You are on page 1of 15

G.R. No.

148117 March 22, 2007

MABINI EPIE, JR. and RODRIGO PALASI, Petitioners,


vs.
THE HON. NELSONIDA T. ULAT-MARREDO, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, La Trinidad, Benguet and THE PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated September 15, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 55684.

The facts of the case as gleaned from the records are:

In an Information dated September 22, 1998, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Benguet Province charged Mabini Epie, Jr. and Rodrigo
Palasi, petitioners, with violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705,2 as amended. The Informtion reads:

That on or about the 6th day of September 1998, along the Halsema National Highway at Acop, Municipality of Tublay, Province of Benguet,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating, and mutually aiding each
other and without any authority of law or without any license or permit granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR), and with intent of gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously possess and transport 870 bd. ft. of Benguet Pine lumber having a total market value of TWENTY FOUR THOUSAND THREE
HUNDRED SIXTY PESOS (₱24,360.00), Philippine Currency, belonging to the REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, to the damage and prejudice of the
GOVERNMENT in the actual sum aforesaid.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, La Trinidad, Benguet (presided by respondent Judge Nelsonida T. Ulat-Marredo),
docketed as Criminal Case No. 98-CR-3138.

When arraigned, both petitioners, with the assistance of counsel de parte, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial then ensued.

The evidence for the prosecution shows that at around 2:30 p.m. of September 6, 1998, SPO2 Alberto Ngina of the Philippine National Police
(PNP) Tublay Station received an information from a confidential agent that a jeepney with Plate No. AYB 117 at Km. 96, Atok, Benguet was
loaded with Benguet pine lumber.

SPO2 Ngina immediately relayed the information to SPO4 Rentao Quitoriano and SPO1 Domingo Pulig. They then swiftly established a
checkpoint in Acop, Tublay, Benguet.

At around 4:00 p.m. of the same day, the PNP operatives spotted the jeepney heading toward La Trinidad. They flagged it down but it did not
stop. Hence, they chased the vehicle up to Shilan, La Trinidad where it finally halted.

The police saw five persons inside the jeepney then loaded with assorted vegetables, like womboc3 and chili.

When SPO4 Quitoriano lifted a womboc, he found some pieces of lumber under it. The driver and his companions admitted they have no
permit to transport the lumber. The police immediately arrested and investigated petitioners, Marso Insiong Dumpit, Armando Palasi, and Ben
Arinos. Only petitioners were charged with violation of Section 68 of the Revised Forestry Code.

After the prosecution presented its evidence, petitioners, through counsel, filed a "Motion to Suppress Evidence of the Prosecution" on the
ground that the pieces of Benguet pine lumber were illegally seized.

In a Resolution4 dated July 26, 1999, respondent judge denied the motion.

Petitioners then filed a motion for reconsideration. Likewise, it was denied in a Resolution dated September 27, 1999.

Subsequently, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari and prohibition, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 55684 assailing
the said Resolutions of the trial court.
On September 15, 2000, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dismissing the petition, holding that respondent judge did not commit grave
abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction; that the search conducted without warrant by the police officers is valid; and
that the confiscated pieces of lumber are admissible in evidence against the accused.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the Decision. However, it was denied in a Resolution5 dated April 11, 2001.

Hence, the instant petition raising the sole issue of whether the police officers have a probable cause to believe that the subject vehicle was
loaded with illegal cargo and that, therefore, it can be stopped and searched without a warrant.

In this jurisdiction, the fundamental law of the land recognizes and protects the right of a person to privacy against unreasonable intrusions by
the agents of the State. This right to undisturbed privacy is guaranteed by Section 2, Article III of the Constitution which provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature
and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly
describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Section 3(2), also of Article III, provides that any evidence obtained in violation of the above provision shall be inadmissible for any purpose in
any proceeding.

Hence, as a general rule, a search and seizure must be carried through with judicial warrant, otherwise, such search and seizure constitutes
derogation of a constitutional right.6

The above rule, however, is not devoid of exceptions. In People v. Sarap,7 we listed the exceptions where search and seizure may be conducted
without warrant, thus: (1) search incident to a lawful arrest; (2) search of a moving motor vehicle; (3) search in violation of customs laws; (4)
seizure of the evidence in plain view; (5) search when the accused himself waives his right against unreasonable searches and seizures; (6) stop
and frisk; and (7) exigent and emergency circumstances. The only requirement in these exceptions is the presence of probable cause. Probable
cause is the existence of such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonable, discreet, and prudent man to believe that an offense has
been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place to be searched. 8 In People v. Aruta,9 we ruled that
in warrantless searches, probable cause must only be based on reasonable ground of suspicion or belief that a crime has been committed or is
about to be committed. There is no hard and fast rule or fixed formula in determining probable cause for its determination varies according to
the facts of each case.

Here, the search involved a moving vehicle, an instance where a warrantless search and seizure may be conducted by peace officers. The only
issue we should determine is whether there was probable cause to justify such warrantless search and seizure.

We recall that at around 2:30 p.m. of September 6, 1998, a confidential informer disclosed to SPO2 Ngina that a passenger jeepney with Plate
No. AYB 117 loaded with Benguet pine lumber was at Km. 96, Atok, Benguet. The lumber was covered with assorted vegetables. A PNP
roadblock was then placed in Acop, Tublay, Benguet to intercept the jeepney. At around 4:00 p.m. of that same day, the police spotted the
vehicle. They flagged it down but it did not stop, forcing the police to chase it until it reached Shilan, La Trinidad. A search of the vehicle
disclosed several pieces of Benguet pine lumber. Petitioners could not produce the required DENR permit to cut and transport the same.

