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SECOND DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 199403


Appellee,
Present:
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
BRION,
- versus - PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

GOMER S. CLIMACO, Promulgated:


Appellant. June 13, 2012
x-------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:
The Case

This is a consolidated criminal case filed against appellant Gomer S. Climaco


(Climaco) for violation of Sections 5 and 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 (The
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) for illegal possession (Criminal
Case No. 4911-SPL) and illegal sale (Criminal Case No. 4912-SPL) of
methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 31, in its
Decision dated 20 January 2009 (RTC Decision), found Climaco guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal possession of methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, and sentenced him to imprisonment of 12 years
and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months with a fine of ₱300,000.00 in Criminal Case
No. 4911-SPL.[1] In Criminal Case No. 4912-SPL, the RTC found Climaco
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal sale ofmethamphetamine
hydrochloride, and sentenced him to life imprisonment with a fine
of P500,000.00. On appeal, the Special Fifteenth Division of the Court of
Appeals (CA), in its Decision dated 29 March 2011 (CA Decision), affirmed the
RTC Decision.[2] Climaco appealed to this Court by filing a Notice of Appeal in
accordance with Section 3(c), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court.[3]

Prosecutions Version

The prosecutions version of events is summarized in the RTC Decision:[4]


The prosecution presented two (2) witnesses in the persons of PO1 Alaindelon
M. Ignacio, who gave his testimony on 5 January 2005, 8 February 2006 and 2
August 2006; and Forensic Chemist Donna Villa Huelgas, whose testimony
was dispensed with on 5 January 2005 upon defenses admission of the
existence of the following: 1) Written Request for Laboratory Examination as
Exhibit A; 2) The Chemistry Report No. D-1102-04 as Exhibit B; 3) 1 white
envelope as Exhibit C; 4) the existence of two (2) plastic sachets with markings
GSC-1 as Exhibit C-1; and 5) another one with markings GSC-2 as Exhibit C-
2.

PO1 Ignacio testified that he is a member of the Philippine National Police since
15 October 1999 and was assigned at Intelligence Division, San Pedro
Municipal Police Station. As member of the Intelligence Division, he was
tasked to conduct surveillance operation and apprehend persons engaged in
illegal drug activity. On 7 September 2004, he was on 24-hour duty at PAC
base located at United Bayanihan, San Pedro, Laguna. At around 6:00 in the
evening of the same day, PO1 Ignacio, SPO3 Samson, SPO4 Balverde, some
members of the Laguna Special Operation Team, Members of the Provincial
Intelligence and Investigation Division conducted a briefing regarding a drug
operation against a certain Gomer Climaco, No. 5 in the drug watch list in San
Pedro, Laguna. During the briefing, PO1 Ignacio was tasked to act as the
poseur-buyer and SPO4 Almeda as the overall team leader. The buy-bust
money was prepared, which consist of P500.00 bill and some boodle
money. The team was also armed with a Warrant of Arrest for illegal drugs
issued by Judge Pao. After the briefing, the team proceeded to the target
area. When they arrived, PO1 Ignacio saw the suspect standing in front of his
house. The other members of the team strategically positioned
themselves. Since PO1 Ignacio already knew the suspect, PO1 Ignacio just told
Gomer that he would buy shabu. Gomer entered his house and took
something. When he came out, Gomer showed to PO1 Ignacio the shabu. PO1
Ignacio scratched his head to signal the team that item was shown to him and
he would execute the buying of the shabu. After Gomer asked for the money
and PO1 Ignacio gave it to him, SPO3 Samson and the rest of the team
immediately moved in to effect the arrest of the suspect. Since he was caught
in the act, Gomer did not resist anymore. The team likewise showed Gomer his
warrant of arrest. PO1 Ignacio saw SPO3 Samson frisk and ask Gomer to empty
his pockets. SPO3 Samson was able to recover another plastic sachet, which
was inserted between Gomers fingers. The plastic sachet, which was the
product of the buy-bust, and the one recovered from Gomer were turned over
to SPO4 Teofilo Royena, who turned them over to the Office of the Special
Operation Group located at Brgy. Tubigan, Bian, Laguna. The plastic sachet
product of the buy-bust was marked TR-B, which means Teofilo Royena and
the letter B means Bust. While the plastic sachet recovered from Gomer was
marked TR-R, which means Teofilo Royena and the letter R means
Recovered. PO1 Ignacio identified the accused Gomer Climaco in open
court. He likewise identified his sworn statement. During the cross-
examination, PO1 Ignacio admitted that he learned of the warrant of arrest on
7 September 2004 only. It was SPO4 Valverde who instructed PO Ignacio to
conduct surveillance operation against Gomer, who was engaged in rampant
selling of shabu.[5]
Aside from the testimony of PO1 Alaindelon Ignacio (Ignacio), the following
documentary exhibits were offered for the prosecution: (1) Exhibit A Letter
dated 7 September 2004; (2) Exhibit B Chemistry Report No. D-1102-04; (3)
Exhibit C One-half white envelope; (4) Exhibit C-1 Plastic sachet with white
crystalline substance with markings GSC-1; (5) Exhibit C-2 Plastic sachet with
white crystalline susbtance with markings GSC-2; and (6) Exhibit D
Pinanumpaang Salaysay of PO1 Ignacio.[6]

Defenses Version

Appellant Climaco, on the other hand, presented three witnesses and denied the
prosecutions allegations of sale and possession of shabu. The defenses version
of the events, as narrated in the RTC Decision, is as follows:

The defense presented three (3) witnesses in the persons of the accused himself,
Gomer S. Climaco, who testified on 13 May 2008, Michael M. Basihan, who
gave his testimony on 7 October 2008, and Cristina Gamboa Climaco, who
gave her testimony on 25 November 2008.

