SPO1
Mendaros and composed of PO2 Dio, PO2 Abatayo, a certain PO Cunan and PO Banson, was on roving patrol
along M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City, when SPO1 Mendaros received a call from a member of the Barangay
Intelligence Network (BIN) who gave information of an on-going pot session in Sitio Sampaguita, Villagonzalo I,
Barangay Tejero, Cebu City by an unidentified alleged armed man and his companions.

To investigate further, the police officers met with the BIN informant at a designated place and thereafter proceeded
to the location of where the armed person and his companions were supposedly holding their pot session. Thereat,
they did not find the alleged armed man. Instead, the police officers caught two (2) other persons for violation of
Republic Act No. 9165.

A few minutes later, the BIN informant approached SPO1 Mendaros and told him that the alleged armed man had
been spotted playing a bingo machine at a nearby house.

The BIN informant guided the team of police officers to an area which looked like an extension of a house. The door
of this house extension was open allowing SPO1 Mendaros to view the inside thereof which had five (5) bingo
machines in use by people. One of these persons playing the bingo machines was the alleged armed man, who
turned out to be herein accused-appellant, Tancinco.

With the preliminary information that Tancinco was carrying a firearm, the policemen cautiously approached
Tancinco who attempted to dispose of the firearm from his person and conceal its possession thereof by placing it at
the side of the bingo machine. Before Tancinco actually relieved himself of the firearm, PO2 Abatayo apprehended
him and asked for his license to carry such. Since Tancinco was unable to produce a license to carry the firearm,
PO2 Abatayo confiscated the firearm and arrested Tancinco without a warrant.

Incident to the warrantless arrest, SPO1 Mendaros instructed PO2 Dio to make a body search of Tancinco. PO2
Dios body search of Tancinco produced three (3) medium plastic sachets, all of which contained a white substance
suspected to be shabu, placed in the right front pocket of Tancincos short pants. These three (3) sachets of white
substance suspected to be shabu were likewise confiscated by the police. At which point of Tancincos arrest and
the body search conducted on him, the police apprised him of his constitutional rights.

Immediately thereafter, Tancinco, together with the confiscated items, the firearm and the three (3) sachets of white
substance suspected to be shabu, were brought by the police officers to Camp Sotero Cabahug Police Station in
Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City for further investigation. The details of Tancincos arrest were entered in the police
blotter; PO2 Dio prepared the request for the laboratory examination of the confiscated specimens.

These same specimens of the three sachets of white substance suspected to be shabu were forwarded and turned
over to the Philippine National Police Regional Crime Laboratory Office 7 in Camp Sotero Cabahug, Gorordo
Avenue, Cebu City, where Forensic Chemical Officer/Medical Technologist II, Mendoza, conducted a qualitative
examination thereon. Mendoza issued Chemistry Report No. D-428-2006 dated 5 March 2006 finding the
specimens to be positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

Subsequently, separate Informations for violation of Republic Act No. 9165, specifically illegal possession of
dangerous drugs, and for illegal possession of firearm were filed by the arresting police officers against Tancinco.
The Information for violation of Republic Act No. 9165 was raffled to the court a quo, RTC, Branch 58, Cebu City
and docketed as Criminal Case No. CBU-76305, while that charging illegal possession of firearm was raffled to the
RTC, Branch 10 thereof.

Not surprisingly, Tancinco counters the charges and account of the prosecution, completely denying the story and
decrying frame-up.

On the fateful day of 5 March 2006 at around 8:30 p.m., Tancinco was at a friends house in Villagonzalo I playing a
bingo machine when three (3) police officers wearing CIIB shirts barged into the premises. One of the police officers
grabbed his shirt, dragged him outside while simultaneously demanding for a gun which was supposedly in his
possession but which he did not actually have. Another policeman conducted a search within the premises for this
firearm. The policemen then stepped out of the premises now carrying a 45-caliber gun which they now claimed was
his. A little later, Tancinco was brought to the CIIB in Camp Sotero Cabahug for illegal possession of firearms and
two days thereafter, he was transferred to BBRC purportedly for illegal possession of dangerous drugs under
Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. At which point he finally learned of the actual charges against him.

Tancinco bewails that he had been set-up with fake charges of illegal possession of firearm and illegal possession of
shabu because he had previously refused to turn state witness against a certain Joel Nodalo alias Tungol (Nodalo),
who was then accused by some policemen of robbery. Tancincos story is that he had been previously charged for
two counts of robbery and in connection therewith was detained in a police station in Gorordo Avenue for a period of
one year and eleven months. Eventually, he was acquitted of those charges. Presumably, Tancinco came in contact
with Nodalo, hence the policemens pursuit for Tancinco to turn state witness against Nodalo.

The trial court found Tancinco guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165, specifically illegal possession of a dangerous drug:

Accordingly, this court finds the accused GUILTY as charged and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of from twenty (20) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to twenty-three (23) years, as maximum, and
to pay a fine of 400,000.00.

The full period of preventive detention shall be credited in the service of this sentence.

Finally, the 3 packs of shabu, Exhibit B are confiscated in favor of the state for proper disposition. 4

On appeal, the appellate court rejected Tancincos claim of frame-up as against the straightforward, direct and
positive testimony of the police officers who arrested Tancinco in the regular performance of their official duties.
In this appeal before us, Tancinco maintains his innocence; he was merely framed-up. He then points to
inconsistencies in the police officers accounting of his arrest that supposedly make up reasonable doubt for his
acquittal. Obviously, Tancinco relies on the presumption of innocence and contends that the prosecution did not
establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

As the lower courts were, we are not convinced. We find no cause to disturb their factual findings that Tancinco was
lawfully arrested without a warrant after information of his being armed and engaging in a pot session with other
persons was given to the police officers who then investigated and pursued the lead of the BIN informant. Incident to
the lawful warrantless arrest of Tancinco is a search on his person made by the police officers which then yielded his
illegal possession of shabu.

On more than one occasion, we have ruled that findings of fact of the trial court, particularly when affirmed by the
Court of Appeals, are accorded great weight. This is because the trial judge has the distinct advantage of closely
observing the demeanor of the witnesses, as well as the manner in which they testify, and is in a better position to
determine whether or not they are telling the truth. On that score alone, Tancincos appeal ought to have been
5

dismissed outright.

We affirm the lower courts uniform rulings that Tancinco was searched as an incident to a lawful warrantless arrest.

Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides:

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 just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal
knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place
where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while
being transferred from one confinement to another.

In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith
delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with Section 7 of Rule
112.

Tancinco claims that he was not lawfully arrested and consequent thereto, the search on him which produced the
three (3) sachets of shabu was likewise illegal. He insinuates that the firearm allegedly seized from him was planted
by the policemen who had an ax to grind against him for refusing to be a state witness against Nodalo aliasTungol in
a robbery case.

In contrast to the presentation of evidence of the prosecution, Tancincos roughly drawn scene is that of a frame-up,
and that he was eventually charged with illegal possession of shabu because he did not turn state witness against
Nodalo. Tancinco cites the testimony of PO2 Dio as flawed for declaring that he did not clearly see Tancinco holding
the firearm. He further avers that if he did own the firearm seized, as alleged by the prosecution, he would not have
tried to conceal it beside a bingo machine which can easily be spotted by people as their location at that time was a
public place. To do so was contrary to human nature.

To begin with, the testimony of the police officers, including PO2 Dio, as to what went down when they arrested
Tancinco was direct, straightforward and positive. PO2 Dios statement that he did not clearly see Tancinco holding
the firearm does not detract from the prosecutions evidence and story that Tancinco was arrested while attempting
to conceal a firearm and could not produce a license to carry thereof when asked by the police officers. Immediately
thereafter, as an incident to a lawful warrantless arrest, Tancinco was searched and found to have three (3) sachets
of shabu in his possession.

SPO1 Mendaros:

Q: After that incident, what happened next?


A: Five minutes after we arrived at the place, my informant told me that he spotted the armed person playing [at the]
bingo machine[s].

Q: What did you do then after that?

A: My informant guided us to the place where this armed person was.

Q: Then?

A: Considering that he was reportedly armed, we cautiously approached him and one after the other we surrounded
[him].

Q: Considering that you were five and you said that you were very cautious [in] approaching the accused, how did
you go to the said place then?

A: We went to the place one after the other.

Q: Could you describe the place where the said suspect was playing bingo machine?

A: The place had five bingo machines.

Q: Was it inside the house?

A; It was at the extension of the house.

Q: Was it covered?