In People v. Vinecarao,10 we ruled that where a vehicle sped away after noticing a checkpoint and even after having been flagged down by
police officers, in an apparent attempt to dissuade the police from proceeding with their inspection, there exists probable cause to justify a
reasonable belief on the part of the law enforcers that the persons on board said vehicle were officers of the law or that the vehicle contained
objects which were instruments of some offense. This ruling squarely applies to the present case. Verily, the Court of Appeals did not err in
holding that respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when she ruled that the
warrantless search is valid and that the lumber seized is admissible in evidence against petitioners.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition and AFFIRM the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 55684. Costs against
petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 175783
Plaintiff-Appellee,
- versus -
BERNARDO TUAZON Y NICOLAS,
Accused-Appellant.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For Review is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 31 July 2006 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01799 entitled, People of the
Philippines v. Bernardo Tuazon y Nicolas, affirming the Decision[2] dated 14 October 2002 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Antipolo City, Branch
71, in Criminal Case No. 99-16114, finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic
Act No. 6425,[3] as amended.

The Information filed against appellant alleged:

The undersigned State Prosecutor accuses BERNARDO TUAZON y NICOLAS of the crime of Violation of Section 16, Article
III, R.A. 6425, as amended, committed as follows:

That, on or about the 7th day of March, 1999, in the City of Antipolo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess any regulated drug, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control seven (7) heat-sealed transparent
plastic bags each containing 97.92 grams, 95.46 grams, 40.47 grams, 5.36 grams, 5.41 grams, 2.95 grams and 3.17 grams
for a total weight of 250.74 grams of white crystalline substance, which after the corresponding laboratory examination
conducted gave positive result to the test for methylamphetamine hydrochloride also known as shabu a regulated drug,
in violation of the above-cited law.[4]

Upon arraignment, appellant, duly assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty.[5]

The prosecutions version of the case relied heavily on the testimony of PO3 Glenon Bueno (PO3 Bueno) who testified that in the
morning of 7 March 1999, the Antipolo City Police Station received through telephone, a confidential information that a Gemini car bearing
plate number PFC 411[6] would deliver an unspecified amount of shabu in Marville Subdivision, Antipolo City. Acting on said tip, Antipolo City
Chief of Police Major Rene Quintana dispatched a team of policemen to the area to conduct a surveillance.When the team arrived in Marville
Subdivision, they saw the said Gemini car and immediately flagged it down. The driver of the car pulled to a stop and opened a window of said
vehicle giving the policemen the opportunity to identify themselves as members of the Antipolo City Police Station. It was then that PO1
Manuel Padlan (PO1 Padlan) saw a gun tucked on appellants waist. PO1 Padlan inquired about the gun and appellant allegedly replied it did not
belong to him nor could he produce any pertinent document relating to said firearm. This prompted PO3 Bueno to order appellant to get down
from the car. As soon as appellant stepped down from the vehicle, PO3 Bueno saw five plastic sachets on the drivers seat, the contents of
which appellant allegedly admitted to be shabu. Appellant was thereafter immediately brought to the police station.

In the Joint Affidavit executed by PO3 Bueno and PO1 Padlan, it was stated that when they frisked appellant, they discovered 2 big plastic bag
(sic) and 5 medium size plastic (sic) and a 9 mm. pistol marked Parabellum bearing serial number C-9890 with one loaded magazine with eleven
ammunition.[7]

The white crystalline substance confiscated from appellant was then forwarded to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory
in Camp Crame, Quezon City for examination. The test conducted on the specimen turned over to the crime laboratory yielded the following:

FINDINGS:

Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimen gave POSITIVE result to the test for
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated drug. x x x.

CONCLUSION:

Specimens A-1 through A-7 contains Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated drug. x x x.[8]

Expectedly, appellant presented a vastly different account of the events that led to his indictment. According to him, he used to work as a
caretaker of Curacha, a beer house/videoke bar located along Circumferential Road, Marville II Subdivision and owned by a certain Bong
Reyes. On 6 March 1999, he reported for work at six oclock in the evening. Later that night, unidentified men walked up to him. One of these
men asked him regarding the ownership of the car parked outside the bar. He allegedly accompanied the men outside so he could confirm the
identity of the owner of the car that the men were inquiring about. Thereupon, the men pointed to him a green colored Isuzu Gemini car which
according to him was driven by his employer, Reyes. After revealing this information to the unidentified men, the latter purportedly pointed
guns at him and ordered him to board an owner-type jeepney. The men allegedly asked him regarding the whereabouts of Reyes and
threatened to include him in whatever trouble Reyes was in. A few hours passed and he was then brought to the police headquarters where he
was asked regarding his address and the name of his employer. After two days, he was allegedly forced to admit that he was in fact the owner
of the Gemini car as well as of the shabu and the gun recovered from said vehicle. He learned later on that he was charged with violations of
Republic Act No. 6425 for illegal possession of shabu and Presidential Decree No. 1866 for illegal possession of firearm. The latter case was
eventually dismissed. At the end of his direct examination, appellant reiterated that he should not have been the one charged with illegal
possession of shabu, but Reyes who was driving the Gemini car.

The trial court found the evidence presented by the prosecution sufficient to support a guilty verdict and imposed upon appellant the penalty
of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.[9]

On 17 September 2003, we resolved to accept the appeal interposed by appellant, the records of the case having been forwarded to this Court
by the RTC, Antipolo City, Branch 71. We also required the parties to file their respective briefs.[10]

In addition to the required brief, appellant filed a supplementary pleading in which he questioned the validity of his arrest and the
admissibility of the evidence presented against him. He contends that at the time of his warrantless arrest, he was merely driving within
Marville Subdivision. He had not committed, was not committing, and was not about to commit any crime which could have justified his
apprehension. He goes on to argue that even if he had waived the issue regarding the validity of his arrest by his failure to raise the matter
before entering his plea, such waiver did not affect the unlawfulness of the search and seizure conducted by the police. Appellant claims that as
the confidential informant had been cooperating with the police for three weeks prior to his arrest, the authorities were already informed of
his identity and his alleged illegal activities. They should have conducted a prior surveillance and then sought a search warrant from the
court. Absent said warrant, the shabu seized from him should be excluded from evidence.[11]
On 23 February 2005, we ordered the transfer of this case to the Court of Appeals conformably with our decision in People v. Mateo, which
modified the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court with respect to direct appeals from the RTCs to this Court of cases where the penalty
imposed is death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment.[12]

The Court of Appeals affirmed the findings and conclusion of the court a quo. The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals Decision states:

WHEREFORE, the October 14, 2002 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 71, Antipolo City, in Criminal Case No. 99-
16114, is hereby AFFIRMED.[13]

In sustaining the trial court, the Court of Appeals found PO3 Buenos testimony to be clear and unequivocal[14] and should therefore prevail over
appellants defense of denial.[15] The Court of Appeals likewise brushed aside appellants contention that he was a victim of frame-up as this
defense has been viewed with disfavor and has become a standard line of defense in most prosecutions arising from violations of the
Dangerous Drugs Act.[16] It also took note of appellants failure to give any credible reason why the police singled him out considering that they
were strangers to one another prior to the date of the incident.[17]

Appellant is again before this Court pleading his innocence by making a lone assignment of error

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR VIOLATION OF SECTION 16, ARTICLE III,
REPUBLIC ACT 6425, AS AMENDED.[18]

Appellant contends that the trial courts reliance on the prosecutions evidence was erroneous considering that he, as a mere grade school
graduate, could not have concocted his narration of the events that led to his arrest.[19] He also maintains that he was an easy target of police
operatives, since he was a new employee in the videoke bar and was therefore unfamiliar with the people who frequented said
establishment. In addition, he insists that the prosecution failed to meet the exacting test of moral certainty required for conviction and that
the trial court should not have applied the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties on the part of the police officers. [20]

Appellant likewise points out the trial courts supposed failure to substantiate the factual and legal bases for his conviction. He notes that the
court a quos evaluation of the facts and evidence was contained in only two paragraphs and was utterly lacking in substantial discussion, in
contravention of this Courts edict that the decisions must distinctly and clearly express their factual and legal bases.[21]

On 19 February 2007, we required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desired. On 17 April 2007, appellant filed a
Manifestation stating that he would no longer file a supplemental brief as all relevant matters for his defense were already discussed in his
previous pleadings.[22] The Office of the Solicitor General likewise manifested that it would no longer file a supplemental brief.[23]

The appeal must fail.

In insisting that the trial court should not have given credence to the testimony of PO3 Bueno, appellant is basically making an issue
about a witnesss credibility. In this regard, we reiterate the rule that appellate courts will generally not disturb factual findings of the trial court
since the latter has the unique opportunity to weigh conflicting testimonies, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their
deportment and manner of testifying.[24] Thus, unless attended with arbitrariness or plain disregard of pertinent facts or circumstances, the
factual findings are accorded the highest degree of respect on appeal.[25] Our careful review of the records of this case reveals that the trial
court did not err in relying on the testimony of PO3 Bueno. In open court, PO3 Bueno recounted their encounter with appellant as follows:

PROS. LUNA: Thank you, your honor.

Q: Mr. Witness, where were you assigned as police officer sometime in the month of March 1999?

WITNESS:

A: At the Antipolo Police Station, sir.

Q: Mr. Witness, do you know accused Bernardo Tuazon?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: How did you come to know him?

A: Because we arrested Bernardo Tuazon.

Q: If the accused in this case is present before this Court, will you please point him out?

A: He is that person wearing yellow T-shirt.

LEGAL RESEARCHER ACTING AS INTERPRETER:

The witness is pointing to a male person inside the courtroom when confronted give his name as Bernardo Tuazon.

PROS. LUNA:

Q: Do you recall where were you at about 12:10 in the morning of March 7, 1999?

WITNESS:

A: At the Antipolo Police Station, sir.

Q: What were you doing then at that time?

A: We were doing our duty as police investigator, sir.

Q: Who were your companions at that time?

A: PO1 Manuel Padlan, and CA Ronald Naval, sir.

Q: While performing your functions, do you remember any unusual incident at that time?

A: One of our confidential agents gave an information thru telephone, sir.

Q: About what?

A: About delivery of shabu of undetermined amount in the area of Marville Subdivision, Antipolo City, sir.

Q: Do you know that person involved or who is the person supposed to deliver an undetermined amount of shabu?

A: The asset did not say who will deliver the shabu but he only said on the telephone that the car is a Gemini bearing
plate number PFC 411 who will deliver at said place.

Q: Upon receipt of said information what did you do next?

A: We informed our Chief of Police Major Rene Quintana, sir.

Q: What was the reaction of Major Quintana?

A: Our Chief of Police told us to do surveillance in the area.

Q: What did you do next?


A: We immediately recorded the dispatch and we boarded a marked vehicle and proceeded to the area in Marville
Subdivision, sir.

Q: Where is this located?

A: In Barangay San Roque fronting along the highway in Antipolo City.

Q: Upon reaching that place what happened?

A: When we arrived in the subdivision we saw a Gemini car with plate number PFC 411, sir.

Q: If a picture of that car would be shown to you would you be able to identify it?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: I am showing to you a picture already marked as Exhibit B,. B-1 and B-2. What relation has this to the one you
mentioned?

A: This is the car where the accused was then on board, sir.

Q: Upon seeing the car what did you do?

A: We immediately conduct a check point, sir.

Q: Specifically, what did you do?

A: We flagged down the vehicle, sir.

Q: What happened after flagging down the car?

A: When we flagged down the vehicle, we identified ourselves as police officers, sir.

Q: What was the reaction of the driver of the vehicle?

A: The driver opened the window and we identified ourselves as members of the Antipolo City Police Station, sir.

Q: What was the reaction of the driver?

A: When he opened the window, PO1 Padlan saw a gun tucked on his waist.

Q: What did you do next? In your case what did you do?

A: We identified ourselves as policem[e]n.

COURT:

Q: Did you know what Padlan did?

WITNESS:

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did he do?

A: He questioned his gun and it turned out that there is no pertinent document for his gun.

Q: What do you mean he was asked? Who was asked?

A: The driver, Bernardo Tuazon, sir.

PROS. LUNA:

Q: What was the reaction of Bernardo Tuazon?

WITNESS:
A: He said that the gun is not his.

Q: Upon hearing that the gun was not owned by Bernardo Tuazon what did you do as police officer?

A: I ordered him to get down from the car.

COURT:

Q: After he got down from the car, what happened?

WITNESS:

A: I saw five (5) plastic bags on the drivers seat.

Q: Upon seeing that plastic bag what did you do?

A: I asked him the contents of that plastic and he replied that it contained shabu, sir.

Q: What did you do upon hearing the answer of the accused?

A: We immediately brought him to the headquarters together with the evidence, sir.

Q: What did you do with the shabu?

A: We brought it to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination, sir.

Q: What was the result of the examination, if you know?

A: It gave positive result to the tests for methylamphetamine hydrochloride sir.[26]

We agree with the Court of Appeals that the foregoing testimony of PO3 Bueno establishes beyond reasonable doubt appellants culpability. His
testimony regarding the circumstances that occurred in the early hours of 7 March 1999 from the moment their office received a confidential
tip from their informer up to the time they accosted appellant deserved to be given significance as it came from the mouth of a law
enforcement officer who enjoys the presumption of regularity in the performance of his duty. Police officers are presumed to have acted
regularly in the performance of their official functions in the absence of clear and convincing proof to the contrary or that they were moved by
ill-will.[27]

Appellants bare-faced defense of denial cannot surmount the positive and affirmative testimony offered by the prosecution. It is
well-settled that positive declarations of a prosecution witness prevail over the bare denials of an accused. [28] A defense of denial which is
unsupported and unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence becomes negative and self-serving, deserving no weight in law and cannot
be given greater evidentiary value over convincing, straightforward and probable testimony on affirmative matters. [29] Denial is an inherently
weak defense which must be supported by strong evidence of non-culpability to merit credibility.[30]

We shall now resolve the issue raised by appellant regarding the admissibility of the physical evidence presented against him. No
less than our Constitution recognizes the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures. This right is encapsulated in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution which states:

SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches
and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall
issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of
the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons
or things to be seized.

Complementing this provision is the so-called exclusionary rule embodied in Section 3(2) of the same article

(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any
proceeding.

It is recognized, however, that these constitutional provisions against warrantless searches and seizures admit of certain exceptions,
as follows: (1) warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and by prevailing
jurisprudence; (2) seizure 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.[31]
In the case of People v. Lo Ho Wing,[32] this Court had the occasion to elucidate on the rationale for the exemption of searches of
moving vehicles from the requirement of search warrant, thus:

[T]he rules governing search and seizure have over the years been steadily liberalized whenever a moving vehicle is the
object of the search on the basis of practicality. This is so considering that before a warrant could be obtained, the place,
things and persons to be searched must be described to the satisfaction of the issuing judge a requirement which borders
on the impossible in the case of smuggling effected by the use of a moving vehicle that can transport contraband from one
place to another with impunity. We might add that a warrantless search of a moving vehicle is justified on the ground that
it is not practicable to secure a warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in
which the warrant must be sought.

Nevertheless, the exception from securing a search warrant when it comes to moving vehicles does not give the police authorities unbridled
discretion to conduct a warrantless search of an automobile. To do so would render the aforementioned constitutional stipulations inutile and
expose the citizenry to indiscriminate police distrust which could amount to outright harassment. Surely, the policy consideration behind the
exemption of search of moving vehicles does not encompass such arbitrariness on the part of the police authorities. In recognition of the
possible abuse, jurisprudence dictates that at all times, it is required that probable cause exist in order to justify the warrantless search of a
vehicle.[33]

In Caballes v. Court of Appeals,[34] the term probable cause was explained to mean

[A] reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious
mans belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged; or the existence of such facts and
circumstances which could lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed
and that the items, articles or objects sought in connection with said offense or subject to seizure and destruction by law
is in the place to be searched. The required probable cause that will justify a warrantless search and seizure is not
determined by a fixed formula but is resolved according to the facts of the case.

When a vehicle is flagged down and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid as long as the officers
conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe prior to the search that they would find the instrumentality or evidence
pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.[35]

In this case, we hold that the police had probable cause to effect the warrantless search of the Gemini car driven by appellant. A confidential
informer tipped them off that said car was going to deliver shabu at Marville Subdivision. Pursuing said lead, the Antipolo City police sent a
team to Marville Subdivision to monitor said vehicle. The information provided by the informer turned out to be correct as, indeed, the Gemini
car was spotted in the place where it was said to be bringing shabu. When they stopped the car, they saw a gun tucked in appellants
waist. Appellant did not have any document to support his possession of said firearm which all the more strengthened the polices
suspicion. After he was told to step out of the car, they found on the drivers seat plastic sachets containing white powdery substance. These
circumstances, taken together, are sufficient to establish probable cause for the warrantless search of the Gemini car and the eventual
admission into evidence of the plastic packets against appellant.

In any case, appellant failed to timely object to the admissibility of the evidence against him on the ground that the same was obtained through
a warrantless search. His failure amounts to a waiver of the objection on the legality of the search and the admissibility of the evidence
obtained by the police. It was only proper for the trial court to admit said evidence. [36]

Appellant also faults the trial court for its failure to abide by the Constitutional requirement that (n)o decision shall be rendered by
any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.[37] Again, we disagree.

Faithful adherence to the aforementioned constitutional provision is a vital component of due process and fair play. [38] The rule
takes an even more important significance for the losing party who is entitled to know why he lost so that he may appeal to a higher court, if
permitted, should he believe that the decision needs to be reversed. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law
on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is especially prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to
pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal.[39]

In this case, we find that the assailed decision of the trial court substantially complied with the requirements of the
Constitution. The decision contained a summary of the facts of the case as presented by the prosecution and by the defense. It likewise
contained an explanation as to why it found appellant guilty as charged. Admittedly, the decision is brief but to our mind, it sufficiently
informed appellant as regards the bases for his conviction. It readily informs appellant that the trial court disregarded his defense of bare
denial in favor of the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties enjoyed by police officers.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01799 dated 31 July 2006, finding
appellant Bernardo Tuazon y Nicolas guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended,
is AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs BELEN MARIACOS
GR NO. 188611 June 16 2010

FACTS:
October 27, 2005 in Brgy Balbalayang, PO2 Pallayoc met with secret agent of the Barangay Intelligence Network who informed him that a
baggage of marijuana had been loaded in a passenger jeepney that was about to leave for the poblacion. The agent mentioned 3 bags and 1
plastic bag. Further, the agent described a backpack bag with O.K. marking. PO2 Pallayoc boarded the said jeepney and positioned himself on
top thereof. He found bricks of marijuana wrapped in newspapers. He them asked the other passengers about the owner of the bag, but no one
know.

When the jeepney reached the poblacion, PO2 Pallayoc alighted together with other passengers. Unfortunately, he did not noticed who took
the black backpack from atop the jeepney. He only realized a few moments later that the said bag and 3 other bags were already being carried
away by two (2) women. He caught up with the women and introduced himself as a policeman. He told them that they were under arrest, but
on the women got away.

DOCTRINES:

ARTICLE III, SECTION 2 OF THE PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION PROVIDES: The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or
warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the Judge after examination under oath or affirmation
of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be
seized.

Purpose: MOVING VEHICLE (WARRANTLESS SEARCH)


A. This has been justified on the ground that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of
the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.
B. This is no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of
probable cause when a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extension search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid only as
long as officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search that they will find the instrumentality or
evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.

MALUM PROHIBITUM
When an accused is charged with illegal possession or transportation of prohibited drugs, the ownership thereof is immaterial. Consequently,
proof of ownership of the confiscated marijuana is not necessary.

Appellant’s alleged lack of knowledge does not constitute a valid defence. Lack of criminal intent and good faith are not exempting
circumstances where the crime charge is malum prohibitum

G.R. No. 188611 June 16, 2010

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
BELEN MARIACOS, Appellant.

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

Before this Court is an appeal from the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 02718, which affirmed the decision2 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 29, San Fernando City, La Union, in Criminal Case No. 7144, finding appellant Belen Mariacos guilty of
violating Article II, Section 5 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The facts of the case, as summarized by the CA, are as follows:

Accused-appellant Belen Mariacos was charged in an Information, dated November 7, 2005 of violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act [No.]
9165, allegedly committed as follows:

"That on or about the 27th day of October, 2005, in the Municipality of San Gabriel, Province of La Union, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously transport, deliver
7,030.3, (sic) grams of dried marijuana fruiting tops without the necessary permit or authority from the proper government agency or office.
CONTRARY TO LAW."

When arraigned on December 13, 2005, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. During the pre-trial, the following were stipulated upon:
"1. Accused admits that she is the same person identified in the information as Belen Mariacos;
2. That accused is a resident of Brgy. Lunoy, San Gabriel, La Union;
3. That at the time of the arrest of the accused, accused had just alighted from a passenger jeepney;
4. That the marijuana allegedly taken from the possession of the accused contained in two (2) bags were submitted for examination
to the Crime Lab;
5. That per Chemistry Report No. D-109-2005, the alleged drug submitted for examination gave positive result for the presence of
marijuana;
6. That the drugs allegedly obtained from the accused contained (sic) and submitted for examination weighed 7,030.3 grams;
7. The Prosecutor admits the existence of a counter-affidavit executed by the accused; and
8. The existence of the affidavits executed by the witnesses of the accused family (sic): Lyn Punasen, Mercedes Tila and Magdalena
Carino."
During the trial, the prosecution established the following evidence:

On October 26, 2005, in the evening, the San Gabriel Police Station of San Gabriel, La Union, conducted a checkpoint near the police station at
the poblacion to intercept a suspected transportation of marijuana from Barangay Balbalayang, San Gabriel, La Union. The group at the
checkpoint was composed of PO2 Lunes B. Pallayoc ("PO2 Pallayoc"), the Chief of Police, and other policemen. When the checkpoint did not
yield any suspect or marijuana, the Chief of Police instructed PO2 Pallayoc to proceed to Barangay Balbalayang to conduct surveillance
operation (sic).

At dawn on October 27, 2005, in Barangay Balbalayang, PO2 Pallayoc met with a secret agent of the Barangay Intelligence Network who
informed him that a baggage of marijuana had been loaded on a passenger jeepney that was about to leave for the poblacion. The agent
mentioned three (3) bags and one (1) blue plastic bag. Further, the agent described a backpack bag with an "O.K." marking. PO2 Pallayoc then
boarded the said jeepney and positioned himself on top thereof. While the vehicle was in motion, he found the black backpack with an "O.K."
marking and peeked inside its contents. PO2 Pallayoc found bricks of marijuana wrapped in newspapers. He then asked the other passengers
on top of the jeepney about the owner of the bag, but no one knew.

When the jeepney reached the poblacion, PO2 Pallayoc alighted together with the other passengers. Unfortunately, he did not notice who took
the black backpack from atop the jeepney. He only realized a few moments later that the said bag and three (3) other bags, including a blue
plastic bag, were already being carried away by two (2) women. He caught up with the women and introduced himself as a policeman. He told
them that they were under arrest, but one of the women got away.

PO2 Pallayoc brought the woman, who was later identified as herein accused-appellant Belen Mariacos, and the bags to the police station. At
the police station, the investigators contacted the Mayor of San Gabriel to witness the opening of the bags. When the Mayor arrived about
fifteen (15) minutes later, the bags were opened and three (3) bricks of marijuana wrapped in newspaper, two (2) round bundles of marijuana,
and two (2) bricks of marijuana fruiting tops, all wrapped in a newspaper, were recovered.

Thereafter, the investigators marked, inventoried and forwarded the confiscated marijuana to the crime laboratory for examination. The
laboratory examination showed that the stuff found in the bags all tested positive for marijuana, a dangerous drug.

When it was accused-appellant’s turn to present evidence, she testified that:

On October 27, 2005, at around 7:00 in the morning, accused-appellant, together with Lani Herbacio, was inside a passenger jeepney bound for
the poblacion. While the jeepney was still at the terminal waiting for passengers, one Bennie Lao-ang ("Lao-ang"), her neighbor, requested her
to carry a few bags which had been loaded on top of the jeepney. At first, accused-appellant refused, but she was persuaded later when she
was told that she would only be carrying the bags. When they reached the poblacion, Lao-ang handed accused-appellant and her companion,
Lani Herbacio, the bags, and then Lao-ang suddenly ran away. A few moments later, PO2 Pallayoc was upon them, arresting them. Without
explanation, they were brought to the police station. When they were at the police station, Lani Herbacio disappeared. It was also at the police
station that accused-appellant discovered the true contents of the bags which she was asked to carry. She maintained that she was not the
owner of the bags and that she did not know what were contained in the bags. At the police station (sic) she executed a Counter-Affidavit.3

On January 31, 2007, the RTC promulgated a decision, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Belen Mariacos GUILTY as charged and sentences here (sic) to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment
and to pay a fine of ₱500,000.00.

The 7,030.3 grams of marijuana are ordered confiscated and turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for destruction in the
presence of the Court personnel and media.
SO ORDERED.4

Appellant appealed her conviction to the CA. She argued that the trial court erred in considering the evidence of the prosecution despite its
inadmissibility.5 She claimed that her right against an unreasonable search was flagrantly violated by Police Officer (PO)2 Pallayoc when the
latter searched the bag, assuming it was hers, without a search warrant and with no permission from her. She averred that PO2 Pallayoc’s
purpose for apprehending her was to verify if the bag she was carrying was the same one he had illegally searched earlier. Moreover, appellant
contended that there was no probable cause for her arrest.6

Further, appellant claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the corpus delicti of the crime. 7 She alleged that the apprehending police
officers violated Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979, as amended by Board Regulation No. 2, Series of 1990, which
prescribes the procedure in the custody of seized prohibited and regulated drugs, instruments, apparatuses, and articles. The said regulation
directs the apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs and/or paraphernalia, immediately after seizure or confiscation,
to have the same physically inventoried and photographed in the presence of appellant or her representative, who shall be required to sign
copies of the inventory. The failure to comply with this directive, appellant claimed, casts a serious doubt on the identity of the items allegedly
confiscated from her. She, likewise, averred that the prosecution failed to prove that the items allegedly confiscated were indeed prohibited
drugs, and to establish the chain of custody over the same.

On the other hand, the People, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), argued that the warrantless arrest of appellant and the
warrantless seizure of marijuana were valid and legal,8 justified as a search of a moving vehicle. It averred that PO2 Pallayoc had reasonable
ground to believe that appellant had committed the crime of delivering dangerous drugs based on reliable information from their agent, which
was confirmed when he peeked into the bags and smelled the distinctive odor of marijuana.9 The OSG also argued that appellant was now
estopped from questioning the illegality of her arrest since she voluntarily entered a plea of "not guilty" upon arraignment and participated in
the trial and presented her evidence.10 The OSG brushed aside appellant’s argument that the bricks of marijuana were not photographed and
inventoried in her presence or that of her counsel immediately after confiscation, positing that physical inventory may be done at the nearest
police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending team, whichever was practicable.11

In a Decision dated January 19, 2009, the CA dismissed appellant’s appeal and affirmed the RTC decision in toto.12It held that the prosecution
had successfully proven that appellant carried away from the jeepney a number of bags which, when inspected by the police, contained
dangerous drugs. The CA ruled that appellant was caught in flagrante delicto of "carrying and conveying" the bag that contained the illegal
drugs, and thus held that appellant’s warrantless arrest was valid. The appellate court ratiocinated:

It must be stressed that PO2 Pallayoc had earlier ascertained the contents of the bags when he was aboard the jeep. He saw the bricks of
marijuana wrapped in newspaper. That said marijuana was on board the jeepney to be delivered to a specified destination was already
unlawful. PO2 Pallayoc needed only to see for himself to whom those bags belonged. So, when he saw accused-appellant carrying the bags,
PO2 Pallayoc was within his lawful duty to make a warrantless arrest of accused-appellant.

xxxx

Firstly, this Court opines that the invocation of Section 2, Article III of the Constitution is misplaced. At the time, when PO2 Pallayoc looked into
the contents of the suspicious bags, there was no identified owner. He asked the other passengers atop the jeepney but no one knew who
owned the bags. Thus, there could be no violation of the right when no one was entitled thereto at that time.