Gomer S. Climaco testified that prior to 7 September 2004, he did not know
SPO2 Wilfredo Samson and PO1 Alaindelon Ignacio. On 7 September 2004,
Gomer, together with his wife and five (5) children, were inside their
house. When Gomer was feeding the chicken in front of his yard, four (4)
unidentified armed men suddenly arrived and frisked him. When nothing was
found in his possession, the men handcuffed and brought him to the police
station. At the police station, the men filed a case against him. Gomer denied
having sold and delivered shabu to a police poseur-buyer and that he was in
possesion of shabu. During the cross-examination, Gomer said that while he
was being frisked by the men, Gomer asked the men what was his
violation. The men replied that somebody bought shabu from him. Gomer told
the men that he did nothing wrong, but the men continued to handcuff
him. Gomer was not aware that he was included in the list of top 20 illegal drug
pushers. Gomer did not know of any ill motive on the part of the police officer
why he would be charged with so grave an offense. He did not file any case
against the police officer who arrested him.

Michael M. Basihan testified that Gomer Climaco was his neighbor in Bagong
Silang. On 7 September 2004, Michael went to Gomers manukan to gather
guava fruits. When he arrived there, Gomer was tending to his cocks. While he
was gathering guava fruits, Michael saw four (4) unidentified armed men
suddenly barge into the premises and arrest Gomer. After he was handcuffed,
Gomer was made to board a vehicle where he was brought to Jaka
Subdivision. Michael could not remember whether it was morning or evening
when Gomer was arrested by unidentified armed men because the incident
happened a long time ago.

Cristina Gamboa Climaco testified that she is the wife of Gomer Climaco. She
did not know SPO2 Wilfredo Samson and PO1 Alaindelon Ignacio. On 7
September 2004, she was inside their house taking care of her child. At around
3:00 in the afternoon of the same day, Gomer arrived in their house, who just
came from Barangay Cuyab. After taking a bath, Gomer went outside of their
house. While in front of their house, Gomer called the person taking care of his
chickens. Gomer and that person went to the back of the house. Meanwhile,
Cristina went inside the house.Although she was inside of the house, Cristina
could see Gomer and the person through the window. At around 4:00 in the
afternoon, Cristina saw four (4) unidentified armed men approach and ask
something from Gomer. After a few minutes, Gomer left the back of the house,
while the men were left standing there. Cristina went out the house and saw her
husband go toward the direction of St. Reymond. At around 6:00 in the
evening, Cirstina went down from their house to ask Michael if he saw
Gomer. Michael told Cristina that he saw Gomer loaded into a van by several
men. During the cross-examination, Cristina said that she did not know of any
reason why SPO2 Samson and PO1 Ignacio would arrest her husband.[7]

The Decision of the Regional Trial Court

The RTC declared Climaco guilty of the crimes of illegal sale and illegal
possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. The
dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. 4912-SPL, the Court finds the accused,
Gomer S. Climaco, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation
of Sec. 5 of R.A. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of life
imprisonment and to pay a fine of ₱500,000.00.

In Criminal Case No. 4911-SPL, the Court finds the accused, Gomer S.
Climaco, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Sec.
11 of R.A. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act
of 2002, and sentencing him to suffer imprisonment of twelve (12) years and
one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months and to pay a fine of
three hundred thousand pesos (₱300,000.00).

The Branch Clerk of Court is directed to transmit to the Philippine Drug


Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the plastic sachets subject matter of these cases,
for said agencys appropriate disposition.

SO ORDERED.[8]

The RTC found that the elements for the crimes of illegal sale and illegal
possession of shabu were sufficiently established by the prosecution.[9] The RTC
held that Climacos defense of frame-up is viewed with disfavor as it can be easily
concocted.[10] The RTC gave full faith and credit to the testimony of PO1
Ignacio, and declared the police officers who participated in the buy-bust
operation were properly performing their duties because they were not inspired
by any improper motive.[11]

The Decision of the Court of Appeals


The CA affirmed the conviction of Climaco. The dispositive portion of the CA
Decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED and the judgment dated January 20,
2009 of the RTC in Criminal Case Nos. 4911-SPL and 4912-SPL finding
appellant Gomer S. Climaco guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of
Sections 5 and 11 of Rep. Act No. 9165 is AFFIRMED.[12]
The CA declared that all the elements of the crimes of illegal sale and illegal
possession of dangerous drugs were proven.[13] The CA found that based on the
testimony of PO1 Ignacio, it was established that the chain of custody over the
seized drugs was unbroken from the arresting officers to SPO4 Royena, and then
to the forensic chemist for examination.[14]

The Issue

The sole issue in this case is whether the guilt of Climaco for the crimes of illegal
sale and illegal possession of shabu, a dangerous drug, was proven beyond
reasonable doubt.

The Ruling of this Court

We resolve to acquit Climaco for the prosecutions failure to prove his guilt
beyond reasonable doubt.

PO1 Ignacio, in his testimony, claimed that the dangerous drugs seized from
Climaco were marked by SPO4 Teofilo Royena as TR-B and TR-R.[15] However,
the Chemistry Report submitted to the trial court shows that the dangerous drugs
examined and confirmed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu by the
forensic chemist were marked as GSC1 and GSC2.[16] Since what was seized
(TR-B and TR-R) by PO1 Ignacio from Climaco at the time of the buy-bust
operation was different from the dangerous drugs submitted (GSC1 and GSC2)
to the forensic chemist for review and evaluation, the chain of custody over the
dangerous drugs was broken and the integrity of the evidence submitted to the
trial court was not preserved, casting doubt on the guilt of Climaco.

Constitutional Presumption of Innocence; Weight of Evidence

The Constitution guarantees the accuseds presumption of innocence until proven


guilty. Section 14(2) of the Bill of Rights (Article III) provides that, in all
criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary
is proved.

Section 2, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court likewise states that, in a criminal case,
the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is proved beyond
reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree
of proof, excluding possibility of error, which produces absolute certainty. Only
moral certainly is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in
an unprejudiced mind.
Chain of Custody Over the Confiscated Items

The elements necessary in every prosecution for the illegal sale of shabu are: (1)
the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and the consideration; and (2)
the delivery of the thing sold and the payment.[17] Similarly, it is essential that
the transaction or sale be proved to have actually taken place coupled with the
presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti which means the actual
commission by someone of the particular crime charged.[18] The corpus delicti in
cases involving dangerous drugs is the presentation of the dangerous drug itself.

