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Today is Saturday, November 14, 2015

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 203028

January 15, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
JOSELITO BERAN y ZAPANTA @ "Jose", Accused-Appellant.
DECISION

REYES, J.:

On appeal is the Decision dated March 9, 2012 of the Court of Appeals CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04466 affirming the conviction of
accused-appellant Joselito Beran y Zapanta Beran) rendered by the Regional Trial Court RTC) of Manila, Branch 13, in a
Decision dated April 19, 2010 in Criminal Case No. 03-218039, for violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act R.A.) No. 9165,
otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, under an Information which reads, as follows:
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The undersigned accuses JOSELITO BERAN y ZAPANTA @ JOSE of Viol. of Sec. 5 Art. II of Rep. Act No. 9165, committed as
ollows:

That on or about August 26, 2003, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, not having been authorized by law to sell,
rade, deliver or give away any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell or offer for sale to a poseur
buyer one (1) pc. plastic sachet containing ZERO POINT ZERO THREE ZERO (0.030) gram of white crystalline substance known as
SHABU containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a dangerous drug.

Contrary to law.

At his arraignment on November 5, 2003, Beran pleaded not guilty to the offense charged, and trial followed.
The Facts

According to the prosecution, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon of August 26, 2003, a confidential informant (CI) went
o the District Anti-Illegal Drug (DAID) Office of the Western Police District (WPD) at the United Nations Avenue, Manila, and
approached Police Officer 3 (PO3) Rodolfo Enderina (Enderina) to report that a certain Joselito Beran, alias "Jose," a pedicab driver,
was selling prohibited drugs, particularly "shabu," in the vicinity of San Antonio Street in Tondo, Manila. P03 Enderina relayed the
nformation to Police Colonel Marcelino Pedroso, Chief of DAID-WPD, who then ordered him to form a buy-bust team to apprehend
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he suspect. At around 5 :00 p.m., the buy-bust team, composed of PO3 Enderina, PO3 Hipolito Francia, PO3 Benito Decorion
Decorion), PO2 Ernie Reyes, PO2 Alexander Delos Santos (Delos Santos) and PO3 Knowme Sia (Sia), who was to act as the
poseur-buyer, arrived in Tondo on board an owner-type jeep and two scooters. In the jeep were PO3 Enderina, PO2 Delos Santos,
and the CI, while the rest of the team rode in the scooters. They parked near the Gat Andres Hospital and proceeded on foot towards
San Antonio Street. As arranged, PO3 Sia and the CI walked ahead of the others. PO3 Sia and the CI reached the target area first,
and there the CI saw Beran standing some 10 meters away near a ''poso" or deep-well.

After recognizing and pointing Beran to PO3 Sia, the CI approached him and the two men conversed briefly. Then the CI signaled to
PO3 Sia to join them, and he introduced PO3 Sia to Beran, who then asked the CI how much PO3 Sia was buying. The CI replied,
'piso lang," or P100, and Beran took out something from his pocket, a small, heat-sealed plastic sachet, which he then handed to
PO3 Sia. PO3 Sia took the sachet and pretended to examine it discretely, after which he indicated to Beran that he was satisfied with
ts content. He then took out a markedP100 bill which he handed to Beran; all this time the back-up members of the buy-bust team
were watching from strategic locations around the vicinity.

Thereupon, PO3 Sia executed the pre-arranged signal of touching his hair to signify to the back-up cops that the buy-bust sale of
shabu had been consummated, even as he then placed Beran under arrest. The back-up operatives quickly converged upon Beran,
with PO2 Delos Santos arriving first, to whom PO3 Sia then handed over the custody of Beran, while he kept the plastic sachet. The
buy-bust team brought Beran to the DAID-WPD office, where PO3 Sia marked the confiscated plastic sachet with the initials of
Beran, JB. He also recorded the incident in the police blotter, and accomplished the Booking Sheet and Arrest Report (Exhibit F and
F-1), and the Request for Laboratory Examination (Exhibit G and G-1. He later brought the seized plastic sachet to the WPD Crime
Laboratory for examination, where after testing it was found to contain the prohibited drug methylamphetamine hydrochloride or
shabu.
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n his defense, Beran vehemently denied the above incident. Testifying alone in his defense, he asserted that on August 26, 2003 at
around 2:00 p.m., while he was resting alone upstairs in his house, five WPD policemen arrived and ordered him to come with them.
He resisted and asked why they were arresting him, but without apprising him of his constitutional rights they handcuffed and forcibly
boarded him in an owner-type jeep and brought him to the WPD Headquarters. There, two of his arrestors, PO3 Francia and PO3
Sia, demanded from him the amount of P20,000.00 in exchange for his release without any charge. But he could not produce the
amount they asked, and they trumped up a charge against him of illegal sale of shabu.
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The trial of Beran took all of seven years to wind up, mainly on account of many postponements allegedly due to supervening
llnesses or reassignments of the subpoenaed arresting officers. The prosecution was able to present two witnesses, PO3 Francia
and PO3 Sia, but only PO3 Sia gave a witness account of the drug buy-bust itself. PO3 Francia admitted that he served as a mere
ook-out to prevent any intruder from interfering in the buy-bust operation, and that he did not witness the buy-bust transaction itself.
As for PO3 Decorion, also a member of the buy-bust team, the RTC per its Order dated July 29, 2009 agreed to dispense with his
estimony after the parties stipulated that as the designated driver of the buy-bust team, he did not see the actual exchange of drug
and money between Beran and PO3 Sia, nor did he witness the actual arrest of Beran by PO3 Sia.
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Ruling of the RTC

On April 19, 2010, the RTC of Manila, Branch 13 rendered its judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads:
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THEREFORE premises considered and the prosecution having established to a moral certainty the guilt of the accused JOSELITO
BERAN y ZAPANTA JOSE of the crime charged, this Court in the absence of any aggravating circumstance hereby sentences the
Accused to LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay the fine of five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), without any subsidiary
mprisonment in case of insolvency.

n the service of his sentence, the actual confinement under detention during the pendency of this case shall be deducted from the
said prison term in accordance with Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code.

The evidence presented is ordered transferred to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for destruction.

SO ORDERED.

Beran went up to the CA to interpose the following alleged errors in the RTC decision, to wit:
I

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING [BERAN] DESPITE THE ILLEGALITY OF HIS ARREST AND THE
NADMISSIBILITY OF THE ALLEGED CONFISCATED PROHIBITED DRUG.
II.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING [BERAN] GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DESPITE THE
PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO ESTABLISH THE IDENTITY OF THE PROHIBITED DRUG.
III.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING [BERAN] DESPITE THE POLICE OFFICERS' NON-COMPLIANCE WITH
SECTION21 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165.
10

Ruling of the CA

n affirming in toto the RTC the CA ruled that Beran was caught in flagrante delicto as a result of a valid and legitimate buy-bust
operation, an entrapment to apprehend law breakers while in the act of executing their criminal plan. Relying solely on the testimony
of PO3 Sia, it found that Beran sold the prohibited drug shabu to an undercover buyer, PO3 Sia; that Beran was arrested at the
moment of the consummation of the sale transaction and immediately brought to the DAID-WPD along with the sachet of illegal drug
confiscated from him; that when the substance was subjected to chemical analysis by the WPD Drug Laboratory, the content thereof
was shown to be methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
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The CA further held that the arrest of Beran by PO3 Sia without warrant was valid under Section 5(b) of Rule 113 of the Revised
Rules on Criminal Procedure, which provides that "a police officer or a private person may, without a warrant arrest a person when an
offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that
he person to be arrested has committed it." It also cited Section 5(a) of Rule 113, wherein it provides that "a police officer can arrest
a person without warrant when in his presence the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to
commit an offense."

Quoted below at length are pertinent portions of the testimony of PO3 Sia which according to the CA have proved beyond reasonable
doubt the material facts attending the buy-bust and establishing the guilt of Beran:

============================
DIRECT EXAMINATION
CONDUCTED BY
ACP LIBERTAD RASA ON WITNESS
PO3 KNOW ME SIA
============================

xxxx

xxxx

Q: How did you know that there was that informant who arrived at your office giving information about drugs activities of a certain
Beran?

A: PO3 Rodolfo Enderina formed a team in DAID office, ma'am.

Q: Did you know why Enderina formed a group at DAID?

A: He relayed to us that we have an Anti-Illegal Drugs Operation, ma'am.

Q: That you will have an Anti-Illegal Drugs Operation where and against whom?

A: Against one Joselito Beran alias Jose ma am.

Q: Where?

A: In the area of San Antonio Street Tondo Manila.

Q: Was there anytime that you saw them in front at your office when he relayed the information to Enderina?

A: Yes maam.

Q: What time of the day or the night was that?

A: Between 3-4 pm of August 26 2003 ma am.

Q: And what did your team leader Rodolfo Enderina do as soon as he received that information? A: He formed his men and then he
directed all of us and placed the confidential information for interrogation maam.

Q: As a matter of standard operating procedure what does an operative of SAID or DAID do before launching a buy-bust operation?

A: First there must be an information to be received then there was a plan of operation and then the documents are required to be
accomplished prior to the conduct of a buy-bust operation maam.

Q: What documents if any were you required to prepare prior to your operation?

A: Our dispatch record.

Q: Do you have a copy of this dispatch record?

A: Yes maam.

Q: Can you show it to the Court?

A: It is with the custodial of DAID maam.

xxxx

ACP Rasa:

Q: Aside from the dispatch record what other documents did you prepare?

A: The buy-bust money, maam.

Q: Do you have the buy-bust money with you?

A: I will bring it on the next hearing maam.

Q: How much buy-bust money did you prepare?

A: P100.00, maam.

Q: Who supplied that P100.00 buy-bust money?

A: Our team leader, maam.

Q: Who is your team leader?

A: PO3 Rodolfo Enderina, Maam.

Q: Aside from the dispatch record, the buy-bust money, what other preparations did you do before launching on the operation of buybust against one Joselito Beran alias Jose?

A: There was a preparation of Pre-Operation Report and Coordination Sheet, however, we cannot fax to the PDEA because the
PDEA fax at that time was not fully operational, maam.

Q: What other documents aside from those already mentioned did you prepare?

A: That s all, maam.

Q: And what were the other instructions given to you by the team leader, Rodolfo Enderina?

A: During our briefing, I was then chosen as the designated poseur-buyer, maam.

Q: What else?

A: The marked money was marked by me and then during the briefing, it was agreed that the pre-arranged signal was to touch my
hair as indication that the deed was done, ma am.

Q: What time did you proceed to San Antonio?

xxxx

A: Around 5:00 of August 26, 2003, maam.

Q: How many vehicles did you use?

A: We utilized one (1) owner type jeep and the others were on their respective motorcycle or scooter, maam.

Q: And the others were aboard on scooters?

A: Yes, Maam.

Q: Who were inside the owner type jeep?

A: PO3 Rodolfo Enderina, the confidential informant and PO1 (sic) Delos Santos, maam. Q: And who took their scooters?

A: PO3 Benito Decorion and PO2 Ernie Reyes, maam.

Q: One scooter?

A: Two (2) scooters maam.

Q: Where did you park your vehicle?

A: We parked in the area of Gat Andres Hospital, maam.


xxxx

Q: As soon as you had parked your vehicles, what else happened?

A: When we parked our vehicle, PO3 Enderina grouped us and told us that at the area where we were going, the vehicles could not
enter San Antonio Street and after that, the confidential informant was the first who proceeded to the target place, maam.

Q: You already said that you already parked your vehicles. So how did you arrive at San Antonio Street?

A: On foot, ma'am.

Q: How did you scout or identify your target person?

A: Upon arrival in the area of San Antonio, the confidential informant was the first who arrived and then in a few minutes later, the
confidential informant pointed to one (1) male person in the area

of San Antonio, ma'am.

Q: You were saying that, the confidential informant went ahead of you?

A: No, ma'am. We were together, ma'am.

Q: Where did you first notice the presence of the accused?

A: Near the alley, maam, in the middle of San Antonio where there is a "poso".

Q: When pointed to you, how far were you from the accused or your target?

A: Approximately 8-10 meters, ma'am.

Q: What was the accused doing when he was pointed at by the confidential informant to you?

A: He was spotted standing, ma'am.

Q: Standing only?

A: Yes, ma'am.

Q: What happened after you saw him standing?

A: The CI went ahead of me to approach the suspect, ma'am.

Q: When you said the CI was ahead of you, about how far away were you following him?

A: 3-4 meters, ma'am.

Q: What else happened?

A: After that, ma am, the CI and the subject were conversing.

Q: Did you hear what the conversation was all about?

A: No, ma'am.

Q: After that conversation, what happened next?

A: The CI signaled to me to come close to them, ma'am.

Q: As soon as you were already with the group or with the CI and the target person, what else did you do?

A: I approached them, ma am, then the CI introduced me as the buyer of the prospected illegal drugs.

Q: What was the reply or the action of Beran?

A: He told the CI magkano ba'', ma'am.

Q: And what did the CI say?

A: The CI told him piso lang . Piso means One Hundred Pesos, ma'am.

Q: After knowing that you were only interested to buy "piso'', what happened after?

A: After that Beran took out something from his pocket, maam.

Q: What was that?

A: Beran showed me and the CI a small plastic sachet, ma am.

Q After showing to you, what else did Beran do with the plastic?

A: The subject handed to me one (1) plastic sachet, maam.

Q: What did you do after it was handed to you?

A: discretely examined the contents of the plastic sachet and after that, the subject person demanded for the payment of said stuff,
maam.

Q: What did you do?

A: gave the marked buy-bust money, maam.

Q: What happened after that?

A: After that, the pre-arranged signal was executed, maam.

Q What was the pre-arranged signal agreed upon?

A: Touching of the hair, maam.

Q: Who was able to recover that buy-bust money?

A: Me, maam.

Q: What happened next?

A: The other back-up operatives arrived and PO2 Delos Santos was the first to respond x x x and I gave the suspect to him for
custody, maam.

Q: What did you do with that plastic that you bought from the accused Beran?

A: immediately placed him (sic) in my custody, maam, and later on it was marked and forwarded to WPD Drug Laboratory Office for
aboratory examination, maam.

Q: Who brought that plastic sachet for the laboratory examination?

A: Me, maam.

Q: Who placed the marking on that plastic sachet?

A: Me, maam.

Q What marking did you place?

A JB, maam.

Q: Where did you place the marking?

A: At the office, maam.

Q: If shown that plastic sachet, will you be able to identify it?

A: Yes, maam.

Q: Why?

A: I recognized the markings, maam.

Q: What did you use to mark it?

A: I think it was a pentel pen, ma'am.

Q: Aside from this drugs (sic) which you said they requested and you personally brought for examination at the WPD Crime
Laboratory, what other things did you do as soon as you arrived at the office?

A: It was recorded it (sic) in our police blotter, ma'am, and the pertinent documents were prepared.

Q: Do you have a copy of the police blotter?

A: Yes, ma'am, but it's in the office.

Q: The buy-bust money and the dispatched report are also at your office. Can you bring all of those?

A: Yes, ma'am.

Q: What was the result of the laboratory examination which you said you personally brought to the laboratory?

A: It turned out to be positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, ma'am.

Q: What happened next after the examination?

A: After preparing the documents, we presented the case before the inquest fiscal, ma'am.

Q: Did you subject the accused for drug test?

A: I cannot remember, ma'am.

Q: You did not prepare a request for drug test?

A: I prepared the request for drug test, ma'am.

Q: And what was the result of the drug test?

A: I do not know the result, ma'am. Q: Can you bring the result of the drug test?

A: "Sa Crime Lab na lang po", ma'am.


x x x x.

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====================================
CONTINUATION OF DIRECT EXAMINATION
CONDUCTED BY:
FISCAL PURIFICACION A. BARING-TUVERA
====================================

FISCAL TUVERA:
xxxx

Q: Mr. Witness, during your testimony on August 8, 2006, you were asked by former Prosecutor Rasa if you will be able to identify the
specimen which you said you bought from accused Joselito Beran, do you remember having said that?

A: Yes, ma'am.

Q: Will you still be able to identify the specimen if it will be shown to you again?

A: Yes, ma am. I was the one who. . . (interrupted)

Q: Will you be able to identify it?

A: Yes, ma am.

Q: And how will you be able to identify it, Mr. Witness?

A: I was the one who placed the marking on the alleged shabu.

Q: And what were the markings that you placed on the plastic sachet?

A: It was marked JB ma am.

Q: J?

A: JB.

Q: And will you kindly tell us who placed the markings JB on the plastic sachet?

A: I was the one who marked the specimen.

Q: And where did you place the markings Mr. Witness?

A: On the plastic sachet.

Q: At what time did you place the markings on the plastic sachet?

A: After the arrest of the suspect when he was brought to our office for investigation.

Q: In other words, when did you place the markings?

A: After 5 pm of August 23, 2003.

Q: And at what place Mr. Witness?

A: At the office.

Q: I am showing you Mr. Witness a plastic sachet, by the way, how many plastic sachets did you buy from the accused?

A: One (1) plastic sachet.

Q: One plastic sachet only, Mr. Witness, I am showing you a plastic sachet with markings JB, will you kindly tell us if that is the same
plastic sachet that you bought from the accused and subsequently marked at the police station?

A: This is the plastic sachet subject of the sale, I marked JB on the said plastic sachet.

FISCAL TUVERA: We manifest Your Honor that [t]he plastic sachet was already marked as Exhibit B-1 for the prosecution.

Q: What did you use Mr. Witness in buying this shabu?

A: We utilized P100 bill.

Q: Do you have the genuine P100 bill with you now Mr. Witness?

pause)

Q: Nasa iyo ba yung P100 bill?

A: I have it in my custody.

Q: You have it in your custody?

A: But I did not bring it today.

Q: Why did you not bring it today Mr. Witness?

A: I only knew ma am that I have my hearing on Joselito Beran but I forgot to bring it, next scheduled hearing nalang po.

Q: Mr. Witness, before you used that buy-bust money to buy shabu from the accused Mr. Witness, did you place markings on
he P100 bill?

A: Yes maam

Q: And what were these markings did you place on the P100 bill?

A: I marked DAID at the left portion of the buy-bust money.

Q: And what else did you do aside from placing markings on the P100 bill?

A: The said money was then xeroxed for five (5) pieces and then the original was kept in our custody.
x x x x.

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Continuation of Direct-Examination of Witness PO3 Know me Sia by ACP Baring-Tuvera)


xxxx

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: Mr. Witness, you are here today for the continuation of your direct-examination. May we know if you already brought with you the
buy-bust money in connection with this case?

THE WITNESS

A: Yes, maam.

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: Will you kindly bring it out and show it to this Honorable Court so that the Court may be able to appreciate it?

THE WITNESS

A: Here, maam.

COURT:

Q: The money is attached to a blank sheet of paper. Will you write something about it, the case number?

THE WITNESS

A: Yes, your Honor.

ACP BARING-TUVERA:

Q: May I just have this identified, your Honor? Mr. Witness, you said that you were the one who placed the markings on this One
Hundred Peso (P100.00) bill. Will you kindly tell us on what part of this money did you place the markings?

THE WITNESS

A: I marked DAID at the left center portion of the buy-bust money.


xxxx

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: Mr. Witness, you said that you were the one -you were the poseur-buyer in this case. If you will be shown the item again, will you
be able to identify it again Mr. Witness?

THE WITNESS

A: Yes, maam.

