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RODEL LUZ y ONG, G. R. No.

197788
Petitioner,

Present:

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,


- versus - BRION,
PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,[1] Promulgated:


Respondent.
February 29, 2012
x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

SERENO, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 seeking to set aside the Court of Appeals
(CA) Decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 32516 dated 18 February 2011[2] and Resolution dated 8 July 2011.

Statement of the Facts and of the Case

The facts, as found by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), which sustained the version of the
prosecution, are as follows:

PO2 Emmanuel L. Alteza, who was then assigned at the Sub-Station 1 of the Naga
City Police Station as a traffic enforcer, substantially testified that on March 10, 2003 at
around 3:00 oclock in the morning, he saw the accused, who was coming from the direction
of Panganiban Drive and going to Diversion Road, Naga City, driving a motorcycle without
a helmet; that this prompted him to flag down the accused for violating a municipal
ordinance which requires all motorcycle drivers to wear helmet (sic) while driving said
motor vehicle; that he invited the accused to come inside their sub-station since the place
where he flagged down the accused is almost in front of the said sub-station; that while he
and SPO1 Rayford Brillante were issuing a citation ticket for violation of municipal
ordinance, he noticed that the accused was uneasy and kept on getting something from his
jacket; that he was alerted and so, he told the accused to take out the contents of the pocket
of his jacket as the latter may have a weapon inside it; that the accused obliged and slowly
put out the contents of the pocket of his jacket which was a nickel-like tin or metal container
about two (2) to three (3) inches in size, including two (2) cellphones, one (1) pair of
scissors and one (1) Swiss knife; that upon seeing the said container, he asked the accused
to open it; that after the accused opened the container, he noticed a cartoon cover and
something beneath it; and that upon his instruction, the accused spilled out the contents of
the container on the table which turned out to be four (4) plastic sachets, the two (2) of
which were empty while the other two (2) contained suspected shabu.[3]

Arraigned on 2 July 2003, petitioner, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of Not guilty to the charge
of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Pretrial was terminated on 24 September 2003, after which,
trial ensued.
During trial, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Emmanuel Alteza and a forensic chemist testified for the
prosecution. On the other hand, petitioner testified for himself and raised the defense of planting of
evidence and extortion.

In its 19 February 2009 Decision,[4] the RTC convicted petitioner of illegal possession of
dangerous drugs[5] committed on 10 March 2003. It found the prosecution evidence sufficient to show
that he had been lawfully arrested for a traffic violation and then subjected to a valid search, which led
to the discovery on his person of two plastic sachets later found to contain shabu. The RTC also found
his defense of frame-up and extortion to be weak, self-serving and unsubstantiated. The dispositive
portion of its Decision held:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered, finding accused RODEL LUZ y


ONG GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of violation of Section 11, Article II
of Republic Act No. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and (1) day, as minimum, to thirteen (13)
years, as maximum, and to pay a fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (300,000.00).

The subject shabu is hereby confiscated for turn over to the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency for its proper disposition and destruction in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.[6]

Upon review, the CA affirmed the RTCs Decision.

On 12 September 2011, petitioner filed under Rule 45 the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari
dated 1 September 2011. In a Resolution dated 12 October 2011, this Court required respondent to file a
comment on the Petition. On 4 January 2012, the latter filed its Comment dated 3 January 2012.

Petitioner raised the following grounds in support of his Petition:

(i) THE SEARCH AND SEIZURE OF THE ALLEGED SUBJECT SHABU


IS INVALID.

(ii) THE PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY IN THE PERFORMANCE


OF DUTY OF THE POLICE OFFICER CANNOT BE RELIED UPON IN
THIS CASE.

(iii) THE INTEGRITY AND EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF THE ALLEGED


SUBJECT SPECIMEN HAS BEEN COMPROMISED.

(iv) THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER WAS NOT PROVEN


BEYOND THE REASONABLE DOUBT (sic).[7]

Petitioner claims that there was no lawful search and seizure, because there was no lawful arrest. He
claims that the finding that there was a lawful arrest was erroneous, since he was not even issued a citation
ticket or charged with violation of the city ordinance. Even assuming there was a valid arrest, he claims
that he had never consented to the search conducted upon him.

On the other hand, finding that petitioner had been lawfully arrested, the RTC held thus:

It is beyond dispute that the accused was flagged down and apprehended in this case by
Police Officers Alteza and Brillante for violation of City Ordinance No. 98-012, an
ordinance requiring the use of crash helmet by motorcycle drivers and riders thereon in the
City of Naga and prescribing penalties for violation thereof. The accused himself admitted
that he was not wearing a helmet at the time when he was flagged down by the said police
officers, albeit he had a helmet in his possession. Obviously, there is legal basis on the part
of the apprehending officers to flag down and arrest the accused because the latter was
actually committing a crime in their presence, that is, a violation of City Ordinance No. 98-
012. In other words, the accused, being caught in flagrante delicto violating the said
Ordinance, he could therefore be lawfully stopped or arrested by the apprehending officers.
x x x.[8]

We find the Petition to be impressed with merit, but not for the particular reasons alleged. In criminal
cases, an appeal throws the entire case wide open for review and the reviewing tribunal can correct errors,
though unassigned in the appealed judgment, or even reverse the trial courts decision based on grounds
other than those that the parties raised as errors.[9]

First, there was no valid arrest of petitioner. When he was flagged down for committing a traffic
violation, he was not, ipso facto and solely for this reason, arrested.

Arrest is the taking of a person into custody in order that he or she may be bound to answer
for the commission of an offense.[10] It is effected by an actual restraint of the person to be arrested
or by that persons voluntary submission to the custody of the one making the arrest. Neither the
application of actual force, manual touching of the body, or physical restraint, nor a formal
declaration of arrest, is required. It is enough that there be an intention on the part of one of the
parties to arrest the other, and that there be an intent on the part of the other to submit, under the
belief and impression that submission is necessary.[11]

Under R.A. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, the general procedure for dealing
with a traffic violation is not the arrest of the offender, but the confiscation of the drivers license of the
latter:

SECTION 29. Confiscation of Driver's License. Law enforcement and peace


officers of other agencies duly deputized by the Director shall, in apprehending a driver for
any violation of this Act or any regulations issued pursuant thereto, or of local traffic rules
and regulations not contrary to any provisions of this Act, confiscate the license of the
driver concerned and issue a receipt prescribed and issued by the Bureau therefor which
shall authorize the driver to operate a motor vehicle for a period not exceeding seventy-
two hours from the time and date of issue of said receipt. The period so fixed in the receipt
shall not be extended, and shall become invalid thereafter. Failure of the driver to settle his
case within fifteen days from the date of apprehension will be a ground for the suspension
and/or revocation of his license.

Similarly, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Operations Manual[12] provides the following procedure
for flagging down vehicles during the conduct of checkpoints:

SECTION 7. Procedure in Flagging Down or Accosting Vehicles While in Mobile


Car. This rule is a general concept and will not apply in hot pursuit operations. The mobile
car crew shall undertake the following, when applicable: x x x

m. If it concerns traffic violations, immediately issue a Traffic Citation Ticket (TCT) or


Traffic Violation Report (TVR). Never indulge in prolonged, unnecessary
conversation or argument with the driver or any of the vehicles occupants;
At the time that he was waiting for PO3 Alteza to write his citation ticket, petitioner could not be
said to have been under arrest. There was no intention on the part of PO3 Alteza to arrest him, deprive
him of his liberty, or take him into custody. Prior to the issuance of the ticket, the period during which
petitioner was at the police station may be characterized merely as waiting time. In fact, as found by the
trial court, PO3 Alteza himself testified that the only reason they went to the police sub-station was that
petitioner had been flagged down almost in front of that place. Hence, it was only for the sake of
convenience that they were waiting there. There was no intention to take petitioner into custody.

In Berkemer v. McCarty,[13] the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court discussed at length whether
the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop should be considered
custodial interrogation. The Court held that, such questioning does not fall under custodial interrogation,
nor can it be considered a formal arrest, by virtue of the nature of the questioning, the expectations of the
motorist and the officer, and the length of time the procedure is conducted. It ruled as follows:

It must be acknowledged at the outset that a traffic stop significantly curtails the
freedom of action of the driver and the passengers, if any, of the detained vehicle. Under
the law of most States, it is a crime either to ignore a policemans signal to stop ones car or,
once having stopped, to drive away without permission. x x x

However, we decline to accord talismanic power to the phrase in the Miranda


opinion emphasized by respondent. Fidelity to the doctrine announced in Miranda requires
that it be enforced strictly, but only in those types of situations in which the concerns that
powered the decision are implicated. Thus, we must decide whether a traffic stop exerts
upon a detained person pressures that sufficiently impair his free exercise of his privilege
against self-incrimination to require that he be warned of his constitutional rights.

Two features of an ordinary traffic stop mitigate the danger that a person questioned
will be induced to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely, Miranda v. Arizona,
384 U. S., at 467. First, detention of a motorist pursuant to a traffic stop is
presumptively temporary and brief. The vast majority of roadside detentions last only a
few minutes. A motorists expectations, when he sees a policemans light flashing behind
him, are that he will be obliged to spend a short period of time answering questions and
waiting while the officer checks his license and registration, that he may then be given a
citation, but that in the end he most likely will be allowed to continue on his way. In this
respect, questioning incident to an ordinary traffic stop is quite different from stationhouse
interrogation, which frequently is prolonged, and in which the detainee often is aware that
questioning will continue until he provides his interrogators the answers they seek. See id.,
at 451.

Second, circumstances associated with the typical traffic stop are not such that
the motorist feels completely at the mercy of the police. To be sure, the aura of authority
surrounding an armed, uniformed officer and the knowledge that the officer has some
discretion in deciding whether to issue a citation, in combination, exert some pressure on
the detainee to respond to questions. But other aspects of the situation substantially offset
these forces. Perhaps most importantly, the typical traffic stop is public, at least to some
degree. x x x

In both of these respects, the usual traffic stop is more analogous to a so-called
Terry stop, see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), than to a formal arrest. x x x The
comparatively nonthreatening character of detentions of this sort explains the absence of
any suggestion in our opinions that Terry stops are subject to the dictates of Miranda. The
similarly noncoercive aspect of ordinary traffic stops prompts us to hold that persons
temporarily detained pursuant to such stops are not in custody for the purposes of Miranda.

xxxxxxxxx
We are confident that the state of affairs projected by respondent will not come to
pass. It is settled that the safeguards prescribed by Miranda become applicable as soon as
a suspects freedom of action is curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest.
California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per curiam). If a motorist who has been
detained pursuant to a traffic stop thereafter is subjected to treatment that renders him in
custody for practical purposes, he will be entitled to the full panoply of protections
prescribed by Miranda. See Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam).
(Emphasis supplied.)

The U.S. Court in Berkemer thus ruled that, since the motorist therein was only subjected to modest
questions while still at the scene of the traffic stop, he was not at that moment placed under custody (such
that he should have been apprised of his Miranda rights), and neither can treatment of this sort be fairly
characterized as the functional equivalent of a formal arrest. Similarly, neither can petitioner here be
considered under arrest at the time that his traffic citation was being made.

It also appears that, according to City Ordinance No. 98-012, which was violated by petitioner, the failure
to wear a crash helmet while riding a motorcycle is penalized by a fine only. Under the Rules of Court,
a warrant of arrest need not be issued if the information or charge was filed for an offense penalized by
a fine only. It may be stated as a corollary that neither can a warrantless arrest be made for such an
offense.

This ruling does not imply that there can be no arrest for a traffic violation. Certainly, when there is an
intent on the part of the police officer to deprive the motorist of liberty, or to take the latter into custody,
the former may be deemed to have arrested the motorist. In this case, however, the officers issuance (or
intent to issue) a traffic citation ticket negates the possibility of an arrest for the same violation.

Even if one were to work under the assumption that petitioner was deemed arrested upon being
flagged down for a traffic violation and while awaiting the issuance of his ticket, then the
requirements for a valid arrest were not complied with.

