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G.R. No.

183101 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES versus NOEL


CATENTAY

Promulgated:

July 6, 2010
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DISSENTING OPINION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Appellant Noel Doroja Catentay (Catentay) was charged with violation of


Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165, otherwise known as
the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, for selling and possessing
illegal drugs.

The prosecution filed two separate informations against Catentay, to wit:


That on or about the 14th day of April 2004, in Quezon City,
Philippines, the said accused, not being authorized by law to possess any
dangerous drug, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly
have in his/her/their possession and control 0.03 (zero point zero three)
gram of white crystalline substance containing Methylamphetamine
Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

and

That on or about the 14th day of April 2004, in Quezon City,


Philippines, the said accused, not being authorized by law to sell,
dispense, deliver, transport or distribute, any dangerous drug, did, then
and there, willfully and unlawfully sell, dispense, deliver, transport,
distribute or act as broker in the said transaction, 0.03 (zero point zero
three) gram of white crystalline substance containing
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[1]

Catentay pleaded not guilty during his arraignment. During pre-trial, the parties
stipulated that PO1 Reyno Riparip was the investigator of the case and the one (1)
who prepared the request for laboratory examination. Also stipulated was the fact
that Leonard Jabonillo, a forensic chemical officer, received the request for
laboratory examination of the specimen involved, examined the same, and found it
positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly known as shabu. Both
parties agreed to dispense with their testimonies in open court. Trial thereafter
ensued.

The prosecution presented PO3 Gerardo Quimson (Quimson) as its main


witness. It was shown during trial that Quimson and his anti-illegal drugs unit
received a report from its informant that Catentay was engaged in drug trafficking
in a billiard hall located along Lira St., North Fairview, Quezon City, and that
Quimson and his team conducted a buy-bust operation. Quimson, who served as
the poseur-buyer, marked the 100-peso bill used in the operation with his initial
GQ. The informant introduced Quimson to Catentay as someone who wanted to
buy P100 worth of shabu. Quimson gave the marked money to Catentay and the
latter took out two (2) plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance from
his pocket and handed one (1) of them to Quimson. After the sale, Quimson
signaled his partner, PO2 Rey Valdez (Valdez), about the consummation of the
transaction. Quimson and his partner then arrested Catentay. They seized from
Catentay the other plastic sachet and the marked money. Quimson immediately
wrote the letters GQ on the sachet he bought from Catentay and GQ1 on the other
sachet seized from Catentay. At the police station, they turned over Catentay to an
investigating officer together with the seized items. The investigator was the one
who submitted the white crystalline substance to the PNP Crime Laboratory for
examination. When the same tested positive for shabu, they brought Catentay to
the inquest prosecutor.
It likewise appears that the prosecution was to present Valdez as its witness but his
testimony was dispensed with since the parties stipulated that he was one (1) of the
back-up officers of the buy-bust team, that he was the one (1) who confiscated the
buy-bust money from Catentay, and that he could identify the accused and the buy-
bust money used in the operation.[2]

Catentay for his part denied the charge against him and claimed that he had been
framed up. He claimed that he was plying his route as a tricycle driver when
Quimson, Riparip and Valdez flagged him down and invited him to the police
station. There he was asked about the whereabouts of his neighbor Roger
Geronimo. The police tortured him and allegedly planted the two (2) sachets
of shabu.

The RTC convicted Catentay for illegal selling of shabu but dismissed the charge
of possession of dangerous drugs.[3] It found that the testimony of Quimson was
credible. Quimson was able to identify the sachets he seized from Catentay, and
the Chemistry Report showed that the sachets containing white crystalline
substance proved to be positive of methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous
drug. It noted that Catentay failed to present any evidence to support his
allegations that he was falsely charged by the police. Although only one (1) sachet
was sold to Quimson during the buy-bust operation, it was shown that Catentay
brought out two (2) sachets from his pocket and showed them to Quimson. The
trial court found that it was Catentays intention to sell the other sachet at the time
of the buy-bust operation; hence, Catentay cannot be held liable for illegal
possession of dangerous drugs since it was absorbed in the charge for illegal sale
of dangerous drugs.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the RTC.[4] It found no reason to
disturb the RTCs assessment of the credibility of the prosecutions witness,
Quimson. According to the CA, the positive identification by Quimson and the
physical evidence presented establish with moral certainty Catentays guilt for
illegally selling a dangerous drug. Catentays assertion that a serious charge was
fabricated against him simply because he failed to provide information on the
whereabouts of his neighbor is too frivolous to be believed as constituting ill-
motive on the part of the police officers.
Aggrieved, Catentay filed a notice of appeal.[5]

Catentay reiterated the assignment of errors made before the Court of Appeals, [6] to
wit:

I.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT
THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS ILLEGALLY ARRESTED.

II
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT OF THE CRIMES CHARGED.

The elements of the sale of illegal drugs are (a) the identities of the buyer
and seller, (b) the transaction or sale of the illegal drug, and (c) the existence of
the corpus delicti.[7] With respect to the third element, the prosecution must show
that the integrity of the corpus delicti has been preserved. This is crucial in drugs
cases because the evidence involvedthe seized chemicalis not readily identifiable
by sight or touch and can easily be tampered with or substituted.

Here, I respectfully submit with all due respect that the chain of custody of
the shabu was established starting from the seizure made during the buy-bust
operation to the turn over to the investigator, and from the latter to the chemist. In
the instant case, the integrity of the drugs seized from Catentay was preserved. The
evidence shows that after Quimson seized and confiscated the dangerous drugs and
immediately marked the same, Catentay was immediately arrested and brought to
the police station for investigation. Immediately thereafter, the two (2) heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachets, bearing Quimsons markings, were submitted to the
PNP Crime Laboratory for examination, with a letter of request for examination, to
determine the presence of any dangerous drug. Per Chemistry Report No. D-369-
2004 dated April 15, 2004,[8] the specimen submitted, two (2) heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachets having the markings GQ and GQ1, contained
methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. The examination was
conducted by one (1) Engr. Jabonillo, a Forensic Chemical Officer of the PNP
Crime Laboratory, whose proposed testimony was stipulated upon by the
parties.[9] The prosecution and the defense stipulated during the pre-trial:
xxxx

(2) That the said forensic chemical officer [Engr. Leonard


Jabonillo] was the one who personally received the letter of request for
laboratory examination together with the specimens subject matter of the
case involving two (2) heat sealed transparent plastic sachets, each
containing white crystalline substance with the following markings and
recorded net weights: A(GQ)= 0.03 gram and B(GQ1)= 0.03 gram;

(3) That the purpose of the examination was to determine the


presence of the dangerous drugs. Thereafter, the said forensic chemical
officer, Engr. Leonard M. Jabonillo conducted a qualitative examination
on the specimens that gave positive results to the test for dangerous
drugs;

(4) That the result was reduced into writing and signed by the said
forensic chemical officer, duly noted by the Chief of the Crime
Laboratory;

(5) That the witness will identify the document as well as the
specimens he examined;[10]

xxxx
The ponencia acquits the appellant because the prosecution did not present
the forensic chemist, and as such the latter was unable to testify as to what he did
with the substance after examination: whether he properly closed and resealed the
plastic sachets with adhesive and placed his own markings on the resealed plastic
to preserve the integrity of their contents until they were brought to the court.

With all due respect, however, I respectfully submit that the fact that the
forensic chemist was not presented should not operate to acquit Catentay. As we
held in People v. Zenaida Quebral y Mateo, et al.,[11]
xxx This Court has held that the non-presentation of the forensic
chemist in illegal drug cases is an insufficient cause for acquittal.
The corpus delicti in dangerous drugs cases constitutes the dangerous
drug itself. This means that proof beyond doubt of the identity of the
prohibited drug is essential.
Besides, corpus delicti has nothing to do with the testimony of the
laboratory analyst. In fact, this Court has ruled that the report of an
official forensic chemist regarding a recovered prohibited drug enjoys
the presumption of regularity in its preparation. Corollarily, under
Section 44 of Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court, entries in official
records made in the performance of official duty are prima
facie evidence of the facts they state. Therefore, the report of Forensic
Chemical Officer Sta. Maria that the five plastic sachets PO3 Galvez
gave to her for examination contained shabu is conclusive in the absence
of evidence proving the contrary. At any rate, as the CA pointed out, the
defense agreed during trial to dispense with the testimony of the chemist
and stipulated on his findings.