Q: I am showing to you Mr. Witness -and how will you be able to identify it?

A: I was the one who marked it.

Q: And what markings did you place on the plastic sachet?

A: JB, maam.
xxxx

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: And who were present when you marked this plastic sachet at the office?

THE WITNESS

A: The arresting officers maam, my companions in the conduct of the buy-bust operation, ma am. THE COURT:

Q: Who?

THE WITNESS

A: PO3 Rodolfo Enderina, PO2 Hipolito Francia.

THE COURT:

Q: In the presence of your fellow officers?

THE WITNESS

A: Yes, Your Honor.

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: How about the police investigator, was he also present when you place this markings?

THE WITNESS

A: In that case maam, I was also the investigator.

Q: You were also the investigator. And after you placed the markings on that plastic sachet Mr. Witness, the plastic sachet containing
shabu, what else did you do?

A: We prepared the laboratory examination, maam.

Q: Who prepared the request for laboratory examination?

A: I prepared it, maam.

Q: Okay. And after you prepared the request for laboratory examination, what else happened?

A: And then we submitted the said specimen to the crime laboratory for laboratory examination.

Q: Was the laboratory examination actually conducted on the plastic sachet that you submitted? A: Yes, maam.

Q: And what was the result of the laboratory examination that was conducted on the specimen that you submitted?

A: It yielded positive result for Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, maam.


xxxx

ACP BARING-TUVERA

Q: After you have arrested or after the buy-bust operation Mr. Witness, do you remember having executed any document?

THE WITNESS

A: I executed the Affidavit of Poseur-Buyer. I also prepared the Referral for Inquest, the Request for Drug Test and the Booking Sheet
and Arrest Report.
x x x x.

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On cross-examination, PO3 Sia was asked why he omitted to mention in his affidavit his claimed marking of the confiscated sachet of
shabu. He could not explain his oversight except to say that he "forgot to include a mention of the said fact, ma'am."
15

Our Ruling

According to the CA, the following elements are required to sustain Beran's conviction and these have been shown to be present in
he case below, namely: the identity of the buyer and the seller; the object of the sale and the consideration; and the delivery of the
hing sold and payment therefor. It held that the prosecution was able to establish the following facts: the identities of the poseurbuyer, PO3 Sia, and the seller, Beran; the object of the sale, shabu contained in a heat-sealed plastic sachet handed by Beran to
PO3 Sia; and, the consideration which PO3 Sia paid for the staged purchase, a marked P100.00 bill confiscated in the possession of
Beran. Thus, according to the CA, a complete narrative was built of an illegal sale of shabu leading to the arrest of Beran by PO3 Sia.
16

We disagree.

The crucial issue in this case is whether, to establish the corpus delicti the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized drug have
been preserved in an unbroken chain of custody. We find no unbroken chain of custody, and we rule that the prosecution failed to
establish the very corpus delicti of the crime charged. Beran must be set free.

Evidentiary gaps in the chain of


custody of the confiscated plastic
sachet cast reasonable doubt on its
ntegrity.
17

t is well-settled that in the prosecution of cases involving the illegal sale or illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the evidence of the
corpus delicti which is the dangerous drug itself, must be independently established beyond reasonable doubt. In People v
Pagaduan we ruled that proof beyond reasonable doubt in criminal prosecution for the sale of illegal drugs demands that
unwavering exactitude be observed in establishing the corpus delicti the body of the crime whose core is the confiscated illicit
drug. The case of People v. Tan, cited in People of the Philippines v. Datu Not Abdul, elucidates and reminds us why:
18

19

20

21

22

By the very nature of anti-narcotics operations, the need for entrapment procedures, the use of shady characters as informants, the
ease with which sticks of marijuana or grams of heroin can be planted in pockets or hands of unsuspecting provincial hicks, and the
secrecy that inevitably shrouds all drug deals, the possibility of abuse is great." Thus, the courts have been exhorted to be extra
vigilant in trying drug cases lest an innocent person is made to suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses. Needless to
state, the lower court should have exercised the utmost diligence and prudence in deliberating upon accused-appellants' guilt. It
should have given more serious consideration to the pros and cons of the evidence offered by both the defense and the State and
many loose ends should have been settled by the trial court in determining the merits of the present case.

Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established, and the chain of custody requirement under R.A. No. 9165
performs this function in buy-bust operations as it ensures that any doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
emoved. Blacks Law Dictionary describes "chain of custody," as follows:
23

In evidence, the one who offers real evidence, such as the narcotics in a trial of drug case, must account for the custody of the
evidence from the moment in which it reaches his custody until the moment in which it is offered in evidence, and such evidence
goes to weight not to admissibility of evidence. Com. V. White, 353 Mass. 409, 232 N.E. 2d 335."
24

Although R.A. No. 9165 does not define the meaning of chain of custody, Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1,
Series of 2002 which implements R.A. No. 9165 nonetheless explains the said term, as follows:

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
aboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include
he 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 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.
25

A review of the facts of this case will readily make evident that the appellate decision failed to take note of vital gaps in the recording
by the apprehending officers of authorized movements and custody of the seized shabu as we shall point out, and these gaps compe
us to rule that reasonable doubt exists as to the identity of the very corpus of the offense herein charged, the sachet of shabu
ecovered from Beran. In People v. Alcuizar, we reiterated the rule that under R.A. No. 9165 the dangerous drug itself constitutes the
very corpus delicti and that to sustain a conviction the identity and integrity of the drug must definitely be shown to have been
preserved:
26

The dangerous drug itself, the shabu in this case, constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and in sustaining a conviction
under Republic Act No. 9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely be shown to have been preserved. This
equirement 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
ecovered from the accused-appellant; otherwise, the prosecution for possession under Republic Act No. 9165 fails. (Citation
omitted)
27

Article II, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 provides that to properly preserve the
ntegrity and evidentiary value of the illegal drugs seized pursuant to a buy-bust operation, or under a search warrant, the following
procedures shall be observed by the apprehending officers, to wit:
xxxx

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

28

n People v. Dela Rosa we ruled that 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 is offered in evidence. In the instant case, from the testimony of PO3 Sia it is clear that the
apprehending operatives did not, immediately after seizure and confiscation of the illegal item, physically inventory and photograph
he same in the presence of the accused, his representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of
Justice, and an elected public official, notwithstanding that they were supposed to have been conducting a planned sting operation.
ndeed, it is not gratuitous to state that they took no efforts whatsoever to observe even a modicum of the above procedures. Worse,
he prosecution did not bother to explain why they failed to observe them, although they knew these procedures were intended to
29

30

preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the item seized.

Moreover, none of the other witnesses of the prosecution could corroborate the culpatory narrative of PO3 Sia at any of its material
points to create the successive links in the custody of the seized drug. Of the six-man buy-bust team, only PO3 Sia and PO3 Francia
estified in court, and PO3 Francia himself twice stated that he did not witness the actual buy-bust sale as it was taking-place:

On Cross-examination of PO3 Francia by Atty. Anne Geraldine Agar)


xxxx

Q: And what was your participation in this case, Mr. Witness?

A; I acted as alalay or back-up, ma'am.

Q: Did you act as alalay on that day?

A; Yes, ma'am.

COURT:

Did you see what happened while you were acting as alalay or back-up?

WITNESS:

None, your Honor. Malayo po kasi ako.

COURT:

Wala pala, eh ..

ATTY.AGAR:

Nothing further, your Honor.

FISCAL:

Redirect, Your Honor.

COURT:

Proceed Fiscal.

Q: P03 Francia, you were one of those appointed to form a team?

A: Yes, maam.

Q: And you said, you were only as alalay ?

A: Yes, back-up, maam.

Q: What does an alalay or back-up do?

A: We are there to prevent any intruder that may prevent our operation, maam.

Q: How far were you positioned from the poseur-buyer?

A: More than 5-7 meters, maam.

Q: Was there any incident or intruder that stopped you from arresting the accused?

A: None, maam.

Q: From where you were, were you able to see the pre-arranged signal by the poseur-buyer?
xxxx

A: No, I did not see, maam.

Q: As a back-up, when did you come to see that the deal was consummated?

A: When my companions moved to Know me Sia to assist him, maam.

Q: And what was your last act at that time?

A: "Umalalay," maam.

31

ncidentally, neither did PO3 Francia corroborate PO3 Sia's claim that he and PO3 Enderina were present when he marked the
subject sachet at the precinct.

n People v. Morales, we acquitted the accused due to the failure of the buy-bust team to photograph and inventory the seized items
or to give justifiable grounds for their non-observance of the required procedures. In People v. Garcia, the accused was acquitted
because "no physical inventory was ever made, and no photograph of the seized items was taken under the circumstances required
by R.A. No. 9165 and its implementing rules." We issued the same ruling in Bondad Jr. v. People, where the police without
ustifiable grounds did not inventory or photograph the seized items. We reiterated the same ruling in People v. Gutierrez, People v.
Denoman, People v. Partoza, People v. Robles, and People v. dela Cruz. In all these cases, we stressed the importance of
complying with the required mandatory procedures in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 concerning the preservation of the chain of
custody of confiscated drugs in a buy-bust operation.
32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

Further, in Mallillin v. People we emphasized that the chain of custody rule requires that there be testimony about every link in the
chain, from the moment the object seized was picked up to the time it was offered in evidence, in such a way that every person who
ouched it would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the possession of the
witness, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain.
41

42

The RTC and CA both convicted Beran on the basis alone of the uncorroborated testimony of PO3 Sia, and despite the buy-bust
eam s unexplained non-observance of the procedures laid down in Article II, Section 21(a) of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165. As the Court
of last resort, we are now called upon to correct this error. Unlike in People of the Philippines v. Erlinda Mali y Quimno a k a
Linda", where we found that the prosecution adequately established the unbroken links in the chain of custody of the confiscated
43

drug, and the apprehending officers were able to preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the item seized and justified their
non-compliance with the above procedures, in the instant appeal we rule that the chain of custody has not been established at all,
and thus the integrity and evidentiary value of the drug seized has not been preserved.

Contrary to the settled rule in a


buy-bust operation, the confiscated
shabu was not (1) marked in the
presence of Beran (2) immediately
upon confiscation.

Concerning the marking of evidence seized in a buy-bust operation or under a search warrant, vis-a-vis the physical inventory and
photograph, it must be noted that there are distinctions as to time and place under Section 21 of R A No. 9165. Thus, whereas in
seizures covered by search warrants, the physical inventory and photograph must be conducted in the place of the search warrant, in
warrantless seizures such as a buy-bust operation the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the nearest police
station or office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, consistent with the "chain of custody" rule. In People v.
Sanchez the Court held that:
44

Physical inventory and photograph


equirement under Section 21
vis--vis "marking" of seized evidence

While the first sentence of Section 21 (a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165 states that "the apprehending
officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same," the second sentence makes a distinction between warrantless seizures and seizures by virtue of a warrant,
hus:

(a) x x x 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."

Thus, the venues of the physical inventory and photography of the seized items differ and depend on whether the seizure was made
by virtue of a search warrant or through a warrantless seizure such as a buy-bust operation.

n seizures covered by search warrants, the physical inventory and photograph must be conducted in the place where the search
warrant was served. On the other hand, in case of warrantless seizures such as a buy-bust operation, the physical inventory and
photograph shall be conducted at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable;
however, nothing prevents the apprehending officer/team from immediately conducting the physical inventory and photography of the
tems at the place where they were seized, as it is more in keeping with the law's intent of preserving their integrity and evidentiary
value.

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 itemsto 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. This step initiates the process of protecting innocent persons from dubious and concocted searches, and of protecting
as well the apprehending officers from harassment suits based on planting of evidence under Section 29 and on allegations of

obbery or theft. (Citations omitted and emphases in the original)


45

t needs no elaboration that the immediate marking of the item seized in a buy-bust operation in the presence of the accused is
ndispensable to establish its identity in court. PO3 Sia admitted that he marked the sachet of shabu only at the DAID-WPD precinct,
several kilometers from the buy-bust scene, as well as impliedly admitted that Beran was not then present. Indeed, none of the buybust team attested that they saw him take custody of the confiscated shabu and later mark the sachet at the DAID-WPD office.

Also, the operatives rode in separate vehicles on the trip back to the WPD, and PO3 Sia took a scooter with another teammate, who
could then have attested as to his exclusive custody of the subject drug, but that person was not presented to affirm this fact. So
even granting that P03 Sia did mark the same sachet at the precinct, breaks in the chain of custody had already taken place, first,
when he confiscated it from Beran without anyone observing him do so and without marking the subject sachet at the place of
apprehension, and then as he was transporting it to the precinct, thus casting serious doubt upon the value of the said links to prove
he corpus delicti.

t has been held that "while a perfect chain of custody is almost always impossible to achieve, an unbroken chain becomes
ndispensable and essential in the prosecution of drug cases owing to its susceptibility to alteration, tampering, contamination and
even substitution and exchange." Moreover, as the investigator of the case, PO3 Sia claimed that he personally took the drug to the
aboratory for testing, but there is no showing who the laboratory technician was who received the drug from him. The records also
show that he submitted the sachet to the laboratory only on the next day, without explaining how he preserved his exclusive custody
hereof overnight. All these leave us with no conclusion but that there is serious doubt that the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized item have not been fatally compromised.
46

Lapses in the strict compliance with


he requirements of Section 21 of
R.A. No. 9165 must be explained in
erms of their justifiable grounds,
and the integrity and evidentiary
value of the evidence seized must be
shown to have been preserved.

n People v. Coreche, we explained that the above-cited rules are intended to narrow the window of opportunity for tampering with
evidence, as expressed in Section 21(1) of R.A. No. 9165. As noted by the Court which is worth stating:
47

1wphi1

RA 9165 is silent on when and where marking should be done. On the other hand, its implementing rules provide guidelines on the
nventory of the seized drugs, thus: "the physical inventory x x x shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served;
or at the nearest police station or at the office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless
seizures" (Section 21(a) of Implementing Rules and Regulations). In People v. Sanchez G.R. No. 175832, 15 October 2008, 569
SCRA 194), we drew a distinction between marking and inventory and held that consistent with the chain of custody rule, the marking
of the drugs seized without warrant must be done "immediately upon confiscation" and in the presence of the accused.

The concern with narrowing the window of opportunity for tampering with evidence found legislative expression in Section 21(1) of RA
9165 on the inventory of seized dangerous drugs and paraphernalia by putting in place a three-tiered requirement on the time,
witnesses, and proof of inventory by imposing on the apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs the duty to
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the
person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory
and be given a copy thereof." Although RA 9165 is silent on the effect of non-compliance with Section 21(1), its implementing
guidelines provide 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." We have interpreted this provision to mean that the prosecution bears the burden of proving

justifiable cause" (People v. Sanchez, id.; People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 173480, 25 February 2009, 580 SCRA 259).

48

n Sanchez, we recognized that under varied field conditions the strict compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No.
9165 may not always be possible, and we ruled that under the implementing guidelines of the said Section "non-compliance with
hese 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." But we
added that the prosecution bears the burden of proving justifiable cause."
49

Thus, in Almorfe, we stressed that for the above-saving clause to apply, the prosecution must explain the reasons behind the
procedural lapses, and that the integrity and value of the seized evidence had nonetheless been preserved. In People v. de
Guzman, we emphasized that the justifiable ground for non-compliance must be proven as a fact, because the Court cannot
presume what these grounds are or that they even exist.
50

51

52

n the present case, the prosecution did not bother to offer an explanation for why an inventory and photograph of the seized
evidence was not made either in the place of seizure and arrest or at the police station, as required by the Implementing Rules in
case of warrantless arrests, or why the marking of the seized item was not made at the place of seizure in the presence of Beran.
ndeed, the very identity of the subject shabu cannot be established with certainty by the testimony alone of PO3 Sia since the rules
nsist upon independent proof of its identity, such as the immediate marking thereof upon seizure. And as we already noted, PO3 Sia
claimed that he personally transported the shabu to the WPD station, yet other than his lone testimony there is no other evidence of
his exclusive and uninterrupted custody during the interval from seizure and transportation to turn over at the WPD. Then, the record
shows that PO3 Sia submitted the sachet of shabu for laboratory examination only the next day, and therefore presumably he
etained custody of the subject sachet overnight. In view of his self-serving admission that he marked the sachet only at the precinct,
but without anyone present, along with his lack of mention of the laboratory technician or officer who received the sachet from him,
he charge that the subject drug may have been tampered with or substituted is inevitable.
53

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the Decision dated March 9, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No.
04466 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. For failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, Joselito Beran y
Zapanta is hereby ACQUITTED of the charge of violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. His immediate RELEASE
rom detention is hereby ORDERED unless he is being held for another lawful cause. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the
Director of the Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City for immediate implementation, who is then also directed to report to this Court
he action he has taken within five (5) days from his receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSMAIN
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 Courts Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes
Penned by Associate Justice Leoncia R. Dimagiba, with Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Marlene
Gonzales-Sison, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 96-123.
1

Issued by Acting Presiding Judge Cicero D. Jurado, Jr.; records, pp. 159-163.

Id. at 1.

But a second prosecution witness, PO3 Hipolito Francia, said on cross-examination that the time was more or less
2:00 p.m.; TSN, April 26, 2005, p 3.
4

CA rollo, pp. 68-71.

Id. at 39.

Records, p. 137.

Id. at 159-163.

Id. at 163.

10

CA rollo, p. 35.

11

Cruz v. People, G.R. No. 164580, February 6, 2009, 578 SCRA 147, 152.

12

TSN, August 8, 2006, pp. 3-16.

13

TSN, pp. 3-6, July 15, 2008.

14

TSN, July 16, 2008, pp. 3-10.

15

Id. at 13.

16

People v. Gonzales, 430 Phil. 504, 513 (2002).

17

People v. Abdul, G.R. No. 186137, June 26, 2013.

18

People v. Morales, G.R. No. 172873, March 19, 2010, 616 SCRA223, 235.

19

G.R. No. 179029, August 9, 2010, 627 SCRA 308.

20

Id. at 322.

21

401 Phil. 259 (2000).

22

G.R. No. 186137, June 26, 2013.

23

Supra note 19, at 322.

24

Id. at 323.

25

People v. Dela Rosa, G.R. No. 185166, January 28, 2011, 640 SCRA 635, 653.

26

G.R. No. 189980, April 6, 2011, 647 SCRA431.

27

Id. at 437.