On the other hand, to successfully prosecute a case of illegal possession of


dangerous drugs, the following elements must be established: (1) the accused is
in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2)
such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and
consciously possessed the drug.[19]

In both cases of illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the chain
of custody over the dangerous drug must be shown to establish the corpus
delicti. In People v. Alcuizar,[20] the Court held:

The dangerous drug itself, the shabu in this case, constitutes the very corpus
delicti of the offense and in sustaining a conviction under Republic Act No.
9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely be shown
to have been preserved. This requirement necessarily arises from the illegal
drugs unique characteristic that renders it indistinct, not readily identifiable,
and easily open to tampering, alteration or substitution either by accident or
otherwise. Thus, to remove any doubt or uncertainty on the identity and
integrity of the seized drug, evidence must definitely show that the illegal drug
presented in court is the same illegal drug actually recovered from the accused-
appellant; otherwise, the prosecution for possession under Republic Act No.
9165 fails.

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of


2002,[21] which implements the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,
defines chain of custody as follows:
Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody
of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or
laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to
receipt in the forensic 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 use in court as evidence, and the final disposition.

In Malillin v. People,[22] the Court explained the importance of the chain of


custody:
Prosecutions for illegal possession of prohibited drugs necessitates that the
elemental act of possession of a prohibited substance be established with moral
certainty, together with the fact that the same is not authorized by law. The
dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and the
fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of conviction. Essential therefore in
these cases is that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond
doubt. Be that as it may, the mere fact of unauthorized possession will not
suffice to create in a reasonable mind the moral certainty required to sustain a
finding of guilt. More than just the fact of possession, the fact that the substance
illegally possessed in the first place is the same substance offered in court as
exhibit must also be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that
requisite to make a finding of guilt. The chain of custody requirement performs
this function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity
of the evidence are removed.

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 in 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.

While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard because it is
almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody becomes
indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and
is not readily identifiable, or when its condition at the time of testing or trial is
critical, or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same
standard likewise obtains in case the evidence is susceptible to alteration,
tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. In other words,
the exhibits level of susceptibility to fungibility, alteration or tampering without
regard to whether the same is advertent or otherwise not dictates the level of
strictness in the application of the chain of custody rule.

Indeed, the likelihood of tampering, loss or mistake with respect to an exhibit


is greatest when the exhibit is small and is one that has physical characteristics
fungible in nature and similar in form to substances familiar to people in their
daily lives. Graham v. State positively acknowledged this danger. In that case
where a substance was later analyzed as heroin was handled by two police
officers prior to examination who however did not testify in court on the
condition and whereabouts of the exhibit at the time it was in their possession
was excluded from the prosecution evidence, the court pointing out that the
white powder seized could have been indeed heroin or it could have been sugar
or baking powder. It ruled that unless the state can show by records or
testimony, the continuous whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time
it came into the posession of the police officers until it was tested in the
laboratory to determine its composition, testimony of the state as to the
laboratorys findings is inadmissible.

A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily


identifiable as in fact they are subject to scientific analysis to determine their
composition and nature. The Court cannot reluctantly close its eyes to the
likelihood or at least the possibility, that at any of the links in the chain of
custody over the same there could have been tampering, alteration or
substitution of substances from other cases by accident or otherwise in which
similar evidence was seized or in which similar evidence was submitted for
laboratory testing. Hence, in authenticating the same, a standard more stringent
than that applied to cases involving objects which are readily identifiable must
be applied, a more exacting standard that entails a chain of custody of the item
with sufficient completeness if only to render it improbable that the original
item has either been exchanged with another or been contaminated or tampered
with.

In this case, PO1 Ignacio, in his testimony, claimed that the substances seized
from Climaco during the buy-bust operation were marked as TR-R and TR-B:

Q: When SPO4 Almeida handed over the items to SPO4 Teofilo Royena, what
if any did SPO4 Royena do with the items?
A: He placed markings on it, maam.

Q: Where were you when he placed the markings?


A: I was present, maam.

Q: Do you know what markings was made?


A: He placed his initials TR which means Teofilo Royena and the letter B
which means bust, maam.

Q: Im showing to you a plastic sachet with the markings TR-B, please go over
this and tell if this is the same item which you confiscated from the accused?
A: Yes, maam. This is the same.

PROS. CASANO: Your Honor, the brown envelope which contains the plastic
sachet has already been marked as Exhibit C, the plastic sachet as Exhibit C-1
and the markings TR-B as Exhibit C-2 (Continuing).

xxxx

Q: Tell us the markings that was placed?


A: Its TR-R, the R means recovered, maam.

Q: How sure are you that the items marked by SPO4 Teofilo Royena TR-R was
the same item taken by SPO3 Samson from the accused?
A: Because there was a difference between the two plastic sachets, the items
recovered by SPO3 Samson was a little bit bigger, maam.

Q: Im showing to you a bigger plastic sachet with the markings TR- R, are you
referring to this?
A: Yes, maam.[23]

Based on the testimony of PO1 Ignacio, the substances retrieved from Climaco
and submitted to the court were contained in two (2) plastic sachets with the
markings TR-R and TR-B. However, according to the Chemistry Report
executed by Forensic Chemist Donna Villa P. Huelgas on 8 September 2004, the
plastic sachets submitted for examination carried the markings GSC-1 and GSC-
2, different from the plastic sachets marked TR-R and TR-B containing the drugs
retrieved from Climaco:

CHEMISTRY REPORT NUMBER: D-1102-04

xxxx

SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:
A One (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, with markings GSC1,
containing 0.35 gram of white crystalline substance and placed in a staple-
sealed transparent plastic bag. (Allegedly bought by the Police Poseur-Buyer)

B One (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, with markings GSC2,


containing 0.14 gram of white crystalline substance and placed in a staple-
sealed transparent plastic bag. (Allegedly found from the posession of Glomer
Climaco)[24]

In addition, in the Index of Exhibits submitted by the Officer-in-Charge of the


RTC, Exhibit C-1 was described as a plastic sachet with white crystalline
substance with markings GSC-1 while Exhibit C-2 was described as a plastic
sachet with white crystalline substance with markings GSC-2,[25] contrary to the
testimony of PO1 Ignacio and the declaration of Prosecutor Casano that the
specimens submitted to the court carried the markings TR-B and TR-R.