It should be emphasized that the parties have stipulated that the forensic
chemist received the two (2) transparent plastic sachets bearing Quimsons
markings still heat-sealed. The chemistry report, which carries with it the
presumption of regularity in the performance of duties and which is presumed to be
evidence of the facts therein stated, states that the specimen received were two (2)
heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each containing white crystalline substance
having the following markings and recorded net weights: A(GQ) = 0.03gm;
B(GQ1) = 0.03 gm. Said report was prepared by Jabonillo who, as stipulated,
personally received the specimen. Hence, there is no doubt that the two (2) plastic
sachets containing shabu that were seized from the accused were the same plastic
sachets submitted for examination and found positive for shabu. The plastic
sachets were identified by Quimson in court. Moreover, it was stipulated that
Jabonillo would be able to identifythe specimens he examined.[12]

Against the evidence pointing to his culpability, Catentay could only offer
bare denial. He claims that he was falsely charged because he failed to give the
arresting officers any information as to the whereabouts of his neighbor, a certain
Roger Geronimo. In his brief, he also questions the credibility of prosecution
witness Quimson and points out that the illegal transaction could not have
happened in a public place in broad daylight.[13] It should be stressed, however, that
his testimony and account of what allegedly transpired was found undeserving of
credence by the trial court, which finding was affirmed by the Court of
Appeals. Indeed, as held by the CA, Catentays assertion that a serious charge was
fabricated against him simply because he failed to provide information on the
whereabouts of his neighbor is too frivolous to be believed as constituting ill-
motive on the part of the police officers. Likewise, the fact that the sale was in
public does not diminish the credibility or the trustworthiness of Quimsons
testimony. In People v. Zervoulakos,[14] we observed that the sale of prohibited
drugs to complete strangers, openly and in public places, has become a common
occurrence. Indeed, it is sad to note the effrontery and growing casualness of drug
pushers in the pursuit of their illicit trade, as if it were a perfectly legitimate
operation.

I submit that given the evidence in this case, the prosecution was able to prove
with moral certainty that Catentay is guilty of illegal selling of dangerous drugs.
The evidence clearly shows that the buy-bust operation conducted by the police
officers, who made use of said entrapment to capture Catentay in the act of selling
a dangerous drug, was valid and legal. The Pre-operational Report[15] accomplished
prior to the buy-bust operation bolsters this fact. Moreover, the defense has failed
to show any evidence of ill motive on the part of the police officers or to discharge
its burden to point out any circumstance which will show that the integrity and
evidentiary value of the confiscated drugs was not maintained. Additionally,
Catentay is bound by the stipulations he made. The parties stipulation to the
testimonies of Valdezand Riparip would debunk Catentays claim of frame up.
During pre-trial, the parties stipulated that Riparip was the one who investigated
the case and made the request for laboratory examination. Then, during the
trial, the parties stipulated that Valdez was the arresting officer in the buy-
bust operation who recovered the marked money from Catentay. Clearly,
appellant himself has admitted the buy-bust operation, the existence of the
marked money, and the fact that the same was recovered from him.

For these reasons, I vote to DISMISS the appeal and to AFFIRM the
Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01712 finding
appellant Noel Catentay guilty of the crime charged.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

THE PEOPLE OF G.R. No. 174198


THE PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee, Present:
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
CORONA,*
BRION,
ABAD, and
- versus - PEREZ, JJ.

Promulgated:
January 19, 2010

ZAIDA KAMAD y AMBING,


Accused-Appellant.
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DECISION

BRION, J.:

We review the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals[2] (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-


H.C. No. 00505 which affirmed in toto the decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 259, Paraaque City[4] in Criminal Case Nos. 02-1236-7 finding
Zaida[5] Kamad y Ambing (accused-appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
illegal sale of shabu under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 (RA
9165) or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Along with her boyfriend Leo Ramirez y Acosta (Leo) who was charged for
illegal possession of shabu, the accused-appellant was charged under an
Information[6] that reads:

The above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess or otherwise


use any dangerous drug and without the corresponding license or prescription, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously give away, distribute and sell
to a customer for P300.00 pesos one (1) small heat sealed transparent plastic
sachet containing crystalline substance (shabu) weighing 0.20 gram, which when
examined were found positive for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), a
dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The accused-appellant pleaded not guilty on arraignment. Trial on the merits


thereafter ensued.

The prosecutions version of events is summarized below.

On October 16, 2002, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Drug


Enforcement Unit of the Southern Police District, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig (Taguig
police) received information from an asset that a certain Zaida was engaged in the
illegal sale of shabu at Purok IV, Silverio Compound in Paraaque City. The Taguig
police formed a buy-bust team composed of P/Insp. Antonio Parillas,[7] PO3
Christopher Maulit[8] (PO3 Maulit), PO1 Manfoste,[9] SPO2 Arthur Velasco, and
SPO2 Ernesto Sanchez[10] (SPO2 Sanchez), as members. SPO2 Sanchez acted
as poseur-buyer and received three (3) one hundred peso bills for use as marked
money.

After surveillance of the area, the buy-bust team and their asset proceeded at
around 10:00 p.m. of October 16, 2002 to the target area where they immediately
saw the accused-appellant and Leo. The asset and SPO2 Sanchez approached the
two while the rest of the buy-bust team watched from a distance. The asset
introduced SPO2 Sanchez as a buyer of shabu and the accused-appellant asked him
how much he would buy. SPO2 Sanchez asked for P300.00 worth of shabu and
gave the marked money; the accused-appellant thereafter handed him a plastic
sachet containing a substance suspected to be shabu. SPO2 Sanchez lighted a
cigarette to give the pre-arranged signal for the buy-bust team to approach. SPO2
Sanchez arrested the accused-appellant and recovered from her the P300.00
marked money. The buy-bust team arrested Leo who was found in possession of
one (1) plastic sachet also suspected to contain shabu.

The buy-bust team took the accused-appellant and Leo and the recovered
plastic sachets to their office for investigation. The recovered plastic sachets,
marked as ES-1-161009 and ES-2-161002, were then brought to the PNP Crime
Laboratory for qualitative examination; the tests yielded positive results
for methamphetamine hydrochloride.[11]

The defense expectedly presented a different version of events.

The accused-appellant[12] denied the charge and claimed that she and Leo
were framed-up. At around 2:30 p.m. of October 16, 2002, the accused-appellant
and Leo went to Leos cousins house. Since Leos cousin was not yet at home, she
and Leo waited. After waiting for an hour, four (4) men wearing civilian clothes
and carrying firearms entered the house and introduced themselves as police
officers. The accused-appellant and Leo were frisked, but nothing was found in
their possession. The police officers asked the accused-appellant where she kept
the shabu; she replied that she was not selling shabu. Afterwards, she and Leo
were taken to the police headquarters where they were again frisked and asked the
same question to which they gave the same response. The police detained Leo and
the accused-appellant for about a day and later brought them to the Prosecutors
Office for inquest without showing them any shabu.
THE RTC RULING

After consideration of the evidence, the RTC decreed:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, finding both accused


GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, this Court hereby sentences Zaida Kamad to
life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00 for Violation of Section 5,
Art. II, RA 9165

xxxx

SO ORDERED.[13]

The accused-appellant appealed the RTC decision to the CA, attacking the
RTCs reliance on the presumption of regularity that the RTC found to have
attended the conduct of the buy-bust operation by the police. She argued that no
presumption of regularity could arise considering that the police violated
NAPOLCOM rules by using an asset; the rules prohibit the deputation of private
persons as PNP civilian agents.[14] The accused-appellant also pointed out the
material inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses that cast
doubt on their credibility, namely: (a) the uncertainty of SPO2 Sanchez regarding
the time the buy-bust team was dispatched to the target area; (b) the confusion of
PO3 Maulit on the identity of the team leader of the buy-bust team; (c) the
admitted mistake of PO3 Maulit that only the recovered plastic sachet was marked
ES (standing for the initials of SPO2 Sanchez), while the marked money was
marked MF (standing for the initials of P/Insp. Mariano F. Fegarido as
commanding officer); and (d) the contradictory statements of PO3 Maulit who
testified that it was Leo who sold the shabu and that of SPO2 Sanchez who
testified that it was the accused-appellant who sold him the shabu.

THE CA RULING

The CA rejected the defense arguments and affirmed in toto the RTC
findings. The CA ruled that the prosecution satisfactorily established the accused-
appellants guilt based on the positive testimony of SPO2 Sanchez on the conduct
of the buy-bust operation; his testimony bore badges of truth. Accordingly, the CA
found the accused-appellants uncorroborated denial undeserving of any weight.
The CA brushed aside as a minor inconsistency the uncertainty in the testimony of
SPO2 Sanchez on the time the buy-bust operation took place. The CA also brushed
aside the violation of the NAPOLCOM rules on the ground that the accused-
appellant was arrested in flagrante delicto for illegal sale of shabu committed in
the presence of the prosecution witnesses who were police officers. Moreover, the
CA held that the use of assets to aid police officers in buy-bust operations has been
judicially recognized. The CA found that while the asset brokered
the shabu transaction, he had no role in the apprehension of the accused-appellant
and in the search and seizure of the shabu from the accused-appellant.

THE ISSUE

The only issue in this case is whether the accused-appellant is guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 for
the illegal sale of 0.20 gram of shabu.

THE COURTS RULING

We draw attention at the outset to the unique nature of an appeal in a criminal case;
the appeal throws the whole case open for review and it is the duty of the appellate
court to correct, cite and appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they
are assigned or unassigned.[15] We find the present appeal meritorious on the basis
of such review.

As a general rule, the trial court's findings of fact, especially when affirmed
by the CA, are entitled to great weight and will not be disturbed on appeal. This
rule, however, admits of exceptions and does not apply where facts of weight and
substance with direct and material bearing on the final outcome of the case have
been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied.[16] After due consideration of the
records of this case, the evidence adduced, and the applicable law and
jurisprudence, we hold that a deviation from the general rule is warranted.