This Court has held that at the time a person is arrested, it shall be the duty of the arresting officer
to inform the latter of the reason for the arrest and must show that person the warrant of arrest, if any.
Persons shall be informed of their constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel, and that any
statement they might make could be used against them.[14] It may also be noted that in this case, these
constitutional requirements were complied with by the police officers only after petitioner had been
arrested for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.

In Berkemer, the U.S. Court also noted that the Miranda warnings must also be given to a person
apprehended due to a traffic violation:

The purposes of the safeguards prescribed by Miranda are to ensure that the police
do not coerce or trick captive suspects into confessing, to relieve the inherently compelling
pressures generated by the custodial setting itself, which work to undermine the individuals
will to resist, and as much as possible to free courts from the task of scrutinizing individual
cases to try to determine, after the fact, whether particular confessions were voluntary.
Those purposes are implicated as much by in-custody questioning of persons suspected of
misdemeanors as they are by questioning of persons suspected of felonies.

If it were true that petitioner was already deemed arrested when he was flagged down for a traffic
violation and while he waiting for his ticket, then there would have been no need for him to be arrested
for a second timeafter the police officers allegedly discovered the drugsas he was already in their custody.
Second, there being no valid arrest, the warrantless search that resulted from it was likewise illegal.

The following are the instances when a warrantless search is allowed: (i) a warrantless search
incidental to a lawful arrest; (ii) search of evidence in plain view; (iii) search of a moving vehicle;
(iv) consented warrantless search; (v) customs search; (vi) a stop and frisk search; and (vii) exigent
and emergency circumstances.[15] None of the above-mentioned instances, especially a search
incident to a lawful arrest, are applicable to this case.

It must be noted that the evidence seized, although alleged to be inadvertently discovered, was not
in plain view. It was actually concealed inside a metal container inside petitioners pocket. Clearly,
the evidence was not immediately apparent.[16]

Neither was there a consented warrantless search. Consent to a search is not to be lightly inferred,
but shown by clear and convincing evidence.[17] It must be voluntary in order to validate an
otherwise illegal search; that is, the consent must be unequivocal, specific, intelligently given and
uncontaminated by any duress or coercion. While the prosecution claims that petitioner acceded
to the instruction of PO3 Alteza, this alleged accession does not suffice to prove valid and intelligent
consent. In fact, the RTC found that petitioner was merely told to take out the contents of his
pocket.[18]

Whether consent to the search was in fact voluntary is a question of fact to be determined from
the totality of all the circumstances. Relevant to this determination are the following characteristics of
the person giving consent and the environment in which consent is given: (1) the age of the defendant;
(2) whether the defendant was in a public or a secluded location; (3) whether the defendant objected to
the search or passively looked on; (4) the education and intelligence of the defendant; (5) the presence
of coercive police procedures; (6) the defendants belief that no incriminating evidence would be found;
(7) the nature of the police questioning; (8) the environment in which the questioning took place; and (9)
the possibly vulnerable subjective state of the person consenting. It is the State that has the burden of
proving, by clear and positive testimony, that the necessary consent was obtained, and was freely and
voluntarily given.[19] In this case, all that was alleged was that petitioner was alone at the police station
at three in the morning, accompanied by several police officers. These circumstances weigh heavily
against a finding of valid consent to a warrantless search.

Neither does the search qualify under the stop and frisk rule. While the rule normally applies when a
police officer observes suspicious or unusual conduct, which may lead him to believe that a criminal act
may be afoot, the stop and frisk is merely a limited protective search of outer clothing for weapons.[20]

In Knowles v. Iowa,[21] the U.S. Supreme Court held that when a police officer stops a person for speeding
and correspondingly issues a citation instead of arresting the latter, this procedure does not authorize the
officer to conduct a full search of the car. The Court therein held that there was no justification for a full-
blown search when the officer does not arrest the motorist. Instead, police officers may only conduct
minimal intrusions, such as ordering the motorist to alight from the car or doing a patdown:

In Robinson, supra, we noted the two historical rationales for the search incident to
arrest exception: (1) the need to disarm the suspect in order to take him into custody, and
(2) the need to preserve evidence for later use at trial. x x x But neither of these underlying
rationales for the search incident to arrest exception is sufficient to justify the search in the
present case.

We have recognized that the first rationaleofficer safetyis both legitimate and
weighty, x x x The threat to officer safety from issuing a traffic citation, however, is a good
deal less than in the case of a custodial arrest. In Robinson, we stated that a custodial arrest
involves danger to an officer because of the extended exposure which follows the taking
of a suspect into custody and transporting him to the police station. 414 U. S., at 234-235.
We recognized that [t]he danger to the police officer flows from the fact of the arrest, and
its attendant proximity, stress, and uncertainty, and not from the grounds for arrest. Id., at
234, n. 5. A routine traffic stop, on the other hand, is a relatively brief encounter and
is more analogous to a so-called Terry stop . . . than to a formal arrest. Berkemer v.
McCarty, 468 U. S. 420, 439 (1984). See also Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U. S. 291, 296 (1973)
(Where there is no formal arrest . . . a person might well be less hostile to the police and
less likely to take conspicuous, immediate steps to destroy incriminating evidence).

This is not to say that the concern for officer safety is absent in the case of a
routine traffic stop. It plainly is not. See Mimms, supra, at 110; Wilson, supra, at 413-
414. But while the concern for officer safety in this context may justify the minimal
additional intrusion of ordering a driver and passengers out of the car, it does not by
itself justify the often considerably greater intrusion attending a full fieldtype
search. Even without the search authority Iowa urges, officers have other, independent
bases to search for weapons and protect themselves from danger. For example, they may
order out of a vehicle both the driver, Mimms, supra, at 111, and any passengers, Wilson,
supra, at 414; perform a patdown of a driver and any passengers upon reasonable suspicion
that they may be armed and dangerous, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968); conduct a Terry
patdown of the passenger compartment of a vehicle upon reasonable suspicion that an
occupant is dangerous and may gain immediate control of a weapon, Michigan v. Long,
463 U. S. 1032, 1049 (1983); and even conduct a full search of the passenger compartment,
including any containers therein, pursuant to a custodial arrest, New York v. Belton, 453
U. S. 454, 460 (1981).

Nor has Iowa shown the second justification for the authority to search incident to arrestthe
need to discover and preserve evidence. Once Knowles was stopped for speeding and
issued a citation, all the evidence necessary to prosecute that offense had been obtained.
No further evidence of excessive speed was going to be found either on the person of the
offender or in the passenger compartment of the car. (Emphasis supplied.)

The foregoing considered, petitioner must be acquitted. While he may have failed to object to the
illegality of his arrest at the earliest opportunity, a waiver of an illegal warrantless arrest does not,
however, mean a waiver of the inadmissibility of evidence seized during the illegal warrantless arrest.[22]

The Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers
and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.[23] Any evidence obtained in violation of said
right shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. While the power to search and seize may
at times be necessary to the public welfare, still it must be exercised and the law implemented without
contravening the constitutional rights of citizens, for the enforcement of no statute is of sufficient
importance to justify indifference to the basic principles of government.[24]

The subject items seized during the illegal arrest are inadmissible.[25] The drugs are the
very corpus delicti of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Thus, their inadmissibility
precludes conviction and calls for the acquittal of the accused.[26]

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The 18 February 2011 Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 32516 affirming the judgment of conviction dated 19 February 2009 of the
Regional Trial Court, 5th Judicial Region, Naga City, Branch 21, in Criminal Case No. RTC 2003-0087,
is hereby REVERSEDand SET ASIDE. Petitioner Rodel Luz y Ong is hereby ACQUITTED and
ordered immediately released from detention, unless his continued confinement is warranted by some
other cause or ground.
SO ORDERED.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice
[1]
The Petition was originally captioned as Rodel Luz y Ong v. Hon. Court of Appeals, Hon. Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court,
Branch 21, Naga City. However, under Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the petition must state the full name of the appealing
party as the petitioner and the adverse party as respondent, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or
respondents.
[2]
Penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario and concurred in by Associate Justices Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Samuel H. Gaerlan.
[3]
Rollo, p. 91.
[4]
Docketed as Criminal Case No. RTC 2003-0087; rollo, pp. 90-102.
[5]
See Section 11, Republic Act No. (R.A.) 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
[6]
Rollo, p. 101.
[7]
Rollo, p. 23.
[8]
Id. at 96.
[9]
People v. Saludes, 452 Phil. 719, 728 (2003).
[10]
RULES OF COURT, Rule 113, Sec. 1.
[11]
People v. Milado, 462 Phil. 411 (2003).
[12]
PNPM-DO-DS-3-1 dated March 2010.
[13]
468 U.S. 420 (1984).
[14]
Morales v. Enrile, 206 Phil. 466 (1983).
[15]
People v. Bolasa, 378 Phil. 1073, 1078-1079 (1999).
[16]
See People v. Macalaba, 443 Phil. 565 (2003).
[17]
Caballes v. Court of Appeals, 424 Phil. 263 (2002).
[18]
RTC Decision, rollo, p. 91.
[19]
Caballes v. Court of Appeals, 424 Phil. 263 (2002).
[20]
People v. Sy Chua, 444 Phil. 757 (2003).
[21]
525 U.S. 113 (1998).
[22]
People v. Lapitaje, 445 Phil. 729 (2003).
[23]
1987 CONST., Art. III, Sec. 2.
[24]
Valdez v. People, G.R. No. 170180, 23 November 2007, 538 SCRA 611.
[25]
People v. Martinez, G.R. No. 191366, 13 December 2010.
[26]
Id.
SECOND DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE G.R. No. 191366


PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee, Present:
CARPIO, J.,Chairperson,
NACHURA,
PERALTA,
ABAD, and
- versus - MENDOZA, JJ.

ARNOLD MARTINEZ Y
ANGELES, EDGAR DIZON
Y FERRER, REZIN MARTINEZ
Y CAROLINO, and RAFAEL
GONZALES Y CUNANAN, Promulgated:
Accused-Appellants. December 13, 2010

X ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------X

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the August 7, 2009 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R.
HC-NO. 03269, which affirmed the February 13, 2008 Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 41, Dagupan City (RTC), in Criminal Case No. 2006-0525-D, finding the accused guilty
of violating Section 13, in relation to Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 for
Possession of Dangerous Drugs During Parties, Social Gatherings or Meetings.

The Facts

The Information indicting the accused reads:

That on or about the 2nd day of September 2006, in the City of Dagupan,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, ARNOLD MARTINEZ y ANGELES, EDGAR DIZON y FERRER, REZIN
MARTINEZ y CAROLINO, ROLAND DORIA y DIAZ and RAFAEL GONZALES y
CUNANAN, without authority of law, confederating together, acting jointly and helping
one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally, sniff and possess
dangerous drugs (shabu residues) contained in empty plastic sachets and rolled
aluminum foil, during a party, or at a social gathering or meeting, or in the proximate
company of at least two (2) person[s].

Contrary to Section 13, Article II, R.A. 9165.[3]

Version of the Prosecution

As culled from the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, Police Officer 1 Bernard Azardon
(PO1 Azardon), one of the apprehending officers, and Police Inspector Lady Ellen Maranion
(P/Insp. Maranion), the forensic chemical officer, it appears that on September 2, 2006, at around
12:45 oclock in the afternoon, PO1 Azardon was on duty at the Police Community Precinct II
along Arellano Street, Dagupan City, when a concerned citizen entered the precinct and reported
that a pot session was going on in the house of accused Rafael Gonzales (Gonzales) in Trinidad
Subdivision, Dagupan City. Upon receipt of the report, PO1 Azardon, PO1 Alejandro Dela Cruz
(PO1 Dela Cruz), and members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team hied to
Trinidad Subdivision, Dagupan City. Upon inquiry from people in the area, the house of Gonzales
was located.