The entire Section 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 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:
28

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

(c) 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;
(d) After the filing of the criminal case, the Court shall, within seventy-two (72) hours, conduct an ocular
inspection of the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
and controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment, and through the PDEA shall within twenty-four (24) hours thereafter, proceed with the destruction
or burning of the same, in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were

confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ,
civil society groups and any elected public official. The Board shall draw up the guidelines on the manner of
proper disposition and destruction of such item/s which shall be borne by the offender: Provided, That those
item/s of lawful commerce, as determined by the Board, shall be donated, used or recycled for legitimate
purposes: Provider, further, that a representative sample, duly weighed and recorded is retained;

(e) The Board shall then issue a sworn certification as to the fact of destruction or burning of the subject item/s
which, together with the representative sample/s in the custody of the PDEA, shall be submitted to the court
having jurisdiction over the case. In cases of seizures where no person is apprehended and no criminal case
is filed, the PDEA may order the immediate destruction or burning of sized dangerous drugs and controlled
precursors and essential chemicals under guidelines set by the Board. In all instances, the representative
sample/s shall be kept to a minimum quantity as determined by the Board;

(f) The alleged offender or his/her representative or counsel shall be allowed to personally observe all of the
above proceedings and his/her presence shall not constitute an admission of guilt. In case the said offender or
accused refuses or fails to appoint a representative after due notice in writing to the accused or his/her
counsel within seventy-two (72) hours before the actual burning or destruction of the evidence in question, the
Secretary of Justice shall appoint a member of the public attorney's office to represent the former;
(g) After the promulgation and judgment in the criminal case wherein the representative sample/s was
presented as evidence in court, the trial prosecutor shall inform the Board of the final termination of the case
and, in turn, shall request the court for leave to turn over the said representative sample/s to the PDEA for
proper disposition and destruction within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the same; and
(h) Transitory Provision:

h. 1) Within twenty-four (24) hours from the effectivity of this Act, dangerous drugs defined herein
which are presently in possession of law enforcement agencies shall, with leave of court, be burned or
destroyed, in the presence of representatives of the Court, DOJ, Department of Health (DOH) and the
accused and/or his/her counsel; and
h.2) Pending the organization of the PDEA, the custody, disposition, and burning or destruction of
seized/surrendered dangerous drugs provided under this Section shall be implemented by the DOH."
29

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

30

Id. at 653.

31

TSN, April 26, 2005, pp. 4-6.

32

Supra note 18.

33

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

34

Id. at 269.

35

594 Phil. 158 (2008).

36

G.R. No. 179213, September 3, 2009, 598 SCRA 92.

37

G.R. No. 171732,August 14, 2009, 595 SCRA257.

38

G.R. No. 182418, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 809.

39

G.R. No. 177220, April 24, 2009, 586 SCRA 647.

40

589 Phil. 259 (2008).

41

576 Phil. 576 (2008).

42

Id. at 587.

43

G.R. No. 206738, December 11, 2013.

44

590 Phil. 214 (2008).

45

Id. at 240-241.

46

People v. Almorfe, G.R. No. 181831, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 52, 61-62.

47

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

48

See Footnote 16 in People v. Coreche, id. at 358.

49

Supra note 44, at 232.

50

Supra note 46, at 60.

51

G.R. No. 186498, March 26, 2010, 616 SCRA 652.

52

Id. at 662.

53

Records, p. 142.

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

Today is Saturday, November 14, 2015

G.R. No. 199901

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
October 9, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
GARYZALDY GUZON, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION

REYES, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated June 29 2010 of the Court of Appeals CA) in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 02890, which affirmed
he Decision2 dated June 15, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 13 in Criminal Case No. 11968-13, finding
accused-appellant Garyzaldy Guzon Guzon) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal sale of shabu.
The facts

Guzon was accused of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002, in an Information3 dated November 23, 2005, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about November 22, 2005 at 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, in the municipality of San Nicolas, province of Ilocos Norte,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
eloniously sell one (1) heat-sealed plastic sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride otherwise known as "shabu", a dangerous
drug, weighing 0.06 gram to a police asset of PNP San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, who posed as buyer in a buy[-]bust operation without
authority to do so.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

Upon arraignment, Guzon entered a plea of "not guilty." 5 After pre- trial, trial on the merits ensued.
Version of the Prosecution

PO2 Elyzer Tuzon (PO2 Tuzon) testified for the prosecution. He claimed that on November 22, 2005, at around 11:00 oclock in the
morning, he was on duty at the police station of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, when he received a telephone call from an unknown tipper
hat Guzon was engaged in drug-pushing activity at Nalupta Street, Barangay 3, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. PO2 Tuzon relayed the
nformation to Officer-In-Charge Chief Police Inspector Jerico Baldeo (OIC Baldeo), who ordered PO2 Tuzon and PO3 Cesar Manuel
PO3 Manuel) to verify the report. When PO2 Tuzon and PO3 Manuel failed to find Guzon at Nalupta Street, OIC Baldeo instructed
hem to seek the aid of an asset. 6

After an unnamed asset identified Guzons location, the police planned a buy-bust operation. PO2 Tuzon gave marked money to the
asset designated to be the poseur-buyer of shabu. The asset was instructed to remove his cap to signal that he had received the
shabu from Guzon.7

The buy-bust operation ensued at Nalupta Street, where the asset approached Guzon . From afar, PO2 Tuzon saw the asset hand
hree (3) marked P100.00 bills to Guzon, who then handed something to the asset.8 After the asset removed his cap, the police ran

owards Guzon to arrest him . PO3 Manuel recovered the marked P100 bills from Guzon, while PO2 Tuzon received from the asset
he item purchased from Guzon.9 Guzon was brought to the San Nicolas Police Station, where PO2 Tuzon prepared a
Certification/Inventory of Seized/Confiscated Items 10, marked the seized sachet with his initials "EAT",11 and then delivered the sachet
o the police crime laboratory for chemical examination. 12 The sachet was received by PO3 Nolie Domingo (PO3 Domingo). 13

Given a stipulation by the prosecution and the defense during the pre- trial, PO3 Domingo and Police Senior Inspector Mary Ann
Cayabyab (PSI Cayabyab), the Forensic Chemical Officer of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Crime Laboratory Office who conducted the
chemical examination, no longer testified in court. The RTCs pre-trial Order 14 provides:

The parties stipulated on the gist of the testimony of PO3 Nolie Domingo to the effect that as per request for laboratory examination,
he was the one who received the specimen from Elyzer Tuzon and that he delivered the same to PSI Mary Ann Cayabyab. They also
stipulated on the testimony of PSI Cayabyab to the effect that after receiving the said specimen and found the specimen to be shabu,
hus, she issued her initial report and confirmatory report under Chemistry Report No. D-090-2005 which were marked as Exhibits F
and G, respectively. They further agreed that said forensic chemical officer and PO3 Domingo could identify the said specimen and
he labels as appearing therein. The defense admitted the proffer without admitting that the specimen came from the accused. The
estimonies of PO3 Nolie Domingo and PSI Mary Ann Cayabyab were therefore dispensed with. x x x. 15

The Initial Laboratory Report16 and Chemistry Report17 referred to in the pre-trial Order both state that the specimen, weighing 0.06
grams, that was submitted to the crime laboratory for examination contained methamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as
shabu.
Version of the Defense

The defense presented the testimonies of Guzon, his friend Jesus Guira, Jr. (Guira) and brother Edwin Guzon (Edwin).

Guzon denied the charge against him. He claimed that on the early afternoon of November 22, 2005, he had a drinking spree with
Guira at the latters house in Barangay San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. 18 At past 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, his brother Edwin arrived
and told him that PO3 Manuel wanted to talk to him. Guzon approached PO3 Manuel, who invited him to the municipal hall but would
not say the reason therefor.19 Guzon insisted that the matter be instead discussed near Guiras house, but PO3 Manuel declined.
Thereafter, PO2 Tuzon arrived20 and upon his prodding, Guzon agreed to go with them to the municipal hall. 21 Only PO2 Tuzon went
with Guzon inside the municipal hall. 22

PO2 Tuzon later brought Guzon to a police camp in Laoag City. While on board a patrol car on their way to the camp, PO2 Tuzon
ealized that he forgot the shabu in his office drawer so they went back to the municipal hall. Thereafter, they headed back to the
police camp where, upon their arrival, PO2 Tuzon handcuffed Guzon before proceeding to the camps second floor. 23

While at the second floor, PO2 Tuzon took a sachet from his pocket then handed it to a desk officer. Guzon was instructed by a
woman to fill a small bottle with his urine. After he complied, PO2 Tuzon brought him back to San Nicolas. 24

On the morning of November 23, 2005, Guzon was brought by PO2 Tuzon, PO3 Manuel and another policeman to a place south of
he City Hall of Laoag, near the corner of the Laoag-Solsona terminal. There, Guzon saw PO3 Manuel take out three P100.00 bills
rom his wallet then hand them to PO2 Tuzon. PO2 Tuzon left and when he returned, he handed photocopies of the P100.00 bills to
PO3 Manuel.25

Guira and Edwin also testified for Guzons defense. Guira claimed that at about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon on November 22, 2005,
he was having a drinking session outside his house with Guzon and several other persons. 26 At around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon,
Edwin arrived to inform Guzon that PO3 Manuel was looking for him. 27 Guzon then left the place with PO3 Manuel, PO2 Tuzon and
one George.28 Edwins testimony also corroborated the account of Guzon, having testified that on November 22, 2005, he was asked
by PO3 Manuel on the whereabouts of Guzon. 29 When he saw his brother at Guiras house, he approached him to say that PO3

Manuel was looking for him.30

The testimony of one Ronnie Dimaya was dispensed with after the prosecution admitted that the gist of his testimony would be
merely corroborative of the testimonies of Guira and Guzon. 31
The RTCs Ruling

On June 15, 2007, the RTC rendered its Decision 32 finding Guzon guilty as charged. The dispositive portion of its Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Garyzaldy Guzon GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as charged of
llegal sale of shabu and is therefore sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.

The contraband subject hereof is hereby confiscated, the same to be disposed of as the law prescribes.

SO ORDERED.33

Feeling aggrieved, Guzon appealed to the CA. Notwithstanding the RTCs findings, he denied the charge against him. He also
questioned the credibility of PO2 Tuzon as a witness for the prosecution and the police officers non-compliance with the chain of
custody rule in handling the confiscated shabu.
The CAs Ruling

On June 29, 2010, the CA rendered its Decision34 denying the appeal. It reasoned that Guzons defenses of denial and frame-up are
common and could easily be fabricated; they could not prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the police officer who
estified for the prosecution.

n affirming Guzons conviction, the CA also cited the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty by the police
operatives who conducted the buy-bust operation. As to the issue of chain of custody, the CA rejected Guzons argument, and
maintained that based on the evidence, the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated shabu were preserved.

Hence, this appeal.

The Present Petition

Guzon seeks his acquittal mainly on the basis of the prosecutions failure to establish the chain of custody of the subject drug. He
argues35 that: (1) the evidence allegedly seized from Guzon could have been planted; it was not immediately marked at the place of
seizure; (2) there were no photographs and physical inventory of the confiscated drug; (3) the prosecution failed to offer justification
or the absence of photographs and inventory; (4) the asset who acted as the poseur-buyer was not identified; and (5) the
prosecution failed to establish that the integrity of the seized item was sufficiently preserved through an unbroken chain of custody.
This Courts Ruling

The appeal is meritorious. The Court acquits Guzon for the prosecutions failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In Reyes
v. CA,36 the Court emphasized that a "conviction must stand on the strength of the prosecutions evidence, not on the weakness of the
defense which the accused put up. Evidence proving the guilt of the accused must always be beyond reasonable doubt. If the
evidence of guilt falls short of this requirement, the Court will not allow the accused to be deprived of his liberty. His acquittal should
come as a matter of course."37

n the instant case, Guzon was accused of violating Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 which prohibits the sale of illegal drugs. The

elements of the crime include: (a) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale, and the consideration; and (b) the
delivery of the thing sold and the payment for the thing. 38 The Court explained in People v. Bautista39 that in drug-related prosecutions
he State bears the burden not only of proving these elements of the offense under R.A. No. 9165, but also of proving the corpus
delicti , the body of the crime. The dangerous drug is itself the very corpus delicti of the violation of the law. 40

A buy-bust operation is a legally effective and proven procedure, sanctioned by law, for apprehending drug peddlers and
distributors."41 As in all drugs cases, compliance with the chain of custody rule is crucial in any prosecution that follows such
operation. Chain of custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals
rom the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. 42 The
ule is imperative, as it is essential that the prohibited drug confiscated or recovered from the suspect is the very same substance
offered in court as exhibit; and that the identity of said drug is established with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to
make a finding of guilt.43

To eliminate doubt, and even abuse, in the handling of seized substances, some safeguards for compliance by law enforcement
officers are established by law and jurisprudence. For one, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, upon which Guzon anchors his appeal,
eads in part:

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

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

x x x x (Emphasis ours)

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165, particularly Section 21 thereof, further provides the following
guidelines in the custody and control of confiscated drugs:
xxxx

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

x x x x (Emphasis ours)

The rule includes the proviso that procedural lapses in the handling of the seized drugs are not ipso facto fatal to the prosecutions
cause, provided that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved. In each case, courts are nonetheless
eminded to thoroughly evaluate and differentiate those errors that constitute a simple procedural lapse from those that amount to a

gross, systematic, or deliberate disregard of the safeguards that are drawn by the law 44 for the protection of the corpus delicti. The
strict demands and significant value of the chain of custody rule were emphasized in the oft-cited Malillin v. People 45 wherein the
Court held:

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence
sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include testimony about every
ink 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
ouched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness
possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. These
witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no
opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.

While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard because it is almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain
of custody becomes indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is not readily identifiable, or
when its condition at the time of testing or trial is critical, or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same standard
ikewise obtains in case the evidence is susceptible to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. In
other words, the exhibits level of susceptibility to fungibility, alteration or tamperingwithout regard to whether the same is advertent
or otherwise notdictates the level of strictness in the application of the chain of custody rule. 46(Citations omitted and emphasis
supplied)

As Guzon correctly pointed out in his Supplemental Brief, there were several lapses in the law enforcers handling of the seized item
which, when taken collectively, render the standards of chain of custody seriously breached. In a line of cases, the Court explained
hat the failure to comply with the indispensable requirement of corpus delicti happens not only when it is missing, but also where
here are substantial gaps in the chain of custody of the seized drugs which raise doubts on the authenticity of the evidence
presented in court.47 Upon review, the Court has determined that such lapses and doubt mar the instant case.

First, the police officers who took part in the buy-bust operation failed to mark the seized item immediately after its confiscation from
Guzon. The Court explained in People v. Coreche 48 the importance in the chain of custody of the immediate marking of an item that is
seized from an accused, to wit:

Crucial in proving chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or other related items immediately after they are seized from
he accused. Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link, thus it is vital that the seized contraband are immediately
marked because succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the markings as reference. The marking of the evidence serves to
separate the marked evidence from the corpus of all other similar or related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused
until they are disposed at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching, "planting," or contamination of evidence. 49 (Citation
omitted and emphasis ours)

Here, instead of immediately marking the subject drug upon its confiscation, PO2 Tuzon marked it with his initials "EAT" only upon
arrival at the police station.50 While the failure of arresting officers to mark the seized items at the place of arrest does not, by itself,
mpair the integrity of the chain of custody and render the confiscated items inadmissible in evidence, 51 such circumstance, when
aken in light of the several other lapses in the chain of custody that attend the present case, forms part of a gross, systematic, or
deliberate disregard of the safeguards that are drawn by the law,52 sufficient to create reasonable doubt as to the culpability of the
accused.

The Court has determined that although a physical inventory of the items seized during the buy-bust operation forms part of the case
ecords, the buy-bust team failed to fully comply with the requirements under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 for its preparation and
execution. Under the law, the inventory must be made "in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom the items were
confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice, and
any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof." These requirements
are reiterated in Section 21, IRR of R.A. No. 9165. Non-compliant with such rules, however, the Certification/Inventory of
Seized/Confiscated Items53 in this case only bears the signatures of PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon as apprehending officers. Although

he Certification indicates the name of Guzon under the section "With Conformity", it includes neither his signature nor of any other
person who is allowed by law to witness the required inventory. There is also no proof that a copy of the inventory was received by
any of the persons enumerated under the law.

Besides these deficiencies in the preparation of the inventory, no photograph of the seized item, which is also required under Section
21 of R.A. No. 9165, forms part of the case records.

The saving clause in Section 21, IRR of R.A. No. 9165 fails to remedy the lapses and save the prosecutions case. We have
emphasized in People v. Garcia54 that the saving clause applies only where the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses, and
hereafter cited justifiable grounds.55 Failure to follow the procedure mandated under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR must be adequately
explained.56 Equally important, the prosecution must establish that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized item are
properly preserved. The prosecution failed in this regard. Taking into account the several rules and requirements that were not
ollowed by the law enforcers, there was an evident disregard on their part of the established legal requirements. Their breach of the
chain of custody rule, magnified by the prosecutions failure to explain the deficiencies during the trial, casts doubt on whether the
tem claimed to have been sold by Guzon to the police asset was the same item that was brought for examination by the police crime
aboratory and eventually presented in court as evidence.

As further proof that the chain of custody rule was breached in this case, the Court points out the discrepancy in the weight of the
tem that was supposedly seized following the buy-bust operation, and that examined by PSI Cayabyab. We refer to the inventory
prepared by PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon on the items that were confiscated after the buy-bust operation:

One (1) piece small heat[-]sealed plastic sachet containing white crystalline granules believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride
ocally known as "SHABU", weighing more or less .01 gram including plastic material.
xxxx

The above enumerated and described items were properly marked with capital letters EAT representing the name Elyzer Agarma
Tuzon who was one of the apprehending police officers x x x. 57 (Emphasis ours)

The fact that the item sold by Guzon to the police asset weighed only 0.01 gram is provided in several other documents: first, in the
Joint Affidavit58 dated November 22, 2005 executed by PO3 Manuel and PO2 Tuzon; second, the September 22, 2005 entry in the
San Nicolas Municipal Police Stations Temporary Police Blotter, as provided in a Certification 59 dated November 22, 2005 issued by
OIC Baldeo; and third, the Memorandum60requesting for laboratory examination signed by OIC Baldeo and which reads in part:

EXHIBIT: a) One (1) piece of small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing crystalline substance suspected to be shabu
weighing more or less .01 gram including plastic sachet marked hereto as exhibit EAT.61(Emphasis ours)

Clearly, the specimen submitted to the police crime laboratory weighed only 0.01 gram, even including the plastic sachet that
contained the substance.

t appears, however, that the specimen examined by PSI Cayabyab of the police crime laboratory differed from the specimen
allegedly seized by the police and brought for examination. The Initial Laboratory Report 62prepared by PSI Cayabyab indicates that
he specimen examined weighed more, specifically at 0.06 gram, excluding its plastic container. Chemistry Report No. D-090200563 issued by PSI Cayabyab likewise provides the following details:

SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:

A One (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic bag with markings containing 0.06 gram of white crystalline substance. xxx

xxxx

REMARKS:

Weight does not include plastic container. xxx.64 (Emphasis ours)

Clearly from the foregoing, the item that was allegedly obtained by the police from Guzon during the buy-bust operation differed or, at
he very least, was no longer in its original condition when examined in the crime laboratory. The variance in the weight of the seized
tem vis--vis the examined specimen and, ultimately, the detail provided in the Information, remained unaddressed by the
prosecution. The testimony of PO2 Tuzon offered no explanation for the difference. PO3 Domingo and PSI Cayabyab could have
provided the clarification, but their testimonies were dispensed with following the parties agreement during the pre-trial. 65 The identity
of the item examined by PSI Cayabyab could have also been verified from the markings "EAT" that was made by PO2 Tuzon on the
plastic sachet. Her reports, however, made no specific reference to such markings, as they merely described the subject specimen as
one (1)-heat-sealed transparent plastic bag with markings containing 0.06g of white crystalline substance." 66

The Court is mindful of the stipulations that were entered into by the parties during the pre-trial 67 to the effect that: (a) PO3 Domingo
eceived the specimen from PO2 Tuzon and then delivered it to PSI Cayabyab; (b) PSI Cayabyab received the specimen and when
she found the specimen to be shabu , she issued her initial and confirmatory reports; and (c) PSI Cayabyab and PO3 Domingo could
dentify the specimen and the labels appearing thereon. These bare stipulations, however, merely address the matter of the
specimens transfer from one police officer to the next, without offering any explanation as to the specimens condition during the
ransfers, how each person made sure that the item was not tampered with or substituted, and an indication of the safeguards that
were employed to prevent any tampering or substitution. Given the considerable difference between the specimens weight upon its
seizure and its weight at the time of its examination, with the seized items weight being a mere 16% of the examined specimens
weight, the determination in this case of whether the rationale for the chain of custody rule was duly satisfied necessitated a more
ntensive inquiry. The prosecutions failure to do so was fatal to its case. It failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the integrity
and evidentiary value of the substance claimed to be seized during the buy-bust operation was preserved. The doubt is resolved in
Guzons favor, as the Court rules on his acquittal.

n drugs cases, the prosecution must show that the integrity of the corpus delicti has been preserved. This is crucial in drugs cases
because the evidence involved the seized chemical is not readily identifiable by sight or touch and can easily be tampered with or
substituted.68 "Proof of the corpus delicti in a buy-bust situation requires not only the actual existence of the transacted drugs but also
he certainty that the drugs examined and presented in court were the very ones seized. This is a condition sine qua non for
conviction since drugs are the main subject of the illegal sale constituting the crime and their existence and identification must be
proven for the crime to exist."69 The flagrant lapses committed in handling the alleged confiscated drug in violation of the chain of
custody requirement even effectively negate the presumption of regularity in the performance of the police officers duties, as any
aint of irregularity affects the whole performance and should make the presumption unavailable. 70

n addition to the foregoing, the Court finds merit in Guzons argument that the non-presentation of the poseur-buyer to the witness
stand was fatal to the prosecutions cause. We emphasize that in a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the prosecution
must convincingly prove that the transaction or sale actually transpired. 71 In the instant case, the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust
operation, a civilian, was the witness competent to prove such fact, given the testimony of PO2 Tuzon that at time the supposed sale
happened, he and PO3 Manuel were positioned about 20 meters away from Guzon and the poseur-buyer. Although PO2 Tuzon
estified during the trial on the supposed sale, such information he could offer was based only on conjecture, as may be derived from
he supposed actions of Guzon and the poseur-buyer, or at most, hearsay, being information that was merely relayed to him by the
alleged poseur-buyer. Given the 20-meter distance, it was unlikely for PO2 Tuzon to have heard the conversations between the
alleged buyer and seller. True enough, his testimony provided that he and PO3 Manuel merely relied on an agreed signal, i.e., the
poseur-buyers removal of his cap, to indicate that the sale had been consummated. On cross-examination, PO2 Tuzon even
admitted:

ATTY. BALUCIO:

Q And Mr. Witness, when you allegedly arrived at the target place, you were at a distance far away from the alleged transaction, is it
not?