In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements


must be duly established: (1) proof that the transaction or sale took place; and (2)
the presentation in court of the corpus delictior the illicit drug as evidence.[17] Proof
of the corpus delicti in a buy-bust situation requires evidence, not only that the
transacted drugs actually exist, but evidence as well that the drugs seized and
examined are the same drugs presented in court. This is a condition sine qua
non for conviction as the 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. As we discuss below, the special characteristics of prohibited drugs
necessitate their strict identification by the prosecution.[18]

Our examination of the records shows that while the prosecution established
through the testimony of SPO2 Sanchez that the sale of the prohibited drug by the
accused-appellant took place, we find that both the RTC and the CA failed to
consider the following infirmities in the prosecutions case: (1) the serious lapses in
the RA 9165 procedure committed by the buy-bust team in handling the
seized shabu; and (2) the failure of the police to comply with the chain of custody
rule in handling the seized shabu, resulting in the prosecutions failure to properly
identify the shabu offered in court as the same shabu seized from the accused-
appellant on October 16, 2002.

Non-compliance with the prescribed procedure


under Section 21, Article II of RA 9165

In People v. Garcia,[19] we emphasized the prosecutions duty to adduce


evidence proving compliance by the buy-bust team with the prescribed procedure
laid down under paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II of RA 9165. This provision
reads:

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

The Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165 under its Section 21(a)
provides further details on how RA 9165 is to be applied, and provides too for a
saving mechanism in case no strict compliance with the requirements took place.
Section 21(a) states:
(a) The apprehending office/team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof: Provided, 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.]

Strict compliance with the prescribed procedure is required because of the


illegal drugs unique characteristic rendering it indistinct, not readily identifiable,
and easily open to tampering, alteration or substitution either by accident or
otherwise.[20] Hence, the rules on the measures to be observed during and after the
seizure, during the custody and transfer of the drugs for examination, and at all
times up to their presentation in court.

In this case, SPO2 Sanchez testified on the seizure and the handling of the
seized shabu. The records show that his testimony and the identification he made
in court constitute the totality of the prosecutions evidence on how the police
handled and preserved the integrity of the seized shabu. Significantly, SPO2
Sanchez merely stated in his testimony that:

Q: What else transpired when Zaida gave something to you and you, being the
poseur buyer, gave the money to Zaida?

A: We brought them to our office.

xxxx

Q: What did you do with those plastic sachets containing white crystalline
substance?

A: We brought them to the SPD Crime Lab for examination.[21]

Thus, he failed to provide specific details on how the seized shabu was
marked although the evidence shows that the shabu was marked as ES-1-161009
before it was sent to a forensic laboratory. His testimony also failed to state
whether the marking of the shabu was done immediately after its seizure (as
Section 21 of RA 9165 requires) or during the investigation. His testimony
likewise failed to disclose if a physical inventory and photography of the seized
items had taken place, or if they had, whether these were undertaken in the
presence of the accused or his counsel, or a representative from the media and the
Department of Justice, and of an elective official.

In sum, his testimony failed to show how the integrity and evidentiary
value of the item seized had been preserved; no explanation was ever given by
SPO2 Sanchez to justify the non-compliance by the buy-bust team with the
prescribed procedures. In fact, the records clearly reveal that the prosecution
did not even acknowledge the procedural lapses committed by the buy-bust
team in the handling of the seized shabu.
The consequences of the above omissions must necessarily be grave for the
prosecution under the rule that penal laws, such as RA 9165, are strictly construed
against the government and liberally in favor of the accused.[22] One consequence is
to produce doubts on the origins of the illegal drug presented in court,[23] thus
leading to the prosecutions failure to establish the corpus delicti.[24] Unless excused
by the saving mechanism, the acquittal of the accused must follow.

The non-compliance with the


chain of custody rule

Separately from Section 21 violations, we also find the prosecution fatally


remiss in establishing an unbroken link in the chain of custody of the
seized shabu; its evidence is simply incomplete in establishing the necessary links
in the handling of the seized prohibited drug from the time of its seizure until its
presentation in court.

In Mallillin v. People,[25] we explained the chain of custody rule and what


constitutes sufficient compliance with this rule:

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires


that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a
finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would
include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item
was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every
person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was
received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witnesses'
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. [emphasis supplied][26]

We applied this ruling in People v. Garcia,[27] People v. Gum-


Oyen,[28] People v. Denoman[29] and People v. Coreche[30] where we recognized the
following links that must be established in the chain of custody in a buy-bust
situation: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered
from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal
drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the
turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for
laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked
illegal drug seized from the forensic chemist to the court.
(a) The first link in the chain of custody
We observe that SPO2 Sanchez testimony lacks specifics on how the
seized shabu was handled immediately after the accused-appellants
arrest. Although the records show that SPO2 Sanchez testified that he actually
seized the shabu when he arrested the accused-appellant, he never disclosed the
identity of the person/s who had custody and possession of the shabu after its
seizure, nor that he retained possession of the shabu from the place of the arrest
until they reached the police station.

SPO2 Sanchez also failed to state the time and place as well as the identity
of the person/s who made the markings on the two (2) plastic sachets containing
the recovered shabu seized from the accused-appellant and Leo on October 16,
2002.

(b) The second link in the chain of custody

We also observe that SPO2 Sanchez testimony regarding the post-arrest


police investigation failed to provide particulars on whether the shabu was turned
over to the investigator. The records only identify the name of the investigator as
one SPO1 Nuestro before whom SPO2 Sanchez and PO3 Maulit executed a Joint
Affidavit of Arrest dated October 17, 2002.[31] Thus, a big gap exists on who had
custody and possession of the shabu prior to, during and immediately after the
police investigation, and how the shabu was stored, preserved, labeled and
recorded from the time of its seizure up to its receipt by the forensic laboratory.

(c) The third link in the chain of custody

The third link in the chain is represented by two (2) pieces of documentary
evidence adduced by the prosecution consisting of the letter-request dated October
17, 2002[32] of Police Superintendent Mariano F. Fegarido as Chief of the Southern
Police District Drug Enforcement Group and the Physical Science Report No. D-
1502-02 prepared by Engr. Richard Allan B. Mangalip as the forensic chemist.[33]

These documents reveal that the recovered plastic sachets of shabu bearing
the markings ES-1-161002 and ES-2-161002 were sent to the forensic laboratory
sealed in one (1) small brown envelope bearing unidentified signatures. On the
same day, the PNP Crime Laboratory received this letter-request along with the
submitted specimens. The specimens were then subjected to qualitative
examination which yielded positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride.

These pieces of evidence notably fail to identify the person who personally
brought the seized shabu to the PNP Crime Laboratory. They also fail to clearly
identify the person who received the shabu at the forensic laboratory pursuant to
the letter-request dated October 17, 2002, and who exercised custody and
possession of the shabu after it was examined and before it was presented in court.
Neither was there any evidence adduced showing how the seized shabu was
handled, stored and safeguarded pending its presentation in court.
(d) The fourth link in the chain of custody

The fourth link presents a very strange and unusual twist in the prosecutions
evidence in this case. Although the forensic chemist was presented in court, we
find that his offered testimony related to a shabu specimen other than that seized
in the buy-bust operation of October 16, 2002. Specifically, his testimony
pertained to shabu seized by the police on October 12, 2002. This is borne by the
following exchanges:

FISCAL UY: The testimony of the witness is being offered to prove . . . that
he is the one who cause [sic] the examination of the physical evidence subject
of this case containing with white crystalline substance placed inside the
plastic sachet weighing 0.20 grams and 0.30 grams with markings of EBC
and EBC-1 that I reduced findings after the examination conducted.
xxxx

Q And with the cause of the performance of your duties, were you able to receive
a letter request relevant to this case specifically a drug test request,
dated October 12, 2002 from PS/Insp. Wilfredo Calderon. Do you have
the letter request with you?

A Yes, sir.

Q The witness presented to this representation the letter request dated October 12,
2002 for purposes of identification, respectfully request that it be marked in
evidence as Exhibit A. In this Exhibit A Mr. Officer, were you able to
receive the evidence submitted specifically a small brown stapled wire
envelope with signature containing with white crystalline substance
inside and with markings EBC- 12/10/02 and EBC-1 12/10/02. After
you received this specimen what action did you take or do?

A Upon receiving, I read and understand the content of the letter request after
which, I stamped and marked the letter request and then record it on the
logbook and after recording it on the logbook, I performed the test for
determination of the presence of dangerous drug on the specimen.

xxxx

Q Now, after those tests conducted what was the result of the examination?

A It gives positive result for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or otherwise


known as shabu, a dangerous drug.

xxxx

Q At this juncture your Honor, the witness handed with this representation a
brown envelope with markings D-1487-02, and the signature and the date
12 October 02, now Mr. Witness tell us who placed these markings on this
brown envelope?
A I am the one who personally made the markings, sir.

Q And in the face of this brown envelope there is a printed name PO1 Edwin
Plopinio and the signature and the date 12 October 2002. Do you know
who placed who placed those markings?

A I have no idea.