A: There was a door but it was opened (sic).

Q: How many were playing at that time?

A: I cannot recall the exact number of persons playing, but [there] were people playing.

Q: As you cautiously went to the place where the accused was at that time, what happened next?

A: As I observed him, he looked surprised. We saw him carrying a handgun and attempted to conceal it at the side
of the bingo machine.

Q: Then?

A: PO2 Abatayo quickly confiscated the gun from him.

Q: Then?

A: For failure to present a document allowing him to carry a firearm, we placed him under arrest.

Q: Then?

A: He was brought outside already handcuffed and as a matter of procedure, I instructed PO2 Dio to frisk him for
any illegal item.

Q: What happened next?

A: Incidental to his lawful arrest, PO2 Dio was able to recover three

(3) medium plastic pack of suspected shabu from his right front pocket of his maong short pants.

Q: After that, what happened?


A: He was arrested for possession of shabu.

Q: You have said that you ordered Dio to conduct the frisking, how far were you then?

A: An arm[s] length distance from him.

Q: How about your other companions then?

A: My other companions were also near.

Q: What happened next?

A: As a matter of procedure, we apprised him of his constitutional rights.

Q; After that, what happened.

A: We brought him to our office for proper disposition. 6

(Emphasis supplied).

PO2 Abatayo:

Q: What did you do then after receiving the information?

A: We immediately proceeded to the place then I saw the accused drew (sic)his firearm from his waistline.

Q: How far were you from the accused?

A: Closed (sic) distance.

Q: You mean to say he did not notice your presence?

A: He noticed us that is why he immediately drew his firearm and tried to conceal [it] at the side of the bingo
machine.

Q: What did you do then?

A: I placed him under arrest because of his violation. PO2 Cunan conducted body search and he recovered 3 big
packs of white crystalline substance.

Q: Where did he recover the same?

A: From the possession of the accused. 7

(Emphasis supplied).

PO2 Dio

Q: After the informant pinpointed the said person, what happened next?

A: We approached him.

Q: And then?

A: We saw him placed his handgun beside the bingo machine and attempt to conceal it.

Q: How far were you when you saw this act of that person?
A: 2 meters.

Q: Were you in uniform at that time?

A: No, sir. We were in civilian attire.

Q: After that what did you do next?

A: We arrested the person.

Q: And then?

A: We handcuffed him and conducted the body search.

Q: Who conducted the body search?

A: I.

Q: What did you recover?

A: 3 plastic medium packs suspected to be shabu.

Q: Where did you recover the same?

A: Right front pocket of his short pants.

Q: After that, what happened next?

A: We arrested him.

Q: For what?

A: For violation of RA 9165.

Q: You have said you recovered 3 plastic packs from his right pocket.

What did you do with [these] then?

A: We used it as evidence against him.

Q: In that precise moment, what did you do with the said specimen?

A: After we reached the office, we entered it into the police blotter and after that we brought the specimen to the
PNP Crime Laboratory. (Emphasis supplied).
8

Moreover, Tancincos very argument ensnares him. It reveals his actual shrewdness in attempting to dispose of the
firearm from his person, his immediate possession thereof, surreptitiously placing it behind the bingo machine which
he was playing at the time. It is precisely because the firearm was found in Tancincos possession without license to
carry such that he was then lawfully arrested. Immediately thereafter, he was searched and found to be in
possession of three (3) sachets of shabu, a dangerous drug.

For good measure, Tancinco argues that the police operatives did not perform their duties regularly.

The presumption that official duty has been regularly performed, and the corresponding testimony of the arresting
officers on the buy-bust transaction, can only be overcome through clear and convincing evidence showing either of
two things: (1) that they were not properly performing their duty, or (2) that they were inspired by any improper
motive. In the face of the straightforward and direct testimony of the police officers, and absent any improper motive
on their part to frame up Tancinco, stacked against the bare and thin self-serving testimony of Tancinco, we find no
reason to overturn the lower courts findings.9

We agree with the lower courts respective disquisitions on the evidence presented by Tancinco:

The testimony of [Tancinco] confirms that he was playing a bingo machine in a friends house and that there were
many people playing thereat indicating that the place was open to anybody interested to play.

He also confirmed that he was bodily searched.

However, [Tancinco] denied that a gun and 3 packs of shabu were recovered from him. He wants this court to
believe that he was framed by the police because he refused to testify against Joel Noda[l]o after he was
discharged to be a state witness.

But the problem with said evidence for the defense is that it is uncorroborated or unsupported. Moreover, [Tancinco]
himself admitted that he was sent here by his grandparents, who reside in the U.S. and who adopted him after his
parents died, "to become good but it did not work." In other words, even his character is questionable.

Further, [Tancinco] also said that he had undergone a drug rehabilitation here before.

Thus, between his testimony and those of the police officers, the latter would [carry more weight]. 10

xxxx

At any rate, we find the version of[Tancinco] that he was merely framed up by the apprehending officers too
incredulous vis--vis the positive evidence for the [prosecution]. [Tancinco] merely offered the defenses of denial
and frame [up]which were uncorroborated by any positive testimony of the people who were allegedly with him
during the incident. We find it incredible that the policemen planted said evidence in full view of the people, who, like
[Tancinco], were also playing the bingo machines. This is so because the policemen could be prosecuted for
planting evidence under Section 19 of R.A. No. 7659. If he were truly aggrieved, it is quite surprising why [Tancinco]
did not even attempt to file a criminal or an administrative complaint, e.g., for planting drugs, against the arresting
police officers. Such inaction runs counter to the normal human conduct and behavior of one who feels truly
aggrieved by the act complained of.

Thus, between the positive assertions of the witnesses for the [prosecution] and the negative averments of
[Tancinco], the former undisputedly deserves more credence and are entitled to greater evidentiary value. The
defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been viewed with disfavor for it can easily be concocted and is a
common defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. Denial is a weak form of
defense, particularly when it is not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence just like in the case before us. 11

As found by the lower courts, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt the elements of illegal possession of
dangerous drugs: (1) the accused is in possession of the object identified as a prohibited or regulatory drug; (2)
such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.

Tancinco does not even attempt to explain his possession of the three (3) sachets of shabu, only that such were not
validly obtained and resulted from his unlawful arrest. Clearly, given the foregoing explication, Tancinco was in
possession of three (3) sachets of shabu in the total quantity of 5.36 grams, which possession conscious knew
these to be shabu, a dangerous drug.

Turning now to the imposable penalty on Tancinco, we modify the penalty imposed by the RTC, and affirmed by the
Court of Appeals. Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 provides for the penalty for the illegal possession of
1wphi1

dangerous drugs:

Section 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs.- The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five
hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person,
who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the
degree of purity thereof:

xxxx
(5) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu";

xxxx

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be graduated as follows:

xxxx

(2) Imprisonment of twenty (20) years and one (1) day to life imprisonment and a fine ranging from Four hundred
thousand pesos (P400,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs
are five (5) grams or more but less than ten (10) grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine
hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", or other
dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or "ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly
designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity
possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or three hundred (300) grams or more but less than five
(hundred) (500) grams of marijuana; x x x. (Emphasis supplied).

For the illegal possession of shabu in the amount of 5.36 grams, as in this case, violation of Section 11 of Republic
Act No. 9165 is penalized by imprisonment of twenty years (20) and one day (1) to life imprisonment.

Thus, the Indeterminate Sentence Law is inapplicable. The correct imposable and imposed penalty is imprisonment
12

of twenty years (20) and one day (1) to life imprisonment and a fine of Four Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P400,000.00).

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decisions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-CR-HC No. 00807
and the Regional Trial Court in Criminal Case No. CBU-76305 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused
Dennis E. Tancinco is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twenty years (20) and one day (1) to life
imprisonment and to pay a FINE of Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (P400,000.00). No costs.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTURO D. BRION*
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA**


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson, Second Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Acting Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that
the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer
of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

G.R. No. 190177 June 11, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
VIVIAN BULOTANO y AMANTE, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

In the prosecution of a case for sale of illegal drugs punishable under Section 5, Artic1e II of Republic Act No. 9165,
noncompliance with the procedure set forth in Section 21 of the law is not necessarily fatal as to render an
accused's arrest illegal or the items confiscated from him inadmissible as evidence of his guilt, if, nonetheless, the
integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated items is preserved, there will yet be basis for the establishment of
the guilt of the accused.1

Under review is the conviction of Vivian A. Bulotano (Bulotano) for illegal sale of shabu, punishable under the
"Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002". The challenged decision is the Decision of the Court of Appeals
2

(CA) dated 23 July 2009, which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) dated 10 August 2005 in
3

Criminal Case No. 2004-727.