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

Q And that if any transaction have been (sic) transpired at that time, you did not hear it Mr. Witness?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you did not also see if what was being handed at that time was shabu Mr. Witness?

A Yes, sir.72

n the absence of neither the poseur-buyers nor of any eyewitness testimony on the transaction, the prosecutions case fails. In
People v. Tadepa,73 the Court explained that the failure of the prosecution to present in court the alleged poseur-buyer is fatal to its
case. Said the Court in that case, the police officer, who admitted that he was seven (7) to eight (8) meters away from where the
actual transaction took place, could not be deemed an eyewitness to the crime. The Court held, viz :
1wphi1

n People v. Polizon, we said

We agree with the appellants contention that the non-presentation of Boy Lim, the alleged poseur-buyer, weakens the prosecutions
evidence. Sgt. Pascua was not privy to the conversation between Lim and the accused. He was merely watching from a distance and
he only saw the actions of the two. As pointed out by the appellant, Sgt. Pascua had no personal knowledge of the transaction that
ranspired between Lim and the appellant. Since appellant insisted that he was forced by Lim to buy the marijuana, it was essential
hat Lim should have been presented to rebut accuseds testimony.

The ruling in People v. Yabut is further instructive

Well established is the rule that when the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two (2) or more explanations, one of
which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test
of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction. In the present case, accused-appellants version of the circumstances
eading to his apprehension constitutes a total denial of the prosecutions allegations. In this regard this Court has ruled that when
here is such a divergence of accounts

x x x it becomes incumbent upon the prosecution to rebut appellants allegation by presenting x x x the alleged poseur- buyer. This it
ailed to do giving rise to the presumption that evidence willfully suppressed would be adverse if produced (Rule 131, Sec. 5 [e]). This
ailure constitutes a fatal flaw in the prosecutions evidence since the so-called (poseur-buyer) who was never presented as a witness
x x x is the best witness for the prosecution x x x. 74 (Emphasis ours)

The Court also ruled in People v. Olaes75, that the non-presentation of the poseur-buyer was fatal to the prosecutions case, since the
alleged sale transaction happened inside the accuseds house; hence, it was supposedly witnessed only by the poseur-buyer, who
hen was the only person who had personal knowledge of the transaction. 76

While the Court, in several instances, has affirmed an accuseds conviction notwithstanding the non-presentation of the poseur-buyer
n the buy-bust operation, such failure is excusable only when the poseur-buyers testimony is merely corroborative, there being
some other eyewitness who is competent to testify on the sale transaction. 77

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated June 29, 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR
HC No. 02890, which affirmed the Decision dated June 15, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court of Laoag City, Branch 13, in Criminal
Case No. 11968-13; and ACQUITS accused-appellant GARYZALDY GUZON of the crime charged in Criminal Case No. 11968-13 on

he ground of reasonable doubt. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is hereby ORDERED to immediately release Garyzaldy
Guzon from custody, unless he is detained for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN*


Associate Justice
C E R TI F I C ATI O N

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

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice

Footnotes
*

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

Penned by Associate Justice Michael P. Elbinias, with Associate Justices Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Celia C
Librea-Leagogo; concurring; rollo pp. 2-14.
1

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

Id. at 9-10.

Id. at 9.

Id. at 27.

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

Id. at 5-6, 8-9.

Id. at 11.

Id. at 12.

10

Records, p. 5.

11

TSN, February 28, 2006, p. 13.

12

Id. at 15.

13

Id. at 16.

14

Records, p. 24.

15

Id.

16

CA rollo, p. 54.

17

Id. at 55.

18

TSN, September 18, 2006, p. 3.

19

Id. at 5-7.

20

Id. at 7.

21

Id. at 8, 10.

22

Id. at 12.

23

Id. at 14-15.

24

Id. at 15-16.

25

Id. at 17-18.

26

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

27

Id. at 6-7.

28

Id. at 8.

29

TSN, August 15, 2006, p. 4.

30

Id. at 7.

31

TSN, September 7, 2006, p. 4.

32

CA rollo, pp. 27-41

33

Id. at 41.

34

Rollo, pp. 2-14.

35

Id. at 47-49.

36

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

37

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

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

39

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

40

Id. at 531-532.

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

42

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

43

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

44

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

45

576 Phil. 576 (2008).

46

Id. at 587-588.

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

48

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

49

Id. at 357.

50

CA rollo, p. 29.

51

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

52

Id. at 355.

53

CA rollo, p. 52.

54

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

55

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

56

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

57

Records, p. 5.

58

Id. at 3-4.

59

Id. at 7.

60

Id. at 10.

61

Id.

62

Id. at 11.

63

Id. at 19.

64

Id.

65

Id. at 24.

66

Id. at 11, 19; emphasis ours.

67

Id. at 24.

68

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

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

70

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

71

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

72

TSN, May 9, 2006, p. 9.

73

314 Phil. 231 (1995).

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

75

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

76

Id. at 95.

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

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

G.R. No. 190623

Today is Saturday, November 14, 2015

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
November 17, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PIDLIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ROMMEL ARAZA y SAGUN, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

n this appeal, appellant Rommel Araza y Sagun (Araza) assails the October 14, 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CAG.R. CR-H.C. No. 03164 which affirmed the December 11, 2007 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 93, San Pedro,
Laguna in Criminal Case No. 3829-SPL finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of shabu.
1

Factual Antecedents

On August 15, 2003, an Information for violation of Section 11, Article II, Republic Act No. 9165 (RA 9165) otherwise known as the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 was filed against Araza, the accusatory portion of which reads as follows:
3

That on or about August 28, 2002, inthe Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court the said accused, not being authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his
possession, control and custody one (1) small heat-sealed transparent plasticsachet containing METHAMPHETAMINE
HYDROCHLORIDE commonly known as "shabu," a dangerous drug, weighing zero point zero six (0.06) gram.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

During arraignment, Araza pleaded "not guilty." Thereafter, trial ensued.


5

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented Police Officer 1 Edmund Talacca (PO1 Talacca) who testified as follows:

At around 8:00 p.m. of August 28, 2002,PO1 Talacca accompanied the Barangay Chairman, BarangayTanods and several members
of the barangay council in confiscating a video karera machine inside the house of a certain Alejandro Sacdo (Sacdo). While
confiscating said machine, PO1 Talacca saw nine persons, including Araza, sniffing shabuor engaging in a pot session inside the
house of Sacdo. He arrested and frisked them. Recovered from the pocket of Araza was a small heat-sealed transparent plastic
sachet containing white crystalline substance which PO1 Talacca suspected to be shabu. PO1 Talacca immediately seized said
sachet and brought Araza and his companions to the police station. He turned over the said sachet to the chief investigator, Larry
Cabrera (Cabrera), who marked the same with the initials "RSA" in his presence.

The prosecution was supposed to alsopresent Police Senior Inspector Donna Villa Huelgas (P/Sr. Insp. Huelgas), the Forensic
Chemist who examined the confiscated white crystalline substance, but her testimony was dispensed with after the defense agreed
o the following stipulations: 1) Chemistry Report No. D-2028-02 as Exhibit "B"; 2) the name of suspect Rommel Araza ySagun as
Exhibit "B-1"; 3) the specimen submitted as Exhibit "B-2"; 4) findingsas Exhibit "B-3"; 5) conclusion as Exhibit "B-4"; 6) the name and
signature of P/Sr. Insp. Huelgas as Exhibits "B-5"; 7) the request for laboratory examination as Exhibit "C"; 8) the name of suspect
Rommel Araza ySagun as Exhibit "C-1"; 9) the evidence submitted as Exhibit "C-2"; 10) the stamp mark as Exhibit "C-3"; 11) the halfsize white envelope as Exhibit "D"; 12) the plastic sachet as Exhibit "D-1"; and 13) the small heat-sealed plastic sachets as Exhibit
D-1-A."
6

Version of the Defense

The defense presented a completely different version of the incident. Araza testified that he was sleeping inside a room in the house
of Sacdo when PO1 Talacca suddenly woke him up and frisked him. PO1 Talacca confiscated his wallet that contained coins then
ook him to the police station and charged him with illegal possession of prohibited drugs.
Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

The RTC ruled thatthe prosecution was able toestablish the guilt of Araza beyond reasonable doubt. It gave credence to the
estimony of PO1 Talacca since he is presumed to have regularly performed his duties and there was no evidence that he had any
motive to falsely testify against Araza. The RTC rejected Arazas alibi as a feeble defense that cannot prevail over the positive
estimony of PO1 Talacca. The dispositive portion of the December 11, 2007 Decision of the RTC reads:
7

WHEREFORE, the Court herebysentences accused ROMMEL ARAZA y SAGUN to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment
rom twelve (12) years and one (1) day as minimum to fifteen (15)years as maximum and to pay a fine in the amount of P300,000.00.

The 0.06 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "shabu" which constitutes the instrument in the commission of the crime is
confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government. Atty. Jaarmy Bolus-Romero, Branch Clerk of Court, is hereby directed to
mmediately transmit the 0.06 [gram] of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "shabu"to the Dangerous Drugs Board for proper
disposition.

Costs against accused.

SO ORDERED.

Araza filed a notice of appeal which was approved bythe RTC. Hence, the entire records of the casewere forwarded to the CA.
9

10

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

n his brief, Araza highlighted PO1 Talaccas admission under oath that the shabuwas confiscated from his pocket and not in plain
view. He posited that the shabu is inadmissible in evidence since it was illegally seized, having been taken from his pocket and not as
an incident of an arrest in flagrante delicto. Araza likewise argued that the rule on chain of custody was not properly adhered to since
here was no evidence that a physical inventory of the shabu was conducted in the presence ofany elected local government official
and the media. He claimed that the possibility of tampering, alteration or substitution of the substance may have been present since
he investigating officer who marked the seized shabuin the police station and the person who delivered the same to the crime
aboratory were not presented during the trial.
11

The CA, however, was not impressed. It ruled that Araza was estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest for his failure to move
o quash the Information against him prior to arraignment.It also held that he could no longer question the chain of custody for failing
o raise the same during trial. Besides, the prosecution was able to establish the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item.
Thus, the CA issued its assailed Decision with the following dispositive portion:
12

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decisiondated 11 December 2007 of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, San Pedro,
Laguna, Branch 93, in Criminal Case No. 3829-SPL, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

13

Hence, this appeal where Araza seeks for his acquittal.


Issues

On February 15, 2010, the parties weredirected to file their respective supplemental briefs but both of them opted to just adopt the
brief they submitted before the CA.

Araza imputes error upon the RTC and CA in upholding the validity of his warrantless arrest and in finding that the procedure for the
custody and control of prohibited drugs was complied with.
14

Our Ruling

The appeal is unmeritorious.

The offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs has been established.

The elements that must be established in the successful prosecution of a dangerous drugs case are: "(1) the accused is in
possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the
accused freely and consciously possessed the drug." "Mere possession x x x of a prohibited drug, without legal authority, is
punishable under [RA 9165]."
15

16

The prosecution satisfied the foregoing elements during trial. The arresting officer, PO1 Talacca, positively identified Arazaas the
person caught in possession of the shabu presented in court. He stated that the shabuwas validly confiscated after Araza was
arrested in flagrante delicto sniffing shabuin the company of other people. Relevant portions of his testimony are as follows:

Q Do you recall where you were on August 28, 2002 at around 8:00 oclock in the evening?

A Yes, maam, I was with the barangay chairman of Brgy. Langgam, San Pedro, Laguna, Police Officer Mendoza, some members of
he barangay council and members of the barangay tanod. [W]e went to Brgy. Langgam to conduct a confiscation of video karera in
he house of Alejandro Sacdo.
xxxx

Q When you arrived at the house ofAlejandro Sacdo, what happened?

A We [went directly] to the house ofAlejandro Sacdo [where] we found a video karera.

Q What did you do when you saw that there was a video karera machine inside the house?

A The barangay chairman and [the] members of our group immediately confiscated the video karera machine.

Q Was Alejandro Sacdo inside his house then?

A Yes, maam, he was present.


xxxx

Q Aside from Alejandro Sacdo, who else, if any, was inside that house?

A There were all in all nine persons, including Alejandro Sacdo.

Q What were they doing?

A They were inside the house of Alejandro Sacdo sniffing shabu.

Q After that, what did you do?

A I called the attention of our companions, the barangay officials and the tanods and we immediately [entered] the house and
arrested these nine people.

Q After you arrested the nine people,including Alejandro Sacdo, what happened next?

A When we arrested the nine persons, it is our standard operating procedure to search each suspect and when I searched Mr. Araza,
found one small heat[-]sealed plastic sachet [on] him. Q You referred to Mr. Rommel Araza y Sagun as the one from whom you were
able to confiscate a small heat[-]sealed plastic [sachet], if he is in court right now, will you beable to identify him?

A Yes, maam, there he is (witness pointing to a man seated inside the courtroom who identified himself as Rommel Araza y Sagun)

Q After you arrested the nine persons including Alejandro Sacdo and herein accused Araza and after confiscating from him the small
heat[-] sealed plastic sachet, what did you do next?

A We brought them to the barangay hall of Brgy. Langgam.

Q What did you do next?

A After we [took down their names and pertinent details] in the blotter, all of them were brought to the police station for investigation

and proper filing of case against them.

Q What did you do with the specimen you confiscated from Araza?

A I gave it to our chief investigator, Officer Larry Cabrera, for proper [marking] of the specimen and for them to deliver the same to the
crime laboratory for examination.

Q Where were you then when the police investigator put the markings on the specimen?

A I was in front of him, maam.

Q Did you see what markings were placed on the specimen?

A Yes, maam, it was RSA which stands for the name of Rommel Araza y Sagun. Chemistry Report No. D-2028-02 confirmed that a
qualitative examination conducted on the specimen inside the plastic sachet seized from Araza yielded positive result for
methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
17

18

We find the statement of PO1 Talacca tobe credible. The narration of the incident by a police officer, "buttressed by the presumption
hat they have regularly performed their duties in the absence of convincing proof to the contrary, must be given weight." His
estimony, the physical evidence and the facts stipulated upon during trial wereconsistent with each other. Araza also failed to adduce
evidence showing thathe had legal authority to possess the seized drugs. Thus, there is no reason to disturb the findings of the RTC
as affirmed by the CA.
19

An accused cannot assail any irregularity in the manner of his arrest after arraignment.

Araza calls attention to the admission of PO1 Talacca that the shabuwas confiscated from his pocket and was not in plain view.
Hetherefore posits that he was not apprehended in flagrante delicto and the ensuing warrantless arrest was invalid. Moreover, the
sachet allegedly seized from him isnot admissible in evidence against him being the fruit of a poisonous tree.

Such an argument is unworthy of credence since objections to a warrant of arrest or the procedure by which the court acquired
urisdiction over the person of the accused must be manifested prior to entering his plea. Otherwise, the objection is deemed
waived. Moreover, jurisprudence dictates that "the illegal arrest of an accused is not sufficient cause for setting aside a valid
udgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. It will not even negate the validity of the conviction of the
accused."
20

21

22

Here, Araza did not object to the alleged irregularity of his arrest before or during his arraignment. He even actively participated in the
proceedings before the RTC. He is, therefore, deemed to have waived any defect he believes to have existed during his arrest and
effectively submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the RTC. In other words, Arazais already estopped from assailing any irregularity in
his arrest after he failed to raise this issue or to move for the quashal of the Information on this ground before his arraignment.

Circumstances when warrantless search and subsequent seizure are valid.

As to the admissibility of the shabuseized from Araza, it is crucial to ascertain whether the search that yielded the alleged contraband
was lawful. The Constitution states that failureto secure a judicial warrant prior to the actual search and consequent seizure would
ender it unreasonable and any evidence obtained therefrom shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. This
constitutional prohibition,however, admits of the following exceptions:
23

24

1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest;

2. Search of evidence in "plain view";


3. Search of a moving vehicle;
4. Consented warrantless search;
5. Customs search;
6. Stop and Frisk; and
7. Exigent and emergency circumstances.

25

n this case, there is sufficient evidence to prove that the warrantless search of Araza was effected as an incident to a lawful arrest.
Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides in part:

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
isserving final judgment or temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred
from one confinement to another.

PO1 Talacca testified that he saw Araza and his companions sniffing substance that seemed to be shabu inside the premises where
a video karera machine was being confiscated by the barangay officials for whom he provided security. He thus entered the room,
effected their arrest and conducted a body search on them. Upon searching the person of Araza, PO1 Talacca recovered from him a
plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance. Araza and the seized item were then brought to the police station. After a
aboratory examination, the white crystalline substance insidethe sachet was found positive for shabu.