As the police officers entered the gate of the house, they saw accused Orlando
Doria (Doria) coming out of the side door and immediately arrested him. Inside the house, they
saw accused Gonzales, Arnold Martinez (A. Martinez), Edgar Dizon (Dizon), and Rezin
Martinez (R. Martinez) in a room. The four were surprised by the presence of the police. In front
of them were open plastic sachets (containing shabu residue), pieces of rolled used aluminum foil
and pieces of used aluminum foil.

The accused were arrested and brought to the police precinct. The items found in the room
were seized and turned over to the Pangasinan Provincial Police Crime Laboratory Officer,
P/Insp. Maranion. The latter conducted a laboratory examination on the seized items and all 115
plastic sachets, 11 pieces of rolled used aluminum foil, and 27 of the 49 pieces of used aluminum
foil tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. The accused were subjected to a drug
test and, except for Doria, they were found to be positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Version of the Defense

The defense, through its witnesses, accused A. Martinez, Dizon, and R. Martinez, claimed that in
the morning of September 2, 2006, the three of them were along Arellano Street in Trinidad
Subdivision, Dagupan City, to meet with a certain Apper who bumped the passenger jeep of R.
Martinez and who was to give the materials for the painting of said jeep. As they were going
around the subdivision looking for Apper, they saw Gonzales in front of his house and asked him
if he noticed a person pass by. While they were talking, Doria arrived. It was then that five to
seven policemen emerged and apprehended them. They were handcuffed and brought to the
police station in Perez, Dagupan City, where they were incarcerated and charged with sniffing
shabu.

The Ruling of the RTC

The case against Doria was dismissed on a demurrer to evidence.

On February 13, 2008, the RTC rendered its decision, the dispositve portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused


ARNOLD MARTINEZ y Angeles, EDGAR DIZON y Ferrer, REZIN MARTINEZ y
Carolino, and RAFAEL GONZALES y Cunanan GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Possession of Dangerous Drugs During Parties, Social Gatherings or Meetings
defined and penalized under Section 13 in relation to Section 11, Article II of Republic Act
9165, and each of them is sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay
the fine in the amount of P500,000.00, and to pay the cost of suit.

The subject items are hereby forfeited in favor of the government and to be
disposed of in accordance with the law.

SO ORDERED.[4]
The RTC was of the view that the positive testimony of prosecution witness PO1 Azardon,
without any showing of ill-motive on his part, prevailed over the defenses of denial and alibi put
up by the accused. The accused were held to have been in constructive possession of the subject
items. A conspiracy was also found present as there was a common purpose to possess the
dangerous drug.

The Ruling of the CA

The CA ruled that there was sufficient evidence to support the findings of the RTC as to
the constructive possession of the dangerous drugs by the accused. It further held that although
the procedure regarding the custody and disposition of evidence prescribed by Section 21 of R.A.
No. 9165 was not strictly complied with, the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence were
nonetheless safeguarded. The CA was of the view that the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duty was not sufficiently controverted by the accused.

Not in conformity, the accused now interposes this appeal before this Court praying for the
reversal of the subject decision, presenting the following

Assignment of Errors

For accused Arnold Martinez, Edgar Dizon and Rezin Martinez

1. The lower court erred in finding the accused-appellants


to be having a pot session at the time of their arrest;

2. The lower court erred in not seeing through the antics of the police to plant
the shabu paraphernalia to justify the arrest of the accused-appellants
without warrant;

3. The lower court erred in not finding that the corpus delicti has not been
sufficiently established;

4. The lower court erred in not finding the uncorroborated testimony of PO1
Azardon insufficient to convict the accused-appellants of the crime charged;

5. The lower court erred in not acquitting the accused-appellants.

For accused Rafael Gonzales

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-


APPELLANT DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO OVERTHROW THE
CONSTITUTIONAL PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-


APPELLANT DESPITE THE PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO ESTABLISH THE CHAIN
OF CUSTODY OF THE ALLEGED CONFISCATED DRUG.
After an assiduous assessment of the evidentiary records, the Court finds that the
prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused. The principal reasons are 1] that the evidence
against the accused are inadmissible; and 2] that granting the same to be admissible, the chain of
custody has not been duly established.

Illegal Arrest, Search and Seizure

Indeed, the accused is estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he fails to raise
such issue before arraignment.[5] However, this waiver is limited only to the arrest. The
legality of an arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the accused.
A waiver of an illegal warrantless arrest does not carry with it a waiver of the inadmissibility
of evidence seized during the illegal warrantless arrest.[6]

Although the admissibility of the evidence was not raised as in issue by the accused, it has
been held that this Court has the power to correct any error, even if unassigned, if such is
necessary in arriving at a just decision,[7] especially when the transcendental matter of life and
liberty is at stake.[8] While it is true that rules of procedure are intended to promote rather than
frustrate the ends of justice, they nevertheless must not be met at the expense of substantial justice.
Time and again, this Court has reiterated the doctrine that the rules of procedure are mere tools
intended to facilitate the attainment of justice, rather than frustrate it. Technicalities should never
be used to defeat substantive rights.[9] Thus, despite the procedural lapses of the accused, this
Court shall rule on the admissibility of the evidence in the case at bench. The clear infringement
of the accuseds right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be
ignored.

The State cannot, in a manner contrary to its constitutional guarantee, intrude into the
persons of its citizens as well as into their houses, papers and effects.[10]Sec. 2, Art. III, of the
1987 Constitution provides:

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

This constitutional guarantee, however, is not a blanket prohibition against all searches and
seizures without warrant. Arrests and seizures in the following instances are allowed even in the
absence of a warrant (i) warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest;[11] (ii) search of evidence
in "plain view;" (iii) search of a moving vehicle; (iv) consented warrantless search; (v) customs
search; (vi) stop and frisk; and (vii) exigent and emergency circumstances.[12]

This case would appear to fall under either a warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest
or a plain view search, both of which require a lawful arrest in order to be considered valid
exceptions to the constitutional guarantee. Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
provides for the circumstances under which a warrantless arrest is lawful. Thus:
Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. A peace officer or a private person
may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is


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

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

In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a
warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be
proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112.

A review of the facts reveal that the arrest of the accused was illegal and the subject items
were confiscated as an incident thereof. According to the testimony of PO1 Azardon and his Joint
Affidavit[13] with PO1 Dela Cruz, they proceeded to, and entered, the house of accused Gonzales
based solely on the report of a concerned citizen that a pot session was going on in said house, to
wit:

Q: I go back to the information referred to you by the informant, did he not tell you how
many persons were actually conducting the pot session?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: When you went to the place of Rafael Gonzales, of course you were not armed with a
search warrant, correct?
A: None, sir.

Q: Before the information was given to you by your alleged informant, you did not know
personally Rafael Gonzales?
A: I have not met [him] yet but I heard his name, sir.

Q: When this informant told you that he was told that there was [an] ongoing pot session
in the house of Rafael Gonzales, was this report to you placed in the police blotter
before you proceeded to the house of Rafael Gonzales?
A: I think it was no longer recorded, sir.

Q: In other words, you did not even bother to get the personal data or identity of the
person who told you that he was allegedly informed that there was an ongoing pot
session in the house of Rafael Gonzales?
A: What I know is that he is a jeepney driver of a downtown jeepney but he does not want
to be identified because he was afraid, sir.

Q: And likewise, he did not inform you who told him that there was an ongoing pot session
in the house of Rafael Gonzales?
A: No more, sir.

Q: But upon receiving such report from that jeepney driver you immediately formed a
group and went to the place of Rafael Gonzales?
A: Yes, sir.

xxx

Q: When you were at the open gate of the premises of Rafael Gonzales, you could not see
what is happening inside the house of Rafael Gonzales?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: You did not also see the alleged paraphernalia as well as the plastic sachet of shabu on
the table while you were outside the premises of the property of Rafael Gonzales?

xxx
Q: Before they entered the premises they could not see the paraphernalia?

COURT: Answer.

A: Of course because they were inside the room, how could we see them, sir.

Q: But still you entered the premises, only because a certain person who told you that he
was informed by another person that there was an ongoing pot session going on
inside the house of Rafael Gonzales?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And that is the only reason why you barged in inside the house of Rafael Gonzales and
you arrested the persons you saw?
A: Yes, sir.[14]

Paragraph (c) of Rule 113 is clearly inapplicable to this case. Paragraphs (a) and (b), on the
other hand, may be applicable and both require probable cause to be present in order for a
warrantless arrest to be valid. Probable cause has been held to signify a reasonable ground of
suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious
mans belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.[15]

Although this Court has ruled in several dangerous drugs cases [16] that tipped
information is sufficient probable cause to effect a warrantless search, [17] such rulings
cannot be applied in the case at bench because said cases involve either a buy-bust operation
or drugs in transit, basically, circumstances other than the sole tip of an informer as basis
for the arrest. None of these drug cases involve police officers entering a house without
warrant to effect arrest and seizure based solely on an informers tip. The case of People v.
Bolasa[18] is informative on this matter.

In People v. Bolasa, an anonymous caller tipped off the police that a man and a woman
were repacking prohibited drugs at a certain house. The police immediately proceeded to the
house of the suspects. They walked towards the house accompanied by their informer. When they
reached the house, they peeped inside through a small window and saw a man and woman
repacking marijuana. They then entered the house, introduced themselves as police officers,
confiscated the drug paraphernalia, and arrested the suspects. This Court ruled:

The manner by which accused-appellants were apprehended does not fall under
any of the above-enumerated categories. Perforce, their arrest is illegal. First, the
arresting officers had no personal knowledge that at the time of their arrest, accused-
appellants had just committed, were committing, or were about to commit a crime.
Second, the arresting officers had no personal knowledge that a crime was committed nor
did they have any reasonable ground to believe that accused-appellants committed it.
Third, accused-appellants were not prisoners who have escaped from a penal
establishment.
Neither can it be said that the objects were seized in plain view. First, there was no
valid intrusion. As already discussed, accused-appellants were illegally arrested. Second,
the evidence, i.e., the tea bags later on found to contain marijuana, was not inadvertently
discovered. The police officers intentionally peeped first through the window before they
saw and ascertained the activities of accused-appellants inside the room. In like manner,
the search cannot be categorized as a search of a moving vehicle, a consented warrantless
search, a customs search, or a stop and frisk; it cannot even fall under exigent and
emergency circumstances, for the evidence at hand is bereft of any such showing.
On the contrary, it indicates that the apprehending officers should have conducted
first a surveillance considering that the identities and address of the suspected culprits
were already ascertained. After conducting the surveillance and determining the existence
of probable cause for arresting accused-appellants, they should have secured a search
warrant prior to effecting a valid arrest and seizure. The arrest being illegal ab initio, the
accompanying search was likewise illegal. Every evidence thus obtained during the illegal
search cannot be used against accused-appellants; hence, their acquittal must follow in
faithful obeisance to the fundamental law.[19]

It has been held that personal knowledge of facts in arrests without warrant must be based
upon probable cause, which means an actual belief or reasonable grounds of suspicion. The
grounds of suspicion are reasonable when the suspicion, that the person to be arrested is probably
guilty of committing an offense, is based on actual facts, that is, supported by circumstances
sufficiently strong in themselves to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be
arrested. [20]

As to paragraph (a) of Section 5 of Rule 113, the arresting officers had no personal
knowledge that at the time of the arrest, accused had just committed, were committing, or were
about to commit a crime, as they had no probable cause to enter the house of accused Rafael
Gonzales in order to arrest them. As to paragraph (b), the arresting officers had no personal
knowledge of facts and circumstances that would lead them to believe that the accused had just
committed an offense. As admitted in the testimony of PO1 Azardon, the tip originated from a
concerned citizen who himself had no personal knowledge of the information that was reported
to the police:

Q: Mr. Witness, you claimed that the reason for apprehending all the accused was based
on a tip-off by an informant?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: What exactly [did] that informant tell you?


A: He told us that somebody told him that there was an ongoing pot session in the house
of one of the accused Rafael Gonzales, sir.