The facts as culled from the records are as follows:

Upon a tip-off, a team of agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) conducted a buy-bust
operation in Barangay 31, Sto. Nio, Cagayan de Oro City, toentrap Bulotano for allegedly selling illegal drugs or
shabu.

Acting as poseur-buyers, PO1 Dizon Dagaraga (PO1 Dagaraga), together with an informant, approached Bulotano,
who was playing a card game with two (2) other persons inside a billiard hall. When Bulotano noticed the two, she
approached them and asked what they were looking for. PO1 Dagaraga replied that he wants to buyP200.00 worth
of shabu. After Bulotano handed PO1 Dagaraga a transparent plastic sachet containing crystals, PO1 Dagaraga
handed Bulotano marked money in the amount of P200.00.

Immediately, PO1 Dagaraga went out of the billiard hall to call the back-up officers to arrest Bulotano.

During her arrest, PO1 Cotta Tanggote informed Bulotano of the reason for her arrest and of her constitutional
rights. Bulotano was brought to the PDEA- Region 10 Office at Cagayan De Oro City for her inquest for violation of
Republic Act No. 9165.

Bulotano was then brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory where she was asked for her urine sample. When tested,
the result came positive for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu. The laboratory examination by the PNP
4

Crime Laboratory of the transparent plastic sachet containing crystalline substance also tested positive for 0.10
gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu. 5

As her defense, Bulotano claims that during her arrest, she was merely playing a card game when three (3) armed
men suddenly barged into the billiard hall and approached her. According to Bulotano, one of the three (3) armed
men introduced himself as a policeman, after which, she was brought outside and made to board a police vehicle.
Bulotano further claims that during the entire incident, she was in a state of shock and was never informed of the
reason for her arrest, as well as of her constitutional rights. Contrary to the prosecutions allegation of facts,
Bulotano claims that she found out the reason for her arrest only upon arrival at the PDEA-Region 10 Office, where
PO1 Dagaraga made her sign an inventory receipt of the illegal drugs allegedly seized from her.

One Joel Flores was presented in support of the defense. Essentially, he testified that there was no buy-bust
operation which took place and that the PDEA agents just suddenly barged into the billiard hall and poked a gun at
Bulotanos forehead. 6

Bulotano entered a plea of not guilty on the Information which reads:

That on or about September 6, 2004, at 6:00 oclock P.M., at Sto. Nio Brgy. 31, Cagayan de Oro City, 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 feloniously sell, deliver, distribute and give away one (1) small sachet heat
sealed transparent plastic cellophane containing 0.10 gram of met[h]amphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), to a
poseur buyer in consideration of two (2) P100.00 bills, which was marked money bearing Serial Number QP541321
and RP780963, while the other members of the police unit strategically located nearby, intently observing the
consummation of the transaction, including the giving of marked money by the poseur buyer to the accused on a
buy-bust operation, well knowing that it is dangerous drug.

Contrary to and in violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act 9165. 7

After trial, the trial court found Bulotano guilty of violation of Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165. The dispositive
portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, (sic) consideration, this Court hereby rendered judgment finding the
accused Vivian Bulotano y Amante guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged in the information and
sentences her to life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000.00 and to pay the cost.

Accused Vivian Bulotano who has been detained since her arrest shall be credited in the service of her sentence
consisting of deprivation of liberty with the full time during which she has undergone preventive imprisonment if she
agrees voluntarily in writing to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon corrected prisoners.

SO ORDERED. 8

On appeal, the CA affirmed the trial court decision, thus:

WHEREFORE, Premises considered, the APPEAL is hereby DENIED. The decision dated August 10, 2005 of
Branch 25 of the Regional trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

Before Us, Bulotano insists that her conviction is without basis. She anchors her arguments on the following
allegations:

(1) There were no photographs of the alleged seized illegal drugs taken;

(2) The inventory of the alleged seized illegal drugs was not immediately done after her arrest. The inventory
was conducted only after she underwent inquest proceedings at the City Prosecutors Office, following which
the inventory was shown to her and she was forced to sign the same. There were no witnesses in the
conduct of the inventory and that the inventory report was solely signed by PO1 Dagaraga;

(3) The Chemistry Report, prepared by P/S Insp. April Madroo

(Forensic Chemical Officer), dated 7 September 2004, was not duly notarized; and

(4) The trial court failed to appreciate the testimony of Joel Flores.
On these arguments, the CA ruled that, "even if it were to be conceded that the above arguments presented by
accused-appellant are indeed meritorious, regrettably, the same arguments do not militate nor mitigate accused-
appellants conviction for violation of Republic Act No. 9165. At most, the above arguments constitute infractions that
may subject the parties concerned to administrative charges." 9

Further, the CA ratiocinated that the "alleged deviations from the guidelines of Republic Act No. 9165 relate only to
minor procedural matters, which by any means, does not operate to tilt the scales of justice in favor of accused-
appellant, as the fact of sale of illegal drugs was duly established by the prosecution against her." 10

With the observations that follow, We affirm the conviction of the defendant for illegal sale of shabu.

Necessity of presenting in evidence the corpus delicti.

The elements necessary for the prosecution of the illegal sale of drugs are as follows: (a) the identity of the buyer
and the seller, the object and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and payment therefor. The
11

prosecution, to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, must present in evidence the corpus delicti of the case. The
corpus delicti is the seized illegal drugs.

The duty of the prosecution is not merely to present in evidence the seized illegal drugs. It is essential that the illegal
drugs seized from the suspect is the very same substance offered in evidence in court as the identity of the drug
must be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that required to make a finding of guilt. 12

Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 as a legal safeguard that the seized illegal drugs are the same one presented
in court.

Because of the unique characteristic of illegal drugs, rendering them indistinct, not readily identifiable, and
susceptible to tampering, alteration or substitution either by accident or otherwise, the law laid down rules to
preserve the identity and integrity of the seized illegal drugs. Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 provides for the
procedure that ensures that what was confiscated is the one presented in court. Thus:

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; x x x x

(3) A certification of the forensic laboratory examination results, which shall be done under oath by the forensic
laboratory examiner, shall be issued within twenty-four (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 twenty-four (24) hours; x x x x

Otherwise stated, Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 requires that upon seizure of illegal drug items, the
apprehending team having initial custody of the drugs shall (a) conduct a physical inventory of the drugs and (b)
take photographs thereof (c) in the presence of the person from whom these items were seized or confiscated and
(d) a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and any elected public official (e) who shall all be
required to sign the inventory and be given copies thereof.

There were no photographs of the alleged seized illegal drugs taken.

Based on the records, in violation to Section 21, paragraph 1 of Republic Act No. 9165, the arresting officers
completely failed to take photographs of the seized illegal drugs 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. 13

The testimony of PO1 Dagaraga affirms the fact:

Q: You also did not photograph the shabu at the scene in the presence of Vivian Bulotano?

A: No, sir.

Q: In the PDEA Office, did you photograph the shabu in the presence of Vivian Bulotano?

A: I cannot recall.

Q: Meaning to say, it is possible that you have perhaps the evidence together with Vivian Bulotano at the PDEA
Office already?

A: Yes. 14

There were no witnesses in the conduct of the inventory, except PO1 Dagaraga.

Besides the failure to photograph the seized illegal drugs, the defense claims that the inventory was not done
immediately after the arrest. However, the defense failed to adduce evidence to establish such fact. Thus, on this
point, the presumption of regularity must prevail.

The defenses arguments, however, do not solely center on the promptness of the conduct of the inventory. The
defense maintains that the inventory report is defective on the ground of lack of witnesses.

A simple perusal of the inventory report will reveal that PO1 Dagaraga was the sole signatory in the inventory
report. PO1 Dagaraga affirmed such procedural lapse. Thus:
15

Q: Will you agree with me that there are no witnesses who signed in this inventory receipt?

A: No, myself only. 16

The Chemistry Report,


prepared by P/S Insp. April
Madroo (Forensic Chemical
Officer) was not duly notarized.

Again, contrary to the procedural requirement laid down in Section 21, paragraph (3) of Republic Act No. 9165,
which requires that the laboratory certification must be under oath, the Chemistry Report was not duly notarized. 17

As defined in the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, an affirmation or oath refers to an act in which an individual on
a single occasion: 18

(a) appears in person before the notary public;

(b) is personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent evidence of
identity as defined by these Rules; and

(c) avows under penalty of law to the whole truth of the contents of the instrument or document.