Considering the foregoing, Arazawas clearly apprehended inflagrante delictoas he was then committing a crime (sniffing shabu) in
he presence of PO1 Talacca. Hence, his warrantless arrest is valid pursuant to Section 5(a) of the above-quoted Rule 113 of the
Rules of Court. And having been lawfully arrested, the warrantless search that followed was undoubtedly incidental to a lawful arrest,
which as mentioned, is an exception to the constitutional prohibition on warrantless search and seizure. Conversely, the shabuseized
rom Araza is admissible in evidence toprove his guilt of the offense charged.

Failure to comply with Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 is not fatal.

Araza hinges his claim for acquittal on the failure of the police officers to submit a pre-coordination report and physicalinventory of the
seized dangerous drug. He cites Section 21(1), Art. II of RA 9165, which 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/orsurrendered, for proper disposition in

he following manner:

1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically
nventory 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, it has beenheld time and again that failure to strictly comply with aforesaid procedure will not render an arrest illegal or the
seized items inadmissible in evidence. Substantial compliance is sufficientas provided under Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules
and Regulationsof RA 9165, viz:

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,
hat 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)

Arazas contention that there must be compliance with a pre-coordination report has no legal basis since nowhere is itstated in the
oregoing provision that this is an essential procedural requisite. A pre-coordination report is also not needed when an accused is
apprehended inflagrante delicto for obvious reason.

Further, failure by the prosecution to prove that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory of the seized shabudoes
not immediately result in the unlawful arrest of an accused or render inadmissible in evidence the items seized. "What is essential is
he preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of
he guilt orinnocence of the accused." Here, the records reveal that the police officers substantially complied with the process of
preserving the integrity of the seized shabu.
26

The chain of custody has not been broken.

Araza likewise contends thatthe prosecution failed to properly establish the chain of custody of evidence, and this adversely affected
ts admissibility. He argues that the non-presentation of the investigating officer and the person who delivered the specimen to the
police crime laboratory creates serious doubt that the alleged shabuconfiscated from him was the same one marked, forwarded to
he crime laboratory for examination, and later presented as evidence in court. He puts forward the possibility that the evidence may
have been tampered, altered, and/or substituted as would affectits identity and integrity.

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, implementing RA 9165, defines chain of custody as "the
duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs orcontrolled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or
aboratory 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 [the] 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
n the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition."

The chain of custody requirement ensures the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items such that doubts
as to the identity of the evidence are eliminated. "To be admissible, the prosecution must show by records or testimony, the
continuous whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time it came into possession of the police officers and until it was tested in
27

he laboratory to determine its composition up to the time it was offered in evidence."

28

Here, the prosecution proved the chain of custody of the seized shabuas follows: After arresting Araza for possession of a sachet of
suspected shabu, PO1 Talacca brought him and the confiscated item to the police station. The said sachet was turned over to the
chief investigator, Cabrera, who marked it with the initials "RSA" in front of PO1 Talacca. A request for laboratory examination of the
contents of said sachet was delivered, together with the sachet of suspected shabu, to the PNP Crime Laboratory in Calamba,
Laguna. Forensic Chemist P/Sr. Insp. Huelgas examined the contents ofthe sachet with markings "RSA" and prepared Chemistry
Report No. D-2028-02, confirming that the specimen tested positive for shabu. During the trial, this result was submitted to the RTC
as Exhibit "D" and stipulated on by both parties. The marked sachet of shabuwas also presented in evidence and identified by PO1
Talacca.
29

Arazas contention that the investigating officer who received the seized drug in the police station and the person who delivered the
same to the crime laboratory should have been presented to establish an unbroken chain of custody fails to impress. It is not
necessary to present all persons who came into contact with the seized drug to testify in court. "As long as the chain of custody of
he seized drug was clearly established to have not been broken and the prosecution did not fail to identify properly the drugs seized,
t is not indispensable that each and every person who came into possession of the drugs should take the witness stand." The nonpresentation as witnesses of the evidence custodian and the officer on duty is not a crucial point against the prosecution since it has
he discretion as to how to present its case and the right tochoose whom it wishes to present as witnesses.
30

31

32

Based on the foregoing findings, the chain of custody of the seized substance was not broken. The suspected illegal drug
confiscated from Araza was the same substance presented and identified in court. There is therefore no reason to disturb the findings
of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of a dangerous drug.
1wphi1

Proper Penalty

Section 11, Article II of RA 9165, provides:

Sec. 11. Possession qf' 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
P300,000.00) pesos 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 "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
s far beyond therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana x x x. (Emphasis supplied)

Araza was found guilty of possessing 0.06 gram of shabu, or less than five grams of the dangerous drug, without any legal authority.
Under these circumstances, the penalty of imprisonment imposed by the RTC and affinned by the CA, which is twelve (12) years and
one (1) day as minimum to fifteen (15) years as maximum, is within the range provided by RA 9165. Thus, the Court finds the same,
as well as the payment of fine of P300,000.00 in order. WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated October 14,
2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03164 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice
MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN
Associate Justice
ATT E S TATI O N

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

Footnotes
CA rollo, pp. 82-91; penned by Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao and concurred in by Associate Justices
Bienvenido L. Reyes (now a Member of this Court) and Antonio L. Villamor.
1

Records, pp. 102-104; penned by Judge Francisco Dizon Pao.

Id. at 1.

Id.

Id. at 16.

Id. at 56.

Id. at 102-104.

Id. at 103-104.

Id. at 108.

10

Id. at 109.

11

CA rollo, pp. at 26-40.

12

Id. at 82-91.

13

Id. at 90.

14

See Brief for the Accused-Appellant, id. at 26-40.

15

People v. Partoza, G.R. No. 182418, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 809, 816.

16

People v. Mariacos, G.R. No. 188611, June 21, 2010, 621 SCRA 327, 344-345.

17

TSN, February 18, 2004, pp. 3-4.

18

Records, p. 9.

19

People v. Llanita, G.R. No. 189817, October 3, 2012, 682 SCRA 288, 300-301.

20

Sy v. People, G.R. No. 182178, August 15, 2011, 655 SCRA 395, 403-404.

21

Id. at 404.

22

Id.

23

Id.

24

CONSTITUTION, Article III, Sections 2 and 3 (2).

25

Sy v. People, supra note 20 at 405.

26

People v. Guiara, G.R. No. 186497, September 17, 2009, 600 SCRA 310, 329.

27

People v. Llanita, supra note 19 at 304.

28

Id.

29

Records, p. 56.

30

People v. Amansec, G.R. No. 186131, December 14, 2011, 662 SCRA 574, 595.

31

Id.

32

People v. Hernandez, 607 Phil. 617, 640 (2009).

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

THIRD DIVISION
PEOPLE
OF
PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee,

- versus -

THE

G.R. No. 184804


Present:
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA, and
PERALTA, JJ.

RASHAMIA HERNANDEZ y
SANTOS
and
GRACE
Promulgated:
KATIPUNAN y CRUZ,
Accused-Appellants.
June 18, 2009
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For review is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.


No. 02465, dated 26 May 2008, affirming in toto the Decision,[2] dated 14 August
2006, of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 2, in Criminal Case No.
04-222804, finding accused-appellants Rashamia Hernandez y Santos and Grace
Katipunan y Cruz guilty of illegal sale of shabu under Section 5, Article II of
Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs
Act of 2002, and imposing upon them the penalty of life imprisonment.
The records of the case bear the following facts:
On 19 January 2004, an Information[3] was filed before the RTC against
appellants for illegal sale of shabu under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165. The accusatory portion of the information reads:
The undersigned accuses RASHAMIA HERNANDEZ y SANTOS and
GRACE KATIPUNAN y CRUZ of Violation of SEC. 5 Article II [of] Republic
Act [No.] 9165, committed as follows:
That on or about January 14, 2004, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the
said accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping each
other, not being authorized by law to sell, trade, deliver, or give away any
dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell or
offer for sale One (1) heat sealed transparent plastic sachet containing ZERO
POINT ZERO FOUR SEVEN (0.047) gram of white crystalline substance known
as SHABU containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a dangerous
drug.

When arraigned on 13 February 2004, appellants, assisted by counsel de


oficio, pleaded Not Guilty to the charge. Trial on the merits thereafter ensued.
The prosecution presented as witnesses Police Officer 2 Gloybell Dimacali
(PO2 Dimacali) and Police Officer 2 Joenardine Carandang (PO2 Carandang), both
of whom are members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and assigned at the
Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Unit of Central Market, Sta. Cruz Manila Police Station
3. Their testimonies, taken together, produced the following narrative:

On 14 January 2004, at around 6:00 p.m., an informant went to the Station


Anti-Illegal Drugs (SAID) Unit of Central Market, Sta. Cruz Manila Police Station
3 (police station) and reported to Police Chief Inspector Jimmy A. Tiu (Inspector
Tiu), head of SAID, and PO2 Dimacali, the drug trafficking activities of a certain
Larry and appellants in Callejon Flores, Solis Street, Tondo, Manila. Inspector Tiu
formed a team and planned a buy-bust operation. The team agreed that PO2
Dimacali would act as the poseur-buyer, while PO2 Carandang, a certain PO2
Leonard Cipriano, PO2 Napoleon Osias and PO2 Marvin Flores would act as backup during the buy-bust operation. Inspector Tiu gave PO2 Dimacali two onehundred peso bills to be utilized as buy-bust money. PO2 Dimacali marked the
monies with SAID.[4]
At about 8:00 p.m., the team, together with the informant, went to the house
of Larry at Callejon Flores, Solis Street, Tondo, Manila. Upon arriving thereat,
PO2 Dimacali and the informant proceeded inside Larrys house while the rest of
the team positioned themselves outside the house. PO2 Dimacali and the informant
approached appellants who were then inside the house. PO2 Dimacali told
appellant Katipunan that he would buy two hundred pesos worth
of shabu. Appellant Katipunan told appellant Hernandez, Akin na ang natitira
mong isa. Appellant Hernandez brought out from her pocket one transparent
plastic sachet containing shabu and handed it to appellant Katipunan. The latter
then gave the plastic sachet to PO2 Dimacali. PO2 Dimacali handed the buy-bust
money to appellant Katipunan who, in turn, gave it to appellant Hernandez. At this
juncture, PO2 Dimacali removed his bull cap as a pre-arranged signal to his backup team. PO2 Dimacali introduced himself as a police officer and held the hands of
appellant Katipunan. Appellant Hernandez ran away but the back-up team chased
and caught her, and recovered from her the buy-bust money.[5]
Appellants, as well as the transparent plastic sachet of shabu and the buybust money recovered from them, were immediately brought to the police
station. Thereupon, the plastic sachet of shaburecovered from appellants was
marked by PO2 Dimacali with GKC (initials for Grace Katipunan Cruz, the full
name of appellant Katipunan) and submitted it, together with the buy-bust money,

to Inspector Tiu. The plastic sachet of shabu recovered from appellants was
forwarded to the PNP Crime Laboratory of the Western Police District, U.N.
Avenue, Ermita, Manila, for laboratory examination. PNP Forensic Chemist
Judycel A. Macapagal found the contents thereof to be positive
for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. Upon being weighed, the plastic
sachet contained 0.047 gram of shabu.[6]
The prosecution also adduced documentary and object evidence to buttress
the testimonies of its witnesses, to wit: (1) letter-request for laboratory examination
(Exhibit A);[7] (2) one transparent plastic sachet of shabu (Exhibit B);[8] (3)
chemistry report of PNP Forensic Chemist Macapagal (Exhibit C);[9] (4) buy-bust
money (Exhibit D);[10] (5) affidavit of apprehension executed by PO2 Dimacali,
PO2 Carandang and PO2 Cipriano (Exhibit E);[11] and (6) preoperation/coordination sheet (Exhibit F).[12]
For its part, the defense proffered the testimonies of appellants and their
corroborating witnesses namely, Maria Victoria Hernandez (Victoria) and Marileth
Jacob (Marileth) to refute the foregoing accusations. Appellants denied any
liability and claimed that they were framed.
Appellant Hernandez testified that she visited appellant Katipunan at the
latters house in Tondo, Manila, on the afternoon of 14 January 2004. Later that day,
she fell asleep inside the said house. At around 8:00 p.m., she was awakened by a
commotion inside the same house. She stood up and saw male persons inside the
house arresting appellant Katipunan. She was also apprehended. When she asked
the reason for their arrest, one of the male persons retorted, Huwag na lang kayong
magmatapang, sumama na lang kayo. The males introduced themselves as
policemen. Subsequently, she, appellant Katipunan, and a certain Reynaldo
Soriano (Soriano) -- appellant Katipunans alleged uncle who was with them inside
the house during the arrest -- were brought to the police station. Soriano was
beaten up by the policemen in the said station, but was released two days after the
arrest.[13]

Appellant Katipunan declared she was in her house at 1022 Callejon Flores,
Solis Street, Tondo Manila on 14 January 2004. At about 5:00 p.m., appellant
Hernandez arrived at her house. At about 8:00 p.m., while watching television
inside her house with Soriano, she saw four males destroying the window of her
house. These persons entered through the window, ransacked the house, and told
her that they were looking for Larry. Thereafter, she, appellant Hernandez and
Soriano were arrested and forcibly brought to the police station. Soriano was
subsequently released from detention, because he gave money and a television set
to the police officers. The policemen demanded from her P50,000.00 in exchange
for her freedom, but she refused to accede.[14]
Victoria, mother of appellant Hernandez, narrated that she lived in the same
house with appellant Hernandez at 2109 Pista Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila; that on 14
January 2004, at about 4:00 p.m., she arrived home but could not find appellant
Hernandez; that she looked for appellant Hernandez in her relatives house and in
the nightclub where the latter worked as Guest Relations Officer, but to no avail;
that on the following day, she was informed by a friend that appellant Hernandez
was arrested; that she went to the police station and found appellant Hernandez
therein; and that appellant Hernandez was not a drug pusher.[15]
Marileth, friend and neighbor of appellant Katipunan, stated that four males
entered appellant Katipunans house during the incident by destroying its
window. She reported the incident to the police, but this was not blottered.[16]
After trial, the RTC rendered a Decision finding appellants guilty of
violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and imposing upon them
the penalty of life imprisonment. They were also ordered to pay a fine
of P500,000.00. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, from the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered, finding
both accused, Rashamia Hernandez y Santos and Grace Katipunan y
Cruz, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Sec. 5 Article II of
Republic Act [No.] 9165, they are hereby sentenced each to life imprisonment and

to pay a fine of P500,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of


insolvency and to pay costs.
The specimen is forfeited in favor of the government and the Branch Clerk
of Court, accompanied by the Branch Sheriff, is directed to turn over with
dispatch and upon proper receipt the said specimen to the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper disposal in accordance with the law and
rules.[17]

Aggrieved, appellants appealed to the Court of Appeals. On 26 May 2008,


the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision affirming in toto the RTC Decision,
thus:
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the appeal
is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed decision of the court a quo
is AFFIRMED.[18]

Appellants filed a Notice of Appeal on 11 June 2008.[19]


In their Brief,[20] appellants assigned the following errors:
I.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANTS OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS
FAILURE TO ESTABLISH THE IDENTITY OF THE PROHIBITED DRUG
CONSTITUTING THE CORPUS DELICTI OF THE OFFENSE.
II.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANTS OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS
FAILURE TO PROVE THEIR GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

To secure a conviction for illegal sale of shabu, the following essential


elements must be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object
of the sale and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the
payment thereof. 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. In the case at bar, the prosecution was

able to establish through testimonial, documentary and object evidence the said
elements.[21]
PO2 Dimacali, the poseur-buyer, testified that appellants sold to
him shabu during a legitimate buy-bust operation. His positive identification of
appellants and direct account of the transaction are clear, thus:
Asst. Pros. Yap:
Police Officer Dimacali, what was your participation in this police operation
against Rashamia Hernandez and Grace Katipunan?
Witness: I was the poseur-buyer in this operation, sir.
Q Now, when was (sic) this operation took (sic) place?
A On January 14, 2004 at 8:00 p.m., sir.
Q Where?
A Along Callejon Flores, Solis Street, Tondo, Manila.
Q Now, who was the target person of this operation?
A A certain Larry, Mia and Grace, sir.
Q Who furnished you of these particular names, these target persons?
A Our CI, sir.
Q When?
A Personally appeared in our office on January 14.
Q What time?
A At about 6:00 p.m., sir.
Q Aside from these names, what other details submitted by this informant?
A The informant gave information attended by our Chief, SAID regarding the
illegal drug activities of certain Larry, Grace and Mia.
Q So, what was the response of this Police Commander?

A Major Tiu formed a team composed of PO1 Cipriano, PO1 Carandang, myself
and I was given a specific assignment.
Q What was the assignment of these Cipriano and Carandang?
A Back up and arresting officers, sir.
Q What happened after the team was formed?
A We were briefed and we were tasked by Major Tiu, sir.
Q What were the tasks?
A Back up operatives and I was tasked as poseur-buyer, sir.
Q What happened next, Mr. Witness?
A We were given P200.00 by Major Tiu, sir.
Q When was that?
A Past 6:00 of January 14, sir.
Q What was that P200.00 bill for?
A For our buy bust operation, sir.
Q How were you able to identify that that is the same money bill used?
A I put marking on the buy-bust money describing the name of our office and
have it xeroxed, sir.
Q In relation to that bill, what portion of the bill it was marked?
A Below the seal of the money, sir.
Q Now, you mentioned about a photocopy of the bill. Can you recognize that bill?
A Yes, sir.
Q Who made that machine copy?
A I, sir.
Q When?

A After the briefing made by Major Tiu, sir.


Q Where is the genuine money bill now?
A In my possession, sir.
Q Can you produce that, Mr. Witness?
A Yes, sir.
Q Tell us, why this evidence in your possession?
A I was subpoenaed so I got the records in our office.
Asst. Pros. Yap:
Your Honor, I ask counsel to stipulate the xerox copy with the genuine money if
the same faithful reproduction.
Atty. Caing:
Admitted, your Honor.
Asst. Pros. Yap:
Show to us the marking of these two bills?
Witness:
Here, sir, below the seal Central Bank of the money.
Asst. Pros. Yap:
We ask to be marked as Exhibit E, faithful reproduction, and Exhibit E-1.
COURT:
Mark them.
Asst. Pros. Yap:
So, what happened next after receipt of the money?
Witness:

We waited till night and then we proceeded to the target area with the confidential
informant.
Q How far is that from your station?
A It takes about 25 to 30 minutes, sir.
Q What means of transportation did you take?
A Revo car of Cipriano, sir.
Q So, upon reaching thereat, what exactly did you do?
A The confidential informant and I walked towards the house of a certain Larry.
Q What part? Describe to us the house of a certain Larry?
A It is made of wood and there is a (sic) stairs and composed of two small rooms,
sir.
Q What happened when you arrived in that place?
A We approached a pregnant woman Grace and told her that we will buy shabu.
Q Now, who identified this pregnant woman by the name of Grace?
A The confidential informant told me that the person can be easily identified
because she is pregnant and her name is Grace.
Q Where was the informant at that time?
A He was with me, sir.
Q What exactly did you do or say to her?
A Grace, kukuha ako ng halagang dalawang piso.
Q So, what was the response of Grace?
A Without replying, she told to a woman there by the name Mia that Akin na ang
natitira mong isa.
Q Who uttered that words?
A Grace, sir.
Q It was directed to whom?

