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People V.


( Buy bust operation)

Issue: The contention of the defense suggests that the non-marking of the seized illegal drug at the place
where the same was confiscated is enough to exonerate the accused-appellant. The reason is that this
allegedly places in doubt the authenticity of the drug delivered to the crime laboratory for examination.


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.

The function of the chain of custody requirement is to ensure that the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized items are preserved, so much so that unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence are
removed.53 As long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending police officers, substantial compliance with the procedure to establish a chain of custody is

Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165 which reads:

Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory so
confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for 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 media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official
who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given copy thereof. Provided, that the
physical inventory and the photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is
served; or at least the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team,
whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that noncompliance with
these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team/officer, shall not render void and invalid
such seizures of and custody over said items. (Emphasis supplied)
Reason: because there were other people in the area from the time that you were able to confiscate the
items from the accused, you immediately ordered the accused to be brought to your office because you
were afraid that the incident might invite commotion
Malinlin V . Lancua

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. The Court cannot reluctantly close its eyes to the
likelihood, or at least the possibility, that at any of the links in the chain of custody over the same there could
have been tampering, alteration or substitution of substances from other casesby accident or otherwisein which
similar evidence was seized or in which similar evidence was submitted for laboratory testing. Hence, in
authenticating the same, a standard more stringent than that applied to cases involving objects which are readily
identifiable must be applied, a 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.

A mere fleeting glance at the records readily raises significant doubts as to the identity of the sachets of shabu
allegedly seized from petitioner. Of the people who came into direct contact with the seized objects, only Esternon
and Arroyo testified for the specific purpose of establishing the identity of the evidence. Gallinera, to whom
Esternon supposedly handed over the confiscated sachets for recording and marking, as well as Garcia, the
person to whom Esternon directly handed over the seized items for chemical analysis at the crime laboratory,
were not presented in court to establish the circumstances under which they handled the subject items. Any
reasonable mind might then ask the question: Are the sachets of shabu allegedly seized from petitioner the very
same objects laboratory tested and offered in court as evidence?

The prosecution was thus unsuccessful in discharging its burden of establishing the identity of the seized items
because it failed to offer not only the testimony of Gallinera and Garcia but also any sufficient explanation for
such failure. In effect, there is no reasonable guaranty as to the integrity of the exhibits inasmuch as it failed to
rule out the possibility of substitution of the exhibits, which cannot but inure to its own detriment. This holds true
not only with respect to the two filled sachets but also to the five sachets allegedsly containing morsels of shabu.

Irregularities during the operation

1. Petitioner asked to purchase cigarettes when shiela (wife) is being frisked after one of the searching
officer alleged that she tucked something in her underwear
2. Petitioner handed the pillow where two sachets of shabu has fallen
3. The inventory and documentation of the seized object evidence was not made in the House of the
petitioner considering that there is no justifiable reason not to do so
4. Esternons failure to deliver the seized items to the court demonstrates a departure from the directive in
the search warrant that the items seized be immediately delivered to the trial court with a true and
verified inventory of the same,[45] as required by Rule 126, Section 12[46]

Given the foregoing deviations of police officer Esternon from the standard and normal procedure in the
implementation of the warrant and in taking post-seizure custody of the evidence, the blind reliance by the trial
court and the Court of Appeals on the presumption of regularity in the conduct of police duty is manifestly
misplaced. The presumption of regularity is merely just thata mere presumption disputable by contrary proof and
which when challenged by the evidence cannot be regarded as binding truth.[52] Suffice it to say that this
presumption cannot preponderate over the presumption of innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof
beyond reasonable doubt.[53] In the present case the lack of conclusive identification of the illegal drugs
allegedly seized from petitioner, coupled with the irregularity in the manner by which the same were placed
under police custody before offered in court, strongly militates a finding of guilt.
People v Dahil

The prosecution failed to establish that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items were preserved.

First link: Marking of the Drugs Recovered from the Accused by the Apprehending Officer

Hence, from the place of the seizure to the PDEA Office Region 3, the seized items were not marked. It could not, therefore, be
determined how the unmarked drugs were handled. The Court must conduct guesswork on how the seized drugs were
transported and who took custody of them while in transit. Evidently, the alteration of the seized items was a possibility absent
their immediate marking thereof.

Aside from the fact that the police officers did not immediately place their markings on the seized marijuana upon their arrival
at the PDEA Office, there was also no showing that the markings were made in the presence of the accused.

Worse, not all of the seized drugs were properly marked. It did not have the initials of the apprehending officers on the back.

Second Link: Turnover of the Seized Drugs by the Apprehending Officer to the Investigating Officer

The second link in the chain of custody is the transfer of the seized drugs by the apprehending officer to the investigating
officer. Usually, the police officer who seizes the suspected substance turns it over to a supervising officer, who will then send it
by courier to the police crime laboratory for testing.42 This is a necessary step in the chain of custody because it will be the
investigating officer who shall conduct the proper investigation and prepare the necessary documents for the developing
criminal case. Certainly, the investigating officer must have possession of the illegal drugs to properly prepare the required

The investigator in this case was a certain SPO4 Jamisolamin.43 Surprisingly, there was no testimony from the witnesses as to
the turnover of the seized items to SPO4 Jamisolamin.

Third Link: Turnover by the Investigating Officer of the Illegal Drugs to the Forensic Chemist

From the investigating officer, the illegal drug is delivered to the forensic chemist. Once the seized drugs arrive at the forensic
laboratory, it will be the laboratory technician who will test and verify the nature of the substance. In this case, it was only
during his cross-examination that PO2 Corpuz provided some information on the delivery of the seized drugs to Camp Olivas,

Engr. Ma. Luisa Gundran, the forensic chemist who conducted the tests on the subject drugs, did not appear in court despite
the numerous subpoenas sent to her.46 Instead, the prosecution and the defense agreed to stipulate on the essential points of
her proffered testimony. Regrettably, the stipulated testimony of the forensic chemist failed to shed light as to who received
the subject drugs in Camp Olivas.

Fourth Link: Turnover of the Marked Illegal Drug Seized by the Forensic Chemist to the Court.

The last link involves the submission of the seized drugs by the forensic chemist to the court when presented as evidence in the
criminal case. No testimonial or documentary evidence was given whatsoever as to how the drugs were kept while in the
custody of the forensic chemist until it was transferred to the court. The forensic chemist should have personally testified on
the safekeeping of the drugs but the parties resorted to a general stipulation of her testimony. Although several subpoenae
were sent to the forensic chemist, only a brown envelope containing the seized drugs arrived in court.49 Sadly, instead of
focusing on the essential links in the chain of custody, the prosecutor propounded questions concerning the location of the
misplaced marked money, which was not even indispensable in the criminal case.

The Court cannot either agree with the CA that the evidentiary rule involving the presumption of regularity of the performance
of official duties could apply in favor of the police officers. The regularity of the performance of duty could not be properly
presumed in favor of the police officers because the records were replete with indicia of their serious lapses.