Contrary to the requirements in the law, the Chemistry Report was notarized by a certain Theodore Ipan Baja (Baja),
a Police Chief Inspector/QD Examiner/C/OPN OFFR. Baja is not a duly commissioned notary public. Also, there
19

were no allegations that PO1 Dagaraga was personally known to Baja and that PO1 Dagaraga avows under the
penalty of law to the whole truth of the contents of the Chemistry Report.

In sum, the procedural requirements of Section 21, Republic Act No. 9165 were not followed. First,no photograph of
the seized shabu was taken. Second, the arresting officers did not immediately mark the seized shabu at the scene
of the crime. Third, although there was testimony about the marking of the seized items at the police station, the
records do not show that the marking was done in the presence of Bulotano. Fourth, no representative of the media
and the Department of Justice, and any elected official attended the conduct of the physical inventory and signed
the inventory. And finally, the Chemistry Report was not duly notarized.

The "chain of custody" rule.

Without doubt, the arresting officers failed to strictly comply with the requirements provided in Section 21.However,
noncompliance with the regulations is not necessarily fatal as to render an accuseds arrest illegal or the items
confiscated from him inadmissible as evidence of his guilt, for what is of the utmost importance is the preservation of
the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated items that will be utilized in the determination of his guilt or
innocence. Such that, when there is a failure to follow strictly the said procedure, the crime can still be proven, i.e.,
20

that the noncompliance was under justifiable grounds or that the shabu taken is the same one presented in court by
proof of "chain of custody".

We refer to the last paragraph of Section 21(a) of the IRR, which provides a saving mechanism to ensure that not
every case of noncompliance irreversibly prejudices the States evidence, to wit:

(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; (Emphasis and Underscoring supplied)

As thus provided, noncompliance with the enumerated requirements in Section 21 of the law, does not automatically
exonerate the accused. Upon proof that noncompliance was due to justifiable grounds, and that the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, the seizure and
custody over said items are not, by the noncompliance, rendered void. This is the "chain of custody" rule.

In Mallillin v. People, the Court explained that the "chain of custody" requirement ensures that unnecessary doubts
21

concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. The chain of evidence is constructed by proper exhibit
handling, storage, labelling and recording, and must exist from the time the evidence is found until the time it is
offered in evidence. Failure to prove that the specimen submitted for laboratory examination was the same one
22

allegedly seized from accused is fatal to the prosecutions case. When there are doubts on whether the item
confiscated was the same specimen examined and established to be the prohibited drug, there can be no crime of
illegal possession or illegal sale of a prohibited drug.
23

In the chain of custody, the marking immediately after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link. Thereafter,
the specimen shall undergo different processes and will inevitably be passed on to different persons. Thus, it is vital
that there be an unbroken link in the chain to obviate switching, "planting," or contamination of evidence, a fortiori,
24

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. 25

In the case at bar, the records establish the links in the chain of custody.

After PO1 Dagaraga seized from Bulotano a transparent plastic sachet containing crystalline substance (specimen)
and the marked money of P200.00, PO1 Dagaraga then prepared an inventory and request for laboratory
examination and brought the specimen, the marked money, and Bulotano, to the PNP Crime Laboratory.

During his cross-examination, PO1 Dagaraga attested that it was the same seized illegal drugs which were
presented in court because of the markings "DGD" on the specimen and the marked money. The examination on
PO1 Dagaraga as shown in the TSN: 26

Q: What did you do next?


A: Then I brought Vivian to our office at PDEA, and I let her filled [sic] up the booking sheet for her identification.

Q: What else did you do?

A: We prepared a request for laboratory examination for the specimen recovered from Vivian Bulotano.

Q: If that laboratory request as you said prepared by you be shown to you, will you be able to identify it?

A: Yes, sir.

xxxx

Q: Im showing to you a specimen already marked Exhibit "D", is that the one you bought from the accused?

(Pros. Borja handed to the witness Exhibit "D").

A: Yes, this is the one, the sachet that we bought from Vivian Bulotano worth P200.00 peso bills.

Q: Why do you say that this is the one that you bought from Vivian Bulotano?

A: Because of the mark DGD, sir.

xxxx

Q: Why do you say that you were the one who submitted the letter request to the PNP Crime Laboratory?

A: Because it bears my signatory receipt and I indicated my names (sic) sir.

To corroborate PO1 Dagaragas testimony, SPO1 Samuel Daang Tabligan (SPO1 Tabligan) testified that he was the
one who received the request, specimen, and marked money from PO1 Dagaraga:

Q: I am showing to you this request, is this the request that you received from the PDEA?

A: Yes, sir, including the specimen.

Q: Is this the specimen that you are referring to?

A: Yes, sir.
27

xxxx

Q: Mr. Witness, when you received the laboratory request and the specimen, where did the requesting party placed
the small sachet containing a white crystalline substance?

A: It is placed in a bigger transparent cellophane.

Q: Where there markings on the bigger plastic cellophane where the small plastic sachet was placed?

A: There was none.

Q: Now, how was that big cellophane sealed, was it sealed through masking tape or staple wire?

A: It was sealed through staple wire.

Q: When you received it, did you also open it in order to examine the specimen that was placed inside?

A: Yes, Maam. I opened the bigger plastic for comparison.


xxxx

Q: By the way, who delivered this laboratory request and this specimen?

A: PO1 Dizon Dagaraga. He was the one who brought the written request together with the specimen. 28

To prove that the specimen presented in court was the same specimen he received from PO1 Dagaraga and the
same specimen he examined and thereafter, forwarded to the PNP Chemical Laboratory, SPO1 Tabligan positively
identified the seized shabu:

Q: Now, Mr. Witness, on the smaller sachet which contains a white crystalline substance, what were the markings
you found?

A: I found the making "DGD".

xxxx

Q: And did you record in your police logbook, the receipt of this specimen and the laboratory request?

A: Yes, Maam. 29

In detail, the records of the case indicate that after Bulotanos arrest, she was taken to the police station and turned
over to the police investigator. Although there were no photographs taken, PO1 Dagaraga, the poseur-buyer and
arresting officer, testified that he personally made the markings "DGD" (representing his initials) on the plastic
30

sachet containing crystalline substance. PO1 Dagaraga also testified that he was the one who drafted the
inventory. PO1 Dagaraga, also, drafted the request for chemical laboratory examination. After drafting the request,
31 32

it was still PO1 Dagaraga, who delivered the plastic sachet containing crystalline substance, which had the marking
33

"DGD" to the PNP Chemical Laboratory for examination. The request, together with the sachet containing crystalline
substance, was received by SPO1 Tabligan. Then, it was transferred to the Forensic Chemical Officer, P/S Insp.
34

Madroo. The plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance was later on determined to be positive for
35

Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu. 36

Despite noncompliance with the requirements in Section 21, there is no showing of a break in the chain in the
custody of the seized item, later on determined to be shabu, from the moment of its seizure by the entrapment team,
to the investigating officer, to the time it was brought to the forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory for
laboratory examination. The prosecutions failure to submit in evidence the required photograph and inventory
37

conducted in the presence of the accused and witnesses of the seized drugs pursuant to Section 21, Article II of
Republic Act No. 9165 will not exonerate Bulotano. Noncompliance with the requirements is not fatal and will not
38

render an accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost
39

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.
40

Finally, We find need to comment on the statement by the appellate court that, "even if it were to be conceded that
the above arguments presented by accused-appellant are indeed meritorious, regrettably, the same arguments do
not militate nor mitigate accused-appellants conviction for violation of Republic Act No. 9165. At most, the above
arguments constitute infractions that may subject the parties concerned to administrative charges." 41

The requirements laid down in Section 21 are not a statement of duties or a job description of the drugs law
enforcement officers. It is a statement of procedure for compliance with the imperative that the thing presented as
1wphi1

proof of violation of the law is precisely that which was confiscated or taken from the accused, recognizing the
unique characteristic of illegal drugs being vulnerable to tampering, altering or substitution. When it is not followed
42

without any justifiable reason, an acquittal of the accused results.