A To Mia, sir.
Q Where was Mia at that time?
A She was halfway of the stairs, sir.
Q What happened when she said that to Mia?
A Mia brought out a sachet and handed it to Grace and Grace handed it to me, sir.
Q What was that given to Grace by Mia?
A A small transparent plastic sachet, sir.
Q What happened thereafter when Grace received the same?
A I gave a pre-arranged signal by removing my bull cap, sir.
xxxx
Q How about the P200.00 bills? What happened to it?
A Cipriano recovered the money from Mia, sir.
Q Prior to your raising of bull cap, what happened to the P200.00 bill?
A It was recovered by PO2 Cipriano.
Q When?
A After the transaction, sir.
Q So, what did you do after that?
A I introduced myself as police officer. When Mia heard the word pulis, they ran
away and my co-police officers chased them.
Q How about you? What did you do?
A I already held Grace, sir.
Q How about Rashamia? What happened to her?
A Rashamia was arrested by Cipriano, sir.

Q So, what was recovered from Rashamia?


A The buy-bust money, sir.
Q How about Grace? What was recovered from her?
A None, sir, because the item that I bought from her was already in my
possession.
Q Now, you mentioned about Grace. Can you identify her if she is in the
Courtroom now?
A Yes, sir.
Q Please do so ?
A Yes, sir.
Clerk of Court:
Witness stepped down from the witness stand and approached to a woman inside
the Courtroom and tapped her shoulder, when asked and answered the name of
Grace Katipunan.
Asst. Pros. Yap:
How about Rashamia Hernandez?
Witness:
This one, sir. (also tapped her shoulder, when asked and gave her name Rashamia
Hernandez, one of the accused in this case)
Q Now, where did you bring these two persons?
A We brought them to our station, sir.
Q How about the plastic sachet?
A The same, sir.
Q Where did you submit the same?
A In the office of Major Tiu, sir.
Q How about the buy-bust money?

A The same, sir.


Q Please tell us if you can recognize this transparent plastic sachet submitted to
Major Tiu?
A Yes, sir.
Q What is your basis in telling us today?
A I put the marking the initial of Grace Katipunan, sir.
Q What is the initial?
A GKC, sir.
Q What is the meaning of that GKC?
A Grace Katipunan Cruz.
Q When did you put this marking?
A In our office, sir.
Q When?
A When we brought them to our station, sir.
Q After this marking, what happened to this plastic sachet?
A We made a request for laboratory examination, sir.
Q To your knowledge, what was the result?
A Gave positive result, sir.[22]

PO2 Carandang corroborated the aforesaid testimony of PO2 Dimacali on


relevant points.[23]
The foregoing testimonies are consistent with the documentary and object
evidence submitted by the prosecution. The RTC and the Court of Appeals found

the testimonies of PO2 Dimacali and PO2 Carandang to be credible. Both courts
also found no ill motive on their part to testify against appellants.
The prosecution adduced as its documentary and object evidence the
transparent plastic sachet of shabu sold by appellants to PO2 Dimacali during the
buy-bust operation,[24] the chemistry report of PNP Forensic Chemist Macapagal
confirming that the plastic sachet sold by appellants to PO2 Dimacali contained
0.047 gram of shabu,[25] and the marked money used during the buy-bust operation.
[26]

Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode, method, and manner in which
the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves
when such acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and
community of interests.[27] It is clear from the testimony of PO2 Dimacali that
appellants were of one mind in selling shabu to him as shown by their series of
overt acts during the transaction, to wit: (1) when PO2 Dimacali told appellant
Katipunan that he would buy two hundred pesos worth of shabu, appellant
Katipunan told appellant Hernandez to give her (appellant Katipunan) one sachet
of shabu; (2) appellant Hernandez immediately brought out from her pocket one
plastic sachet containing shabu and handed it to appellant Katipunan; (3) after
receiving the plastic sachet of shabu from appellant Katipunan, PO2 Dimacali
handed the buy-bust money to the former who, in turn, gave it to appellant
Hernandez; (4) When PO2 Dimacali introduced himself as a police officer and
announced the arrest, appellants tried to escape; and (5) the buy-bust money was
recovered from the possession of appellant Hernandez.[28] No other logical
conclusion would follow from the appellants concerted action except that they had
a common purpose and community of interest. Conspiracy having been
established, appellants are liable as co-principals regardless of their participation.
[29]

The rule is that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses
are entitled to great respect, because trial courts have the advantage of observing
the demeanor of the witnesses as they testify. This is more true if such findings

were affirmed by the appellate court. When the trial courts findings have been
affirmed by the appellate court, said findings are generally binding upon this Court.
[30]

To rebut the overwhelming evidence for the prosecution, appellants


interposed the defense of denial and frame-up. Appellants denied they
sold shabu to PO2 Dimacali during the buy-bust operation and claimed that the
arresting officers tried to extort money from them in exchange for their freedom.
The defense of denial and frame-up has 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 the Dangerous Drugs Act.[31] In order
to prosper, the defense of denial and frame-up must be proved with strong and
convincing evidence.[32] In the case before us, appellants miserably failed to present
any evidence in support of their claims. Aside from their self-serving assertions, no
plausible proof was presented to bolster their allegations.
Appellants admitted that they did not know PO2 Dimacali, PO2 Carandang
and the rest of the back-up team prior to their arrest and could not state any reason
why they were arrested and charged with selling shabu, hence negating any
improper motive on the part of the arresting officers. [33] When the police officers
involved in the buy-bust operation have no ill motive to testify against the accused,
the courts shall uphold the presumption that they have performed their duties
regularly.[34] Further, appellants have not filed a single complaint for frame-up or
extortion against the arresting officers. This inaction clearly betrays appellants
claim of frame-up.
It is true that Victoria and Marileth testified in behalf of appellants.
However, their testimonies refer only to peripheral matters and not to the actual
buy-bust transaction itself. They were not present in the crime scene during the
transaction. In short, they have no personal knowledge of what actually transpired
during the actual buy-bust operation. Their testimonies, therefore, deserve scant
consideration.

Given the foregoing circumstances, the positive and credible testimonies of


the prosecution witnesses prevail over the defense of denial and frame-up of
appellants.
Appellants, nonetheless, averred that the buy-bust team did not comply with
the procedure in the custody of seized/confiscated dangerous drugs as provided
under Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, viz:
ARTICLE II
UNLAWFUL ACTS AND PENALTIES
xxxx
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.
xxxx
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody of all dangerous 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;

Appellants also contended that the prosecution failed to establish the identity
of the prohibited drug allegedly seized from them based on the following reasons:
(1) PO2 Dimacali, PO2 Carandang and the rest of the back-up team did not write
their initials on the one transparent plastic sachet
allegedly
containing shabu immediately after recovering the same from appellants; (2) no
inventory or identifying mark was made at the crime scene; (3) the confiscated
drug was belatedly marked by PO2 Dimacali at the police station; and (4) Inspector
Tiu was not presented as a witness to corroborate PO2 Dimacalis testimony that
the latter turned over to the former the seized transparent plastic sachet

of shabu after appellants arrest. Thus, there is doubt on whether the specimen
examined by PNP Forensic Chemist Macapagal and eventually submitted to the
RTC was the same specimen recovered from appellants. Moreover, the alleged
buy-bust operation and buy-bust money was not recorded in the police blotter.[35]
It should be noted that appellants tried to raise the buy-bust teams alleged
non-compliance with Section 21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 for the first
time on appeal. This, they cannot do. It is too late in the day for them to do
so. In People v. Sta. Maria,[36] in which the very same issue was raised, we held:
The law excuses non-compliance under justifiable grounds. However,
whatever justifiable grounds may excuse the police officers involved in the buybust operation in this case from complying with Section 21 will remain unknown,
because appellant did not question during trial the safekeeping of the items seized
from him. Indeed, the police officers alleged violations of Sections 21 and 86 of
Republic Act No. 9165 were not raised before the trial court but were instead
raised for the first time on appeal. In no instance did appellant least intimate
at the trial court that there were lapses in the safekeeping of seized items that
affected their integrity and evidentiary value. Objection to evidence cannot
be raised for the first time on appeal; when a party desires the court to reject
the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection. Without such
objection, he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal. (Emphases
supplied.)

Moreover, we have held in several cases[37] that non-compliance with Section


21, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 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.[38] In the case at bar, the integrity of the drug seized from
appellants was preserved. The chain of custody of the drug subject matter of the
instant case was shown not to have been broken.
Records disclosed that after PO2 Dimacali confiscated the one transparent
plastic sachet containing shabu from appellants, he immediately brought the same
to the police station where he marked it GKC and turned it over to Inspector Tiu.

[39]

The latter then forwarded the said plastic sachet of shabu marked GKC to
the PNP Crime Laboratory of the Western Police District, U.N. Avenue, Ermita,
Manila, for laboratory examination.[40] After a qualitative examination conducted
on the contents of the plastic sachet marked GKC, PNP Forensic Chemist
Macapagal found it to be positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
[41]
Upon being weighed, the plastic sachet was determined to be containing 0.047
gram of shabu.[42]
When the prosecution presented the plastic sachet of shabu marked GKC,
PO2 Dimacali positively identified it as the one he bought from appellants in the
buy-bust operation.[43] The plastic sachet containing 0.047 gram of shabu had the
marking GKC as attested by PNP Forensic Chemist Macapagal in her chemistry
report.[44] The existence, due execution, and genuineness of the said chemistry
report, as well as the qualifications of PNP Forensic Chemist Macapagal as an
expert witness, were admitted by the defense. [45] Further, PO2 Dimacali
categorically declared during the trial that he put the GKC marking on the one
transparent plastic sachet of shabu recovered from appellants.[46] Clearly, the
identity of the drug recovered from appellants has been duly preserved and
established by the prosecution. Hence, there is no doubt that the plastic sachet
marked GKC submitted for laboratory examination and later on found to be
positive for shabu was the same one sold by appellants to PO2 Dimacali during the
buy-bust operation.
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. Appellants in this case bear the burden of showing that the
evidence was tampered or meddled with to overcome a presumption that there was
regularity in the handling of exhibits by public officers, and that the latter properly
discharged their duties.[47] Appellants failed to produce convincing proof that the
evidence submitted by the prosecution had been tampered with.
The fact that Inspector Tiu was not presented as a witness to corroborate
PO2 Dimacalis testimony does not warrant appellants acquittal of the crime

charged. Not all people who came into contact with the seized drugs are required to
testify in court. There is nothing in Republic Act No. 9165 or in any rule
implementing the same that imposes such a requirement. 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. In People v. Zeng Hua Dian,[48] we ruled:
After a thorough review of the records of this case we find that the chain
of custody of the seized substance was not broken and that the prosecution did not
fail to identify properly the drugs seized in this case. The non-presentation as
witnesses of other persons such as SPO1 Grafia, the evidence custodian, and PO3
Alamia, the officer on duty, 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.

Appellants assertion that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were


fabricated because the alleged buy-bust operation and buy-bust money were not
recorded in the police blotter is unmeritorious.The buy-bust operation conducted
on appellants was duly recorded in the police blotter, as shown in the PreOperation/Coordination Sheet made and signed by Inspector Tiu. [49] With regard to
the non-recording of the buy-bust money in the police blotter, suffice it to state that
neither law nor jurisprudence requires that the buy-bust money be entered in the
police blotter.[50] At any rate, the non-recording of the buy-bust operation and buybust money in the police blotter is not essential, since they are not elements in the
illegal sale of dangerous drugs. As earlier discussed, the only elements necessary
to consummate the crime is proof that the illicit transaction took place, coupled
with the presentation in court of the dangerous drug seized as evidence. Both were
satisfactorily proved in the present case.
Since appellants violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165
was duly established by the prosecutions evidence, we shall now ascertain the
penalties imposable on them.

Under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, the unauthorized sale
of shabu, regardless of its quantity and purity, carries with it 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).
Pursuant, however, to the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346 entitled, An
Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines, only life
imprisonment and fine shall be imposed. Thus, the RTC and the Court of Appeals
were correct in imposing the penalty of life imprisonment and fine of P500,000.00
on each of the appellants.
WHEREFORE, after due deliberation, the Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02465, dated 26 May 2008, is hereby AFFIRMED in
toto.
SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

AT T E S TAT I 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 Courts Division.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairmans 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 Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

[1]

Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino with Associate Justices Lucenito N. Tagle and Marlene B.
Gonzales-Sison, concurring. Rollo, pp. 2-18.
[2]
Penned by Judge Alejandro G. Bijasa. CA rollo, pp. 15-22.
[3]
Records, p. 1.
[4]
TSN, 18 March 2005, pp. 2-4.
[5]
Id. at 2-7.
[6]
Id. at 7-9.
[7]
Records, p. 23; TSN, 30 August 2005, p. 12.
[8]
Id.
[9]
Records, p. 4.
[10]
Id. at 2-3.
[11]
Id. at 9.
[12]
Id. at 10.
[13]
TSN, 20 September 2005, pp. 2-6.
[14]
TSN, 21 November 2005, pp. 2-13.
[15]
TSN, 7 August 2006, pp. 2-7.
[16]
TSN, 22 May 2006, pp. 2-8.
[17]
CA rollo, pp. 21-22.
[18]
Rollo, p. 17.
[19]
CA rollo, pp. 108-109.
[20]
Id. at 33-48.
[21]
People v. Naquita, G.R. No. 180511, 28 July 2008, 560 SCRA 430, 449; People v. Del Monte, G.R. No. 179940,
23 April 2008, 552 SCRA 627, 637-638; People v. Santiago, G.R. No. 175326, 28 November 2007, 539 SCRA 198,
212.
[22]
TSN, 18 March 2005, pp. 3-9.
[23]
TSN, 30 August 2005, pp. 2-7.
[24]
Records, p. 23.
[25]
Id. at 4.
[26]
Id. at 2-3.
[27]
Aquino v. Paiste, G.R. No. 147782, 25 June 2008, 555 SCRA 255, 260.
[28]
TSN, 18 March 2005, pp. 3-9.
[29]
People v. Santiago, supra note 21 at 217.
[30]
People v. Naquita, supra note 21 at 444; People v. Santiago, supra note 21 at 217; People v. Concepcion, G.R.
No. 178876, 27 June 2008, 556 SCRA 421, 440.
[31]
People v. Naquita, id. at 455; People v. Santiago, id. at 224; People v. Concepcion, id. at 443.
[32]
Id.
[33]
TSN, 20 September 2005, pp. 6-7; TSN, 21 November 2005, p. 13.
[34]
People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 173795, 3 April 2007, 520 SCRA 458, 468-469; People v. Nicolas, G.R. No. 170234,
8 February 2007, 515 SCRA 187, 204; People v. Villanueva, G.R. No. 172116, 30 October 2006, 506 SCRA 280,
288.
[35]
CA rollo, pp. 41-47.
[36]
G.R. No. 171019, 23 February 2007, 516 SCRA 621, 633-634.

[37]

People v. Agulay, G.R. No. 181747, 26 September 2008, 566 SCRA 571, 595; People v. Naquita, supra note 21 at
448; People v. Concepcion, supra note 30 at 436-437; People v. Del Monte, supra note 21 at 636.
[38]
Id.
[39]
TSN, 18 March 2005, pp. 7-8.
[40]
Records, p. 4.
[41]
Id. at 4 and 23; TSN, 30 August 2005, p. 12.
[42]
Id.
[43]
TSN, 18 March 2005, p. 8.
[44]
Records, pp. 4 and 23; TSN, 30 August 2005, p. 12.
[45]
Id. at 23.
[46]
Id. at 8-9.
[47]
People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 174773, 2 October 2007, 534 SCRA 552, 568-569.
[48]
G.R. No. 145348, 14 June 2004, 432 SCRA 25, 32.
[49]
Records, p. 10.
[50]
People v. Concepcion, supra note 30 at 441; People v. Santiago, supra note 21 at 222.

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 138266. April 30, 2003]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. PEDRO CABRERA, JR.,


alias Onyong and DANILO CABRERA, alias Toti (at
large), accused,
PEDRO CABRERA, JR., alias Onyong, appellant.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

This is an appeal from the decision dated January 5, 1999, of the Regional Trial
Court of Davao City, Branch 9, in Criminal Case No. 34, 985-95, finding appellant Pedro
Cabrera, Jr., alias Onyong guilty of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua.
Appellants co-accused, Danilo Cabrera, alias Toti, remains at large.
[1]

The amended information, dated August 21, 1995, charged appellant and his coaccused as follows:
[2]

The undersigned accuses the above-named accused of the crime of Murder under
Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:
That on or about November 22, 1992, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, conspiring,
confederating and helping one another, with treachery, armed with a bladed weapon
and with intent to kill, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attacked, assaulted and

stabbed one Leopoldo Alvarado thereby inflicting upon the latter stabbed wounds
which caused his death.
Contrary to law.
To this amended information, only appellant Pedro Cabrera,
arraigned. Assisted by counsel, he pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued.