Likewise, in the handwritten Minutes dated 5 January 2005, Exhibit C-1 was
identified as a plastic sachet with white crystalline substance with marking GSC-
1, and Exhibit C-2 was identified as a plastic sachet with white crystalline
substance with marking GSC-2.[26]

Clearly, what was submitted to the trial court were plastic sachets bearing the
markings GSC-1 and GSC-2, instead of the plastic sachets bearing the markings
TR-R and TR-B that contained the substances recovered from Climaco. This fact
is evident from the RTC Decision, recognizing Exhibits C-1 and C-2 to bear the
markings GSC-1 and GSC-2, while acknowledging the testimony of PO1 Ignacio
that the plastic sachets containing the substances recovered from Climaco bore
the markings TR-R and TR-B:

The prosecution presented two (2) witnesses in the persons of x x x Forensic


Chemist Donna Villa Huelgas, whose testimony was dispensed with on 5
January 2005 upon defenses admission of the existence of the following: 1)
Written Request for Laboratory Examination as Exhibit A; 2) The Chemistry
Report No. D-1102-04 as Exhibit B; 3) 1 white envelope as Exhibit C; 4) the
existence of two (2) plastic sachets with markings GSC-1 as Exhibit C-1;
and 5) another one with markings GSC-2 as Exhibit C-2.

xxxx
The plastic sachet product of the buy-bust was marked TR-B, which means
Teofilo Royena and the letter B means Bust. While the plastic sachet recovered
from Gomer was marked TR-R, which means Teofilo Royena and the letter R
means Recovered.[27] (Emphasis supplied)

The prosecution did not explain why the markings of the plastic sachets
containing the alleged drugs, which were submitted to be TR-B and TR-R,
became GSC-1 and GSC-2 in the Chemistry Report, Index of Exhibits and
Minutes of the Hearing. In their decisions, the RTC and CA were silent on the
change of the markings. In fact, since the markings are different, the presumption
is that the substance in the plastic sachets marked as TR-B and TR-R is different
from the substance in the plastic sachets marked as GSC-1 and GSC-2. There is
no moral certainty that the substance taken from appellant is the same dangerous
drug submitted to the laboratory and the trial court.

As held in Malillin v. People,[28] to establish guilt of the accused beyond


reasonable doubt in cases involving dangerous drugs, it is important that the
substance illegally possessed in the first place be the same substance offered in
court as exhibit. This chain of custody requirement ensures that unnecessary
doubts are removed concerning the identity of the evidence. When the identity
of the dangerous drug recovered from the accused is not the same dangerous drug
presented to the forensic chemist for review and examination, nor the same
dangerous drug presented to the court, the identity of the dangerous drug is not
preserved due to the broken chain of custody. With this, an element in the
criminal cases for illegal sale and illegal possession of dangerous drugs,
the corpus delicti, is not proven, and the accused must then be acquitted based
on reasonable doubt.For this reason, Climaco must be acquitted on the ground of
reasonable doubt due to the broken chain of custody over the dangerous drug
allegedly recovered from him.

WHEREFORE, we SET ASIDE the 29 March 2011 Decision of the Court of


Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03860 affirming the judgment of conviction
of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, San Pedro, Laguna in Criminal Case
Nos. 4911-SPL and 4912-SPL dated 20 January 2009. We ACQUIT appellant
Gomer S. Climaco based on reasonable doubt and we ORDER his immediate
release from detention, unless he is detained for any other lawful cause.

We DIRECT the Director of the Bureau of Corrections to implement this


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

SO ORDERED.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION
I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice
(Per Section 12, R.A. 296,
The Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended)

[1]
CA rollo, p. 54.
[2]
Rollo, p. 14.
[3]
Id. at 16.
[4]
CA rollo, pp. 46-54.
[5]
Id. at 47-48.
[6]
Id. at 12.
[7]
Id. at 48-49.
[8]
Id. at 54.
[9]
Id. at 52, 54.
[10]
Id. at 52.
[11]
Id. at 53.
[12]
Rollo, p. 14.
[13]
Id. at 12-13.
[14]
Id. at 11.
[15]
TSN, 8 February 2006, pp. 11-12.
[16]
Records, p. 16.
[17]
People v. Roble, G.R. No. 192188, 11 April 2011, 647 SCRA 593, 603.
[18]
Id.
[19]
People v. Alcuizar, G.R. No. 189980, 6 April 2011, 647 SCRA 431, 445.
[20]
Id. at 437.
[21]
Guidelines of the Custody and Disposition of Seized Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential
Chemicals and Laboratory Equipment.
[22]
G.R. No. 172953, 30 April 2008, 553 SCRA 619, 631-634.
[23]
TSN, 8 February 2006, pp. 11-12.
[24]
Records, p. 16.
[25]
CA rollo, p. 12.
[26]
Records, p. 25.
[27]
CA rollo, pp. 47-48.
[28]
Malillin v. People, supra note 22.
G.R. No. 207992, August 11, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROBERTO
HOLGADO Y DELA CRUZ AND ANTONIO MISAREZ Y ZARAGA, Accused-Appellants.

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 207992, August 11, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROBERTO HOLGADO Y DELA CRUZ AND


ANTONIO MISAREZ Y ZARAGA, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

Law enforcers should not trifle with the legal requirement to ensure integrity in the chain of custody of
seized dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia. This is especially true when only a miniscule amount
of dangerous drugs is alleged to have been taken from the accused.