Thus, while minor deviations from the procedures under Republic Act No. 9165 would not automatically exonerate
an accused, when there is gross disregard of the procedural safeguards prescribed in the substantive law, serious
uncertainty is generated about the identity of the seized items that the prosecution presented in evidence. Which is 43

why the rule of chain of custody was included in the IRR of the law.
Credence is given to prosecution witnesses who are police officers for they are presumed to have performed their
duties in a regular manner, unless there is evidence to the contrary suggesting ill-motive on the part of the police
officers.
44

The same presumption holds good insofar as the fact of sale is concerned. Bulotano failed to show any motive on
the part of the arresting officers to implicate her in a crime she claimed she did not commit. Bulotanos bare denial
cannot prevail over the positive identification by PO1 Dagaraga that she is the same person who sold the shabu to
him, corroborated by SPO1 Tabligan. Parenthetically, the testimony of Joel Flores, merely corroborative of the
defense is likewise of no moment.

We uphold the performance in this case of the police officers of their duty. We are not, however, unmindful of the
abuses that can possibly be committed by enforcing officers of the law. We take note that arresting officers cannot
run around the law unscathed; thus, the more stringent implementation of Sections 27, 29 and 32 of Republic Act
No. 9165, which criminalizes misappropriation, misapplication, failure to account confiscated or seized illegal drugs,
planting of illegal drugs as evidence, and violation of rules of the PDEA of arresting officers.
45

Thus said, We go back to what is this case at bottom. All the elements necessary for the prosecution of the illegal
sale of drugs has been established beyond reasonable doubt (a) the identity of the buyer: PO1 Dagaraga; and the
seller: Bulotano; the object: shabu; and the consideration: P200.00 marked money; and (2) the delivery of the thing
sold and payment therefor. 46

Accordingly, We AFFIRM the 23 July 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00254-MIN,
which in turn affirmed in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court in Criminal Case No. 2004-727 dated 10
August 2005, finding accused-appellant VIVIAN BULOTANO y AMANTE guilty of violating Section 5, Article II of
Republic Act No. 9165.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, it is hereby
certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
G.R. No. 205202 June 9, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
NENITA GAMATA y VALDEZ, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

REYES, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision dated May 11, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04839
1

which affirmed the Decision dated September 15, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 64
2

in Criminal Case Nos. 06-1344 to 1345 finding Nenita Gamata y Valdez (accused-appellant) guilty in Criminal Case
'No. 06-1344 for violating 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 to
pay a fine of P500,000.00.

The Information in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 to which the accused-appellant pleaded "Not Guilty" contained the
following accusations:

That on or about the 25TH day of July 2006, 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,
unlawfully and feloniously sell, give away, distribute and deliver to another, zero point zero three [0.03] gram of
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride which is a dangerous drug, in exchange of Php.500.00 pesos. [sic] 3

Meanwhile, the information in Criminal Case No. 06-1345 indicted the accused-appellant for illegal possession of
0.14 gram of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, an act punishable under Section 11, Article II of R.A. No.
9165. Considering, however, that the accused-appellant was acquitted by the RTC of such criminal charge, the
4

present discussion shall concern only Criminal Case No. 06-1344.

During trial, the prosecution presented the testimonies of Police Officer 2 Renie Aseboque (PO2 Aseboque), Noel
Pulido (Pulido) and Juan Siborboro, Jr., both operatives of the Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council (MADAC), and Police
Inspector May Andrea Bonifacio (P/Insp. Bonifacio), Forensic Chemist of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime
Laboratory. Their declarations depicted the following events:

On July 25, 2006, an information was received by Senior Inspector Joefel Felongco Siason (S/Insp. Siason) of the
Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (SAIDSOTF), Makati City, from a confidential asset of the
MADAC that rampant illegal drug peddling in Laperal Compound, Barangay Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City was being
carried out by the accused-appellant, Jun Gamata (Jun), Toto Madera and Totoy Pajayjay. Apparently, their names
are also included in the watch list of the MADAC.

Forthwith, a team composed of SAIDSOTF police officers and MADAC operatives was formed to conduct a buy-bust
operation against the said subjects. During the briefing,PO2 Aseboque was designated as the poseur-buyer while
the rest of the team members were assigned to be his back-up. The operation was coordinated with the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) under Pre-Coordination Sheet Control Number MMRO-072506-0212 duly
acknowledged to have been received by PO1 Nemencio V. Domingo of the PDEA. One piece of a 500.00 bill was
5

also marked for use in the operation.6

At around 4:30 p.m., the team, together with the confidential informant, proceeded to the subject area. The team
1wphi1

members positioned themselves in spots where they can monitor the possible transaction. Meanwhile, PO2
Aseboque and the informant walked towards Laperal Compound and thereupon noticed a woman clad in white t-
shirt and maong pants. The informant identified her to PO2 Aseboque as the accused-appellant.

The two of them then approached the accused-appellant whom PO2 Aseboque queried as to the whereabouts of
Jun. In response, the accused-appellant said that Jun was not around and that "kami nandito lang, bakit kukuha ba
kayo?" PO2 Aseboque comprehended her response as the street language used in the dealing ofdangerous drugs
and that she actually meant that she was selling shabu if they wanted to buy one. PO2 Aseboque repeated his
query to which the accused-appellant replied, "Wag niyo ng hintayin si Jun, ako meron." PO2 Aseboque took her
response as a confirmation that she was indeed selling shabu. He then asked her if she had 500.00 worth of shabu.
The accused-appellant took out one plastic sachet from her right pocket and handed it over to PO2 Aseboque who
in turn examined its contents and thereafter handed the buy-bust money to the accused-appellant. As she was
placing the money inside her pocket, PO2 Aseboque made the pre-arranged signal to his buy-bust team mates by
lighting a cigarette.

Upon seeing MADAC operative Pulido rushing towards the scene, PO2 Aseboque held the accused-appellant and
introduced himself as a police officer. He directed her to empty the contents of her pockets but she refused. This
prompted PO2 Aseboque to order Pulido to dig into the accused-appellants pockets. Pulido complied and
discovered three more pieces of transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance suspected as
shabu along with the buy-bust money and 120.00 of the accused-appellants personal money.

The accused-appellant was then informed of her constitutional rights while the sachet she sold to PO2 Aseboque
was immediately marked by the latter with his initials "REA" while those recovered by Pulido were marked with
"REA-1", "REA-2", and "REA-3". At the crime scene, PO2 Aseboque also prepared an Acknowledgment
Receipt which he and the arresting team signed.
7

The accused-appellant and the seized evidence were subsequently brought to the Makati SAIDSOTF office where
they were turned over to PO2 Rafael Castillo (PO2 Castillo) for investigation, interrogation and proper disposition. At
the same office, PO2 Aseboque executed an Affidavit of Arrest and a Supplemental Affidavit.
8

Along with a Request for Laboratory Examination prepared by S/Insp. Siason, Pulido brought the seized specimens
9

to the PNP Crime Laboratory. The same were received by a certain Relos, officer of the day, in the presence of
Crime Laboratory Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Bonifacio.

P/Insp. Bonifacio conducted the necessary tests on the subject specimens and the results thereof yielded positive
results for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. Thereafter, she tagged each item with tape markings and
reduced her findings in Physical Science Report Number D-506-06S. She then turned over the specimens to the
10

evidence custodian from whom she later on retrieved them upon the instructions of the prosecutor after the filing of
criminal informations against the accused-appellant. 11

The defense refuted all of the above occurrences and claimed, through the testimony of the accused-appellant, that
at around 3:00 p.m. of July 25, 2006, she had just finished taking a bath when she heard someone banging the door
of her house in Laperal Compound. When she opened the door, five armed men in civilian clothing greeted her and
asked for Jun, her brother-in-law. When she answered them that she did not know Juns whereabouts, they began
searching her house. Since Jun actually resides at about five houses away from hers, the armed men were unable
to locate him at the accused-appellants house. They then handcuffed the accused-appellant and loaded her in a
van where she saw her neighbor, Alaw, and a certain Jonalyn Silvano. The three of them were brought to the
SAIDSOTF office where the accused-appellant was shown items that will be used as evidence against her. 12

In a Decision dated September 15, 2010,the RTC sustained the prosecutions version and held that the pieces of
13

evidence submitted established the presence of the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, viz: (1) the identity
of the buyer and the seller, object and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.
Both elements were found present in the poseur-buyers positive identification of the accused-appellant as the
person from whom he was able to purchase P500.00 worth of shabu.
The accused-appellants denial and alibi were rejected for being unsubstantiated. Her imputations of frame-up to the
police officers were likewise found uncorroborated by convincing proof and thus overthrown by the presumption of
regularity attached to the performance of the police officers official duties.