Jr.,

was

The prosecution adduced evidence consisting of the testimonies of Shirley Aguilus,


Benedicto Aguilus, Dr. Danilo Ledesma, and SPO3 Josefa F. Crodua, as well as
several documents.
[3]

Shirley Aguilus testified that on November 22, 1992, she decided to pay her father a
visit at 1055 C. Arellano Street, Davao City. She was with her boyfriend, Leopoldo
Alvarado. On their way coming from her work, she observed that there was a gathering
in the nearby house of appellants mother because it was the first death anniversary of
Conrado Cabrera, a brother of appellant. Appellant and another brother, the co-accused
Danilo Cabrera, were there in the celebration. The Cabreras lived only a house away
from the Aguilus residence.
[4]

At nine oclock that evening, after Shirley Aguilus and her boyfriend Leopoldo
Alvarado had dinner and watched TV, they left her fathers house to return to where she
was staying with a sister in Buhangin, Davao City. But as they were passing the
Cabreras house, Shirley saw the appellant and his co-accused standing at the front
gate. Shirley and Leopoldo were crossing the junction of Jacinto and Quirino Streets,
walking side by side, arm in arm, when appellant suddenly came from behind and
stabbed Leopoldo. Shocked, Shirley cried, Bakit nyo kami ginaganito wala kaming
kasalanan sa inyo? Leopoldo retreated to the Central Bank Building area where,
according to Shirley, he was stabbed anew in the stomach by co-accused Danilo
Cabrera. Thereafter, Shirley said she saw appellant and his co-accused leave together
toward a gasoline station. Two male bystanders helped her bring the wounded Leopoldo
to the San Pedro Hospital where Leopoldo was pronounced dead on arrival.
[5]

According to Shirley she had her father, Benedicto Aguilus, notified by telephone
and together from the San Pedro Hospital they went to the San Pedro Police Station to
have the stabbing incident blottered. Asked who did the stabbing, she replied, our
neighbors. She identified the assailants as the Cabrera brothers, whom she only knew
by their nicknames. She was told by the police officer on duty to come back the
following day to provide the real names of the culprits. She did not return at that time as
she was then eight and a half months pregnant with Leopoldos lovechild, and she was
afraid of the accused who were known hawod in their place.
[6]

When asked, she could not offer a possible reason why appellant and his brother
stabbed and killed Leopoldo. But she said that it could have been a case of mistaken
identity, the accused mistaking Leopoldo for a certain Muki who appears to be their
enemy. Muki apparently had features similar to Leopoldos. As it later surfaced in
appellants own testimony, Pedro Cabrera, Jr., admitted that a certain Muki Yparraguire
was the suspect in the killing of appellants other brother a year earlier.
[7]

[8]

Lastly, according to the witness Shirley Aguilus, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
assured her of his assistance early in 1995, so she came forward to execute an affidavit
which led to the prosecution of the accused.
[9]

Shirleys father, Benedicto Aguilus, corroborated the testimony of his daughter. He


testified that around 15 to 20 minutes after Shirley and Leopoldo left his residence at
1055 C. Arellano St., a certain Romeo Tambio, a janitor at the Emmanuel Baptist
Church, came to inform him that Shirley called from the hospital and had requested
Benedicto to come over. Forthwith, he went to the San Pedro Hospital and saw her
daughter crying. She told him that Leopoldo was stabbed by the brothers Onyong and
Toti Cabrera. Thus, witness Benedicto Aguilus and his daughter Shirley went to the San
Pedro Police Station to report the incident.
[10]

Witness Dr. Danilo Ledesma, a medical officer, also testified. According to him, he
conducted the autopsy on the victim. As stated in his necropsy report, he testified that
the victim sustained three (3) stab wounds. In the death certificate of Leopoldo
Alvarado, Dr. Ledesma indicated the cause of death as hemorrhage, severe, secondary
to stab wound of the chest.
[11]

[12]

Finally, SPO3 Josefa F. Crodua testified on the due execution of the report in the
police blotter, showing the events on the night of November 22, 1992. The blotter was
presented in evidence as Exhibit C.
For the defense, appellant Pedro A. Cabrera, Jr., his brothers, Ruben and Leonardo
A. Cabrera, and Ricarte P. Alaton testified and presented documentary evidence,
marked as Exhibits 1-11.
Appellant invoked the defense of denial and alibi. He testified that he did not kill the
victim and that he did not know the person named Leopoldo Alvarado, who died of stab
wounds on November 22, 1992. He denied knowing their neighbor, Shirley
Aguilus. According to appellant, from 1989 to April of 1995, he was in Manila employed
as a helper in the business of his brother, earning P1,000.00 a month. On November
22, 1992, the day of the alleged murder, he was at work, doing his job. As proof of his
employment, he presented his brother, Ruben Cabrera, to corroborate his testimony.
According to witness Ruben Cabrera, he has a business firm in Quezon City,
engaged in the buy and sell of home decors, carpets, furnitures, jars, paintings, and
other objects. He said that sometime in 1989, he hired his brother Pedro Cabrera, Jr.,
as kargador. When asked on cross-examination, he failed to show any record of
appellants employment. According to the witness, as employer he had no listing of his
employees but he could memorize their faces. He added that on November 22, 1992,
he was with appellant making deliveries.
[13]

Defense witness Ricarte P. Alaton testified that appellant could not have been the
assailant of Leopoldo Alvarado because on November 22, 1992, appellant was in
Manila. Witness Alaton said he even had a drinking spree with appellant at the
Headquarters of the National Equifrilibricum, a religious organization of which he is a
member. To substantiate his claim he offered in exhibit his Equifrilibricum World
Religion membership card. It turned out, however, that he was the brother-in-law of
Renato Cabrera, also a brother of the appellant.
[14]

[15]

Another brother of appellant, namely Leonardo A. Cabrera, was presented on the


witness stand. He stated that the appellant was one of fifteen siblings. But one of their
brothers, Conrado Cabrera, died on November 22, 1991, and a sister died on
December 21, 1992. He corrected Ruben Cabreras testimony as to these dates.
[16]

[17]

The trial court disbelieved the defense but gave credence to the testimony of
eyewitness Shirley Aguilus and other witnesses for the prosecution.
Accordingly, the court rendered judgment as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused PEDRO CABRERA, JR., guilty beyond


reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER qualified by treachery, as defined in Art.
248 of the Revised Penal Code, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of
RECLUSION PERPETUA, to suffer the accessory penalties attendant thereto and to
indemnify the heirs of Leopoldo Alvarado in the amount of P50,000.00.
His immediate confinement at the National Penitentiary is hereby ordered.
The case against DANILO CABRERA alias Toti, the other accused, is hereby held in
abeyance and archived until he is brought to the jurisdiction of this Court. Issue alias
warrant for his arrest.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

[18]

Aggrieved, appellant comes to this Court assigning as lone error the failure of the
trial court to acquit him, in this wise:
[19]

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANT.


[20]

The resolution of this appeal hinges on the credibility of the prosecutions witnesses,
particularly the eyewitness. Appellant seeks to discredit the testimony of the
prosecutions eyewitness, Shirley Aguilus. He points out that contradictions in the latters
testimony cannot be appreciated as mere mistakes, but constitute deliberate falsehood,
thus impairing her credibility as a witness and the weight of her testimony. Specifically,
appellant claims that Shirleys statement on the night of the incident as borne in the
police blotter contradicts her testimony on the witness stand four years later as regards
the identity of the malefactor.
[21]

On record are the pertinent contents of the police blotter, to wit:

2145H For record MOC informed this Office thru telephone ICOW stabbed
victim rushed to San Pedro Hospital; In this connection,

PO3 Ballenas and PO3 Jackaria with members of Wagon


Bravo led by Pacumbaba left this station to verify.
2210H Returned re- Peace officers mentioned in the immediate
preceding Item 2145H item returned this office with info that
stabbing incident Nov 22, 1992 transpired at the vicinity of Central
Bank, along Jacinto Stabbing In-Ext., Davao City. The victim
identified as one
cident LEOPOLDO ALVARADO Y FERNANDEZ, 25 years
old, married, AC Jeep Driver, native of Bansalan,
Davao del Sur, presently resident of Care of Montajes
Art and sign, along San Roque St., Bajada, Davao City,
who sustained two stabbed wounds in the left and right
breast and left arm. Initial investigation dsclosed that
victim together with his wife one SHIRLEY
ALVARADO were walking along aforementioned
place when the unidentified suspects without any
apparent reason nor provocation followed them and
stabbed the victim twice. Victim was rushed to San
Pedro Hospital for treatment. However, he was
declared dead on arrival by attending physician. That
suspect after the incident hurriedly boarded Alpa PU
Minica color white and fled to unknown
direction.While at this office the wife of the victim
averred that she can identify the suspect if seen
again. Case Ref to HAS.
22

According to appellant, the statements made by Shirley Aguilus appearing in the


police blotter immediately after the stabbing incident are admissible as part of the res
gestae. He contends that the phraseology she can identify suspect if seen again
presents a factual impression that Shirley Aguilus never knew of the identity of the
assailants at the time of the stabbing; and that her testimony later, identifying appellant
as one of the assailants, is a mere concoction raising doubt as to the truth of her
testimony.
23

For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General argues that appellants logic is
faulty and his contention bereft of merit; hence, his conviction should be sustained.
According to the OSG, in her testimony Shirley positively identified appellant as one of
the assailants on the night of November 22, 1992. The fact that Shirley did not give
the full names of the assailants to the desk officer as directed does not detract from her
credibility since she had given their nicknames as her neighbors, says the OSG.
24

At the outset, it should be noted that during trial, appellants defense vigorously
interposed denial and alibi. After trial, however, his defense changed tack and began to
attack the credibility of the prosecutions eyewitness.
To impeach the credibility of eyewitness Shirley Aguilus, appellant makes it appear
that the statements made by Shirley as borne by the police blotter are inconsistent with
her statements on the witness stand. Appellant contends also that the omission by
Shirley to identify assailants is part of the res gestae, and it should have been afforded
evidentiary weight by the trial court to show the inconsistency of her statements.
Such reliance on the rule on res gestae, however, is misplaced. As already
explained by this Court in an earlier case, the rule on res gestae applies when the
declarant himself did not testify provided that the testimony of the witness who heard
the declarant complies with the following requisites: (1) that the principal act, the res
gestae, be a startling occurrence; (2) the statements were made before the declarant
had the time to contrive or devise a falsehood; and (3) that the statements must concern
the occurrence in question and its immediate attending circumstances. Since Shirley
Aguilus herself testified, there is absolutely no need for the application of the rule on res
gestae. Besides, an appreciable amount of time had elapsed from the time of the
alleged killing and the making of the statements at the police station, which brings the
case beyond the application of theres gestae rule.
25

26

As found by the trial court:

[E]ntr[ies] in the police blotter about the suspects being unidentified will not help the
cause of the accused. It does not mean that Shirley Aguilus failed to identify the
accused when she reported to the police. She was categorical in her testimony that she
did identify the accused not by their names but by their nicknames. It could be that the
Desk Officer simply did not consider the nicknames a sufficient identification of the
accused and so wrote unidentified in the police blotter because the accused were not
identified by their proper names. Besides, even granting in arguendo that Shirley
failed to identify the accused to the police when she reported the incident, her failure
to do so will not impair her credibility.
27

Citing People v. Divina, the trial court continued


28

The rule is well established that the failure to reveal or disclose at once the identity of
the accused does not necessarily affect much less impair, the credibility of the witness.
The initial reluctance of witnesses to volunteer information about a criminal case and
their unwillingness to be involved in criminal investigations due to fear of reprisal is
common and has been judicially declared not to affect credibility.
Further, it is well settled that entries in the police blotter should not be given undue
significance or probative value as they are not evidence of the truth of their contents but
merely of the fact that they were recorded. Hence, they do not constitute conclusive
proof.
29

30

As aptly stated in People v. Casinillo:

Appellants reliance on the police blotter deserves nothing more than the scantest
consideration. In the first place, [t]he entry in the police blotter is not necessarily
entitled to full credit for it could be incomplete and inaccurate, sometimes from either
partial suggestions or for want of suggestion or inquiries, without the aid of which the
witness may be unable to recall the connected collateral circumstances necessary for
the correction of the first suggestion of his memory and for his accurate recollection
of all that pertain to the subject.
31

According to appellant, Shirleys failure to seek police assistance for the immediate
arrest of the assailants, and the fact that two years had elapsed before she was able to
execute a sworn statement impaired her credibility as a witness. This matter, however,
was adequately explained by the prosecution. Reluctance to get involved in a criminal
investigation is not an unnatural reaction of some individuals, especially when there is
fear of reprisal. Such initial reluctance is insufficient to affect credibility. Moreover, the
eyewitness had given reasons why she did not return to the police station: she was in
the last stages of her pregnancy, and she feared the Cabreras who are notorious
troublemakers in their neighborhood.
32

33

Appellant makes much about the alleged inconsistency in Shirleys police statement
that the suspects hurriedly boarded a white-colored Alpha PU minica and fled to an
unknown direction, and her testimony in open court that assailants left towards a
gasoline station. Such perceived contradiction refers only to a minor matter that does
not touch upon the elements of the crime committed. Inconsistencies in the testimony of
witnesses when referring only to minor details and collateral matters do not affect the
substance of their declaration, their veracity, or the weight of their testimony.
34

Lastly, appellant faults the prosecution for failing to present other witnesses who
could identify the malefactors. It is settled, however, that in the absence of any evidence
to show that the witness was actuated by any improper motive, her identification of the
accused as the assailant should be given full faith and credit. Moreover, the testimony
of a single eyewitness, if positive and credible, is sufficient to support a conviction even
in a charge for murder. Thus, it was not incumbent on the prosecution to comply with
the wish of the defense to present more witnesses when one eyewitness would suffice.
35

36

In sum, we find that the trial court did not err in its reliance principally upon the
testimony of the lone eyewitness for the conviction of appellant.
We go now to the determination of appellants criminal liability. The weapon used by
appellant and his co-accused, and the location of the wound which is in the chest, a vital
part of the body, unmistakably show the intent to kill Leopoldo. The prosecution
evidence clearly and convincingly shows a coordinated assault on the victim, with
appellant performing a specific role in the execution of the crime. The duo were together
at the gate of their house when Shirley Aguilus and the victim passed by. One after
another, they attacked the victim with a bladed weapon, with appellant stabbing the
victim twice.
37

Concerning treachery, the prosecution has shown that there was that swift and
unexpected attack of an unarmed victim, which is the essence of treachery. The victim
was defenseless and unarmed as he was then promenading with his pregnant girlfriend,
clueless of the danger that lies ahead. Thus the twin requirements for the existence of
treachery under Art. 14 (16) of the Revised Penal Code had been adequately proven:
(1) the means of execution employed gave the person attacked no opportunity to
defend himself or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution was deliberately or
consciously adopted. Accordingly, the killing of Leopoldo Alvarado constitutes murder.
Under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code prior to its amendment by Republic Act 7659
or the Death Penalty Law, the crime of murder is punishable by reclusion temporal in its
maximum period to death. In the absence of any mitigating or generic aggravating
circumstance, the penalty shall be imposed in its medium period, or reclusion
perpetua.
38

39

40

41

As to damages, the trial court awarded to the heirs of the victim, Leopoldo Alvarado,
the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity pursuant to current jurisprudence. However, in
addition to the death indemnity, moral damages for the amount of P50,000 must be
awarded to the heirs of the victim, as well as P20,000 for temperate damages, in
consonance with case law. Temperate or moderate damages are allowed because,
while some pecuniary loss has been suffered, from the nature of the case its amount
cannot be proved with certainty.
42

43

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City,
Branch 9, in Criminal Case No. 34, 985-95 dated January 5, 1999, convicting appellant
Pedro Cabrera, Jr., of murder beyond reasonable doubt and sentencing him
to reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. He is also ordered to pay the
heirs of the deceased, Leopoldo Alvarado, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as
moral damages, and P20,000.00 as temperate damages. Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.

[1]

Rollo, pp. 21-36.

[2]

Id. at 9-10. The original information was amended to reflect the true date of the commission of the
offense from November 22, 1994 to November 22, 1992 (Records, p. 55).

[3]

Sometimes Aguilos in some parts of the records.

[4]

TSN, 3 April 1996, pp. 3-4.

[5]

Id. at 7.

[6]

Id. at 11.

[7]

Also spelled as Moki in some parts of the records.

[8]

Rollo, p. 24.

[9]

TSN, 3 April 1996, p. 12.

[10]

TSN, 23 October 1996, pp. 66-69; 80.

[11]

Records, p. 260.

[12]

Id. at 261.

[13]

TSN, 30 April 1997, pp. 114-115, 118.

[14]

TSN, 14 August 1997, pp. 128-129.

[15]

Records, p. 270.

[16]

TSN, 18 June 1998, pp. 137-138.

[17]

Id. at 136.

[18]

Rollo, pp. 89-90.

[19]

Id. at 57.

[20]

Ibid.

[21]

Id. at 66-67.

22

Records, p. 262. Stress supplied.

23

Rollo, p. 62.

24

Id. at 102.

25

People v. Oposculo, Jr., G.R. No. 124572, 20 November 2000, 345 SCRA 167, 176.

26

People v. Mansueto, G.R. No. 135196, 31 July 2000, 336 SCRA 715, 731.

27

Rollo, pp. 33-34.

28

G.R. Nos. 93808-09, 7 April 1993, 221 SCRA 209, 219.

29

People v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 132123, 23 November 2000, 345 SCRA 642, 651.

30

People v. Dacibar, G.R. No. 111286, 17 February 2000, 325 SCRA 725, 736; People v. Geral, G.R. No.
122283, 15 June 2000, 333 SCRA 453, 460.

31

G.R. No. 97441, 11 September 1992, 213 SCRA 777, 790.

32

People v. Torres, Jr., G.R. No. 138046, 8 December 2000, 347 SCRA 526, 535.

33

TSN, 3 April 1996, p. 11; TSN, 17 April 1996, p. 35.

34

People v. Bato, G.R. No. 134939, 16 February 2000, 325 SCRA 671, 677.

35

People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 125518, 20 July 1998, 292 SCRA 663, 676.

36

People v. Villanueva, G.R. Nos. 115555-59, 22 January 1998, 284 SCRA 501, 509; People v.
Geral, supra, at 459.

37

See People v. Balderas, G.R. No. 106582, 31 July 1997, 276 SCRA 470.

38

See People v. Padlan, G.R. No. 111263, 21 May 1998, 290 SCRA 388.

39

ART. 14. Aggravating circumstances. - The following are aggravating circumstances:

16. That the act be committed with treachery (alevosia).


There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against person, employing means,
methods, or forms in the execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense, which the
offended party might make.

40

People v. Abriol, 17 October 2001, G.R. No. 123137, 367 SCRA 327, 350-351.

41

People v. Malazarte, G.R. No. 108179, 6 September 1996, 261 SCRA 482, 492.

42

People v. Diolata, G.R. No. 144933, 3 July 2002, p. 7.

43

People v. Abriol, supra, note 40 at 357.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 185715
Appellee,
Present:
CARPIO MORALES, J., Chairperson,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
- versus - VILLARAMA, JR., and
SERENO, JJ.
Promulgated:
ERLINDA CAPUNO y TISON, January 19, 2011
Appellant.
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
BRION, J.:
We review the May 27, 2008 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CAG.R. CR No. 30215, affirming with modification the April 3, 2006 decision[2] of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 75, San Mateo, Rizal. The RTC decision
found Erlinda Capuno y Tison (appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
illegal sale of shabu, under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or
theComprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

ANTECEDENT FACTS
The prosecution charged the appellant with violation of Section 5, Article II of
R.A. No. 9165 before the RTC, under an Information that states:
That on or about the 21st day of July 2002, in the Municipality of
Rodriguez, Province of Rizal, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being authorized by law, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell, deliver and give away to
another, one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet of white crystalline
substance weighing 0.04 gram which was found positive to the test for
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, and which substance
produces a physiological action similar to amphetamine or other compound
thereof providing similar physiological effects.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. [4] The prosecution presented
Police Officer 1 (PO1) Jose Gordon Antonio and PO1 Fortunato Jiro III at the trial.
The appellant and Maria Cecilia Salvador took the witness stand for the defense.
PO1 Antonio narrated that at around 11:10 a.m. of July 21, 2002, he was at
the Rodriguez Police Station when a civilian informant arrived and told him that a
woman
was
openly
selling
dangerous
drugs
on Manggahan
Street, Barangay Burgos, Montalban, Rizal. Upon receiving this information, he,
PO1 Joseph G. Fernandez, and PO1 Jiro planned an entrapment operation: he (PO1
Antonio) was designated as the poseur-buyer, while his two companions would act
as back-up. Before leaving the police station, they asked the desk officer to record
their operation.[5] They went to Manggahan Street, and when they were near this
place, the informant pointed to them the appellant. PO1 Antonio alighted from the
vehicle, approached the appellant, and told her, Paiskor ng halagang piso; he then
handed the pre-marked one hundred peso bill to her. The appellant pulled out a
plastic sachet from her left pocket and gave it to PO1 Antonio. PO1 Antonio
immediately held the appellants arm, introduced himself to her, and stated her
constitutional rights. It was at this time that PO1 Fernandez and PO1 Jiro
approached them; PO1 Jiro recovered the marked money from the appellant. They

brought the appellant to the police station for investigation.[6] According to PO1
Antonio, the police forwarded the seized item to the Eastern Police District Crime
Laboratory for examination.[7]
PO1 Jiro testified that at around 11:00 a.m. of July 21, 2002, he was at the
Rodriguez Police Station when a confidential asset called and informed the police
that he saw one alias Erlinda selling illegal drugs. The police planned a buy-bust
operation wherein they prepared a one hundred peso bill (P100.00) marked money,
and designated PO1 Antonio as the poseur buyer. Afterwards, PO1 Jiro, PO1
Antonio, PO1 Fernandez, and the confidential asset left the police station and
proceeded to Manahan Street. On their arrival there, the confidential asset pointed
to them the appellant.[8] PO1 Antonio alighted from the vehicle, approached the
appellant, and talked to her. Thereafter, PO1 Antonio handed the marked money to
the appellant; the appellant took something from her pocket and handed it to PO1
Antonio.[9]Immediately after, PO1 Antonio arrested the appellant. He (PO1 Jiro)
and PO1 Fernandez approached the appellant; he recovered the marked money
from the appellants left pocket. They brought the appellant to the police station and
asked the duty officer to blotter the incident. Afterwards, they brought the appellant
to the police investigator; they also made a request for a laboratory examination.[10]
On cross-examination, PO1 Jiro stated that he was 10 meters away from
PO1 Antonio when the latter was transacting with the appellant. He maintained that
the buy-bust operation took place outside the appellants house. [11] He recalled that
the appellant had two other companions when they arrived. When they arrested the
appellant, some residents of the area started a commotion and tried to grab her.[12]
The testimony of Police Inspector Abraham Tecson, the Forensic Chemist,
was dispensed with after both parties stipulated on the result of the examination
conducted on the specimen submitted to the crime laboratory.
On the hearing of April 14, 2004, the prosecution offered the following as
exhibits:
Exhibit A the Sinumpaang Salaysay of PO1 Antonio, PO1 Jiro and
PO1 Fernandez

Exhibit B the request for laboratory examination


Exhibit C Chemistry Report No. D-1373-02E
Exhibit D the buy-bust money
Exhibit E Chemistry Report No. RD-78-03
Exhibit F the specimen confiscated from the appellant
Exhibit G Police Blotter[13]
The defense presented a different version of the events.
The appellant testified that at around 11:00 a.m. of July 21, 2002, she was
inside her house and lying on the bed, together with her 15-year old daughter,
when two persons, who introduced themselves as police officers, entered her
house. They wore maong pants and sando. They asked her if she was Erlinda
Capuno and when she answered in the affirmative, they searched her house.
[14]
They invited the appellant and her daughter to the Municipal Hall of Montalban,
Rizal when they did not find anything in the house. Upon arriving there, the police
told her to reveal the identity of the person who gave hershabu. When she
answered that she had no idea what they were talking about, the police put her in
jail.[15] The appellant further stated that she saw the seized specimen only in court.
[16]

On cross-examination, the appellant denied that she had been selling illegal
drugs. She explained that she consented to the search because she believed that the
two persons who entered her house were policemen.[17]
Maria, the appellants daughter, corroborated her mothers testimony on
material points, but stated that the two policemen did not search their house but
merely looked around.[18]
The RTC, in its decision[19] of April 3, 2006, convicted the appellant of the
crime charged, and sentenced her to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment for twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years, ten (10)

months and twenty (20) days. The RTC likewise ordered the appellant to pay
a P100,000.00 fine.
The appellant appealed to the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 30215. The
CA, in its decision[20] dated May 27, 2008, affirmed the RTC decision with the
modification that the appellant be sentenced to life imprisonment, and that the
amount of fine be increased to P500,000.00.
The CA found unmeritorious the appellants claim that the prosecution
witnesses were not credible due to their conflicting statements regarding the place
of the buy-bust operation. As the records bore, PO1 Antonio stated that they
conducted the entrapment operation on Manggahan Street; PO1 Jiro testified that it
was held on Manahan Street. The CA, nevertheless, ruled that PO1 Jiro made a slip
of the tongue as there was no Manahan Street in Barangay Burgos, Montalban,
Rizal.[21]
The CA added that despite the minor inconsistencies in the testimonies of
PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro, the records do not show that they were ever motivated
by any ulterior motive other than their desire to help wipe out the drug menace. It
added that the appellants denial cannot prevail over the positive identification
made by the prosecution witnesses, who, as police officers, performed their duties
in a regular manner.[22]
Finally, the CA held that all the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs
had been established.[23]
In her brief,[24] the appellant claims that the lower courts erred in convicting
her of the crime charged despite the prosecutions failure to prove her guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. She harps on the fact that PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro gave
conflicting statements on how they came to know of her alleged illegal activities.
On one hand, PO1 Antonio claimed that an informant went to the police station and
told them that the appellant was openly selling illegal drugs; PO1 Jiro, on the other
hand, stated that a civilian informant called the police and informed them of the
appellants illegal activities. The appellant also alleges that the testimonies of these
two witnesses differ as regards the actual place of the entrapment operation. She

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

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

THE COURTS RULING

After due consideration, we resolve to acquit the appellant for the prosecutions
failure to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the laws own starting
perspective on the status of the accused in all criminal prosecutions, he is
presumed innocent of the charge laid unless the contrary is proven beyond
reasonable doubt.[29] The burden lies on the prosecution to overcome such
presumption of innocence by presenting the quantum of evidence required. In so
doing, the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not rely on the
weakness of the defense. And if the prosecution fails to meet the required amount

of evidence, the defense may logically not even present evidence on its own behalf.
In which case, the presumption prevails and the accused should necessarily be
acquitted.[30]
The requirements of paragraph 1, Section 21
of Article II of R.A. No. 9165
In a prosecution for the illegal sale of a prohibited drug under Section 5 of
R.A. No. 9165, the prosecution must prove the following elements: (1) the identity
of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of
the thing sold and the payment therefor. All these require evidence that the sale
transaction transpired, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti,
i.e.,the body or substance of the crime that establishes that a crime has actually
been committed, as shown by presenting the object of the illegal transaction. To
remove any doubt or uncertainty on the identity and integrity of the seized drug,
evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug presented in court is
the same illegal drug actually recovered from the appellant; otherwise, the
prosecution for possession or for drug pushing under R.A. No. 9165 fails.[31]
The required procedure on the seizure and custody of drugs is embodied in
Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, which states:
1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately
after
seizure
and
confiscation, physically
inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the
person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her
representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of
Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the
copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof[.]

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

Q: Upon arrival at Manggahan Street, what did x x x your group do?


PO1 JOSE GORDON ANTONIO:
A: We proceeded to the place and before we reach[ed] that place[,] our
civilian asset pointed to us the suspect.
Q: After your civilian informer pointed to the suspect, what did your
group do?
A: I alighted from our private vehicle at the time and I was the one who
talked to Erlinda Capuno.
Q: You said [that] you talked to Erlinda Capuno, what did you tell her
when you approached her?
A: I told her Paiskor ng halagang piso.
Q: When you told this to Erlinda that you buy one Hundred Peso of shabu,
what did he do? [sic]
A: When I gave her on [sic] piece of the marked money[,] he [sic] pulled
out something from her pocket.
Q: What is the denomination of the marked money?
A: One Hundred Peso bill.
Q: Upon receiving the plastic sachet, what did you do next?
A: After she gave me the suspected shabu, I held her by the arm and my
two companions who [were] then seeing me approached me. [sic]
Q: What is the purpose of holding the hands of Erlinda when you received
this plastic sachet?
A: When I took the plastic sachet that was the time I held her and after that
I introduced myself and explained to her Constitutional rights. [sic]
Q: After arresting Erlinda, where did you proceed?
A: We brought her to the Police Station for investigation where she gave
her full name and also turned over the suspected items[.]
Q: Who recovered the buy-bust money?

A: Police Officer Hero [sic], Sir.


Q: You stated you were the one who handed the buy bust money to
Erlinda. Do you have that buy bust money with you?
A: After I gave the marked money to her[,] she picked from her left pocket
the suspected shabu and Police Officer Hero recovered the money.
[sic]
xxxx
Q: The alleged specimen you got from Erlinda, where is it now?
A: We brought it to the Eastern Police District Crime Laboratory for
examination.
Q: Were you able to know the result of this examination?
A: Yes, Sir. When we returned we already have the result.[32]

From the foregoing exchanges, it is clear that the apprehending team, upon
confiscation of the drug, immediately brought the appellant and the seized
specimen to the police station. No physical inventory and photograph of the
seized items were taken in the presence of the appellant or her counsel, a
representative from the media and the DOJ, and an elective official. We stress
that PO1 Antonios testimony was corroborated by another member of the
apprehending team, PO1 Jiro, who narrated that after arresting the appellant, they
brought her and the seized item to the police station. At no time during PO1 Jiros
testimony did he even intimate that they inventoried or photographed the
confiscated item.
A review of jurisprudence, even prior to the passage of R.A. No.
9165, shows that this Court did not hesitate to strike down convictions for failure
to follow the proper procedure for the custody of confiscated dangerous
drugs. Prior to R.A. No. 9165, the Court applied the procedure required by

Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979, amending Board


Regulation No. 7, Series of 1974.[33] Section 1 of this Regulation requires the
apprehending team, having initial custody and control of the seized drugs, to
immediately inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the

accused and/or his representatives, who shall be required to sign the copies of
the inventory and be given a copy thereof.
The Court remained vigilant in ensuring that the prescribed procedures
in the handling of the seized drugs were observed after the passage of R.A.
No. 9165. In People v. Lorenzo,[34] we acquitted the accused for failure of the buybust team to photograph and inventory the seized items. People v.
Garcia[35] likewise resulted in an acquittal because no physical inventory was
ever made, and nophotograph of the seized
items
was
taken under the circumstances required by R.A. No. 9165. In Bondad, Jr. v. People,
[36]
we also acquitted the accused for the failure of the police to conduct an
inventory and to photograph the seized item, without justifiable grounds.
We had the same rulings in People v. Gutierrez,[37] People v. Denoman,
[38]
People v. Partoza,[39] People v. Robles,[40] and People v. dela Cruz,[41] where we
emphasized the importance of complying with the required procedures under
Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165.
To be sure, Section 21(a), Article II of the IRR offers some flexibility in
complying with the express requirements under paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II
of R.A. No. 9165, i.e.,"non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable
grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are
properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and
invalid such seizures of and custody over said items[.]" This saving clause,
however, applies only where the prosecution recognized the procedural lapses, and,
thereafter, explained the cited justifiable grounds, and when the prosecution
established that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized had been
preserved.[42]
These conditions were not met in the present case, as the prosecution did not
even attempt to offer any justification for its failure to follow the prescribed
procedures in the handling of the seized items.
The Chain of Custody Requirement

Proof beyond reasonable doubt demands that unwavering exactitude be


observed in establishing the corpus delicti - the body of the crime whose core is the
confiscated illicit drug. Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be
established. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in buy-bust
operations as it ensures that doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
removed.[43]
Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, defines chain of custody as "the
duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled
chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each
stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to
safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction." As a method of authenticating
evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the admission of the exhibit be
preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is
what the proponent claims it to be. It would, thus, include a testimony about the
every link in the chain, from the moment the item was seized to the time it was
offered in court as evidence, such that every person who handled the same would
admit as to how and from whom it was received, where it was and what happened
to it while in the witness' possession, the condition in which it was received and the
condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain. The same
witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there had been
no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone not in the
chain to have possession of the same. It is from the testimony of every witness who
handled the evidence from which a reliable assurance can be derived that the
evidence presented in court is one and the same as that seized from the accused.[44]
In the present case, the prosecutions evidence failed to establish the chain
that would have shown that the shabu presented in court was the very same
specimen seized from the appellant.
The first crucial link in the chain of custody starts with the seizure of the
plastic sachet from the appellant. From the testimonies and joint affidavit of PO1
Antonio and PO1 Jiro, it is clear that the police did not mark the confiscated sachet
upon confiscation. Marking after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link,
thus it is vital that the seized contraband is immediately marked because
succeeding handlers of the specimen will use the markings as reference. The

marking of the evidence serves to separate the marked evidence from the corpus of
all other similar or related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused
until they are disposed of at the end of criminal proceedings, obviating switching,
"planting," or contamination of evidence.[45]
The second link in the chain of custody is its turnover from PO1 Antonio to
the police station. Both PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro testified that they brought the
appellant and the seized item to the police station. They, however, failed to identify
the person to whose custody the seized item was given. Although the records show
that the request for laboratory examination of the seized item was prepared by the
Chief of Police, Police Senior Inspector Anastacio Benzon, the evidence does not
show that he was the official who received the marked plastic sachet from PO1
Antonio.
As for the subsequent links in the chain of custody, the records show that the
seized item was forwarded to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory by a
certain PO1 Sanchez. We stress, however, that PO1 Sanchez forwarded the said
specimen only on the next day, or on July 22, 2002. To harp back to what we
earlier discussed, there was a missing link in the custody of the seized drug after it
left the hands of PO1 Antonio. We cannot, therefore, presume that PO1 Sanchez
had custody of the specimen in the interim. We also stress that the identity of the
person who received the seized item at the crime laboratory was not clearly
identified.
Due to the procedural lapses pointed out above, serious uncertainty hangs
over the identification of the seized shabu that the prosecution introduced into
evidence. In effect, the prosecution failed to fully prove the elements of the crime
charged, creating a reasonable doubt on the criminal liability of the accused.
Credibility of the Prosecution Witnesses
We likewise cannot acquiesce to the credibility accorded to the prosecution
witnesses by the courts a quo. Contrary to the lower courts ruling, the
inconsistencies in the statements of the prosecution witnesses are substantial, not
trivial. To recall, PO1 Antonio, PO1 Jiro and PO1 Fernandez stated in
their Pinagsamang Sinumpaang Salaysay[46] that a civilian asset arrived at the

police station on July 21, 2002, and informed them that one alias Erlinda was
selling illegal drugs on Manahan Street, Barangay Burgos, Rodriguez, Rizal. PO1
Antonio reiterated this fact when he testified in court that a civilian
informant arrived at the police station on July 21, 2002 and told them that a
woman
was
openly
selling
dangerous
drugs
on Manggahan
Street, Barangay Burgos, Montalban, Rizal. PO1 Jiro, however, changed his story
in court and testified that the confidential informant called the police and informed
then that one alias Erlinda was selling illegal drugs.
We are at a loss how PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro could have given different
accounts regarding how the confidential asset informed them of the appellants
illegal activities when both of them were present at the police station on July 21,
2002. What baffles us even more is why PO1 Jiros gave conflicting statements in
his joint affidavit and in his court testimony. To us, the conflicting statements and
declarations of PO1 Antonio and PO1 Jiro destroyed their credibility; it made their
testimonies unreliable. Evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the
mouth of a credible witness but it must be credible in itself, such as the common
experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the
circumstances.[47]
Presumption of Regularity in the
Performance of Official Duties
In sustaining the appellants conviction, the CA also relied on the evidentiary
presumption that official duties have been regularly performed. This presumption,
it must be stressed, is not conclusive. It cannot, by itself, overcome the
constitutional presumption of innocence. Any taint of irregularity affects the whole
performance and should make the presumption unavailable. [48] The presumption, in
other words, obtains only when nothing in the records suggests that the law
enforcers involved deviated from the standard conduct of official duty as provided
for in the law. But where the official act in question is irregular on its face, as in
this case, an adverse presumption arises as a matter of course. [49] As we explained
in People v. Sanchez:
While the Court is mindful that the law enforcers enjoy the presumption of
regularity in the performance of their duties, this presumption cannot prevail over

the constitutional right of the accused to be presumed innocent and it cannot, by


itself constitute proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of
regularity in the performance of official duty cannot be used as basis for affirming
accused-appellant's conviction because "First, the presumption is precisely just
that - a mere presumption. Once challenged by evidence, as in this case, xxx [it]
cannot be regarded as binding truth. Second, the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official functions cannot preponderate over the presumption of
innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt." The
presumption also cannot prevail over positive averments concerning violations of
the constitutional rights of the accused. In short, the presumption of regularity in
the performance of official duty cannot by itself overcome the presumption of
innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.[50]

All told, we find merit in the appellant's claim that the prosecution failed to
discharge its burden of proving her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, due to the
unreliability of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and substantial gaps in
the chain of custody, raising reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus
delicti.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby REVERSE and SET
ASIDE the May 27, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
30215. Appellant Erlinda Capuno y Tison is hereby ACQUITTED for failure of
the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. She is ordered
immediately RELEASED from detention unless she is confined for another lawful
cause.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Superintendent, Correctional
Institution for Women, Mandaluyong City, for immediate implementation. The
Superintendent of the Correctional Institution for Women is directed to report the
action she has taken to this Court within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice
Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairpersons 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 Courts Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

[1]

Penned by Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, and concurred in by Associate Justice Edgardo F.
Sundiam and Associate Justice Sixto C. Marella, Jr; rollo, pp. 3-12.
[2]
Penned by Judge Elizabeth Balquin-Reyes; CA rollo, pp. 9-17.
[3]
Records, p. 1.

[4]

Id. at 23-24.
TSN, October 30, 2002, pp. 2-3.
[6]
Id. at 3-5.
[7]
Id. at 6.
[8]
TSN, March 5, 2003, pp. 3-4.
[9]
Id. at 5-6.
[10]
Id. at 6-7.
[11]
TSN, March 31, 2003, pp. 5-6.
[12]
Id. at 9-10.
[13]
Records, pp. 120-121.
[14]
TSN, January 24, 2004, pp. 3-4.
[15]
Id. at 5.
[16]
Id. at 8.
[17]
Id. at 8-9.
[18]
TSN, July 13, 2005, pp. 1-11.
[19]
Supra note 2.
[20]
Supra note 1.
[21]
Rollo, p. 8.
[22]
Id. at 9-10.
[23]
Id. at 10.
[24]
CA rollo, pp. 29-39.
[25]
Id. at 33-38.
[26]
Id. at 62-64.
[27]
Id. at 69.
[28]
Id. at 69-71.
[29]
People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569 SCRA 194, 207.
[30]
People v. dela Cruz, G.R. No. 177222, October 29, 2008, 570 SCRA 273, 283.
[31]
See People v. Pagaduan, G.R. No. 179029, August 12, 2010.
[32]
Supra note 5, at 3-6.
[33]
See People v. Magat, G.R. No. 179939, September 29, 2008, 567 SCRA 86, 95.
[34]
G.R. No. 184760, April 23, 2010.
[35]
G.R. No. 173480, February 25, 2009, 580 SCRA 259.
[36]
G.R. No. 173804, December 10, 2008, 573 SCRA 497.
[37]
G.R. No. 179213, September 3, 2009, 598 SCRA 92.
[38]
G.R. No. 171732, August 14, 2009, 596 SCRA 257.
[39]
G.R. No. 182418, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 809.
[40]
G.R. No. 177220, April 24, 2009, 586 SCRA 647.
[41]
G.R. No. 181545, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 273.
[42]
People v. Garcia, supra note 35.
[43]
People v. Sanchez, supra note 29, citing People v. Kimura, 428 SCRA 51 (2004) and Lopez v. People, 553 SCRA
619 (2008).
[44]
See People v. Obmiranis, G.R. No. 181492, December 16, 2008, 574 SCRA 140, 149.
[45]
See People v. Coreche, G.R. No. 182528, August 14, 2009, 596 SCRA 350, 357.
[46]
Records, p. 10.
[47]
See also Zarraga v. People, G.R. No. 162064, March 14, 2006, 484 SCRA 639, a case that, although not squarely
in point, underscores the importance of consistency in the statements of the members of the buy-bust team. In the
said case, the Court reversed a guilty verdict for violation of Section 5 of R.A. No. 9165 largely due to the
conflicting testimonies of the police officers who conducted the operation on when and where the seized drugs
were marked.
[48]
People v. Pagaduan, supra note 31.
[49]
Cario v. People, G.R. No. 178757, March 13, 2009, 581 SCRA 388, 406.
[50]
Supra note 29, at 221.
[5]