This resolves an appeal from a conviction for illegal sale of dangerous drugs or for violation of Section 5
of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Accused-appellants Roberto Holgado y Dela Cruz (Holgado) and Antonio Misarez y Zaraga (Misarez)
were charged in an information dated January 19, 2007, as follows: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

On or about January 17, 2007, in Pasig City and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
accused conspiring and confederating together and both of them mutually helping and aiding with (sic)
one another, and not being lawfully authorized to sell any dangerous drug, did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously sell, deliver and give away to PO1 Philip Aure, one (1) piece of heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachet containing five (5) centigrams (0.05 gram) of white crystalline substance,
which was found to (sic) positive to the test for methylamphetamine hyrdrocloride (shabu), a
dangerous drug, in violation of the said law.

Contrary to law.1 chanrobleslaw

Holgado and Misarez were also charged with possession of dangerous drugs, and possession of drug
paraphernalia, but subsequently acquitted.

As alleged by the prosecution, in December 2006, the Pasig City Police received reports of illegal drug
activities of Holgado along C. Raymundo Street, Pasig City.2 After surveillance operations, a search
warrant was issued against Holgado. Acting on the search warrant, the Pasig City Chief of Police
instructed his officers to, if possible, first conduct a buy-bust operation before actually enforcing the
search warrant.3 cralawred

In the evening of January 17, 2007, police operatives went to No. 17, C. Raymundo Street for the buy-
bust operation. PO1 Philip Aure, acting as poseur-buyer and accompanied by the police informant,
approached Holgado who was then part of a drinking session with two (2) companions. Holgado asked
the informant if he was buying drugs while at the same time offering him a drink. The informant
accepted the drink and introduced PO1 Aure as a drug user. PO1 Aure then handed Holgado two (2)
marked one hundred peso bills. Holgado asked PO1 Aure and the informant to wait as the drugs were
with his “kumpare” who was then in the restroom.4 cralawre d

Holgado called Misarez. After some time, co-accused Antonio Misarez stepped out of the restroom and
asked who was buying drugs. PO1 Aure and the informant answered, “Kami.” Misarez then handed a
plastic sachet containing a white crystalline substance to PO1 Aure. PO1 Aure examined the sachet’s
contents and took out his cellphone. This was the pre-arranged signal to the other police operatives
that the sale of drugs had been consummated.5 cralawred

The police operatives then approached PO1 Aure. When PO1 Aure saw his companions approaching, he
seized Misarez’s hand, but the latter was able to escape and lock himself inside the house. Holgado,
too, was able to flee into the house and join Misarez. The police operatives managed to break open the
wooden door with a crowbar. By then, however, Holgado and Misarez had managed to leave the house
through a passageway in the ceiling leading to an adjoining house. PO3 Rolando Abuyme and PO2
Arnulfo Dancel managed to get inside the adjoining house where they apprehended Holgado and
Misarez.6cralaw red
The search warrant was then enforced “in coordination with a barangay official and in the presence of
some media people.”7 The search allegedly yielded several drugs and drug paraphernalia.8 These
items (i.e., other than the plastic sachet containing a white crystalline substance supposedly sold to
PO1 Aure) were the subject of three (3) other cases. These other cases have since been dismissed.9 c ralaw red

As noted in the Regional Trial Court’s August 17, 2009 decision, PO3 Abuyme prepared an inventory of
the seized items.10 Specifically with respect to the plastic sachet which was the basis of the charge of
illegal sale of dangerous drugs, PO1 Aure supposedly marked the plastic sachet handed to him by
Misarez with “RH-PA”11 at the site of the buy-bust operation.

Following their arrest, Holgado and Misarez were charged with violating Sections 5 (sale of dangerous
drugs),12 11 (possession of dangerous drugs),13 and 12 (possession of drug paraphernalia)14 of Republic
Act No. 9165. The case for violating Section 5 was docketed as Criminal Case No. 15338-D. The cases
for violating Section 11 were docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 15339-D and 15341-D. The case for
violating Section 12 was docketed as Criminal Case No. 15340-D. The charge for violating Section 5
was in view of the plastic sachet containing a white crystalline substance supposedly sold by Holgado to
PO1 Aure. The charges for violations of Sections 11 and 12 were in view of the items supposedly seized
in enforcing the search warrant.

During trial, the prosecution presented as witnesses PO1 Aure and the apprehending officers PO2
Roberto Castulo and PO3 Abuyme. The defense presented as its witnesses accused-appellants Holgado
and Misarez, as well as their neighbor, Carlos Marquing, and Holgado’s wife, Maribel Villareal.15 c ralawred

In their testimonies, accused-appellants claimed that no buy-bust operation was conducted. Instead,
the police operatives allegedly barged into Holgado’s house and arrested accused-appellants who were
then merely having a few drinks. While Holgado and Misarez were handcuffed, the police operatives
conducted a supposed search of Holgado’s house. They were then taken to the police station. Defense
witnesses Marquing and Villareal corroborated accused-appellants’ claims.16 cralaw red

After trial, the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, Branch 154 found Holgado and Misarez guilty of illegal
sale of dangerous drugs (i.e., violating Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165). They were acquitted of the
charges pertaining to Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 as the drugs supposedly seized were not
introduced in evidence. Holgado, the sole accused in Criminal Case No. 15340-D, was also acquitted of
the charges relating to Section 12 of Republic Act No. 9165 as the paraphernalia to which PO2 Castulo
testified to in court were different from those indicated in the inventory supposedly made when the
search warrant was enforced.17 cralaw red

Holgado and Misarez were sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a penalty of
P1 million. The dispositive portion of the Regional Trial Court’s decision reads: chanRoble svi rtual Lawli bra ry

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered –

In Crim. Case No. 15338-D finding both the accused Roberto Holgado and Antonio Misarez GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section 5 of R.A. 9165 (sale of dangerous drug),
and each of them is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment. Each of them is also
ordered to pay a fine of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00).

In Crim. Cases Nos. 15339-D and 15341-D for violation of Section 11 of R.A. 9165 (possession of
dangerous drug) against accused Roberto Holgado and Antonio Misarez, they are hereby found NOT
GUILTY of the said offense for lack of evidence.

In Crim. Case No. 15340-D for violation of Section 12 of R.A. 9165 (possession of drug paraphernalia)
against Roberto Holgado, judgment is hereby rendered finding the said accused NOT GUILTY of the said
offense charged against him on the ground of reasonable doubt.

The dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia allegedly obtained from the persons of the accused and
subject of the Informations are hereby ordered delivered forthwith to the Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency (PDEA) for proper disposition.

Considering the penalty imposed by the Court on the accused ROBERTO HOLGADO and ANTONIO
MISAREZ for violation of Section 5 of R.A. 9165 (sale of dangerous drug), their immediate commitment
to the National Bilibid Prisons is hereby ordered.

SO ORDERED.18 (Underscoring in the original)

In the decision dated February 18, 2013,19 the Court of Appeals affirmed the Regional Trial Court’s
decision convicting Holgado and Misarez.

On March 4, 2013, Holgado and Misarez filed their notice of appeal.20cralaw red

In the resolution dated September 11, 2013, this court noted the records forwarded by the Court of
Appeals and informed the parties that they may file their supplemental briefs.21 cra lawred

On November 6, 2013, the Office of the Solicitor General filed a manifestation and motion, on behalf of
the People of the Philippines, noting that it would no longer file a supplemental brief.22 cralaw red
On December 27, 2013, Holgado and Misarez filed their joint supplemental brief23 where they assailed
the supposed lack of compliance with the requirements set by the chain of custody of seized drugs and
drug paraphernalia as provided by Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165.

For resolution is the issue of whether Holgado’s and Misarez’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt for
violating Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 was established. Subsumed in the resolution of this issue
is the question of whether the prosecution was able to establish compliance with the requisites of
Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165.

The elements that must be established to sustain convictions for illegal sale of dangerous drugs are
settled. In People v. Morales,24 this court stated: chanRoblesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

In actions involving the illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements must first be
established: (1) proof that the transaction or sale took place and (2) the presentation in court of the
corpus delicti or the illicit drug as evidence.25

On corpus delicti, Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, as amended by Republic Act No. 10640,
provides for the custody and disposition of confiscated, seized, and/or surrendered drugs and/or drug
paraphernalia. Specifically with respect to custody before the filing of a criminal case, Section 21, as
amended, provides: cha nRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

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: cralawlawl ibra ry

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the
dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals,
instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, conduct a physical
inventory of the seized items 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, with
an elected public official and a representative of the National
Prosecution Service or the media 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, finally,
That noncompliance of 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 and custody over said items.
(2) Within twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous
drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and
essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or
laboratory equipment, the same shall be submitted to the PDEA
Forensic Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination;
(3) A certification of the forensic laboratory examination results, which
shall be done by the forensic laboratory examiner, shall be issued
immediately upon the receipt of the subject item/s: Provided, That
when the volume of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous
drugs, and controlled precursors and essential chemicals does not
allow the completion of testing within the time frame, a partial
laboratory examination report shall be provisionally issued stating
therein the quantities of dangerous drugs still to be examined by the
forensic laboratory: Provided, however, That a final certification shall
be issued immediately upon completion of the said examination and
certification[.] (Emphasis supplied)
As this court declared in People v. Morales, “failure to comply with Paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II of
RA 9165 implie[s] a concomitant failure on the part of the prosecution to establish the identity of the
corpus delicti.”26 It “produce[s] doubts as to the origins of the [seized paraphernalia].”27 cralawred

The significance of ensuring the integrity of drugs and drug paraphernalia in prosecutions under
Republic Act No. 9165 is discussed in People v. Belocura:28 cra lawred

Worse, the Prosecution failed to establish the identity of the prohibited drug that constituted the corpus
delicti itself. The omission naturally raises grave doubt about any search being actually conducted and
warrants the suspicion that the prohibited drugs were planted evidence.

In every criminal prosecution for possession of illegal drugs, the Prosecution must account for the
custody of the incriminating evidence from the moment of seizure and confiscation until the moment it
is offered in evidence. That account goes to the weight of evidence. It is not enough that the evidence
offered has probative value on the issues, for the evidence must also be sufficiently connected to and
tied with the facts in issue. The evidence is not relevant merely because it is available but that it has
an actual connection with the transaction involved and with the parties thereto. This is the
reason why authentication and laying a foundation for the introduction of evidence are
important.29 (Emphasis supplied)

In Malilin v. People,30 this court explained that the exactitude required by Section 21 goes into the very
nature of narcotics as the subject of prosecutions under Republic Act No. 9165: chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

Indeed, the likelihood of tampering, loss or mistake with respect to an exhibit is greatest when the
exhibit is small and is one that has physical characteristics fungible in nature and similar in form to
substances familiar to people in their daily lives. Graham vs. State positively acknowledged this
danger. In that case where a substance later analyzed as heroin—was handled by two police officers
prior to examination who however did not testify in court on the condition and whereabouts of the
exhibit at the time it was in their possession—was excluded from the prosecution evidence, the court
pointing out that the white powder seized could have been indeed heroin or it could have been sugar or
baking powder. It ruled that unless the state can show by records or testimony, the continuous
whereabouts of the exhibit at least between the time it came into the possession of police officers until
it was tested in the laboratory to determine its composition, testimony of the state as to the
laboratory’s findings is inadmissible.

A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily identifiable as in fact they are
subject to scientific analysis to determine their composition and nature. The Court cannot reluctantly
close its eyes to the likelihood, or at least the possibility, that at any of the links in the chain of custody
over the same there could have been tampering, alteration or substitution of substances from other
cases—by accident or otherwise—in which similar evidence was seized or in which similar evidence was
submitted for laboratory testing. Hence, in authenticating the same, a standard more stringent than
that applied to cases involving objects which are readily identifiable must be applied, a more exacting
standard that entails a chain of custody of the item with sufficient completeness if only to render it
improbable that the original item has either been exchanged with another or been contaminated or
tampered with.31 (Emphasis supplied)

Compliance with the chain of custody requirement provided by Section 21, therefore, ensures the
integrity of confiscated, seized, and/or surrendered drugs and/or drug paraphernalia in four (4)
respects: first, the nature of the substances or items seized; second, the quantity (e.g., weight) of the
substances or items seized; third, the relation of the substances or items seized to the incident
allegedly causing their seizure; and fourth, the relation of the substances or items seized to the
person/s alleged to have been in possession of or peddling them. Compliance with this requirement
forecloses opportunities for planting, contaminating, or tampering of evidence in any manner.

By failing to establish identity of corpus delicti, non-compliance with Section 21 indicates a failure to
establish an element of the offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs. It follows that this non-
compliance suffices as a ground for acquittal. As this court stated in People v. Lorenzo:32 c ralawred

In both illegal sale and illegal possession of prohibited drugs, conviction cannot be sustained if there is
a persistent doubt on the identity of the drug. The identity of the prohibited drug must be established
with moral certainty. Apart from showing that the elements of possession or sale are present, the fact
that the substance illegally possessed and sold in the first place is the same substance offered in court
as exhibit must likewise be established with the same degree of certitude as that needed to sustain a
guilty verdict.33 (Emphasis supplied)

The prosecution’s sweeping guarantees as to the identity and integrity of seized drugs and drug
paraphernalia will not secure a conviction. Not even the presumption of regularity in the performance
of official duties will suffice. In fact, whatever presumption there is as to the regularity of the manner
by which officers took and maintained custody of the seized items is “negated.”34 Republic Act No.
9165 requires compliance with Section 21.
Even the doing of acts which ostensibly approximate compliance but do not actually comply with the
requirements of Section 21 does not suffice. In People v. Magat,35 for instance, this court had occasion
to emphasize the inadequacy of merely marking the items supposedly seized: “Marking of the seized
drugs alone by the law enforcers is not enough to comply with the clear and unequivocal procedures
prescribed in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165.”36 cralawred

The exactitude which the state requires in handling seized narcotics and drug paraphernalia is bolstered
by the amendments made to Section 21 by Republic Act No. 10640. Section 21(1), as amended, now
includes the following proviso, thereby making it even more stringent than as originally worded: chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

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:

In People v. Nandi,37 this court explained that four (4) links “should be established in the chain of
custody of the confiscated item: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug
recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized
by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the investigating officer
of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and
submission of the marked illegal drug seized from the forensic chemist to the court.”38 cralaw red

In Nandi, where the prosecution failed to show how the seized items were handled following the actual
seizure and, thereafter, turned over for examination, this court held that the accused must be
acquitted:chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

After a closer look, the Court finds that the linkages in the chain of custody of the subject item were not
clearly established. As can be gleaned from his forequoted testimony, PO1 Collado failed to provide
informative details on how the subject shabu was handled immediately after the seizure. He just
claimed that the item was handed to him by the accused in the course of the transaction and,
thereafter, he handed it to the investigator.

There is no evidence either on how the item was stored, preserved, labeled, and recorded. PO1 Collado
could not even provide the court with the name of the investigator. He admitted that he was not
present when it was delivered to the crime laboratory. It was Forensic Chemist Bernardino M. Banac,
Jr. who identified the person who delivered the specimen to the crime laboratory. He disclosed that he
received the specimen from one PO1 Cuadra, who was not even a member of the buy-bust team. Per
their record, PO1 Cuadra delivered the letter-request with the attached seized item to the CPD Crime
Laboratory Office where a certain PO2 Semacio recorded it and turned it over to the Chemistry Section.

In view of the foregoing, the Court is of the considered view that chain of custody of the illicit drug
seized was compromised. Hence, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties cannot be
applied in this case.
Given the flagrant procedural lapses the police committed in handling the seized shabu and the obvious
evidentiary gaps in the chain of its custody, a presumption of regularity in the performance of duties
cannot be made in this case. A presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty is made in
the context of an existing rule of law or statute authorizing the performance of an act or duty or
prescribing a procedure in the performance thereof. The presumption applies when nothing in the
record suggests that the law enforcers deviated from the standard conduct of official duty required by
law; where the official act is irregular on its face, the presumption cannot arise. In light of the flagrant
lapses we noted, the lower courts were obviously wrong when they relied on the presumption of
regularity in the performance of official duty.
With the chain of custody in serious question, the Court cannot gloss over the argument of the accused
regarding the weight of the seized drug. The standard procedure is that after the confiscation of the
dangerous substance, it is brought to the crime laboratory for a series of tests. The result thereof
becomes one of the bases of the charge to be filed.39(Citations omitted)

In this case, the defense points out that all that the prosecution claimed, with respect to the handling of
the sachet supposedly handed by Misarez to PO1 Aure, was that PO1 Aure supposedly marked it “RH-
PA” at the scene of the buy-bust operation.40 cralaw red

While the buy-bust operation team allegedly conducted an inventory of the seized items, it is unclear if
this inventory was limited to those seized pursuant to the enforcement of the search warrant (i.e., after
the conduct of the buy-bust operation) or was inclusive of whatever items seized during the buy-bust
operation. In any case, this inventory was discredited as Holgado was acquitted by the Regional Trial
Court of the charge of illegal possession of drug paraphernalia because the inventory was found to be
unreliable vis-a-vis the testimony of PO2 Castulo. The paraphernalia to which PO2 Castulo testified to
in court were different from those indicated in the inventory supposedly made when the search warrant
was enforced.