The RTC disposed thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, [judgment] is hereby rendered as follows:

1. Finding the accused NENITA GAMATA y VALDEZ, GUILTY in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 of the charge
for violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 and sentencing her to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of
FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (Php500,000.00);

2. ACQUITTING the accused NENITA GAMATA y VALDEZ in Criminal Case No. 06-1345 of the charge for
violation of Section 11, Article II of RA 9165.

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis ours)


14

On appeal, the accused-appellant argued for her acquittal on the ground that the identity of the drugs seized from
her was not proved beyond reasonable doubt because the prosecution failed to supply all the links in the chain of
their custody. She further pointed out the inconsistent testimonial and documentary evidence on the markings
placed on the seized items. The accused-appellant also questioned the failure of the police officers to comply with
the procedure laid down in Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 particularly, the preparation of the inventory and
taking of photographs of the seized items. 15

In a Decision dated May 11, 2012, the CA denied the appeal and concurred with the findings and conclusions of the
16

RTC that the identities of the buyer and seller as well as the consummation of the sale of illegal drugs was proved
beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution through the straightforward testimony of the poseur-buyer himself,
PO2 Aseboque, as believably corroborated by two other members of the buy-bust team and by extensive
documentary evidence. The CA rejected the accused-appellants arguments and held that the same were disproved
by the evidence on record, thus:

Accused-appellant contends that while[PO2] Aseboque maintains that he had custody of the items seized from her,
Pulido testified that he was the one who held the items recovered from accused-appellant. A careful perusal of the
transcript of stenographic notes, however, reveals that there was actually no inconsistency as what Pulido testified
to as the items that was with him were the ones he recovered from the pocket of the accused-appellant and not the
one that was subject of the sale. x x x

xxxx

x x x [W]hen Pulido testified as to the seized items, he was referring to those sachets that he was able to fish out of
the pocket of accused-appellant and he held on to the same as [PO2] Aseboque had his hands full trying to restrain
accused-appellant. x x x Pulido corroborated [PO2] Aseboques statement that it was the latter who prepared the
inventory of the items seized from the accused-appellant. x x x

xxxx

It is noted that the four sachets were already marked with the initial of the apprehending officer at the scene of the
crime. The act was attested to by the rest of the arresting team and the markings were reflected in the
acknowledgement report. Even if [PO2] Castillo failed to note in his spot report that the items were marked with the
initial of [PO2] Aseboque, it could not be discounted that the items were the ones seized from the person of
accused-appellant because if the same were different, the items that were turned over to the forensic chemist
P/Insp. Bonifacio would not have borne the initial of [PO2] Aseboque considering that from the hands of [PO2]
Castillo, the seized items were personally handed by him to Relos, who in turn gave the same to P/Insp. Bonifacio
who was, likewise, present when [PO2] Castillo handed the items to Relos. Moreover, [P/Insp.] Bonifacio explained
that there is actually no difference between the marking "REA" and "R.E.A." x x x

xxxx

In addition, an examination of the letter request (Request for Laboratory Examination) shows that while the
signatory mentioned that the item subject of the sale was marked as "REA", when he attached the sachet to the
request, the signatory made a handwritten reference to the attached specimen as "R.E.A." To Our mind, the
presence or absence of the punctuation marks is of no moment as the request was precisely clear that the items to
be examined were the ones attached to the request itself. (Citation omitted)
17

The CA also dismissed the accused-appellants contentions that the statutory procedure for the inventory and
photograph of the seized items was not observed. The CA held that the absence of a media representative or an
elected public official during the inventory was not material to overturn a conviction as it did not pertain to the
elements of the crime charged. The CA further stressed that non-compliance with the inventory and photograph
requirements will not render void and invalid the seizure and custody over the items.

Accordingly, the decision disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DENIED and the appealed Decision dated September
15, 2010 rendered by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City, in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 for Violation of
Article II, Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. 18

The accused-appellant is now before the Court pleading for her acquittal based on the same arguments raised in
her Appellants Brief before the CA.19

Ruling of the Court

The Court denies the appeal.

The arguments proffered in support of the accused-appellants plea for acquittal has already been exhaustively
traversed by the CA and based on evidence on record, the Court finds no reversible error imputable to the appellate
court and the trial court in finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal sale of shabu defined and penalized
under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

Illegal sale of prohibited drugs is consummated at the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller. In a buy-
bust operation, the crime is consummated when the police officer makes an offer to buy that is accepted by the
accused, and there is an ensuing exchange between them involving the delivery of the dangerous drugs to the
police officer. In order to successfully prosecute the offense, proof beyond reasonable doubt of two elements must
20

be satisfied by the prosecution, viz: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the identity of the object and the
consideration of the sale; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and of the payment for the thing.

As correctly ruled by the courts a quo, the presence of both requisites was clearly established by the testimony of
the poseur-buyer himself, PO2 Aseboque, who positively testified that the illegal sale took place when he gave
theP500.00 marked money to the accused-appellant in exchange for the shabu, thus:

WITNESS [PO2 Aseboque]: After I asked her if where is Jun, she told me that Jun is not around, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you do next?

WITNESS: She said: Kami nandito lang, bakit kukuha ba kayo?

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you understand by that?

WITNESS: It is a street language that they are using with dangerous drugs, so it is understood that we are going to
buy shabu, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you reply, if any?

WITNESS: I asked her, "Si Jun wala ba?"

PROS. PAGGAO: Any answer from the woman?

WITNESS: She said, "Wag nyo ng hintayin si Jun, ako meron."


PROS. PAGGAO: What did you do?

WITNESS: I asked her if she has worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What was her reply, if any?

WITNESS: She told me that she has worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, after that, what did you do, if any?

WITNESS: She took one plastic sachet from her right pocket, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did she do with that?

WITNESS: She handed that to me, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, upon receiving the sachet of shabu, what did you do?

WITNESS: I checked it first if it has contents, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: After checking, what did you do?

WITNESS: I then handed the buy bust money worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, after she received the Five Hundred Pesos, what happened next?

WITNESS: While she is putting the buy bust money inside her pocket, I made the pre-arranged signal by lighting a
cigarette, sir.

xxxx

PROS. PAGGAO: Now, you have been mentioning of Nenita against [sic] whom you were able to buy shabu and the
one you arrested, is she in the courtroom?

WITNESS: Yes, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: Will you kindly step down and tap her shoulder? (The witness tapped the right shoulder of a
female person and that woman upon being asked of her name answered: Nenita Gamata) 21

The CA was also correct in ruling that the failure of the arresting officers to strictly comply with paragraph 1, Section
21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 mandating the procedure for the inventory and photograph of seized illegal drugs did
22

not affect the evidentiary weight of the drugs seized from the accused-appellant. As held in People v. Cardenas: 23

[N]on-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 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 accorded it by the courts. x
xx

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 admissibilitybut of weightevidentiary merit or
probative valueto 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)
24

This is especially true when the chain of custody of the corpus delicti or the illegal drug itself was shown to be
unbroken, as in this case. Testimonial and documentary evidence show that the poseur-buyer, PO2 Aseboque,
25

marked the seized illegal drug at the crime scene with his initials "REA". At the same place, he also prepared an
Acknowledgment Receipt of the items seized from the accused-appellant whose refusal to sign was duly noted in
the same document. The seized item was then immediately turned over by PO2 Aseboque to SAIDSOTF
26

investigating officer PO2 Castillo. On the same day, PO2 Castillo brought the seized illegal drug, together with the
27

Request for Laboratory Examination, to the PNP Crime Laboratory where it was received by a certain Relos in the
28

presence of Forensic Chemist, P/Insp. Bonifacio. In her Physical Science Report No. D-506-06S, the contents of
29 30

the seized item marked REA weighed 0.03 gram tested positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
After her examination, P/Insp. Bonifacio turned over the seized item to the evidence custodian from whom she later
retrieved them upon the instructions of and for submission to the prosecutor. On the witness stand, P/Insp. Bonifacio
categorically identified the specimen presented as evidence as the very same specimen which she tested based on
the marking she placed thereon: "D-506-06S". 31

Indeed, the following links in the chain of custody of the seized illegal drug were duly accounted for, to wit: (1) the
seizure and marking of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; (2) the turnover of
the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; (3) the turnover by the investigating
officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and (4) the turnover and submission of
the marked illegal drug seized by the forensic chemist to the court. 32

The alleged discrepancy between the testimony of P02 Aseboque that he placed the marking REA on the seized
item, the forensic chemist's report stating that the specimen was marked "R.E.A." and the absence of any such ,
description in the Spot Report of P02 Castillo did not cause a gap in the chain of custody. As exhaustively
33

discussed by the CA, the identity and integrity of the seized item was preserved because, despite lack of accurate
description in the Spot Report, P/Insp. Bonifacio testified that the item she received for laboratory examination bore
the markings "REA" placed by P02 Aseboque at the crime scene. It is for this same reason that the punctuation
marks after the letters R, E and A in her Physical Science Report No. D-506-068 did not alter the identity and
integrity of the actual specimen marked as "REA." The specimen marked at the crime scene, turned over to P02
Castillo and then received by P/Insp. Bonifacio were one and the same.