Q: You mean to say that it was not the informant himself to whom the information
originated but from somebody else?
A: That was what he told me, sir.

Q: Because of that you proceeded to where the alleged pot session was going on? [No
Answer]

Q: Did you[r] informant particularly pinpointed [sic] to where the alleged pot session was
going on?
A: No more because he did not go with us, sir.

Q: So you merely relied on what he said that something or a pot session was going on
somewhere in Arellano but you dont know the exact place where the pot session
was going on?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: And your informant has no personal knowledge as to the veracity of the alleged pot
session because he claimed that he derived that information from somebody else?
A: This is what he told us that somebody told him that there was an ongoing pot session,
sir.

Q: Despite of [sic] that information you proceeded to where?


A: Trinidad Subdivision, sir.

xxx

Q: Mr. Witness, did your informant named [sic] those included in the alleged pot session?
A: No, sir.
Q: That was, because your informant dont [sic] know physically what was really
happening there?
A: He was told by another person that there was an ongoing pot session there,
sir.[21] [Emphasis supplied]

Neither can it be said that the subject items were seized in plain view. The elements of
plainview are: (a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police
are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties; (b) the evidence was inadvertently
discovered by the police who have the right to be where they are; (c) the evidence must be
immediately apparent; and, (d) "plain view" justified mere seizure of evidence without further
search.[22]

The evidence was not inadvertently discovered as the police officers intentionally entered
the house with no prior surveillance or investigation before they discovered the accused with the
subject items. If the prior peeking of the police officers in Bolasa was held to be insufficient to
constitute plain view, then more so should the warrantless search in this case be struck
down. Neither can the search be considered as a search of a moving vehicle, a consented
warrantless search, a customs search, a stop and frisk, or one under exigent and emergency
circumstances.

The apprehending officers should have first conducted a surveillance considering that the
identity and address of one of the accused were already ascertained. After conducting the
surveillance and determining the existence of probable cause, then a search warrant should have
been secured prior to effecting arrest and seizure. The arrest being illegal, the ensuing search as
a result thereof is likewise illegal. Evidence procured on the occasion of an unreasonable search
and seizure is deemed tainted for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree and should be
excluded.[23] The subject items seized during the illegal arrest are thus inadmissible. The drug,
being the very corpus delicti of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, its
inadmissibility thus precludes conviction, and calls for the acquittal of the accused.

As has been noted previously by this Court, some lawmen, prosecutors and judges have
glossed over illegal searches and seizures in cases where law enforcers are able to present the
alleged evidence of the crime, regardless of the methods by which they were obtained. This
attitude tramples on constitutionally-guaranteed rights in the name of law enforcement. It is ironic
that such enforcement of the law fosters the breakdown of our system of justice and the eventual
denigration of society. While this Court appreciates and encourages the efforts of law enforcers
to uphold the law and to preserve the peace and security of society, we nevertheless admonish
them to act with deliberate care and within the parameters set by the Constitution and the law.[24]

Chain of Custody

Even granting that the seized items are admissible as evidence, the acquittal of the accused would
still be in order for failure of the apprehending officers to comply with the chain of custody
requirement in dangerous drugs cases.

The accused contend that the identity of the seized drug was not established with moral
certainty as the chain of custody appears to be questionable, the authorities having failed to
comply with Sections 21 and 86 of R.A. No. 9165, and Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) Resolution
No. 03, Series of 1979, as amended by Board Regulation No. 2, Series of 1990. They argue that
there was no prior coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), no
inventory of the confiscated items conducted at the crime scene, no photograph of the items taken,
no compliance with the rule requiring the accused to sign the inventory and to give them copies
thereof, and no showing of how the items were handled from the time of confiscation up to the
time of submission to the crime laboratory for testing. Therefore, the corpus delicti was not
proven, thereby producing reasonable doubt as to their guilt. Thus, they assert that the
presumption of innocence in their favor was not overcome by the presumption of regularity in the
performance of official duty.

The essential requisites to establish illegal possession of dangerous drugs are: (i) the accused was
in possession of the dangerous drug, (ii) such possession is not authorized by law, and (iii) the
accused freely and consciously possessed the dangerous drug.[25] Additionally, this being a case
for violation of Section 13 of R.A. No. 9165, an additional element of the crime is (iv) the
possession of the dangerous drug must have occurred during a party, or at a social gathering or
meeting, or in the proximate company of at least two (2) persons.

The existence of the drug is the very corpus delicti of the crime of illegal possession of
dangerous drugs and, thus, a condition sine qua non for conviction. In order to establish the
existence of the drug, its chain of custody must be sufficiently established. The chain of custody
requirement is essential to ensure that doubts regarding the identity of the evidence are removed
through the monitoring and tracking of the movements of the seized drugs from the accused, to
the police, to the forensic chemist, and finally to the court.[26] Malillin v. People was the first in a
growing number of cases to explain the importance of chain of custody in dangerous drugs cases,
to wit:

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
witness' possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it
was delivered to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the
precautions taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item
and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.[27]

Section 1(b) of DDB Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002,[28] defines chain of custody as
follows:

b. Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of
seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory
equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic
laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of
movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the
person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such
transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and used in court as evidence,
and the final disposition;

Paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, provides for safeguards for the
protection of the identity and integrity of dangerous drugs seized, to wit:

SEC. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered


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

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

People v. Habana thoroughly discusses the proper procedure for the custody of seized or
confiscated items in dangerous drugs cases in order to ensure their identity and integrity, as
follows:

Usually, the police officer who seizes the suspected substance turns it over to a
supervising officer, who would then send it by courier to the police crime laboratory for
testing. Since it is unavoidable that possession of the substance changes hand a number
of times, it is imperative for the officer who seized the substance from the suspect to place
his marking on its plastic container and seal the same, preferably with adhesive tape that
cannot be removed without leaving a tear on the plastic container. At the trial, the officer
can then identify the seized substance and the procedure he observed to preserve its
integrity until it reaches the crime laboratory.

If the substance is not in a plastic container, the officer should put it in one and
seal the same. In this way the substance would assuredly reach the laboratory in the same
condition it was seized from the accused. Further, after the laboratory technician tests
and verifies the nature of the substance in the container, he should put his own mark on
the plastic container and seal it again with a new seal since the police officers seal has
been broken. At the trial, the technician can then describe the sealed condition of the
plastic container when it was handed to him and testify on the procedure he took
afterwards to preserve its integrity.

If the sealing of the seized substance has not been made, the prosecution would
have to present every police officer, messenger, laboratory technician, and storage
personnel, the entire chain of custody, no matter how briefly ones possession has
been. Each of them has to testify that the substance, although unsealed, has not been
tampered with or substituted while in his care.[29]

Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 further
elaborates, and provides for, the possibility of non-compliance with the prescribed procedure:

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

Accordingly, non-compliance with the prescribed procedural requirements will not necessarily
render the seizure and custody of the items void and invalid, provided that (i) there is a justifiable
ground for such non-compliance, and (ii) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
are properly preserved. In this case, however, no justifiable ground is found availing, and it is
apparent that there was a failure to properly preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized items to ensure the identity of the corpus delicti from the time of seizure to the time of
presentation in court. A review of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the
documentary records of the case reveals irreparably broken links in the chain of custody.

According to the apprehending police officers in their Joint Affidavit, the following were
confiscated from the accused, to wit:

a) Several pcs of used empty plastic sachets containing suspected shabu residues.

b) Eight used (8) disposable lighters ( two (2) pcs colored orange, two (2) pcs colored
yellow, one (1) pc colored green & one (1) pc colored white ).

c) Several pcs of used rolled aluminum foil containing suspected shabu residues.

d) Several pcs of used cut aluminum foil containing suspected shabu residues.

e) One (1) pc glass tube containing suspected shabu residues.[30]


[Emphases supplied]

At the police station, the case, the accused, and the above-mentioned items were indorsed
to Duty Investigator Senior Police Officer 1 Pedro Urbano, Jr. (SPO1 Urbano) for proper
disposition.[31] A letter-request for laboratory examination was prepared by Police Superintendent
Edgar Orduna Basbag for the following items:

a) Pieces of used empty small plastic sachets with suspected shabu residues
marked DC&A-1.

b) Pieces of used rolled and cut aluminum foil with suspected shabu residues
marked DC&A-2.

c) Pieces of used cut aluminum foil with suspected shabu residues marked DC&A-3.[32]
[Emphases supplied]

The letter-request and above-mentioned items were submitted to P/Insp. Maranion by


SPO3 Froilan Esteban (SPO3 Esteban). Final Chemistry Report No. D-042-06L listed the
specimens which were submitted for testing, to wit:
SPECIMENS SUBMITTED:

A A1 to A115 One Hundred fifteen (115) open transparent plastic sachet with tag each
containing suspected shabu residue without markings.

B B1 to B11 Eleven (11) rolled used aluminum foil with tag each containing suspected
shabu residue without markings.

C C1 to C49 Forty-nine (49) used aluminum foil with tag each containing suspected shabu
residue without markings.[33]
[Emphases supplied]

Three days after the subject items were seized, or on September 5, 2006, a Confiscation
Receipt was issued by PO1 Azardon and PO1 Dela Cruz, which reads:

DCPS AID SOTG 05 September 2006


CONFISCATION RECEIPT

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that on or about 12:45 noon of September 4, 2006, we


together with our precinct supervisor, SPO4 Pedro Belen Jr., and SWAT members
composed of SPO1 Marlon Decano, PO3 Manuel Garcia, PO2 Adriano Cepiroto and PO1
Aldrin Guarin apprehended the following names of persons of ARNOLD MARTINEZ Y
ANGELES, 37 yrs old, married, jobless, a resident of Lucao Dist., this city; EDGAR DIZON
Y FERRER, 36 yrs old, single, tricycle driver, a resident of 471 Lucao Dist., this city.
REZIN MARTINEZ Y CAROLINO, 44 yrs old, married, jitney driver, a resident of Lucao
Disttrict this city; ROLAND DORIA Y DIAZ, 39 yrs old, married, businessman, resident
of Cabeldatan, Malasiqui, Pangasinan and RAFAEL GONZALES Y CUNANAN, 49 yrs old,
separated, jobless and a resident of Trinidad Subd., Arellano-Bani this city.

Suspects were duly informed of their constitutional rights and were brought to
Dagupan City Police Station, Perez Market Site Dagupan City and indorsed to Duty Desk
Officer to record the incident and the sachet of suspected Shabu Paraphernalias were
brought to PNP Crime Laboratory, Lingayen, Pangasinan for Laboratory Examination.

Seizing Officer:

(sgd.) (sgd.)
PO1 Bernard B Azardon PO1 Alejandro Dela Cruz
Affiant Affiant

Remarks:

Refused to Signed
Refused to Signed
Refused to Signed
Refused to Signed
Refused to Signed[34]
[Emphases supplied]

The 115 open transparent plastic sachets, 11 pieces of rolled used aluminum foil, and 27 (of the
49) pieces of used aluminum foil, all containing shabu residue, as identified in the Final
Chemistry Report, were presented in court and marked as Exhibits H and series, I and series, and
J and series, respectively. Said items were identified by PO1 Azardon and P/Insp. Maranion at
the witness stand.[35]

The CA ruled that the integrity and evidentiary value of the subject items were properly preserved
as there was sufficient evidence to prove that the items seized from the accused were the same
ones forwarded to the crime laboratory for examination, as shown in the Confiscation Receipt
and the letter-request for laboratory examination.

A review of the chain of custody indicates, however, that the CA is mistaken.

First, the apprehending team failed to comply with Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165. After seizure
and confiscation of the subject items, no physical inventory was conducted in the presence of the
accused, or their representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any
elected public official. Thus, no inventory was prepared, signed, and provided to the accused in
the manner required by law. PO1 Azardon, in his testimony,[36] admitted that no photographs were
taken. The only discernable reason proffered by him for the failure to comply with the prescribed
procedure was that the situation happened so suddenly. Thus:
Q: But upon receiving such report from that jeepney driver you immediately formed a
group and went to the place of Rafael Gonzales?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Such that you did not even inform the PDEA before you barged in that place of Rafael
Gonzales?
A: It was so suddenly, [sic] sir.

Q: And that explains the reason why you were not able to have pictures taken, is that
correct?
A: Yes, sir.[37]
[Emphasis supplied]

The Court does not find such to be a justifiable ground to excuse non-compliance. The
suddenness of the situation cannot justify non-compliance with the requirements. The police
officers were not prevented from preparing an inventory and taking photographs. In fact, Section
21(a) of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 provides specifically that in case of warrantless seizures, the
inventory and photographs shall be done at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of
the apprehending officer/team. Whatever effect the suddenness of the situation may have had
should have dissipated by the time they reached the police station, as the suspects had already
been arrested and the items seized. Moreover, it has been held that in case of warrantless seizures
nothing prevents the apprehending officer from immediately conducting the physical inventory
and photography of the items at their place of seizure, as it is more in keeping with the laws intent
to preserve their integrity and evidentiary value.[38]
This Court has repeatedly reversed conviction in drug cases for failure to comply with Section 21
of R.A. No. 9165, resulting in the failure to properly preserve the integrity and evidentiary value
of the seized items. Some cases are People v. Garcia,[39] People v. Dela Cruz,[40] People v. Dela
Cruz,[41] People v. Santos, Jr.,[42]People v. Nazareno,[43] People v. Orteza,[44] Zarraga v.
People,[45] and People v. Kimura.[46]

Second, the subject items were not properly marked. The case of People v. Sanchez is
instructive on the requirement of marking, to wit:

What Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 and its implementing rule do not expressly
specify is the matter of "marking" of the seized items in warrantless seizures to ensure
that the evidence seized upon apprehension is the same evidence subjected to inventory
and photography when these activities are undertaken at the police station rather than at
the place of arrest. Consistency with the "chain of custody" rule requires that the
"marking" of the seized items - to truly ensure that they are the same items that enter the
chain and are eventually the ones offered in evidence - should be done (1) in the presence
of the apprehended violator (2) immediately upon confiscation. This step initiates the
process of protecting innocent persons from dubious and concocted searches, and of
protecting as well the apprehending officers from harassment suits based on planting of
evidence under Section 29 and on allegations of robbery or theft.

For greater specificity, "marking" means the placing by the apprehending officer
or the poseur-buyer of his/her initials and signature on the item/s seized. x x x
Thereafter, the seized items shall be placed in an envelope or an evidence bag unless the
type and quantity of the seized items require a different type of handling and/or
container. The evidence bag or container shall accordingly be signed by the handling
officer and turned over to the next officer in the chain of custody. [47][Emphasis in the
original]

Nowhere in the testimony of PO1 Azardon or in his Joint Affidavit with PO1 Dela Cruz
does it appear that the subject items were at all marked. It was only in the letter-request for
laboratory examination that the subject items were indicated to have been marked with DC&A-
1, DC&A-2 and DC&A-3. There is no showing, however, as to who made those markings and
when they were made. Moreover, those purported markings were never mentioned when the
subject items were identified by the prosecution witnesses when they took the stand.

The markings appear to pertain to a group of items, that is, empty plastic sachets, rolled
and cut aluminium foil, and cut aluminium foil, but do not specifically pertain to any individual
item in each group. Furthermore, it was only in the Chemistry Report[48] that the precise number
of each type of item was indicated and enumerated. The Court notes that in all documents prior
to said report, the subject items were never accurately quantified but only described as
pieces,[49] several pcs,[50] and shabu paraphernallas.[51] Strangely, the Chemistry Report indicates
that all the subject items had no markings, although each item was reported to have been marked
by P/Insp. Maranion in the course of processing the subject items during laboratory examination
and testing.[52] Doubt, therefore, arises as to the identity of the subject items. It cannot be
determined with moral certainty that the subject items seized from the accused were the same
ones subjected to the laboratory examination and presented in court.

This Court has acquitted the accused for the failure and irregularity in the marking of seized
items in dangerous drugs cases, such as Zarraga v. People,[53] People v. Kimura,[54] and People
v. Laxa.[55]

Third, the Confiscation Receipt relied upon by the prosecution and the courts below gives rise to
more uncertainty. Instead of being prepared on the day of the seizure of the items, it was prepared
only three days after. More important, the receipt did not even indicate exactly what items were
confiscated and their quantity. These are basic information that a confiscation receipt should
provide. The only information contained in the Confiscation Receipt was the fact of arrest of the
accused and the general description of the subject items as the sachet of suspected Shabu
paraphernallas were brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory. The receipt is made even more
dubious by PO1 Azardons admission in his testimony[56] that he did not personally prepare the
Confiscation Receipt and he did not know exactly who did so.

Fourth, according to the Certification[57] issued by the Dagupan Police Station, the subject items
were indorsed by PO1 Dela Cruz to Duty Investigator SPO1 Urbano for proper disposition. These
were later turned over by SPO3 Esteban to P/Insp. Maranion. There is, however, no showing of
how and when the subject items were transferred from SPO1 Urbano to SPO3 Esteban.

Fifth, P/Insp. Maranion appears to be the last person in the chain of custody. No witness testified
on how the subject items were kept after they were tested prior to their presentation in court. This
Court has highlighted similar shortcomings in People v. Cervantes,[58] People v.
Garcia,[59] People v. Sanchez,[60] and Malillin v. People.[61]

More irregularities further darken the cloud as to the guilt of the accused. Contrary to PO1
Azardons testimony[62] that they were tipped off by a concerned citizen while at the police station,
the Letter[63] to the Executive Director of the DDB states that the apprehending officers were
tipped off while conducting monitoring/surveillance. Said letter also indicates, as does the
Confiscation Receipt, that the arrest and seizure occurred on September 4, 2006, and
not September 2, 2006, as alleged in the Information. It was also mentioned in the aforementioned
Certification of the Dagupan Police and Joint Affidavit of the police officers that a glass tube
suspected to contain shabu residue was also confiscated from the accused. Interestingly, no glass
tube was submitted for laboratory examination.

In sum, numerous lapses and irregularities in the chain of custody belie the prosecutions
position that the integrity and evidentiary value of the subject items were properly preserved. The
two documents specifically relied on by the CA, the Confiscation Receipt and the letter-request
for laboratory examination, have been shown to be grossly insufficient in proving the identity of
the corpus delicti. The corpus delicti in dangerous drugs cases constitutes the drug itself. This
means that proof beyond reasonable doubt of the identity of the prohibited drug is essential before
the accused can be found guilty.[64]

Regarding the lack of prior coordination with the PDEA provided in Section 86 of R.A.
No. 9165, in People v. Sta. Maria,[65] this Court held that said section was silent as to the
consequences of such failure, and said silence could not be interpreted as a legislative intent to
make an arrest without the participation of PDEA illegal, nor evidence obtained pursuant to such
an arrest inadmissible. Section 86 is explicit only in saying that the PDEA shall be the lead agency
in the investigation and prosecution of drug-related cases. Therefore, other law enforcement
bodies still possess authority to perform similar functions as the PDEA as long as illegal drugs
cases will eventually be transferred to the latter.

Let it be stressed that non-compliance with Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 does not affect
the admissibility of the evidence but only its weight.[66] Thus, had the subject items in this case
been admissible, their evidentiary merit and probative value would be insufficient to warrant
conviction.

It may be true that where no ill motive can be attributed to the police officers, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty should prevail.However, such
presumption obtains only when there is no deviation from the regular performance of
duty.[67] Where the official act in question is irregular on its face, the presumption of regularity
cannot stand.

In this case, the official acts of the law enforcers were clearly shown and proven to be
irregular. When challenged by the evidence of a flawed chain of custody, the presumption of
regularity cannot prevail over the presumption of innocence of the accused.[68]

This Court once again takes note of the growing number of acquittals for dangerous drugs
cases due to the failure of law enforcers to observe the proper arrest, search and seizure procedure
under the law.[69] Some bona fide arrests and seizures in dangerous drugs cases result in the
acquittal of the accused because drug enforcement operatives compromise the integrity and
evidentiary worth of the seized items. It behooves this Court to remind law enforcement agencies
to exert greater effort to apply the rules and procedures governing the custody, control, and
handling of seized drugs.

It is recognized that strict compliance with the legal prescriptions of R.A. No. 9165 may
not always be possible. Thus, as earlier stated, non-compliance therewith is not necessarily fatal.
However, the lapses in procedure must be recognized, addressed and explained in terms of their
justifiable grounds, and the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized must be shown
to have been preserved.[70]
On a final note, this Court takes the opportunity to be instructive on Sec. 11[71] (Possession
of Dangerous Drugs) and Sec. 15[72] (Use of Dangerous Drugs) of R.A. No. 9165, with regard to
the charges that are filed by law enforcers. This Court notes the practice of law enforcers of filing
charges under Sec. 11 in cases where the presence of dangerous drugs as basis for possession is
only and solely in the form of residue, being subsumed under the last paragraph of Sec.
11. Although not incorrect, it would be more in keeping with the intent of the law to file charges
under Sec. 15 instead in order to rehabilitate first time offenders of drug use, provided that there
is a positive confirmatory test result as required under Sec. 15. The minimum penalty under the
last paragraph of Sec. 11 for the possession of residue is imprisonment of twelve years and one
day, while the penalty under Sec. 15 for first time offenders of drug use is a minimum of six
months rehabilitation in a government center. To file charges under Sec. 11 on the basis of residue
alone would frustrate the objective of the law to rehabilitate drug users and provide them with an
opportunity to recover for a second chance at life.
In the case at bench, the presence of dangerous drugs was only in the form of residue on
the drug paraphernalia, and the accused were found positive for use of dangerous drugs. Granting
that the arrest was legal, the evidence obtained admissible, and the chain of custody intact, the
law enforcers should have filed charges under Sec. 15, R.A. No. 9165 or for use of dangerous
drugs and, if there was no residue at all, they should have been charged under Sec.
14[73] (Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous
Drugs During Parties, Social Gatherings or Meetings). Sec. 14 provides that the maximum penalty
under Sec. 12[74] (Possession of Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other
Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs) shall be imposed on any person who shall possess any
equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs. Under Sec. 12, the
maximum penalty is imprisonment of four years and a fine of P50,000.00. In fact, under the same
section, the possession of such equipment, apparatus or other paraphernalia is prima
facie evidence that the possessor has used a dangerous drug and shall be presumed to have
violated Sec. 15.

In order to effectively fulfill the intent of the law to rehabilitate drug users, this Court thus
calls on law enforcers and prosecutors in dangerous drugs cases to exercise proper discretion in
filing charges when the presence of dangerous drugs is only and solely in the form of residue and
the confirmatory test required under Sec. 15 is positive for use of dangerous drugs. In such cases,
to afford the accused a chance to be rehabilitated, the filing of charges for or involving possession
of dangerous drugs should only be done when another separate quantity of dangerous drugs, other
than mere residue, is found in the possession of the accused as provided for in Sec. 15.

WHEREFORE, the August 7, 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. HC-NO.
03269 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and another judgment entered ACQUITTING the
accused and ordering their immediate release from detention, unless they are confined for any
other lawful cause.

Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Director of the Bureau of


Corrections, Muntinlupa City, for immediate implementation. The Director of the Bureau of
Corrections is directed to report to this Court within five days from receipt of this decision the
action he has taken. Copies shall also be furnished the Director-General, Philippine National
Police, and the Director-General, Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency, for their information
and guidance.

The Regional Trial Court, Branch 41, Dagupan City, is directed to turn over the seized
items to the Dangerous Drugs Board for destruction in accordance with law.
SO ORDERED.
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice

[1]
Rollo, pp. 2-14. Penned by Associate Justice Sixto C. Marella, Jr. with Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon and Associate Justice
Japar B. Dimaampao, concurring.
[2]
Records, pp. 140-145. Penned by Judge Emma M. Torio.
[3]
Id. at 1.
[4]
Id. at 145.
[5]
People v. Palma, G.R. No. 189279, March 9, 2010.
[6]
People v. Racho, G.R. No. 186529, August 3, 2010.
[7]
C.F. Sharp & Co., Inc. v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 431 Phil 11, 22 (2002).
[8]
People v. Bodoso, 446 Phil. 838, 849-850 (2003).
[9]
San Luis v. Rojas, G.R. No. 159127, March 3, 2008, 547 SCRA 345, 357-358.
[10]
People v. Siton, G.R. No. 169364, September 18, 2009, 600 SCRA 476, 493.
[11]
Rules of Court, Rule 126, Sec. 13.
[12]
People v. Bolasa, 378 Phil. 1073, 1078-1079 (1999).
[13]
Exhibit E, folder of exhibits, p. 11.
[14]
TSN, February 23, 2007, pp. 10-16.
[15]
People v. Ayangao, 471 Phil. 379, 388 (2004).
[16]
Id., People v. Valdez, 363 Phil. 481 (1999); People v. Montilla, 349 Phil. 640 (1998).
[17]
Id.
[18]
Supra note 13.
[19]
Supra note 13.
[20]
People v. Doria, 361 Phil. 595, 632 (1999).
[21]
TSN, February 23, 2007, pp. 3-5.
[22]
Supra note 13.
[23]
People v. Valdez, 395 Phil. 206, 218 (2000).
[24]
People v. Racho, G.R. No. 186529, August 3, 2010; citing People v. Nuevas, G.R. No. 170233, February 22, 2007, 516 SCRA 463,
484-485.
[25]
People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 177777, December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 377, 390-391.
[26]
People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 173480, February 25, 2009, 580 SCRA 259, 274.
[27]
G.R. No. 172953, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 619, 632-633.
[28]
Guidelines on the Custody and Disposition of Seized Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, and
Laboratory Equipment.
[29]
G.R. No. 188900, March 5, 2010.
[30]
Exhibit E, folder of exhibits, p. 11.
[31]
Exhibit G, folder of exhibits, p. 13.
[32]
Exhibit A, folder of exhibits, p. 6.
[33]
Exhibit D, folder of exhibits, p. 10.
[34]
Exhibit F, folder of exhibits, p. 12.
[35]
TSN, February 9, 2007, p. 6; and TSN, January 22, 2007, pp. 10-12.
[36]
TSN, February 23, 2007, p. 7.
[37]
TSN, February 23, 2007, p. 12.
[38]
People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569 SCRA 194, 218.
[39]
Supra note 27.
[40]
G.R. No. 177222, October 29, 2008, 570 SCRA 273.
[41]
G.R. No. 181545, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 273.
[42]
G.R. No. 175593, October 17, 2007, 536 SCRA 489.
[43]
G.R. No. 174771, September 11, 2007, 532 SCRA 630.
[44]
G.R. No. 173051, July 31, 2007, 528 SCRA 750.
[45]
G.R. No. 162064, March 14, 2006, 484 SCRA 639.
[46]
471 Phil. 895 (2004).
[47]
Supra note 38.
[48]
Exhibit C, folder of exhibits, p. 9; Exhibit D, folder of exhibits, p. 10.
[49]
Exhibit A, folder of exhibits, p. 6.
[50]
Exhibit E, folder of exhibits, p. 11; Exhibit G, folder of exhibits, p. 13.
[51]
Exhibit B, folder of exhibits, p. 7; Exhibit F, folder of exhibits, p. 12.
[52]
TSN, January 22, 2007, pp. 10-12.
[53]
Supra note 46.
[54]
Supra note 47.
[55]
414 Phil. 156 (2001).
[56]
TSN, February 9, 2007, p. 7; TSN, February 23, 2007, pp. 6-7.
[57]
Exhibit G, folder of exhibits, p. 13.
[58]
G.R. No. 181494, March 17, 2009, 581 SCRA 762.
[59]
Supra note 27.
[60]
Supra note 39.
[61]
Supra note 28.
[62]
TSN, February 9, 2007, p. 4.
[63]
Exhibit B, folder of exhibits, p. 7.
[64]
People v. Cacao, G.R. No. 180870, January 22, 2010, 610 SCRA 636, 651.
[65]
G.R. No. 171019, February 23, 2007, 516 SCRA 621, 631-632.
[66]
People v. Del Monte, G.R. No. 179940, April 23, 2008, 552 SCRA 627, 637.
[67]
People v. Obmiranis, G.R. No. 181492, December 16, 2008, 574 SCRA 140, 156-157.
[68]
People v. Peralta, G.R. No. 173477, February 26, 2010.
[69]
People v. Cervantes, G.R. No. 181494, March 17, 2009, 581 SCRA 762, 784-785, citing People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 173480,
February 25, 2009, 580 SCRA 259, 277-278.
[70]
Id. at 785.
[71]
Section 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. - The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred
thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law,
shall possess any dangerous drug in the following quantities, regardless of the degree of purity thereof:
(1) 10 grams or more of opium;
(2) 10 grams or more of morphine;
(3) 10 grams or more of heroin;
(4) 10 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride;
(5) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu";
(6) 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil;
(7) 500 grams or more of marijuana; and
(8) 10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDA) or
"ecstasy", paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD), gamma
hydroxyamphetamine (GHB), and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having
any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements, as determined and promulgated by
the Board in accordance to Section 93, Article XI of this Act.
Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be graduated as follows:
(1) Life imprisonment and a fine ranging from Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos
(P500,000.00), if the quantity of methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu" is ten (10) grams or more but less than fifty (50)
grams;
(2) Imprisonment of twenty (20) years and one (1) day to life imprisonment and a fine ranging from Four hundred thousand
pesos (P400,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are five (5) grams or
more but less than ten (10) grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana
resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or
"ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without
having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or three hundred (300) grams
or more but less than five hundred (500) grams of marijuana; and
(3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand
pesos (P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5)
grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine
hydrochloride or "shabu", or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or "ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB,
and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the
quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana.
[72]
Section 15. Use of Dangerous Drugs. A person apprehended or arrested, who is found to be positive for use of any dangerous drug,
after a confirmatory test, shall be imposed a penalty of a minimum of six (6) months rehabilitation in a government center for the first
offense, subject to the provisions of Article VIII of this Act. If apprehended using any dangerous drug for the second time, he/she shall
suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years and a fine ranging from Fifty thousand
pesos (P50,000.00) to Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00): Provided, That this Section shall not be applicable where the person
tested is also found to have in his/her possession such quantity of any dangerous drug provided for under Section 11 of this Act, in which
case the provisions stated therein shall apply.
[73]
Section 14. Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs During Parties, Social
Gatherings or Meetings. - The maximum penalty provided for in Section 12 of this Act shall be imposed upon any person, who shall
possess or have under his/her control any equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking,
consuming, administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body, during parties, social gatherings or
meetings, or in the proximate company of at least two (2) persons.
[74]
Section 12. Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs. - The penalty of
imprisonment ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and a fine ranging from Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00)
to Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess or have under
his/her control any equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering,
injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body: Provided, That in the case of medical practitioners and various
professionals who are required to carry such equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia in the practice of their profession,
the Board shall prescribe the necessary implementing guidelines thereof.
The possession of such equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia fit or intended for any of the purposes enumerated in
the preceding paragraph shall be prima facie evidence that the possessor has smoked, consumed, administered to himself/herself,
injected, ingested or used a dangerous drug and shall be presumed to have violated Section 15 of this Act.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 204589 November 19, 2014

RIZALDY SANCHEZ y CAJILI, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 seeking to reverse and set aside the July 25, 2012
Decision1 and the November 20, 2012 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CR No.
31742 filed by petitioner Rizaldy Sanchez y Cajili (Sanchez), affirming the April 21, 2005 Decision3 of
the Regional Trial Court of Imus, Cavite, Branch 20 (RTC), which convicted him for Violation of
Section 11, Article l l of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165. The dispositive portion of the RTC decision
reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered convicting accused Rizaldy Sanchez y


Cajili of Violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and hereby sentences him to
suffer imprisonment from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) years and to pay a fine of Php300,000.00. SO
ORDERED.4

Sanchez was charged with violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, otherwise known as the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in the Information,5 dated March 20, 2003, filed before
the RTC and docketed as Criminal Case No. 10745-03. The accusatory portion of the Information
indicting Sanchez reads:

That on or about the 19th day of March 2003, in the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being
authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession,
control and custody, 0.1017 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly known as "shabu," a
dangerous drug, in violation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

When arraigned, Sanchez pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. During the pre-trial, the
prosecution and the defense stipulated on the existence and due execution of the following pieces of
evidence: 1] the request for laboratory examination; 2]certification issued by the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI);3] Dangerous Drugs Report; and 4] transparent plastic sachet containing small
transparent plastic sachet of white crystalline substance.6Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecutions version of the events as summarized by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)in
its Comment7on the petition is as follows:

Around 2:50 pm of March 19, 2003, acting on the information that Jacinta Marciano, aka "Intang," was
selling drugs to tricycle drivers, SPO1 Elmer Amposta, together with CSU Edmundo Hernandez, CSU
Jose Tagle, Jr., and CSU Samuel Monzon, was dispatched to Barangay Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite to
conduct an operation.

While at the place, the group waited for a tricycle going to, and coming from, the house of Jacinta.
After a few minutes, they spotted a tricycle carrying Rizaldy Sanchez coming out of the house. The
group chased the tricycle. After catching up with it, they requested Rizaldy to alight. It was then that
they noticed Rizaldy holding a match box.

SPO1 Amposta asked Rizaldy if he could see the contents of the match box. Rizaldy agreed. While
examining it, SPO1 Amposta found a small transparent plastic sachet which contained a white
crystalline substance. Suspecting that the substance was a regulated drug, the group accosted Rizaldy
and the tricycle driver. The group brought the two to the police station.

On March 20, 2003, Salud M. Rosales, a forensic chemist from the NBI, submitted a Certification
which reads:

This certifies that on the above date at 9:25 a.m. one PO1 Edgardo Nario of Imus, Mun. PS, PNP,
Imus, Cavite submitted to this office for laboratory examinations the following specimen/s to wit:

White crystalline substance contained in a small plastic sachet, marked "RSC," placed in a plastic pack,
marked "Mar. 19, 2003." (net wt. = 0.1017 gm)

Examinations conducted on the above-mentioned specimen/s gave POSITIVE RESULTS for


METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE.

Said specimen/s were allegedly confiscated from RIZALDY SANCHEZ y CAJILI and DARWIN
REYES y VILLARENTE.

Official report follows:

This certification was issued uponrequest for purpose of filing the case.8

Version of the Defense

In the present petition,9 Sanchez denied the accusation against him and presented a different version of
the events that transpired in the afternoon of March 19, 2003, to substantiate his claim of innocence:

On 24 February 2005, the accused Rizaldy Sanchez took the witness stand. He testified that on the date
and time in question, he, together with a certain Darwin Reyes, were on their way home from Brgy.
Alapan, Imus, Cavite, where they transported a passenger, when their way was blocked by four (4)
armed men riding an owner-type jeepney. Without a word, the four men frisked him and Darwin. He
protested and asked what offense did they commit. The arresting officers told him that they had just
bought drugs from Alapan. He reasoned out that he merely transported a passenger there but the
policemen still accosted him and he was brought to the Imus Police Station where hewas further
investigated. The police officer, however, let DarwinReyes go. On cross-examination, the accused
admitted that it was the first time that he saw the police officers at the time he was arrested. He also
disclosed that he was previously charged with the same offense before Branch 90 of this court which
was already dismissed, and that the police officers who testified in the said case are not the same as
those involved in this case.10

The Ruling of the RTC

On April 21, 2005, the RTC rendered its decision11 finding that Sanchez was caught in flagrante
delicto,in actual possession of shabu. It stated that the police operatives had reasonable ground to
believe that Sanchez was in possession of the said dangerous drug and such suspicion was confirmed
when the match box Sanchez was carrying was found to contain shabu. The RTC lent credence to the
testimony of prosecution witness, SPO1 Elmer Amposta (SPO1 Amposta) because there was no
showing that he had been impelled by any ill motive to falsely testify against Sanchez. The dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered convicting accused Rizaldy Sanchez y


Cajili of Violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and hereby sentences him to
suffer imprisonment from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) years and to pay a fine of Php300,000.00. SO
ORDERED.12

Unfazed, Sanchez appealed the RTC judgment of conviction before the CA. He faulted the RTC for
giving undue weight on the testimony of SPO1 Amposta anchored merely on the presumption of
regularity in the performance of duty of the said arresting officer. He insisted that the prosecution
evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt.

The Ruling of the CA

The CA found no cogent reason to reverse or modify the findings of facts and conclusions reached by
the RTC and, thus, upheld the conviction of the accused for violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A.
No. 9165. According to the CA, there was probable cause for the police officers to believe that Sanchez
was then and there committing a crime considering that he was seen leaving the residence of a
notorious drug dealer where, according to a tip they received, illegal drug activities were being
perpetrated. It concluded that the confiscation by the police operative of the subject narcotic from
Sanchez was pursuant to a valid search. The CA then went on to write that non-compliance by the
police officers on the requirements of Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, particularly
on the conduct of inventory and photograph of the seized drug, was not fatal to the prosecutions
causesince its integrity and evidentiary value had been duly preserved. The falloof the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Imus, Cavite dated April 21,
2005 and Order dated October 1, 2007 in Criminal Case No. 10745-03 finding accused appellant
Rizaldy C. Sanchez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic
Act No. 9165, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.13

Sanchez filed a motion for reconsideration of the July 25, 2012 Decision, but it was denied by the CA
in its November 20, 2012 Resolution.

Hence, this petition.

Bewailing his conviction, Sanchez filed the present petition for "certiorari"under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court and anchored on the following

GROUNDS:

1. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, COMMITTED


GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT HELD THAT ACCUSED WAS CAUGHT IN FLAGRANTE
DELICTO, HENCE,A SEARCH WARRANT WAS NO LONGER NECESSARY; AND

2. THE HONORABLE COURT OFAPPEALS, WITH DUE RESPECT, COMMITTED


GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION WHEN IT HELD THAT NON-COMPLIANCE WITH SECTION 21,
PARAGRAPH 1, ARTICLE II OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 DOES NOT
AUTOMATICALLY RENDER THE SEIZED ITEMS INADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.14

Sanchez insists on his acquittal. He argues that the warrantless arrest and search on him were invalid
due to the absence of probable cause on the part of the police officers to effect an in flagrante delicto
arrest under Section 15, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court. He also contends that the failure of the police
operatives to comply with Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 renders the seized item
inadmissible in evidence and creates reasonable doubt on his guilt. By way of Comment15 to the
petition, the OSG prays for the affirmance of the challenged July 25, 2012 decision of the CA. The
OSG submits that the warrantless search and seizure of the subject narcotic were justified under the
plain view doctrine where a police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but
nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object.
The Courts Ruling

Preliminarily, the Court notes that this petition suffers from procedural infirmity. Under Section 1, Rule
45 of the Rules of Court, the proper remedy to question the CA judgment,final order or resolution, as in
the present case, is a petition for review on certiorari, which would be but a continuation of the
appellate process over the original case.16By filing a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65,
Sanchez therefore clearly availed himself of the wrong remedy.

Be that as it may, the Court, in several cases before, had treated a petition for certiorari as a petition for
review under Rule 45, in accordance with the liberal spirit and in the interest of substantial justice,
particularly (1) if the petition was filed within the reglementary period for filing a petition for review;
(2) errors of judgment are averred; and (3) there is sufficient reason to justify the relaxation of the
rules.17 The case at bench satisfies all the above requisites and, hence, there is ample justification to
treat this petition for certiorari as a petition for review. Besides, it is axiomatic that the nature of an
action is determined by the allegations of the complaint or petition and the character of the relief
sought.18 Here, stripped of allegations of "grave abuse of discretion," the petition actually avers errors
of judgment rather than of jurisdiction, which are the appropriate subjects of a petition for review on
certiorari.

Going now into the substance of the petition, the Court finds the same to be impressed with merit.

Although it is true that the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is
entitled to great respect and not to be disturbed on appeal, this rule, however, is not a hard and fast one.
It is a time-honored rule that the assessment of the trial court with regard to the credibility of witnesses
deserves the utmost respect, if not finality, for the reason that the trial judge has the prerogative, denied
to appellate judges, of observing the demeanor of the declarants in the course of their testimonies. But
an exception exists if there is a showing that the trial judge overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied
some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would have affected the case.19 After going
over the records of the case at bench, the Court finds some facts of weight and substance that have been
overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied by the trial court which cast doubt on the guilt of Sanchez.

In sustaining the conviction of Sanchez, the CA ratiocinated that this was a clear case of an in flagrante
delicto arrest under paragraph (a) Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. In this
regard, the CA wrote:

In the case at Bar, the acquisition of the regulated drug by the police officers qualifies as a valid search
following a lawful operation by the police officers. The law enforcers acted on the directive of their
superior based on an information that the owner of the residence where Sanchez came from was a
notorious drug dealer. As Sanchez was seen leaving the said residence, the law enforcers had probable
cause to stop Sanchez on the road since there was already a tip that illegal drug-related activities were
perpetrated in the place where he came from and seeing a match box held on one hand, the police
officers action were justified to inspect the same. The search therefore, is a sound basis for the lawful
seizure of the confiscated drug, arrest and conviction of Sanchez.

The case of People vs. Valdez (G.R. No. 127801, March 3, 1999) is instructive. In that case, the police
officers, by virtue of an information that a person having been previously described by the informant,
accosted Valdez and upon inspection of the bag he was carrying, the police officers found the
information given to them to be true as it yielded marijuana leaves hidden in the water jug and lunch
box inside Valdezs bag. The Supreme Court in affirming the trial courts ruling convicting Valdez
declared that:

In this case, appellant was caught in flagrante since he was carrying marijuana at the time of his
arrest.1wphi1 A crime was actually being committed by the appellant, thus, the search made upon his
personal effects falls squarely under paragraph (a) of the foregoing provisions of law, which allow a
warrantless search incident to lawful arrest. While it is true that SPO1 Mariano was not armed with a
search warrant when the search was conducted over the personal effects of appellant, nevertheless,
under the circumstances of the case, there was sufficient probable cause for said police officer to
believe that appellant was then and there committing a crime. The cited case is akin to the
circumstances in the instant appeal as in this case, Sanchez, coming from the house of the identified
drug dealer, previously tipped by a concerned citizen, walked to a parked tricycle and sped towards the
direction of Kawit, Cavite. The search that gave way to the seizure of the match box containing shabu
was a reasonable course of event that led to the valid warrantless arrest since there was sufficient
probable cause for chasing the tricycle he was in. (Underscoring supplied)

A judicious examination of the evidence on record belies the findings and conclusions of the RTC and
the CA.

At the outset, it is observed that the CA confused the search incidental to a lawful arrest withthe stop-
and-frisk principle, a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement. Albeit it did not expressly
state so, the CA labored under the confused view that one and the other were indistinct and identical.
That confused view guided the CA to wrongly affirm the petitioner's conviction. The Court must clear
this confusion and correct the error.

It is necessary to remind the RTC and the CA that the Terry20 stop- and-frisk search is entirely different
from and should not be confused with the search incidental to a lawful arrest envisioned under Section
13, Rule 126 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure. The distinctions have been made clear in Malacat v.
Court of Appeals21:

In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the
incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large majority of these cases, e.g.,
whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for conducting a search. In this instance, the law
requires that there first be a lawful arrest before a search can be made -- the process cannot be
reversed. At bottom, assuming a valid arrest, the arresting officer may search the person of the
arrestee and the area within which the latter may reach for a weapon or for evidence to destroy,
and seize any money or property found which was used in the commission of the crime, or the
fruit of the crime, or that which may be used as evidence, or which might furnish the arrestee
with the means of escaping or committing violence.

xxxx

We now proceed to the justification for and allowable scope of a "stop-and-frisk" as a "limited
protective search of outer clothing for weapons," as laid down in Terry, thus:

We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him
reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the
persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of
investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and
where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or
others' safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully
limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be
used to assault him. Such a search is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment x x x x.

Other notable points of Terry are that while probable cause is not required to conduct a "stop-and-
frisk," it nevertheless holds that mere suspicion or a hunch will not validate a "stop-and-frisk." A
genuine reason must exist, in light of the police officer's experience and surrounding conditions, to
warrant the belief that the person detained has weapons concealed about him. Finally, a "stop-and-
frisk" serves a two-fold interest: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and detection,
which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances and in an
appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even
without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit
the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a
deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer.22

In the case at bench, neither the in flagrante delicto arrest nor the stop- and-frisk principle was
applicable to justify the warrantless search and seizure made by the police operatives on
Sanchez. An assiduous scrutiny of the factual backdrop of this case shows that the search and
seizure on Sanchez was unlawful. A portion of SPO1 Ampostas testimony on direct examination is
revelatory, viz:

Pros. Villarin:

Q: On March 19, 2003 at around 2:50 p.m., can you recall where were you?

A: Yes, Mam.

Q: Where were you? A: We were in Brgy. Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite.

Q: What were you doing at Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite? A: We were conducting an operation against
illegal drugs.

Q: Who were with you? A: CSU Edmundo Hernandez, CSU Jose Tagle, Jr. and CSU Samuel

Monzon.

Q: Was the operation upon the instruction of your Superior?

A: Our superior gave us the information that there were tricycle drivers buying drugs from "Intang" or
Jacinta Marciano.

Q: What did you do after that?

A: We waited for a tricycle who will go to the house of Jacinta Marciano.

Q: After that what did you do?

A: A tricycle with a passenger went to the house of "Intang" and when the passenger boarded the
tricycle, we chase[d] them.

Q: After that, what happened next?

A: When we were able to catch the tricycle, the tricycle driver and the passenger alighted from the
tricycle.

Q: What did you do after they alighted from the tricycle?

A: I saw the passenger holding a match box.

Q: What did you do after you saw the passenger holding a match box?

A: I asked him if I can see the contents of the match box.

Q: Did he allow you?

A: Yes, mam. He handed to me voluntarily the match box.

Court:

Q: Who, the driver or the passenger?

A: The passenger, sir.

Pros. Villarin:

Q: After that what did you find out?


A: I opened the match box and I found out that it contained a small transparent plastic sachet
containing white crystalline substance.23

A search as an incident to a lawful arrest is sanctioned by the Rules of Court.24 It bears emphasis that
the law requires that the search be incidental to a lawful arrest. Therefore it is beyond cavil that a
lawful arrest must precede the search of a person and his belongings; the process cannot be reversed.25

Here, the search preceded the arrest of Sanchez. There was no arrest prior to the conduct of the search.
Arrest is defined under Section 1, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court as the taking of a person into custody
that he may be bound to answer for the commission of an offense. Under Section 2, of the same rule, an
arrest is effected by an actual restraint of the person to be arrested or by his voluntary submission to the
custody of the person making the arrest.26 Even casting aside the petitioners version and basing the
resolution of this case on the general thrust of the prosecution evidence, no arrest was effected by the
police operatives upon the person of Sanchez before conducting the search on him. It appears from the
above quoted testimony of SPO1 Amposta that after they caught up with the tricycle, its driver and the
passenger, Sanchez, alighted from it; that he noticed Sanchez holding a match box; and that he
requested Sanchez if he could see the contents of the match box, to which the petitioner acceded and
handed it over to him. The arrest of Sanchez was made only after the discovery by SPO1 Amposta of
the shabu inside the match box. Evidently, what happened in this case was that a search was first
undertaken and then later an arrest was effected based on the evidence produced by the search.