Q At this juncture your Honor, this representation proceeded to open the brown
envelope. May I respectfully request that this brown envelope be marked in
evidence as Exhibit B. And inside this brown envelope are three pieces of
plastic sachets inside which are white crystalline substance with markings
EPC 12 October 02 and EPC-1 12 October 02. May I respectfully request
that these plastic sachets with white substance inside be marked in evidence
as Exhibit B-1 and B-2. And in these plastic sachets with white crystalline
inside is a masking tape with the signature and letters are RAM, do you
know who placed those letters?

A I am the one who placed that markings sir.

Q And what RAM stands for?

A That stands for my name Richard Allan Mangalip sir.

Q You mentioned that you reduced your findings in writing, do you have the
official finding with you?

A Yes, sir.

Q At this juncture the witness handed to this representation the physical science
report no. D-1487-2 for purposes of identification respectfully request that
this specimen be marked in evidence as Exhibit C. And in this Exhibit C,
there is a signature above the typewritten name Engineer Richard Allan B.
Mangalip, do you whose signature is this Mr. Witness? [34] [Emphasis
supplied]

A That is my signature sir.

Q Respectfully request that the signature appearing in Exhibit C be marked in


evidence as Exhibit C-1. You stated earlier that you cause the weight of the
white crystalline substance in this plastic sachet, what the weights of this
white crystalline substance?

A For the specimen A, it is .20 grams and the specimen B, it is .30 gram.
Q May I respectfully request that this weight indicated in this physical science
report now mark in evidence as Exhibit C-2. I have no further questions to
the witness your Honor.

xxxx

Aside from the different dates of seizure, we note that the shabu identified
and presented in court as evidence through the testimony of the forensic chemist,
showed characteristics distinct from the shabu from the buy-bust sale of October
16, 2002:
First, there were different markings made on the plastic sachets of
the shabu recovered on October 12, 2002. As testified to, one plastic sachet
of shabu was marked, EBC 12 October 02, while the other plastic sachet
of shabu was marked, EBC-1 12 October 02;[35]

Second, there was a different sealed brown envelope used where a printed
name and signature of one PO1 Edwin Plopino and the date 12 October 2002 were
written; [36]

Third, the examination of the shabu by the PNP Crime Laboratory was made
pursuant to a different letter-request for examination dated October 12,
2002 written by one P/Insp. Wilfredo Calderon;[37]and

Fourth, the results of the shabu testified to by the forensic chemist in court
was contained in a different forensic laboratory report known as Physical Science
Report No. D-1487-2.[38]

We highlight these characteristics because they are different from the


documentary evidence the prosecution formally offered[39] consisting of the letter-
request dated October 17, 2002[40] and the Physical Science Report No. D-1502-
02.[41] The testimonies of SPO2 Sanchez and PO3 Maulit as well as the submitted
documentary evidence referred to the plastic sachets of shabu through their
markings of ES-1-161002 and ES-2-161002.[42]

From all these, we find it obvious that some mistake must have been made in
the presentation of the prosecutions evidence. The prosecution, however, left the
discrepancies fully unexplained. To reiterate, the forensic chemist testified to a
specimen dated October 12, 2002, or one secured way before the buy-bust
of October 16, 2002, but marked as evidence documents relating to the specimen
of October 16, 2002. Strangely, even the defense disregarded the discrepancies. In
his comment on the offer of evidence, the defense simply stated, among others, by
way of stipulation, that the forensic chemical officer only conducted a qualitative
examination of the specimen he examined and not the quantitative
examination.[43] Coming immediately after the offer of evidence that mentioned the
plastic sachets containing white crystalline substances with markings ES-1
16/10/02 and ES-2 16/10/02, and the Physical Science Report No. D-1502-
02,[44] the defense was clearly sleeping on its feet when it reacted to the
prosecutions offer of evidence.

But the defense was not alone in glossing over the discrepancies between the
testimony for the prosecution and the offered evidence, as both the RTC and CA
also failed to notice the glaring flaws in the prosecutions evidence. Apparently,
because the parties did not point out these discrepancies while the appellate court
did not closely review the records of the proceedings, the discrepancies were not
taken into account in the decision now under review.

These observations bring us full circle to our opening statement under the
Courts ruling on the kind and extent of review that an appellate court undertakes in
a criminal case; the appeal opens the whole case for review, with the appellate
court charged with the duty to cite and appreciate the errors it may find in the
appealed judgment, whether these errors are assigned or unassigned. This is one
such instance where we are duty bound to rectify errors that, although unnoticed
below and unassigned by the parties, are clearly reflected in the records of the case.

The Conclusion

Given the flagrant procedural lapses the police committed in handling the
seized shabu and the obvious evidentiary gaps in the chain of its custody, a
presumption of regularity in the performance of duties cannot be made in this
case. A presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty is made in the
context of an existing rule of law or statute authorizing the performance of an act
or duty or prescribing a procedure in the performance thereof. The presumption
applies when nothing in the record suggests that the law enforcers deviated from
the standard conduct of official duty required by law; where the official act is
irregular on its face, the presumption cannot arise.[45] In light of the flagrant lapses
we noted, the lower courts were obviously wrong when they relied on the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty.

We rule, too, that the discrepancy in the prosecution evidence on the identity
of the seized and examined shabu and that formally offered in court cannot but
lead to serious doubts regarding the origins of the shabu presented in court. This
discrepancy and the gap in the chain of custody immediately affect proof of
the corpus delicti without which the accused must be acquitted.

From the constitutional law point of view, the prosecutions failure to


establish with moral certainty all the elements of the crime and to identify the
accused as the perpetrator signify that it failed to overturn the constitutional
presumption of innocence that every accused enjoys in a criminal
prosecution. When this happens, as in this case, the courts need not even consider
the case for the defense in deciding the case; a ruling for acquittal must forthwith
issue.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby REVERSE and SET
ASIDE the March 28, 2006 decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 00505 affirming the decision of conviction dated October 27, 2004 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 259, Paraaque City in Criminal Case Nos. 02-1236-7
for illegal sale of shabu under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165. Accused-appellant ZAIDA KAMAD y AMBING is hereby
declared ACQUITTED and ordered immediately RELEASED from detention,
unless she is confined for any other lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to IMPLEMENT this


Decision and to report to this Court the action taken hereon within five (5) days
from receipt.

SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

RENATO C. CORONA ROBERTO A. ABAD


Associate Justice Associate Justice

JOSE P. PEREZ
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.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
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 were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

THIRD DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 181747


Plaintiff-appellee,
Present:
TINGA,*
CHICO-NAZARIO,
- versus - Acting Chairperson,
VELASCO,*
REYES and
BRION,** JJ.

NARCISO AGULAY y Promulgated:


LOPEZ,
Accused-Appellant. September 26, 2008
x---------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For Review under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court is the


Decision[1] dated 31 August 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
01994 entitled, People of the Philippines v. Narciso Agulay y Lopez, affirming the
Decision[2] rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch
103, in Criminal Case No. Q-02-111597, finding accused-appellant Narciso
Agulay y Lopez guilty of illegal sale and illegal possession of methamphetamine
hydrochloride more popularly known as shabu.

On 26 August 2002, accused-appellant was charged in an Information before


the RTC of Quezon City with violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The
Information reads:

That on or about the 24th day of August, 2002 in Quezon City,


Philippines, the said accused, not being authorized by law to sell,
dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any dangerous drug, did, then
and there, willfully, and unlawfully sell, dispense, deliver, transport,
distribute or act as broker in the said transaction, zero point twenty five
(0.25) gram of methylamphetamine hydrochloride a dangerous drug.[3]
When arraigned on 23 September 2002, accused-appellant pleaded not
guilty.[4] Thereafter, trial ensued.

During the trial, the prosecution presented the testimonies of Police Officer (PO) 2
Raul Herrera, the poseur-buyer, PO2 Reyno Riparip (member of the buy-bust
team), and Forensic Analyst Leonard M. Jabonillo.

The prosecutions version of the events are narrated as follows:

On 24 August 2002, at around 6:30 in the evening, an informant arrived at Police


Station 5 and reported to the Chief of the Station Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU)
that a certain Sing had been selling shabu at Brgy. Sta. Lucia, in
Novaliches, Quezon City.

A police entrapment team was formed. PO2 Herrera was assigned as poseur-buyer
and was given a P100.00 bill, which he marked RH, his initials. A pre-operation
report bearing control No. 24-SDEU-02 was made and signed by Police Inspector
(P/Insp.) Palaleo Adag dated 24 August 2002.

The buy-bust team rode in two vehicles, a Space Wagon and a Besta van, with a
group of police officers inside. They stopped along J.P. Rizal St., Sta. Lucia,
Novaliches, Quezon City.
PO2 Herrera and his informant stepped down from their vehicle and walked. The
informant pointed the target pusher to PO2 Herrera. They approached and after
being introduced to Sing, PO2 Herrera boughtshabu using the marked P100.00
bill. Sing gave a small plastic sachet to PO2 Herrera who, thereafter, scratched his
head as a signal. The other police companions of PO2 Herrera, who were deployed
nearby, then rushed to the crime scene. PO2 Herrera grabbed Sing and then frisked
him. PO2 Herrera recovered two (2) plastic sachets from Sings pocket. He also got
the marked money from Sing.