Further, the failure of the evidence custodian to take the witness stand did not weaken the case for the prosecution
because P/Insp. Bonifacio was able to positively identify that the evidence submitted in court was the very same
specimen which she subjected to laboratory examination and its contents tested positive for shabu. 34

In sum, the Court finds no reversible error in the conviction meted the accused-appellant. The penalty of life
1awp++i1

imprisonment and P500,000.00 fine imposed upon her were in accord with Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165. 35

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED and the Decision dated May 11, 2012 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04839 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

G.R. No. 209785 June 4, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
MARLON ABETONG y ENDRADO, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This treats of accused-appellant Marlon Abetong' s appeal from the June 28, 2013 Decision of the Court of Appeals
1

(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01357 affirming his conviction beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article
II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Facts

Accused-appellant was charged in an Information that reads:


2

That on or about the 22nd day of August 2003, in the City of Bacolod, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the herein accused, not being authorized by law to sell, trade, dispense, deliver, give away to
another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drugs, did, then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously sell, deliver, give away to a police poseur buyer in a buy-bust operation one ( 1) heat-sealed transparent
plastic packet containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu weighing 0.02 gram(s) more or less, in
exchange for a price ofP100.00 in mark money, consisting of two (2) P50.00 bill with Serial Nos. BZ323461 and
CN467805, in violation of the aforementioned law.

Act contrary to law.

During trial, prosecution witness Police Officer 3 Wilfredo Perez (PO3 Perez) of the Police Station 1, Bacolod City
Police Office, testified that, in the morning of August 22, 2003, their office received information that a certain alias
"Cano," later identified as accused-appellant, was selling drugs in his house at Purok Sigay, Barangay 2, Bacolod
City. Police Senior Inspector Jonathan Lorilla (Inspector Lorilla) then called for a briefing for the conduct of a buy-
bust operation against "Cano" and designated PO3 Perez as the poseur-buyer. In preparation for the operation,
PO3 Perez initialled two (2) PhP 50 bills bearing Serial Nos. CN467805 and BZ323461, which were going to be
used as marked money. After recording the details of the preparation in the police blotter, PO3 Perez and the
informant proceeded to the address while Inspector Lorilla and some of his personnel tailed in a car.

Upon arrival at the target area, PO3 Perez and the asset knocked on the door and were greeted by accused-
appellant, who asked the purpose of the visit. PO3 Perez answered that he wanted to buy PhP 100 worth of shabu.
The two were ushered in by accused-appellant and once inside, PO3 Perez saw three persons sitting around a
table, passing to one another a tooter and allegedly engaged in a pot session. The three were identified as Ricky
Bayotas, Reynaldo Relos and Archie Berturan. PO3 Perez then drew two PhP 50 bills marked "WCP" and handed
them over to accused-appellant who in turn gave him a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance from
his right pocket.

After receiving the plastic sachet, PO3 Perez introduced himself as a police officer and signalled his back-up to
effect the arrest of the four individuals. The suspects attempted to flee but their plans were foiled by the timely
arrival of the other policemen. They were then brought to the police station where their arrest and the list of the
items confiscated from them were entered in the police blotter. From their arrest until the items seized were
transmitted to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, the pieces of evidence were allegedly under
PO3 Perezs custody. In his testimony, PO3 Perez stated that he kept the items inside the evidence locker in the
Drug Enforcement Unit Office, to which only Inspector Lorilla has a key.

On August 25, 2013, PO3 Perez brought the sachet containing crystalline substance and the tooter to the PNP
Crime Laboratory for testing. The items were received by Inspector Augustina Ompoy (Inspector Ompoy), the
Forensic Chemical Officer of the Regional PNP Crime Laboratory 6, Camp Delgado, Iloilo City, who then performed
the necessary examinations on the items recovered.

Inspector Ompoy testified for the prosecution on the receipt in the PNP Crime Laboratory of the letter-request for
laboratory examination of the specimens. According to her, she conducted quantitative and qualitative tests and
found that the white crystalline substance in the plastic sachet tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride,
a dangerous drug, weighing 0.04 gram while the tooter tested negative for any prohibited drug.

Accused-appellant, for his part, raised that he was illegally arrested, a defense corroborated by Crispin Mejorada,
Jr., a friend and neighbor of the former. As succinctly put by the trial court:
3

Testifying in his defense, accused Marlon Abetong declared being at home in Purok Sigay, Brgy. 2, Bacolod City at
11:50 AM of August 22, 2003, sweeping the floor, alone. Suddenly, a male person entered the open door and held
him by his pants. When Marlon asked what his fault was, the man answered to just go with him. The person was in
civvies, fair skinned and tall; he did not introduce himself. Marlon was handcuffed while they were at the foot-walk
heading to 26th Aguinaldo Street, and searched, but nothing was recovered from him except his money P9.00.

Accused was made to board a vehicle at Aguinaldo; three handcuffed persons were inside. All four were brought to
BAC-Up 2 and placed in a cell. Abetong was not informed of the cause of his arrest; no drugs were presented to
him. He knew of the charge Violation of Section 5, R.A. 9165 only during arraignment in court.

The Ruling of the RTC

On May 25, 2011, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 47 in Bacolod City did not give credence to accused-
appellants defense and rendered a Decision convicting him of the crime charged. To wit:
4

WHEREFORE, finding accused Marlon Abetong y Endrardo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section
5, Article II of R.A. 9165 (Sale, Delivery, etc. of Dangerous Drugs), as charged, judgment is hereby rendered
sentencing him to suffer Life Imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00. He is also to bear the accessory
penalty prescribed by law. Costs against accused.

The subject one (1) sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride/shabu (Exh. "B-3-A") recovered/bought from him
being a dangerous drug, the same is hereby ordered confiscated and/or forfeited in favor of the government, and to
be forthwith delivered/turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency(PDEA) provincial office for immediate
destruction or disposition in accordance with law.

The immediate commitment of accused to the national penitentiary for service of sentence is likewise further
ordered.

SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved, accused-appellant appealed to the CA, raising the sole issue that his guilt was not proved beyond
reasonable doubt. He maintained that, assuming without conceding the validity of the buy-bust operation, the
prosecution failed to sufficiently prove that the integrity of the evidence was preserved. Raising non-compliance with
Sec. 21 of RA 9165, he argued, among others: (1) that the markings on the items seized do not bear the date and
time of the confiscation, as required; (2) that about three days have passed since the items were confiscated before
they were brought to the crime laboratory; and (3) that there was neither an inventory nor a photograph of the
recovered plastic sachet. Accused-appellant likewise hinged his appeal on the fact that Inspector Lorilla, who had
the only key to the evidence locker, did not testify during trial.

The Ruling of the CA

On June 28, 2013, the court a quo promulgated the assailed Decision denying the appeal. The fallo reads:
1wphi1

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED. The decision dated May 25, 2011 of the Regional Trial
Court Branch 47 in Bacolod City, convicting the accused-appellant of the offense charged and sentencing him to life
imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

In upholding the RTC conviction, the CA ratiocinated that the prosecutions evidence was sufficient to afford the
court a reliable assurance that the evidence presented is one and the same as those confiscated from accused-
appellant. Hence, this appeal.

The Courts Ruling

We find for accused-appellant.

Sec. 21 of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in part, requires:

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 twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment,
the same shall be submitted to the PDEA Forensic Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination.

The case People v. Musa was instrumental for the CA in justifying leniency in the compliance with Sec.21 of RA
5

9165. Relying on the case, the CA dispensed with several procedural requirements resulting in accused-appellants
conviction. As cited:

Since the "perfect chain" is almost always impossible to obtain, non-compliance with Sec. 21 of RA 9165, as stated
in the Implementing Rules and Regulations, does not, without more, automatically render the seizure of the
dangerous drug void, and evidence is admissible as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team.

In the present case, accused-appellants insist on the police officers non-compliance with the chain of custody rule
since there was "no physical inventory and photograph of the seized items were taken in their presence or in the
presence of their counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and an elective official."