Even granting arguendo that Sanchez was arrested before the search, still the warrantless search and
seizure must be struck down as illegal because the warrantless arrest was unlawful. Section 5, Rule 113
of the Rules of Criminal Procedure lays down the basic rules on lawful warrantless arrests, either by a
peace officer or a private person, as follows:

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

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

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

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

xxx

For warrantless arrest under paragraph (a) of Section 5 (in flagrante delicto arrest) to operate, two
elements must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just
committed, is actually committing, or is attempting tocommit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in
the presence or withinthe view of the arresting officer.27 On the other hand, paragraph (b) of Section 5
(arrest effected in hot pursuit) requires for its application that at the time of the arrest, an offense has in
fact just been committed and the arresting officer has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the
person to be apprehended has committed it. These elements would be lacking in the case at bench.

The evidence on record reveals that no overt physical act could be properly attributed to Sanchez as to
rouse suspicion in the minds of the police operatives that he had just committed, was committing, or
was about to commit a crime. Sanchez was merely seen by the police operatives leaving the residence
of a known drug peddler, and boarding a tricycle that proceeded towards the direction of Kawit, Cavite.
Such acts cannot in any way be considered criminal acts. In fact, even if Sanchez had exhibited unusual
or strange acts, or at the veryleast appeared suspicious, the same would not have been considered overt
acts in order for the police officers to effect a lawful warrantless arrest under paragraph (a) of Section
5, Rule 113.
It has not been established either that the rigorous conditions set forth in paragraph (b) of Section 5
have been complied with in this warrantless arrest. When the police officers chased the tricycle, they
had no personal knowledge to believe that Sanchez bought shabu from the notorious drug dealer and
actually possessed the illegal drug when he boarded the tricycle. Probable cause has been held to
signify a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves
to warrant a cautious man's belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is
charged.28 The police officers in this case had no inkling whatsoever as to what Sanchez did inside the
house of the known drug dealer. Besides, nowhere in the prosecution evidence does it show that the
drug dealer was conducting her nefarious drug activities inside her house so as to warrant the police
officers to draw a reasonable suspicion that Sanchez must have gotten shabu from her and possessed
the illegal drug when he came out of the house. In other words, there was no overt manifestation on the
part of Sanchez that he had just engaged in, was actually engaging in or was attempting to engage in
the criminal activity of illegal possession of shabu. Verily, probable cause in thiscase was more
imagined than real.

In the same vein, there could be no valid "stop-and-frisk" search in the case at bench. Elucidating on
what constitutes "stop-and-frisk" operation and how it is to be carried out, the Court in People v.
Chua29 wrote:

A stop and frisk was defined as the act of a police officer to stop a citizen on the street, interrogate him,
and pat him for weapon(s) or contraband. The police officer should properly introduce himself and
make initial inquiries, approach and restrain a person who manifests unusual and suspicious conduct, in
order to check the latters outer clothing for possibly concealed weapons. The apprehending police
officer must have a genuine reason, in accordance with the police officers experience and the
surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person to be held has weapons (or contraband)
concealed about him. It should therefore be emphasized that a search and seizure should precede the
arrest for this principle to apply.30

In this jurisdiction, what may be regarded as a genuine reason or a reasonable suspicion justifying a
Terry stop-and-frisk search had been sufficiently illustrated in two cases. In Manalili v. Court of
Appeals and People,31 a policeman chanced upon Manalili in front of the cemetery who appeared to be
"high" on drugs as he was observed to have reddish eyes and to be walking in a swaying manner.
Moreover, he appeared to be trying to avoid the policemen and when approached and asked what he
was holding in his hands, he tried to resist. When he showed his wallet, it contained marijuana. The
Court held that the policeman had sufficient reason to accost Manalili to determine if he was actually
"high" on drugs due to his suspicious actuations, coupled with the fact that the area was a haven for
drug addicts.

In People v. Solayao,32 the Court also found justifiable reason for the police to stop and frisk the
accused after considering the following circumstances: the drunken actuations of the accused and his
companions; the fact that his companions fled when they saw the policemen; and the fact that the peace
officers were precisely on an intelligence mission to verify reports that armed persons where roaming
the vicinity. Seemingly, the common thread of these examples isthe presence of more than one
seemingly innocent activity, which, taken together, warranted a reasonable inference of criminal
activity. It was not so in the case at bench.

The Court does not find the totality of the circumstances described by SPO1 Amposta as sufficient to
incite a reasonable suspicion that would justify a stop-and-frisk search on Sanchez. Coming out from
the house of a drug pusher and boarding a tricycle, without more, were innocuous movements, and by
themselves alone could not give rise in the mind of an experienced and prudent police officer of any
belief that hehad shabu in his possession, or that he was probably committing a crime in the presence of
the officer. There was even no allegation that Sanchez left the house of the drug dealer in haste or that
he acted in any other suspicious manner. There was no showing either that he tried to evade or
outmaneuver his pursuers or that he attempted to flee when the police officers approached him. Truly,
his acts and the surrounding circumstances could not have engendered any reasonable suspicion on the
part of the police officers that a criminal activity had taken place or was afoot.
In the recent case of People v. Cogaed,33 where not a single suspicious circumstance preceded the
search on the accused, the Court ruled that the questioned act of the police officer did not constitute a
valid stop-and-frisk operation. Cogaed was a mere passenger carrying a blue bag and a sack and
travelling aboard a jeepney. He did not exhibit any unusual or suspicious behavior sufficient to justify
the law enforcer in believing that he was engaged in a criminal activity. Worse, the assessment of
suspicion was made not by the police officer but by the jeepney driver, who signaled to the police
officer that Cogaed was "suspicious." In view of the illegality of the search and seizure, the 12,337.6
grams of marijuana confiscated from the accused was held as inadmissible.

The OSG characterizes the seizure of the subject shabu from Sanchez as seizure of evidence in plain
view. The Court disagrees.

Under the plain view doctrine, objects falling in the plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the
position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be presented as evidence.34 The plain view
doctrine applies when the following requisites concur: (1) the law enforcement officer in search of the
evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular
area; (2) the discovery of the evidence in plain view is inadvertent; and (3) it is immediately apparent
to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to
seizure.35

Measured against the foregoing standards, it is readily apparent that the seizure of the subject shabu
does notfall within the plain view exception. First, there was no valid intrusion. As already discussed,
Sanchez was illegally arrested. Second, subject shabu was not inadvertently discovered, and third, it
was not plainly exposed to sight. Here, the subject shabu was allegedly inside a match box being
thenheld by Sanchez and was not readily apparent or transparent to the police officers. In fact, SPO1
Amposta had to demand from Sanchez the possession of the match box in order for him to open it and
examine its content. The shabu was not in plain view and its seizure without the requisite search
warrant is in violation of the law and the Constitution. In the light of the foregoing, there being no
lawful warrantless arrest and warrantless search and seizure, the shabu purportedly seized from
Sanchez is inadmissible in evidence for being the proverbial fruit of the poisonous tree. As the
confiscated shabu is the very corpus delicti of the crime charged, the accused must be acquitted and
exonerated from the criminal charge of violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

Furthermore, the Court entertains doubts whether the shabu allegedly seized from Sanchez was the
very same item presented during the trial of this case. The Court notes that there wereseveral lapses in
the law enforcers handling of the seized item which, when taken collectively, render the standards of
chain of custody seriously breached.

Chain of custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or
controlled chemicals from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to
safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction.36 The function of the chain of custody requirement
is to ensure that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved, so much so that
unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence are removed.37 Thus, the chain of custody
requirement has a two-fold purpose: (1) the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized items, and (2) the removal of unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence.38

In this case, the prosecution failed to account for each and every link in the chain of custody of the
shabu, from the moment it was allegedly confiscated up to the time it was presented before the court as
proof of the corpus delicti. The testimony of SPO 1 Amposta was limited to the fact that he placed the
marking "RSC" on the seized drug; and that he and the three other police officers brought Sanchez and
the subject shabu to their station and turned them over to their investigator. The prosecution evidence
did not disclose where the marking of the confiscated shabu took place and who witnessed it. The
evidence does not show who was in possession of the seized shabu from the crime scene to the police
station. A reading of the Certification, dated March 20, 2003, issued by Forensic Chemist Salud
Rosales shows that a certain PO I Edgardo Nario submitted the specimen to the NBI for laboratory
examination, but this piece of evidence does not establish the identity of the police investigator to
whom SPO 1 Amposta and his group turned over the seized shabu. The identities of the person who
received the specimen at the NBI laboratory and the person who had the custody and safekeeping of the
seized marijuana after it was chemically analyzed pending its presentation in court were also not
disclosed.

Given the procedural lapses pointed out above, a serious uncertainty hangs over the identity of the
seized shabu that the prosecution introduced in evidence. The prosecution failed to establish an
unbroken chain of custody, resulting in rendering the seizure and confiscation of the shabu open to
doubt and suspicion. Hence, the incriminatory evidence cannot pass judicial scrutiny. WHEREFORE,
the petition is GRANTED. The assailed July 25, 2012 Decision and the November 20, 2012 Resolution
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 31742 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner
Rizaldy Sanchez y Cajili is ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the Court orders the
immediate release of the petitioner, unless the latter is being lawfully held for another cause; and to
inform the Court of the date of his release, or reason for his continued confinement, within ten (10)
days from receipt of notice.

SO ORDERED.

JODE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson
ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN
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 Court's Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division
CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I
certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARJA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
1
Penned by Associate Justice Danton Q. Bueser with Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and Associate Justice
Ramon R. Garcia. concurring: rollo pp. 111-121.
2
Id. at 141-142.
3
Penned by Judge Rommel O. Baybay; id. at 44-46.
4
Id. at 43
5
Id. at 42-43.
6
Id. at 44-45.
7
Id. at 184-193.
8
Id. at 184-185.
9
Id. at 12-39.
10
Id. at 17.
11
Supra note 3.
12
Id. at 46.
13
Id at 120-121.
14
Id. at 17.
15
Id. at 184-192.
16
Heirs of Pagobo v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 1119, 1133 (1997).
17
Oaminal v. Castillo, 459 Phil. 542, 556 (2003); Tagle v. Equitable PCI Bank, 575 Phil. 384, 4032008).
18
Ten Forty Realty and Development Corporation v. Cruz, 457 Phil. 603, 613 (2003).
19
People v. Alvarado, 429 Phil. 208, 219 (2002).
20
Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 889.
21
347 Phil. 462 (1997).
22
Id. at 480-482.
23
TSN dated August 4, 2003, pp. 3-6.
24
Rule 126, Sec. 13, provides:
SEC. 13. Search incidental to a lawful arrest.-A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous
weapons or anything which may have been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a
search warrant.
25
People v. Nuevas, 545 Phil. 356, 371 (2007).
26
People v. Milado, 462 Phil. 411, 416 ( 2003).
27
Zalameda v. People, 614 Phil. 710, 729 ( 2009).
28
People v. Villareal, G.R. No. 201363, March 18, 2013, 693 SCRA 549, 560-561.
29
444 Phil. 757 (2003).
30
Id. at 773-774.
31
345 Phil. 632 (1997).
32
330 Phil. 811 (1996).
33
G.R. No. 200334, July 30, 2014.
34
People v. Go, 457 Phil. 885, 928 (2003).
35
Judge Abelita III v. P/Supt. Doria, 612 Phil. 1127, 1135-1136.
36
People v. Guzon, G.R. No. 199901, October 9, 2013, 707 SCRA 384, 396.
37
People v. Langcua, G.R. No. 190343, February 6, 2013, 690 SCRA 123, 139.
38
People v. Morate, G.R. No. 201156, January 29, 2014.