The following specimens were submitted to the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Crime Laboratory of the Central Police District in Quezon City for chemical
analysis:
Three (3) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each containing white
crystalline substance having the following markings and recorded net
weights:

(A) (RH1-RG1) = 0.07 gm

(B) (RH2-RG2) = 0.09 gm

(C) (RH3-RG3) = 0.09 gm[5]

Chemistry Report No. D-1020-2002 dated 25 August 2002 and prepared and
presented in court by Forensic Analyst Leonard M. Jabonillo (of the PNP Crime
Laboratory of the Central Police District of Quezon City) yielded the following
results

FINDINGS:

Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimens gave


POSITIVE result to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a
regulated drug. x x x.

CONCLUSION:

Specimen A, B and C contain Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a


regulated drug.[6]

The defense, on the other hand, had an entirely different version of what transpired
that night. It presented three witnesses: accused-appellant Narciso Agulay,
Benjamin Agulay (brother of Narciso), and Bayani de Leon.

Accused-appellant Narciso Agulay narrated that at around 8:30 to 9:00 oclock in


the evening of 24 August 2002, he was manning his store when a car stopped in
front of it. The passengers of said vehicle opened its window and poked a gun at
him. The passengers alighted from the car, approached him and put handcuffs on
him. Accused-appellant asked what violation he had committed or if they had a
search warrant with them, but the arresting team just told him to go with them.
Accused-appellant requested that he be brought to the barangay hall first, but this
request was left unheeded. Instead, he was immediately brought to the police
station. Upon reaching the police station, PO2 Herrera handed something to PO1
Riparip. Thereafter, PO2 Herrera and PO1 Riparip approached and punched him
on the chest. They removed his shorts and showed him a plastic sachet. Later that
night, the arresting officers placed him inside the detention cell. After about 30
minutes, PO1 Riparip and PO2 Herrera approached him. PO2 Herrera told him that
if he would not be able to give them P50,000.00, they would file a case against
him, to which he answered, I could not do anything because I do not have
money.[7]
Benjamin Agulay, brother of accused-appellant, testified that at around 8:30 to
9:00 oclock in the evening of 24 August 2002, while he was smoking in their
compound, a group of armed men in civilian clothes entered the place and arrested
his brother, who was then manning a store. He tried asking the arresting officers
what the violation of accused-appellant was but he was ignored. They then took
accused-appellant to the police station.

On the other hand, the testimony of Bayani de Leon (a police asset of SPO1
Valdez of the buy-bust team) narrated that he, together with P/Insp. Suha, PO1
Herrera, PO2 Riparip, PO2 Gulferic and an arrested individual were on board a car
while conducting a follow-up operation regarding a hold-up incident. When the car
they were riding reached No. 51 J.P. Rizal Street, their team alighted and entered a
compound. They saw accused-appellant and arrested him as he was allegedly
involved in a hold-up incident, not with drug pushing. Accused-appellant was
taken to Police Station 5.

On 17 February 2006, the RTC found accused-appellant guilty of the offense


charged, and meted out to him the penalty of Life Imprisonment. The dispositive
portion of the RTC Decision is as follows:

Accordingly, judgment is rendered finding the accused NARCISO


AGULAY Y LOPEZ GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
violation of Section 5 of R.A. 9165 as charged (for drug pushing) and he
is hereby sentenced to suffer a jail term of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and
to pay a fine of P500,000.00.
The methylamphetamine hydrochloride (in 3 sachets) involved in this
case is ordered transmitted to the PDEA thru DDB for proper
disposition.[8]

Accused-appellant filed his Notice of Appeal with Motion to Litigate as Pauper


Litigant on 7 March 2006.

Accused-appellant filed his appellants brief[9] with the Court of Appeals on 22


September 2006.
On 31 August 2007, the Court of Appeals issued its Decision denying accused-
appellants appeal as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the Decision appealed


from, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the RTC dated February
17, 2006 is AFFIRMED.[10]

Petitioner elevated the case to this Court via Notice of Appeal[11] dated 21
September 2007. In its Resolution dated 2 April 2008, this Court resolved to:

(3) Notify the parties that they may file their respective supplemental
briefs, if they so desire, within thirty (30) days from notice.

To avoid a repetition of the arguments, accused-appellant opted to adopt his


appellants brief dated 22 September 2006 while plaintiff-appellee adopted its
appellees brief dated 22 January 2007, instead of filing their respective
supplemental briefs.

The issues raised are the following:

I. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING


THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS ILLEGALLY
ARRESTED AND AS SUCH, THE SACHETS OF SHABU
ALLEGEDLY RECOVERED FROM HIM ARE
INADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.
II. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT OF THE CRIME CHARGED.

III. ACCUSED-APPELLANT CANNOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR


THE CONSUMMATED CRIME OF
ILLEGAL SALE OF SHABU BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE OF
THE PROSECUTION TO ESTABLISH ALL OF ITS
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS.

Accused-appellant maintains that his arrest was illegal, and that the
subsequent seizure of shabu allegedly taken from him is inadmissible as evidence
against him. He also claims that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt, since the prosecution failed to show all the essential elements of
an illegal sale of shabu.

From the foregoing issues raised by accused-appellant, the basic issue to be


resolved hinges on whether accused-appellant was arrested in a legitimate buy-bust
operation.

The law presumes that an accused in a criminal prosecution is innocent until


the contrary is proved. The presumption of innocence of an accused in a criminal
case is a basic constitutional principle, fleshed out by procedural rules which place
on the prosecution the burden of proving that an accused is guilty of the offense
charged by proof beyond reasonable doubt. Whether the degree of proof has been
met is largely left for the trial courts to determine. Consistent with the rulings of
this Court, it is a fundamental and settled rule that factual findings of the trial court
and its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses and its conclusions anchored
on its findings are accorded by the appellate court high respect, if not conclusive
effect, more so when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, as in this case. The
exception is when it is established that the trial court ignored, overlooked,
misconstrued or misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances which, if
considered, will change the outcome of the case. Considering that what is at stake
here is the liberty of accused-appellant, we have carefully reviewed and evaluated
the records of the RTC and the Court of Appeals. On evaluation of the records, this
Court finds no justification to deviate from the lower courts findings and
conclusion that accused-appellant was arrested in flagrante delicto selling shabu.

In order to successfully prosecute an accused for illegal sale of drugs, the


prosecution must be able to prove the following elements:

(1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration;
and

(2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.[12]

The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses proved that all the elements of
the crime have been established: that the buy-bust operation took place, and that
the shabu subject of the sale was brought to and identified in court. Moreover, PO2
Herrera, the poseur-buyer, positively identified accused-appellant as the person
who sold to him the sachet containing the crystalline substance which was
confirmed to be shabu.[13] He narrated the events which took place the night
accused-appellant was apprehended:

FIS. JURADO:

You said that you are stationed at Police Station 5, what were your duties
there?

WITNESS:

As an operative sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What was your tour of duty on August 24, 2002?

WITNESS:

Broken hour sir.

FIS. JURADO:
But at around 6:30 in the evening, you are on duty?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

While you are on duty at that time and place, will you please inform this
Honorable Court if there was an operation?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

FIS JURADO:

What is that operation all about?

WITNESS:

Buy bust operation sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Regarding what?

WITNESS:

Narcotic sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What is this all about?

WITNESS:

Alias Sing at Sta. Lucia sir.

FIS. JURADO:
How did you prepare for that buy-bust operation?

WITNESS:

An informant arrived and we reported to our Chief of SDEU and the


Chief gave us P100.00 and I acted as poseur-buyer sir.

FIS. MJURADO:

Aside from that what else?

WITNESS:

I put my markings sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What is that markings (sic)?

WITNESS:

R.H. sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What is the significance of this R.H.?

WITNESS:

That mean(sic) Raul Herrera sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Do you have said money with you?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.

FIS. JURADO:
Will you please show that to this Honorable Court?

WITNESS:

Here sir.

xxxx

FIS. JURADO:

After you prepared the buy bust money, what else did you do?

WITNESS:

We proceeded to the target location, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

You said we who were with you?

WITNESS:

P/Insp. Addag, Rosario, SPO1 El Valdez, SPO2 Rey Valdez, Nogoy,


Riparip and the confidential informant sir.

FIS. JURADO:

How did you proceed to the place of Sta. Lucia?

WITNESS:

We rode in a tinted vehicles (sic) one space wagon and Besta van, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

When you arrived in that place, what happened there?

WITNESS:

We asked our confidential informant to look for Sing, sir.


FIS. JURADO:

Did the confidential informant locate the said Sing?

WITNESS:

Yes sir along the street sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Where?

WITNESS:

J.P. Rizal St., Sta. Lucia, Novaliches, Quezon City, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

After your confidential informant found this Sing, what happened next?

WITNESS:

Our confidential informant asked me to go with him to see Sing to buy


drug(s) sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Where is (sic) the transaction took (sic) place?

WITNESS:

Along the street sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What happened there?

WITNESS:
I was introduced by the confidential informant to Sing as buyer sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What happened next?

WITNESS:

I bought from him worth one hundred peso (sic) of shabu, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What (sic) Sing do, if any?


WITNESS:

Sing gave me one small plastic sachet sir.

FIS JURADO:

After that what did you do next?

WITNESS:

I executed our pre-arranged signal sir.

FIS. JURADO:

For whom you executed this pre-arranged signal?

WITNESS:

To my companions sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Where are (sic) your companions at that time?

WITNESS:
On board at (sic) Besta and Space Wagon sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What was the pre-arranged signal?

WITNESS:

I scratched my head sir.

FIS. JURADO:

After scratching your head, what happened next?

WITNESS:

My back-up rushed to our place, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

After that what did you do next?

WITNESS:

I grabbed Sing and arrested him sir.

FIS. JURADO:

How about the money?

WITNESS:

I recovered the buy bust money from Sing, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

You mentioned plastic sachet, I am showing to you three (3) plastic


sachets, which of these three was taken or sold to you?

WITNESS:
This one sir.

FIS. JURADO:

How did you come to know that this is the one?

WITNESS:

I have my initial(sic) R.H. sir.


xxxx

FIS. JURADO:

Aside from that, what happened next?

WITNESS:

When I frisked Sing, I was able to recover from him two (2) more plastic
sachets sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Where did you get that plastic sachet?

WITNESS:

Right side pocket sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Short or pant?

WITNESS:

Short sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Where are these two plastic sachets that you are mentioning?

WITNESS:
Here sir.

FIS. JURADO:

How did you come to know that these are the two plastic sachets?

WITNESS:

I put my markings sir RH.

xxxx

COURT:

After that what happened next?

WITNESS:

We brought him to our Police Station, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

You mentioned Sing if this Sing is inside this courtroom, will you be
able to identify him?

WITNESS:

Yes sir that man.

INTERPRETER:

Witness pointing to a man who identified himself as Narciso Agulay and


his nickname is Sing.[14]

His testimony was corroborated on material points by PO1 Riparip, one of


the back-up operatives in the buy-bust operation that night, to wit:
FIS. JURADO:
You said that you are a police officer, where were you assigned
on August 24, 2002?

WITNESS:

I was assigned at Police Station 5 for drug(sic) sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What was your tour of duty at that time?

WITNESS:

Broken hour sir.

FIS. JURADO:

You were on duty on August 24, 2002 at 6:30 in the evening?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What was your functions(sic) as such?

WITNESS:

To conduct follow up operation on drugs and other crimes sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Did you conduct operation on that day?

WITNESS:

Yes sir we conducted Narcotic operation sir.

FIS. JURADO:
You said you conducted narcotic operation, where?

WITNESS:

Sta. Lucia, particularly at J.P. Rizal St., Novaliches, Quezon City, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

To whom this Narcotic operation conducted?

WITNESS:

To certain Alias Sing, sir.

FIS. JURADO:

Who were with you at that time?

WITNESS:

Valdez, Rosario, Herrera, Addag and other(sic) sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What was your participation in the said operation?

WITNESS:

I acted as back up sir.

FIS. JURADO:

As back up, what did you do?

WITNESS:

We position ourselves to a certain distance and where we can see the


poseur-buyer sir.

FIS. JURADO:
Who was the poseur-buyer?

WITNESS:

Herrera sir.

FIS. JURADO:

What did you see?

WITNESS:

The poseur buyer executed the pre-arranged signal and we rushed to his
position and arrested the target person Sing sir.

FIS. JURADO:

When we (sic) rushed to the target place what happened next?

WITNESS:

Herrera frisked Sing and we brought him to the police station sir.[15]

Accused-appellant contends his arrest was illegal, making the sachets


of shabu allegedly recovered from him inadmissible in evidence. Accused-
appellants claim is devoid of merit for it is a well-established rule that an arrest
made after an entrapment operation does not require a warrant inasmuch as it is
considered a valid warrantless arrest, in line with the provisions of Rule 113,
Section 5(a) of the Revised Rules of Court, to wit:

Section 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.
A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment which in recent years has been
accepted as a valid and effective mode of apprehending drug pushers. In a buy-bust
operation, the idea to commit a crime originates from the offender, without
anybody inducing or prodding him to commit the offense.[16] If carried out with
due regard for constitutional and legal safeguards, a buy-bust operation deserves
judicial sanction.[17]

There are eight (8) instances when a warrantless search and seizure is valid,
to wit:

(1) consented searches; (2) as an incident to a lawful arrest; (3) searches


of vessels and aircraft for violation of immigration, customs, and drug
laws; (4) searches of moving vehicles; (5) searches of automobiles at
borders or constructive borders; (6) where the prohibited articles are in
plain view; (7) searches of buildings and premises to enforce fire,
sanitary, and building regulations; and (8) stop and frisk operations.

Considering that the legitimacy of the buy-bust operation is beyond


question, the subsequent warrantless arrest and warrantless search and seizure,
were permissible. The search, clearly being incident to a lawful arrest, needed no
warrant for its validity. Thus, contrary to accused-appellant's contention, the
contraband seized from him, having been obtained as a result of the buy-bust
operation to which the defense failed to impute any irregularity, was correctly
admitted in evidence. Noteworthy is the fact that prior to the dispatch of the
entrapment team, a pre-operation report[18] was made bearing Control No. 24-
SDEU-02 dated 24 August 2005. The pre-operation report stated that an Anti-
Narcotic Operation was to be conducted at Barangay Sta. Lucia in
Novaliches, Quezon City, and indicated the police officers involved, including the
vehicles to be used. This only bolsters the testimony of PO2 Herrera and PO1
Riparip as to the legitimacy of the buy-bust operation.

The defense contends there is a clear doubt on whether the specimens


examined by the chemist and eventually presented in court were the same
specimens recovered from accused-appellant. The prosecutions failure to submit in
evidence the required physical inventory and photograph of the evidence
confiscated pursuant to Section 21,[19] Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 will not
discharge accused-appellant from his crime. Non-compliance with said section is
not fatal and will not render an accuseds arrest illegal or the items
seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. In People v. Del Monte,[20] this Court
held that 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. In the instant case, we find
the integrity of the drugs seized intact, and there is no doubt that the three sachets
of drugs seized from accused-appellant were the same ones examined for chemical
analysis, and that the crystalline substance contained therein was later on
determined to be positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

The defense, in fact, admitted the existence and authenticity of the request
for chemical analysis and the subsequent result thereof:

FIS. JURADO:

Chemist Engr. Jabonillo is present your honor.

COURT:

Any proposal for stipulation?

FIS. JURADO:

That there is letter request for examination of white crystalline


substance marked as follows: A (pH1); B (pH2) and C (pH3)?

ATTY. QUILAS:

Admitted your honor.

FIS. JURADO:

As a result of the said qualitative examination chemist issued a


chemistry report No. D-1020-2002?

ATTY. QUILAS:

Admitted your honor.


FIS. JURADO:

In view of the admission your honor, may we request that Letter


request dated August 25, 2002 be marked as Exhibit D and Chemistry
Report No. D-1020-2002 as Exhibit E your honor.

COURT:

Mark it.
In view of the presence of the Chemist, Engr. Jabonillo, He is
being called to the witness stand for cross examination of the defense
counsel.[21]

On cross-examination by the defense, Forensic Analyst Jabonillo stated that the


drugs presented in court were the same drugs examined by him and submitted to
him on 25 August 2002:

ATTY. QUILAS:
In this particular case, you received three plastic sachets?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.

ATTY. QUILAS:
When you receive these three plastic sachets were these already
segregated or in one plastic container?

WITNESS:

I received it as is sir.

xxxx

ATTY. QUILAS:
How sure you were (sic) that three plastic sachet (sic) containing
methylamphetamine hydrochloride were the same drug (sic) submitted to
you on August 25, 2002.
WITNESS:

I personally place (sic) my marking sir.

ATTY. QUILAS:

You want to impress before this Honorable Court these were the
same items that you received on August 25, 2002?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.[22]

On cross-examination by the defense, the same witness testified, to wit:

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

I understand you are Chemical Engineer, am I correct?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

And that you have been (sic) worked as a Chemist in the PNP for several
years?

WITNESS:

Since March, 200 (sic), sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

What would be your practice when specimen submitted for you to


examine, was it already pre-marked by the person who submit for
examination?
WITNESS:

Normally, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

What do you mean normally, you also put the marking?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

So everything has pre-mark?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

And then when pre-mark specimen is submitted to you, you merely


analyze the same is that correct?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

And you do not change any marking there?

WITNESS:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:
Now in the marking that we have it appearing that Exhibits A, B, and C
are PH, am I correct?

WITNESS:

RH sir, not PH.

ATTY. DE GUZMAN:

Because it shows in the zerox (sic) copy that it is RH because of that


slant. Now when this specimen was submitted to you was it three
specimens submitted to you or only one specimen A, B, C were ranking
to one?

WITNESS:

No sir, three (3) specimens.[23]

It is significant to note that accused-appellant stated in his demurrer to


evidence that the specimens submitted for laboratory examination were not the
three plastic sachets that were allegedly recovered by the poseur-buyer PO2 Raul
Herrera, which may thus be construed to be an implied admission.[24]

Accused-appellants allegation that he is a victim of a frame-up, which has


been held as a shop-worn defense of those accused in drug-related cases, is viewed
by the Court with disfavor. Like the defense of alibi, frame-up is an allegation that
can easily be concocted.[25] For this claim to prosper, the defense must adduce clear
and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption of regularity of official acts
of government officials.[26] Absent any proof of motive to falsely accuse him of
such a grave offense, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duty and the findings of the trial court with respect to the credibility of witnesses
shall prevail over that of the accused-appellant.[27]

Apart from his defense that he is a victim of a frame-up and extortion by the
police officers, accused-appellant could not present any other viable
defense. Again, while the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duty by law enforcement agents should not by itself prevail over the presumption
of innocence, for the claim of frame-up to prosper, the defense must be able to
present clear and convincing evidence to overcome this presumption of regularity.
This, it failed to do.

Bayani de Leons testimony that the accused was being taken as a carnapping
suspect only further weakened the defense, considering it was totally out of sync
with the testimony of accused-appellant vis--visthe positive testimonies of the
police officers on the events that transpired on the night of 24 August 2002 when
the buy-bust operation was conducted. It is also highly suspect and unusual that
accused-appellant never mentioned that he was taken as a carnapping suspect if
indeed this were the case, considering it would have been his ticket to freedom.

To recall, on direct examination by the defense counsel, Bayani de Leon testified


as follows:

ATTY. CONCEPCION:
Mr. Witness, were you able to talk to Narciso Agulay that time he was
arrested?

WITNESS:
Yes maam, when Narciso Agulay was put inside a room at Station 5 and
in that room, I, Riparip and Herrera entered.

ATTY. CONCEPCION:
What was the conversation all about?

WITNESS:
He was being asked if he was one of those who held up a taxi maam.

ATTY. CONCEPCION:
What was the response of Narciso Agulay?

WITNESS:
Narciso Agulay was crying and at the same time denying that he was
with that person. When we told him that the person we arrested with the
firearm was pointing to him, he said that he does not know about that
incident and he does not know also that person who pointed him
maam.[28]
Witness Bayani de Leons testimony is dubious and lacks credence. From the
testimony of Bayani de Leon, it is apparent that accused-appellant would
necessarily have known what he was being arrested for, which was entirely
inconsistent with accused-appellants previous testimony. Such inconsistency
further diminished the credibility of the defense witness. It would seem that Bayani
de Leons testimony was but a mere afterthought.

Moreover, Bayani de Leon testified that he allegedly came to know of the fact that
accused-appellant was being charged under Republic Act No. 9165 when he
(Bayani de Leon) was also detained at the city jail for robbery with homicide,
testifying as follows:

FIS. ARAULA:

And you only knew that Narciso Agulay was charged of Section 5, R.A.
9165 when you were detained at the City Jail?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.

FIS. ARAULLA:

In fact, you were talking with each other?

WITNESS:

Yes sir, and I asked what is the case filed against him.

FIS. ARAULLA:

And that is the time you know that Narciso Agulay was charged of (sic)
Section 5?

WITNESS:

Yes sir.[29]
This Court, thus, is in agreement with the trial court in finding that:

Bayani himself appears to be a shady character. By his admission he is a


bata or agent of PO Vasquez. As far as the court knows, such characters
are used by the police because they are underworld character (sic).[30]

Finally, the testimony of accused-appellants brother, Benjamin Agulay, is not


convincing. Benjamin, being accused-appellants brother, we find him to be
unreliable. Suffice it to say that, having been given by a relative of the accused-
appellant, his testimony should be received with caution.

On this premise, this Court has laid down the objective test in scrutinizing
buy-bust operations. In People v. Doria,[31] we said:

We therefore stress that the objective test in buy-bust operations


demands that the details of the purported transaction must be clearly and
adequately shown. This must start from the initial contact between the
poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the promise or
payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the
delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. The manner by which the
initial contact was made, whether or not through an informant, the offer
to purchase the drug, the payment of the buy-bust money, and the
delivery of the illegal drug, whether to the informant alone or the police
officer, must be the subject of strict scrutiny by courts to insure that law-
abiding citizens are not unlawfully induced to commit an offense. x x x.

It bears to point out that prosecutions of cases for violation of the Dangerous
Drugs Act arising from buy-bust operations largely depend on the credibility of the
police officers who conducted the same, and unless clear and convincing evidence
is proffered showing that the members of the buy-bust team were driven by any
improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies on
the operation deserve full faith and credit.[32]
The law presumes that an accused in a criminal prosecution is innocent until
the contrary is proved.[33] This presumption of innocence of an accused in a
criminal case is consistent with a most fundamental constitutional principle,
fleshed out by procedural rules which place on the prosecution the burden of
proving that an accused is guilty of the offense charged by proof beyond
reasonable doubt. This constitutional guarantee is so essential that the framers of
the constitution found it imperative to keep the provision from the old constitution
to emphasize the primacy of rights that no person shall be held to answer for a
criminal offense without due process of law.[34]

In his dissent, Justice Brion focused on the conviction that the buy-bust operation
and the consequent seizure of the prohibited substance either did not take
place or has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt because of a gap in the
prosecutions evidence. Convinced that under the proven facts of the present case,
the dissent maintains that the prosecution has not proven that a crime had been
committed through proof beyond reasonable doubt -- that the three plastic sachets
that were admitted into evidence during the trial were in fact the same items seized
from the accused-appellant when he was arrested.

The guilt of accused-appellant was established beyond reasonable doubt. Contrary


to the dissents claim, the totality of the evidence would indicate that the sale of the
prohibited drug had taken place, and that the sale was adequately established and
the prosecution witnesses clearly identified accused-appellant as the
offender. Moreover, the seized items, proven positive to be shabu, were properly
identified and presented before the court.

To reiterate, in prosecutions for illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs,


conviction is proper if the following elements are present: (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. What is material is the proof that the
transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the
prohibited or regulated drug.[35] The term corpus delicti means the actual
commission by someone of the particular crime charged.
The procedure for the custody and disposition of confiscated, seized and/or
surrendered dangerous drugs, among others, is provided under Section 21 (a),
paragraph 1 of Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, to wit:

(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;

Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic


Act No. 9165, which implements said provision, reads:

(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; 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
officers/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and
custody over said items.

The above provision further states that non-compliance with the stipulated
procedure, under justifiable grounds, shall not render void and invalid such
seizures of and custody over said items, for as long as the integrity and evidentiary
value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officers. The
evident purpose of the procedure provided for is the preservation of the integrity
and evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt of or innocence of the accused.

On the chain of custody of the seized drugs


The dissent agreed with accused-appellants assertion that the police
operatives failed to comply with the proper procedure in the chain of custody of
the seized drugs. It premised that non-compliance with the procedure in Section
21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act
No. 9165 creates an irregularity and overcomes the presumption of regularity
accorded police authorities in the performance of their official duties. This
assumption is without merit.

First, it must be made clear that in several cases[36] decided by the


Court, failure by the buy-bust team to comply with said section did not
prevent the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty from
applying.

Second, even prior to the enactment of R.A. 9165, the requirements


contained in Section 21(a) were already there per Dangerous Drugs Board
Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979. Despite the presence of such regulation and
its non-compliance by the buy-bust team, the Court still applied such
presumption.[37] We held:

The failure of the arresting police officers to comply with said DDB
Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979 is a matter strictly between the
Dangerous Drugs Board and the arresting officers and is totally
irrelevant to the prosecution of the criminal case for the reason that the
commission of the crime of illegal sale of a prohibited drug is considered
consummated once the sale or transaction is established and the
prosecution thereof is not undermined by the failure of the arresting
officers to comply with the regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

While accused-appellant contends in his appellants brief that the police


operatives did not submit the required inventory of the seized items pursuant to the
provisions of Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations
of Republic Act No. 9165, the records belie this claim. On cross-examination by
the defense, Police Officer (PO) 2 Herrera testified on making an inventory of the
seized items. PO2 Herrera testified as follows:
Q: When you arrested the suspect in this case, you confiscated two (2)
items from him?

A: Yes sir.

Q: And you said that it is part of your procedure when you confiscated
items from the suspect you made an inventory of the item
confiscated?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Did you make inventory of the confiscated items?

A: Yes sir it is with the police investigator.[38]

Moreover, non-compliance with the procedure outlined in Section 21(a),


Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165,
shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items, for
as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly
preserved by the apprehending officers.
Consistent with this Courts pronouncements in People v. Bano[39]and
in People v. Miranda,[40] contrary to appellants claim, there is no showing of a
broken chain in the custody of the seized items, later on determined to be shabu,
from the moment of its seizure by the entrapment team, to the investigating officer,
to the time it was brought to the forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory for
laboratory examination. It was duly established by documentary, testimonial, and
object evidence, including the markings on the plastic sachets containing
the shabu that the substance tested by the forensic chemist, whose laboratory tests
were well-documented, was the same as that taken from accused-appellant.

The records of the case indicate that after his arrest, accused-appellant was
taken to the police station and turned over to the police investigator. PO2 Herrera
testified that he personally[41] made the markings RH (representing his initials) on
the three sachets, the inventory[42] of which was delivered to the police
investigator. After the arrest, the seized items which had the markings RH alleged
to contain shabu were brought to the crime laboratory for examination.[43] The
request for laboratory examination and transfer of the confiscated sachets to the
PNP crime laboratory was prepared by another officer, PO2 Gulferic, the
designated officer-on-case.[44] It was signed as well by the Chief of Office/Agency
(SDEU/SIIB) Police Chief Inspector Leslie Castillo Castillo. The request indicated
that the seized items were delivered by PO2 Gulferic and received by Forensic
Chemist Jabonillo.[45] The three heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each
containing white crystalline substance were later on determined to be positive for
Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride or shabu.
When the prosecution presented the marked sachets in court, PO2 Herrera
positively identified the plastic sachets containing shabu which he bought from
accused-appellant in the buy-bust operation. The sachets containing shabu had the
markings RH as testified by Forensic Chemist Jabonillo. PO2 Herrera positively
identified in court that he put his initials RH on the sachets. Thus, the identity of
the drugs has been duly preserved and established by the prosecution. 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. The accused-
appellant in this case bears the burden to make some showing that the evidence
was tampered or meddled with to overcome a presumption of regularity in the
handling of exhibits by public officers and a presumption that public officers
properly discharged their duties.[46]

PO2 Herrera identified the sachets in court, and more importantly, accused-
appellant had the opportunity to cross-examine him on this point.

This Court, thus, sees no doubt that the sachets marked RH submitted for
laboratory examination and which were later on found to be positive for shabu,
were the same ones sold by accused-appellant to the poseur-buyer PO2 Herrera
during the buy-bust operation. There is no question, therefore, that the identity of
the prohibited drug in this case was certainly safeguarded.

The dissent maintains that the chain of custody rule would include testimony about
every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it is
offered into evidence x x x. This means that all persons who came into contact
with the seized drugs should testify in court; otherwise, the unbroken chain of
custody would not be established.
We disagree. Not all people who came into contact with the seized drugs are
required to testify in court. There is nothing in the New Drugs Law or in any rule
implementing the same that imposes such a requirement. As long as the chain of
custody of the seized substance was clearly established not to have been broken
and that 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,[47] we held:

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 of 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
witneses 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.

In connection with this, it must not be forgotten that entries in official records
made by a public officer in the performance of his duty are prima facie evidence of
the facts therein stated.[48] If it is now a requirement that all persons who came into
contact with the seized drugs should testify in court, what will now happen to those
public officers (e.g., person who issued request for examination of drugs or those
who tested the drugs) who issued documents regarding the seized drugs? Shall they
be obligated to testify despite the fact the entries in the documents they issued
are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated? We do not think so. Unless
there is proof to the contrary, the entries in the documents are prima facie evidence
of the facts therein stated and they need not testify thereon.
The dissenting opinion likewise faults the prosecution for failing to disclose the
identity of the person who submitted the item that was examined. The answer to
this question can easily be seen from the stamp made in the request for drug
analysis. There being no question by the accused on this matter, the entry thereon
made by the public officer is definitely sufficient, same being an entry in official
records.
On the credibility of the witnesses
Prosecutions involving illegal drugs depend largely on the credibility of the
police officers who conduct the buy-bust operation.[49] In cases involving violations
of the Dangerous Drugs Law, appellate courts tend to heavily rely upon the trial
court in assessing the credibility of witnesses, as it had the unique opportunity,
denied to the appellate courts, to observe the witnesses and to note their demeanor,
conduct, and attitude under direct and cross-examination.[50] This Court, not being
a trier of facts itself, relies in good part on the assessment and evaluation by the
trial court of the evidence, particularly the attestations of the witnesses, presented
to it.[51] Thus, this Court will not interfere with the trial courts assessment of the
credibility of witnesses considering there is nothing on record that shows some fact
or circumstance of weight and influence which the trial court has overlooked,
misappreciated, or misinterpreted. Unless compelling reasons are shown otherwise,
this Court, not being a trier of facts itself, relies in good part on the assessment and
evaluation by the trial court of the evidence, particularly the attestations of
witnesses, presented to it. As this Court has held in a long line of cases, the trial
court is in a better position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses
themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.

Accused-appellant casts suspicion on the means or methods by which the


police officers conducted the operation and claims to be the victim of a frame-
up. According to accused-appellant, the trial court relied heavily on the police
officers testimonies that what had actually transpired was a buy-bust operation,
which resulted in his arrest.

In almost every case involving a buy-bust operation, the accused put up the
defense of frame-up. Such claim is viewed with disfavor, because it can easily be
feigned and fabricated. In People v. Uy, the Court reiterated its position on the
matter, to wit:

We are not unaware that in some instances law enforcers resort to


the practice of planting evidence to extract information or even to harass
civilians. However, like alibi, frame-up is a defense that has been
invariably viewed by the Court with disfavor as it can easily be
concocted [and] hence commonly used as a standard line of defense in
most prosecutions arising from violations of the Dangerous Drugs
Act. We realize the disastrous consequences on the enforcement of law
and order, not to mention the well being of society, if the courts x x x
accept in every instance this form of defense which can be so easily
fabricated. It is precisely for this reason that the legal presumption that
official duty has been regularly performed exists. x x x [52]

In the case at bar, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses are positive and
convincing, sufficient to sustain the finding of the trial court and the Court of
Appeals that accused-appellants guilt had been established beyond reasonable
doubt. First, the testimony of PO2 Raul Herrera was spontaneous, straightforward
and categorical. Second, PO1 Reyno Riparip, the back-up police operative of PO2
Herrera, corroborated the latters testimony on material points.

Appellants defense of frame-up and self-serving assertion that he was


mistakenly picked up by the police operatives for a carnapping case cannot prevail
over the positive and straight-forward testimonies of the police operatives who
have performed their duties regularly and in accordance with law, and have not
been shown to have been inspired by any improper motive or to have improperly
performed their duty.[53]

To reiterate, Bayani de Leons testimony that the accused was being taken as a
carnapping suspect only further weakened the defense, considering it was totally
out of sync with the testimony of accused-appellant vis--vis the positive
testimonies of the police officers on the events that transpired on the night of 24
August 2002 when the buy-bust operation was conducted.

The arrest of accused-appellant was made in the course of an entrapment,


following a surveillance operation, normally performed by police officers in the
apprehension of violators of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The Court so holds that in the absence of proof of any odious intent on the
part of the police operatives to falsely impute such a serious crime, as the one
imputed against accused-appellant, it will not allow their testimonies to be
overcome by the self-serving claim of frame-up.

Even assuming arguendo that the presumption of regularity in the


performance of official duty has been overcome because of failure to comply with
Section 21(a), same will not automatically lead to the exoneration of the
accused. Said presumption is not the sole basis for the conviction of the
accused. His conviction was based not solely on said presumption but on the
documentary and real evidence, and more importantly, on the oral evidence by
prosecution witnesses whom we found to be credible. It is to noted that one witness
is sufficient to prove the corpus delicti that there was a consummated sale between
the poseur buyer and the accused -- there being no quantum of proof as to the
number of witnesses to prove the same. In the case at bar, the selling of drugs by
accused was established.
The dissent likewise argues that the ponencia cannot impose on the defense
the burden of proving that the police had an improper motive in charging him
because of the absence of the presumption of regularity.

We find this untenable. It is settled that if the testimonies of the prosecution


witnesses are not impugned, full faith and credit shall be accorded them. One
impugns the testimony of witness during cross-examination. Did the defense
satisfactorily impugn the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses when he said
that he was a victim of hulidap and that the policemen were extorting money from
him? Said declaration is definitely not sufficient to impugn the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses. His mere say so that he was victimized without clear and
convincing evidence to support such claim does not suffice. If what he claims was
indeed committed by the policemen, he should have sued or charged them. This, he
did not do. Such inaction runs counter to the normal human conduct and behavior
of one who feels truly aggrieved by the act complained of.[54]
From the foregoing, We are fully convinced that the accused is guilty as
charged.

We thus hold that accused-appellants guilt has been established beyond


reasonable doubt. This Court shall now determine the proper penalties to be
imposed on him.

An examination of the Information reveals that accused-appellant was charged


with the unauthorized sale and delivery of dangerous drugs consisting of twenty-
five hundredths (0.25) gram of methylamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). From
the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, only one sachet[55] was sold and
delivered to the poseur-buyer, PO2 Herrera. The two other sachets[56] were not sold
or delivered, but were found by PO2 Herrera inside the right pocket of accused-
appellants pair of shorts upon frisking, after the latter was caught in flagrante
delicto during the buy-bust operation.

Accused-appellant could have been charged with the possession of


dangerous drugs[57] on account of the second and third sachets. This was not done.
He cannot then be convicted of possession of dangerous drugs, without being
properly charged therewith, even if proved. Accused-appellant, however, is still
guilty, as charged in the Information, of selling and delivering one sachet to the
poseur-buyer.

Under Republic Act No. 9165, the unauthorized sale of shabu 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, instead of death, shall be imposed.

We, therefore, find the penalty imposed by the trial court, as affirmed by the
Court of Appeals life imprisonment and a fine of P500,000.00 to be proper.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court of Appeals Decision in


CA-G.R. CR No. 01994 dated 31 August 2007 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.