We, however, find these observations insignificant since a review of the evidence on record shows that the chain of
custody rule has been sufficiently observed by the apprehending officers.

Jurisprudence indeed instructs that failure to observe strictly the above-quoted provision can be excused as long as
(1) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officers and
(2) non-compliance was attended by justifiable grounds. However, the prosecution in this case was unsuccessful in
6

showing that there was no opportunity for tampering, contamination, substitution, nor alteration of the specimens
submitted. On the contrary, there is a dearth of evidence to show that the evidence presented was well preserved.
The prosecution likewise failed to offer any justification on why the afore-quoted provision was not complied with.

The prosecution failed to establish an unbroken chain of custody over the drug evidence

A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily identifiable as in fact they are subject to
scientific analysis to determine their composition and nature. And the risk of tampering, loss or mistake with respect
to an exhibit of this nature is greatest when the exhibit is small and is one that has physical characteristics fungible
in nature and similar in form to substances familiar to people in their daily lives. As a reasonable measure, in
authenticating narcotic specimens, a standard more stringent than that applied to cases involving objects which are
readily identifiable must be applieda more exacting standard that entails a chain of custody of the item with
sufficient completeness if only to render it improbable that the original item has either been exchanged with another
or been contaminated or tampered with. 7

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 it.8

In the case at bar, the failure of Inspector Lorilla to testify is fatal to the prosecutions case. To recall, only PO3 Perez
and Inspector Ompoy testified against accused-appellant. During his testimony, PO3 Perez admitted that he put the
confiscated item in the evidence locker on August 22, 2003 for safekeeping and subsequently brought them to
Inspector Ompoy at the crime laboratory on August 25, 2003. During this three-day interval, the items were
9

allegedly kept inside the evidence locker to which only Inspector Lorilla has the key. As per the records: 10

Q: From the time that the items were confiscated on August 22, 2003 at around 11:50 in the morning up to the time it
was delivered to the PNP Crime Laboratory on August 25, 2003 at 10:40 in the morning, where were the items kept?

A: It was placed in the evidence locker of the Drug Enforcement Unit together with other exhibits.

Q: Who placed the confiscated items inside the locker in the office of the Drug Enforcement Unit?

A: Myself.

Q: Who keeps the key to that locker?

A: Police Inspector Jonathan Lorilla.

Q: Aside from Police Inspector Jonathan Lorilla, is there any other person who has access to that locker?

A: No more.

It is evident from this sequence of events that during the interim, Inspector Lorilla constructively acquired custody
over the seized items. As the lone key holder and consequentially a link in the chain, Inspector Lorillas testimony
became indispensable in proving the guilt of accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. Only he could have
testified that from August 22 to 25, 2003 no one else obtained the key from him for purposes of removing the items
from their receptacle. Only he could have enlightened the courts on what safety mechanisms have been installed in
order to preserve the integrity of the evidence acquired while inside the locker. Absent his testimony, therefore, it
cannot be plausibly claimed that the chain of custody has sufficiently been established. To be sure, PO3 Perez did
not even testify that he was assigned to safeguard the evidence locker for the said duration; only that he was the
one who put it in and three days later took them out of the locker room before bringing them to the crime laboratory.

Requiring the key holders testimony is especially significant in this case in view of the law enforcers failure to
deliver the confiscated items to the crime laboratory within 24 hours, as required under Sec. 21 of RA 9165. While
the delay in itself is not fatal to the prosecutions case as it may be excused based on a justifiable ground, it exposes
the items seized to a higher probability of being handled by even more personnel and, consequently, to a higher risk
of tampering or alteration. Thus, the testimony of the key holder becomes necessary to attest to the fact that the
integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated evidence have been preserved.

The CA erred in applying the doctrine that the testimony of a lone prosecution witness, as long as it is credible and
positive, can prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Such doctrine is unavailing in drugs cases
11

wherein all who acquired custody over the confiscated items would necessarily have to testify in order to establish
an unbroken chain. Additionally, worth noting is that PO3 Perezs testimony is not "virtually free from any form of
inconsistency and contradictions as to besmirch it with doubt and question" contrary to the CAs findings. In fact, it
12

can be gleaned from the records that one of his key statements has been refuted by forensic chemist Ompoy
herself.

Based on the affidavit executed by PO3 Perez on August 25, 2003, three persons were engaged in a pot session in
13

the house of accused-appellant. However, when the tooter allegedly confiscated from the three was tested for
dangerous drugs, the test yielded a negative result. While the guilt of the three others is not an issue in this case,
14

this is illustrative of a disparity in the prosecutions version of facts and militates against PO3 Perezs credibility.

The presumption of regularity has been overturned

The prosecution cannot skirt the issue of the broken chain of custody by relying on the presumption of regularity.
This presumption, it must be stressed, is not conclusive. Any taint of irregularity affects the whole performance and
should make the presumption unavailable. The presumption, in other words, obtains only when nothing in the
15

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.16

A perusal of the Information filed against accused-appellant and Inspector Ompoys chemistry report reveals a
glaring inconsistency in this case. As can be recalled, the Information charges accused-appellant of selling 0.02
gram of methamphetamine hydrochloride. Relative to the crime charged, Inspector Ompoy, on the other hand,
testified in the following wise:
17

Q: Tell us what kind of tests did you conduct on the specimen?

A: This consists of the physical, chemical and confirmatory tests. In the physical this includes the weighing of the
specimen out of its container. Specimen "A" weighs 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance. Then I proceeded to
my chemical test in which Marqui and Simons tests were employed. In the Marqui test, a drop of Marqui reagent
was added to the representative sample and it [yielded] orange-to-brown color which is indicative of the presence of
methamphetamine hydrochloride. In the Simons test, Simons reagents 1, 2 and 3 were added to another
representative sample and it produced a deep-blue color reaction, also indicative of the presence of
methamphetamine hydrochloride.

xxxx

Q: For the record, please read the description of Specimen "A"

A: One heat-sealed transparent plastic packet with markings containing 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance,
placed inside a staple-sealed transparent plastic bag with markings.

From the foregoing transcript, the in congruence between the weight of the drug accused-appellant is being charged
of selling and the weight of the drug tested by the forensic chemist becomes patent. For sure, this discrepancy in
the weight of the substance is fatal to the case of the prosecution. It automatically casts doubt as to the identity of
18

the item seized and of the one tested as it erases any assurance that the evidence being offered is indeed the same
as the one recovered during the buy-bust operation.

Well-settled is that "the dangerous drug itself, the shabu in this case, constitutes the very corpus delicti of the
offense, and in sustaining a conviction under RA 9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely
be shown to have been preserved. x x x Thus, 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 very same illegal drug
actually recovered from the accused; otherwise, the prosecution for possession under RA 9165 fails." Applying this
19
precept in the case at bar, any guarantee of the drug items preservation was effectively removed by the failure of
the prosecution to describe consistently the very corpus delicti of the criminal offense.

The arresting officers unduly deviated from legal procedure

It is beyond dispute that the date and time of confiscation do not appear on the markings of the seized items. It
cannot also be denied that no photograph was taken of the recovered items for documentation purposes. It is
admitted that no representative from the media, from the Department of Justice, or any elective official was present
to serve as witness in recording the arrest. The prosecutions testimonial evidence is likewise bereft of any
allegation of efforts undertaken by the law enforcers to contact these representatives. Nevertheless, an accused can
still be convicted in spite of these circumstances provided that a justifiable ground for excusing noncompliance with
the requirements under Sec. 21 of RA 9165 has satisfactorily been established by the prosecution as required by
jurisprudence and the laws implementing rules.

Such justifiable ground is wanting in this case. No explanation whatsoever was offered by PO3 Perez in his
testimony justifying noncompliance. Without this justification, it was improper for the court a quo to affirm accused-
appellants conviction. To sustain the RTC and the CAs findings would render the legal requirements under Sec. 21
of RA 9165 inutile and would effectively diminish the safeguards offered by the law in favor of the accused.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The June 28, 2013 Decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Marlon Abetong y Endrano is hereby ACQUITTED based on
reasonable doubt.

The Director of the Bureau of Prisons is ordered to immediately RELEASE accused-appellant from custody, unless
he is being held for some other lawful cause, and to INFORM this Court, within five (5) days from receipt of this
Decision, of the date accused-appellant was actually released from confinement.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.* JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

ATT E S TATI O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R TI F I C ATI O N

Pursuant to Section 13, A1iicle VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation. I ce1iify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice