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People of the Philippines v. Rommel Araza Y Sagun

G.R. No. 190623, November 17, 2014
Rommel Araza was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of
shabu by the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, resulting to the appeal before the SC.
PO1 Talacca, accompanied by the Barangay Chairman, Barangay Tanods and several
members of the barangay council, while in the act of confiscating a videokarera
machine inside the house of Alejandro Sacdo, saw nine persons, including Araza,
engaging in a pot session. PO1 Talacca arrested and frisked the 9, and recovered from
the pocket of Araza a small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing white
crystalline substance suspected to be shabu. In the precinct, the said sachet was turned
over to the chief investigator, Larry Cabrera, who marked the same with the initials
"RSA" in Talaccas presence. A request for laboratory examination of the contents of
said sachet was delivered to the Laboratory where the Forensic Chemist found to be
Araza pleaded not guilty. Giving a different version of the incident, he claimed that he
was sleeping inside a room in the house of Sacdo when PO1 Talacca woke him up and
frisked him, confiscated his wallet, then took him to the police station and charged
him with illegal possession of prohibited drugs. Araza argues that the shabu
confiscated from his pocket was not in plain view making it illegally seized, not being
an incident of an arrest in flagrante delicto, and therefore inadmissible as evidence.
Araza likewise argued that the rule on chain of custody was broken and that not all of
the persons who had the shabu in custody took the witness stand.
Araza assailed the legality of his arrest only after the arraignment.
Is the arrest valid?
Is the shabu seized without warrant admissible as evidence?
Is the validity of an arrest may be assailed after arraignment?
Is failure to comply with the chain of custody must result to the acquittal of the
The arrest is valid. Par (a), Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides that a
peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his

presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is

attempting to commit an offense. Araza was clearly apprehended in flagrante delicto
as he was then committing a crime (sniffing shabu) in the presence of PO1 Talacca.
Hence, his warrantless arrest is valid pursuant to said rule.
The shabu is admissible as evidence. The Constitutional prohibition on warrantless
search and seizure has the following exception: 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. Araza having been lawfully arrested, the warrantless
search that followed was undoubtedly incidental to a lawful arrest. Hence, the shabu
seized from Araza is admissible as evidence.
The Accused cannot assail any irregularity in the manner of his arrest after
arraignment. Objections to a warrant of arrest or the procedure by which the court
acquired jurisdiction 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 judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. It will
not even negate the validity of the conviction of the accused." 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. Araza is 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. 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.
Failure to comply with chain of custody is not fatal. Section 21(1), Art. II of RA
9165, provides that the PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous
drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential
chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so
confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the
same in the presence of the accused, or the person/s from whom such items were
confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from
the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who
shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.
However, it has been held that failure to strictly comply with aforesaid procedure will
not render an arrest illegal or the seized items inadmissible in evidence. Substantial

compliance is sufficient as provided under Section 21 (a) of the Implementing Rules

and Regulations of RA 9165 that
non-compliance with the requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the
integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and
custody over said items.
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 or controlled chemicals or plant sources of
dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of
seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation
in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of 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 in the
course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition. To be
admissible, the prosecution must show by records or testimony, the continuous
whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time it came into possession of the
police officers and until it was tested in the laboratory to determine its composition up
to the time it was offered in evidence. The prosecution proved the chain of custody of
the seized shabu with the records revealing that the police officers substantially
complied with the process of preserving the integrity of the seized shabu (process as
stated in the facts), along with the marked sachet of shabu positively identified by
PO1 Talacca in the witness stand. Hence the chain of custody was actually complied
Lastly, 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. The non-presentation as witnesses of the
evidence custodian and the officer on duty is not a crucial point against the
prosecution since it has the discretion as to how to present its case and the right to
choose whom it wishes to present as witnesses.