Secondly, the facts of the case show the urgency of the situation. The local police has been trying to intercept the transport of the illegal drugs
for more than a day, to no avail. Thus, when PO2 Pallayoc was tipped by the secret agent of the Barangay Intelligence Network, PO2 Pallayoc
had no other recourse than to verify as promptly as possible the tip and check the contents of the bags.

Thirdly, x x x the search was conducted in a moving vehicle. Time and again, a search of a moving vehicle has been justified on the ground that
the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to move out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.
Thus, under the facts, PO2 Pallayoc could not be expected to secure a search warrant in order to check the contents of the bags which were
loaded on top of the moving jeepney. Otherwise, a search warrant would have been of no use because the motor vehicle had already left the
locality.13

Appellant is now before this Court, appealing her conviction.

Once again, we are asked to determine the limits of the powers of the State’s agents to conduct searches and seizures. Over the years, this
Court had laid down the rules on searches and seizures, providing, more or less, clear parameters in determining which are proper and which
are not.

Appellant’s main argument before the CA centered on the inadmissibility of the evidence used against her. She claims that her constitutional
right against unreasonable searches was flagrantly violated by the apprehending officer.
Thus, we must determine if the search was lawful. If it was, then there would have been probable cause for the warrantless arrest of appellant.

Article III, Section 2 of the Philippine Constitution provides:

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of
whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to
be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and
particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Law and jurisprudence have laid down the instances when a warrantless search is valid. These are:
1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12 [now Section 13], Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and
by prevailing jurisprudence;
2. Seizure of evidence in "plain view," the elements of which are:
(a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of
their official duties;
(b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are;
(c) the evidence must be immediately apparent[;] and;
(d) "plain view" justified mere seizure of evidence without further search.
3. Search of a moving vehicle. Highly regulated by the government, the vehicle's inherent mobility reduces expectation of privacy
especially when its transit in public thoroughfares furnishes a highly reasonable suspicion amounting to probable cause that the
occupant committed a criminal activity;
4. Consented warrantless search;
5. Customs search;
6. Stop and Frisk; and
7. Exigent and Emergency Circumstances.14
Both the trial court and the CA anchored their respective decisions on the fact that the search was conducted on a moving vehicle to justify the
validity of the search.

Indeed, the search of a moving vehicle is one of the doctrinally accepted exceptions to the Constitutional mandate that no search or seizure
shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge after personally determining the existence of probable cause.15

In People v. Bagista,16 the Court said:

The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a lawful
arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of a moving vehicle, and the seizure of evidence in plain view.

With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the
vehicle to be searched to move out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.

This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of
probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid only as
long as the officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search that they will find the instrumentality
or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.

It is well to remember that in the instances we have recognized as exceptions to the requirement of a judicial warrant, it is necessary that the
officer effecting the arrest or seizure must have been impelled to do so because of probable cause. The essential requisite of probable cause
must be satisfied before a warrantless search and seizure can be lawfully conducted.17 Without probable cause, the articles seized cannot be
admitted in evidence against the person arrested.18

Probable cause is defined as a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to induce a cautious
man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense charged. It refers to the existence of such facts and circumstances that can lead a
reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed, and that the items, articles or objects sought in
connection with said offense or subject to seizure and destruction by law are in the place to be searched.19

The grounds of suspicion are reasonable when, in the absence of actual belief of the arresting officers, the suspicion that the person to be
arrested is probably guilty of committing the offense is based on actual facts, i.e., supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves
to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be arrested. A reasonable suspicion therefore must be founded on probable cause,
coupled with good faith on the part of the peace officers making the arrest.20

Over the years, the rules governing search and seizure have been steadily liberalized whenever a moving vehicle is the object of the search on
the basis of practicality. This is so considering that before a warrant could be obtained, the place, things and persons to be searched must be
described to the satisfaction of the issuing judge – a requirement which borders on the impossible in instances where moving vehicle is used to
transport contraband from one place to another with impunity.21

This exception is easy to understand. A search warrant may readily be obtained when the search is made in a store, dwelling house or other
immobile structure. But it is impracticable to obtain a warrant when the search is conducted on a mobile ship, on an aircraft, or in other motor
vehicles since they can quickly be moved out of the locality or jurisdiction where the warrant must be sought.22

Given the discussion above, it is readily apparent that the search in this case is valid. The vehicle that carried the contraband or prohibited
drugs was about to leave. PO2 Pallayoc had to make a quick decision and act fast. It would be unreasonable to require him to procure a warrant
before conducting the search under the circumstances. Time was of the essence in this case. The searching officer had no time to obtain a
warrant. Indeed, he only had enough time to board the vehicle before the same left for its destination.

It is well to remember that on October 26, 2005, the night before appellant’s arrest, the police received information that marijuana was to be
transported from Barangay Balbalayang, and had set up a checkpoint around the area to intercept the suspects. At dawn of October 27, 2005,
PO2 Pallayoc met the secret agent from the Barangay Intelligence Network, who informed him that a baggage of marijuana was loaded on a
passenger jeepney about to leave for the poblacion. Thus, PO2 Pallayoc had probable cause to search the packages allegedly containing illegal
drugs.

This Court has also, time and again, upheld as valid a warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest. Thus, Section 13, Rule 126 of the Rules of
Court provides:

SEC. 13. Search incident to lawful arrest.—A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous weapons or anything which may have
been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a search warrant.23

For this rule to apply, it is imperative that there be a prior valid arrest. Although, generally, a warrant is necessary for a valid arrest, the Rules of
Court provides the exceptions therefor, to wit:

SEC. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful.—A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or
circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final
judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to
another.

In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police
station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112.24

Be that as it may, we have held that a search substantially contemporaneous with an arrest can precede the arrest if the police has probable
cause to make the arrest at the outset of the search.25

Given that the search was valid, appellant’s arrest based on that search is also valid.

Article II, Section 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 states:

SEC. 5 Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors
and Essential Chemicals. – The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (₱500,000.00) to
Ten million pesos (₱10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer, dispense,
deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy
regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.

The penalty of imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from One hundred
thousand pesos (₱100,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (₱500,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law,
shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any controlled precursor and
essential chemical, or shall act as a broker in such transactions.
In her defense, appellant averred that the packages she was carrying did not belong to her but to a neighbor who had asked her to carry the
same for him. This contention, however, is of no consequence.

When an accused is charged with illegal possession or transportation of prohibited drugs, the ownership thereof is immaterial. Consequently,
proof of ownership of the confiscated marijuana is not necessary.26

Appellant’s alleged lack of knowledge does not constitute a valid defense. Lack of criminal intent and good faith are not exempting
circumstances where the crime charged is malum prohibitum, as in this case.27 Mere possession and/or delivery of a prohibited drug, without
legal authority, is punishable under the Dangerous Drugs Act.28

Anti-narcotics laws, like anti-gambling laws, are regulatory statutes. They are rules of convenience designed to secure a more orderly regulation
of the affairs of society, and their violation gives rise to crimes mala prohibita. Laws defining crimes mala prohibita condemn behavior directed
not against particular individuals, but against public order.29

Jurisprudence defines "transport" as "to carry or convey from one place to another." 30 There is no definitive moment when an accused
"transports" a prohibited drug. When the circumstances establish the purpose of an accused to transport and the fact of transportation itself,
there should be no question as to the perpetration of the criminal act.31The fact that there is actual conveyance suffices to support a finding
that the act of transporting was committed and it is immaterial whether or not the place of destination is reached.32

Moreover, appellant’s possession of the packages containing illegal drugs gave rise to the disputable presumption 33that she is the owner of the
packages and their contents.34 Appellant failed to rebut this presumption. Her uncorroborated claim of lack of knowledge that she had
prohibited drug in her possession is insufficient.

Appellant’s narration of facts deserves little credence. If it is true that Bennie Lao-ang merely asked her and her companion to carry some
baggages, it is but logical to first ask what the packages contained and where these would be taken. Likewise, if, as appellant said, Lao-ang ran
away after they disembarked from the jeepney, appellant and her companion should have ran after him to give him the bags he had left with
them, and not to continue on their journey without knowing where they were taking the bags.

Next, appellant argues that the prosecution failed to prove the corpus delicti of the crime. In particular, she alleged that the apprehending
police officers failed to follow the procedure in the custody of seized prohibited and regulated drugs, instruments, apparatuses, and articles.

In all prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the existence of all dangerous drugs is a sine qua non for conviction. The dangerous
drug is the very corpus delicti of that crime.35

Thus, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 prescribes the procedure for custody and disposition of seized dangerous drugs, to wit:

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

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

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 further provides:

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

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

PO2 Pallayoc testified that after apprehending appellant, he immediately brought her to the police station. At the station, the police requested
the Mayor to witness the opening of the bags seized from appellant. When the Mayor arrived, he opened the bag in front of appellant and the
other police officers. The black bag yielded three bricks of marijuana wrapped in newspaper, while the plastic bag yielded two bundles of
marijuana and two bricks of marijuana fruiting tops.36 PO2 Pallayoc identified the bricks. He and PO3 Stanley Campit then marked the same.
Then the seized items were brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination.

It is admitted that there were no photographs taken of the drugs seized, that appellant was not accompanied by counsel, and that no
representative from the media and the DOJ were present. However, this Court has already previously held that non-compliance with Section 21
is not fatal and will not render an accused’s arrest illegal, or make the items seized inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the
preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items.37

Based on the testimony of PO2 Pallayoc, after appellant’s arrest, she was immediately brought to the police station where she stayed while
waiting for the Mayor. It was the Mayor who opened the packages, revealing the illegal drugs, which were thereafter marked and sent to the
police crime laboratory the following day. Contrary to appellant’s claim, the prosecution’s evidence establishes the chain of custody from the
time of appellant’s arrest until the prohibited drugs were tested at the police crime laboratory.

While it is true that the arresting officer failed to state explicitly the justifiable ground for non-compliance with Section 21, this does not
necessarily mean that appellant’s arrest was illegal or that the items seized are inadmissible. The justifiable ground will remain unknown
because appellant did not question the custody and disposition of the items taken from her during the trial. 38 Even assuming that the police
officers failed to abide by Section 21, appellant should have raised this issue before the trial court. She could have moved for the quashal of the
information at the first instance. But she did not. Hence, she is deemed to have waived any objection on the matter.

Further, the actions of the police officers, in relation to the procedural rules on the chain of custody, enjoyed the presumption of regularity in
the performance of official functions. Courts accord credence and full faith to the testimonies of police authorities, as they are presumed to be
performing their duties regularly, absent any convincing proof to the contrary.39

In sum, the prosecution successfully established appellant’s guilt. Thus, her conviction must be affirmed.

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 02718 is
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.