There have been claims to the effect that the search warrant was enforced “in coordination with a
barangay official and in the presence of some media people.”41 However, this “barangay official” and
these “media people” have neither been identified nor presented as witnesses. In any case, even if it
were to be granted that these individuals took part in the events that transpired in the evening of
January 17, 2007, their participation was alleged to have been only with respect to the enforcement of
the search warrant. It did not extend to the physical inventory and taking of photographs of the seized
items arising from the buy-bust operation, as required by Section 21. For that matter, it was not even
shown that photographs of the sachet marked as “RH-PA” were taken. Per his own testimony, PO1
Aure himself doubted if any photograph was taken.42 cralawred

The defense also points out that “PO1 Aure . . . failed to disclose who, in particular, held the sachet of
shabu from the crime scene (after it was marked) up to the police station, and finally to the crime
laboratory for the requisite chemical examination.”43 It added that “nothing on (sic) the records
showed who, in particular, submitted/brought the specimen to the crime laboratory for examination.”44 cralawred

In People v. Gatlabayan45 and People v. Sitco,46 this court considered as fatal to the prosecution’s case
the lack of evidence on the identity of the person who submitted the specimen for examination to the
PNP Crime Laboratory and/or the forensic chemist. In Sitco, this court characterized the lack of
evidence on this matter as “glaring gaps or missing links in the chain of custody of evidence, raising
doubt as to the identity of the seized items and necessarily their evidentiary value.”47 This court also
underscored that “[t]his broken chain of custody is especially significant given that what are involved
are fungible items that may be easily altered or tampered with.”48 cralawred

In sum, the integrity of three (3) of the four (4) links enumerated in People v. Nandi49 (i.e., seizure and
marking, turnover by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer, and turnover by the
investigating officer to the forensic chemist) has been cast in doubt. As in Nandi, this doubt must be
resolved in favor of accused-appellants.

It is true that Section 21(1), as amended, now includes a proviso to the effect that “noncompliance of
(sic) 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 and custody over said items.” However, the prosecution has not shown that when
the buy-bust operation was allegedly conducted on January 17, 2007 and the sachet was supposedly
seized and marked, there were “justifiable grounds” for dispensing with compliance with Section
21. Rather, it merely insisted on its self-serving assertion that the integrity of the seized sachet has
nevertheless been, supposedly, preserved. The omission became more glaring considering that the
prosecution asserted that the events of January 17, 2007 entailed a carefully planned operation,
engendered by reports of drug-related activities along C. Raymundo Street. This planning even led to
the application for and issuance of a search warrant.

Apart from the officers’ glaring non-compliance with Section 21, two (2) circumstances are worth
underscoring in this case. First, the shabu supposedly seized amounted to five (5) centigrams (0.05
gram). This quantity is so miniscule it amounts to only about 2.5% of the weight of a five-centavo coin
(1.9 grams) or a one-centavo coin (2.0 grams). Second, Holgado and Misarez were acquitted by the
Regional Trial Court of all other charges (i.e., for possession of dangerous drugs and for possession of
drug paraphernalia).

While the miniscule amount of narcotics seized is by itself not a ground for acquittal, this circumstance
underscores the need for more exacting compliance with Section 21. In Malilin v. People,50 this court
said that “the likelihood of tampering, loss or mistake with respect to an exhibit is greatest when the
exhibit is small and is one that has physical characteristics fungible in nature and similar in form to
substances familiar to people in their daily lives.”51
c ralawred

Moreover, the Regional Trial Court’s observations which led to accused-appellants’ acquittal for
violations of Sections 11 and 12 of Republic Act No. 9165 should have warned the Regional Trial Court
and the Court of Appeals that something was amiss.

The events of January 17, 2007 should be taken and appreciated as a whole even as they gave rise to
four (4) distinct criminal cases which were separately docketed. The reasons for acquitting accused-
appellants for the charges of violating Sections 11 and 12 (i.e., the prosecution’s complete failure to
introduce in evidence the drugs seized and the testifying police operative’s own failure to properly
account for the paraphernalia he himself took part in seizing)52 seriously cast doubt, not only on
accused-appellants’ own guilt, but more so on the soundness and reliability of the measures taken and
procedures followed by the police operatives. These circumstances cast a heavy shadow on the
integrity of the operation and the police operatives themselves.

Trial courts should meticulously consider the factual intricacies of cases involving violations of Republic
Act No. 9165. All details that factor into an ostensibly uncomplicated and barefaced narrative must be
scrupulously considered. Courts must employ heightened scrutiny, consistent with the requirement of
proof beyond reasonable doubt, in evaluating cases involving miniscule amounts of drugs. These can
be readily planted and tampered. Also, doubt normally follows in cases where an accused has been
discharged from other simultaneous offenses due to mishandling of evidence. Had the Regional Trial
Court and the Court of Appeals been so judicious in this case, a speedier resolution would have been
handed to Holgado and Misarez whose guilt beyond reasonable doubt was not established.

It is lamentable that while our dockets are clogged with prosecutions under Republic Act No. 9165
involving small-time drug users and retailers, we are seriously short of prosecutions involving the
proverbial “big fish.” We are swamped with cases involving small fry who have been arrested for
miniscule amounts. While they are certainly a bane to our society, small retailers are but low-lying
fruits in an exceedingly vast network of drug cartels. Both law enforcers and prosecutors should realize
that the more effective and efficient strategy is to focus resources more on the source and true
leadership of these nefarious organizations. Otherwise, all these executive and judicial resources
expended to attempt to convict an accused for 0.05 gram of shabu under doubtful custodial
arrangements will hardly make a dent in the overall picture. It might in fact be distracting our law
enforcers from their more challenging task: to uproot the causes of this drug menace. We stand ready
to assess cases involving greater amounts of drugs and the leadership of these cartels.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision dated February 18, 2013 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR-HC No. 04635 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellants Roberto Holgado y Dela
Cruz and Antonio Misarez y Zaraga are hereby ACQUITTED for failure of the prosecution to prove their
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention, unless they
are confined for any other lawful cause.

Let a copy of this decision be furnished to 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 (5) days from receipt of this decision the action he has taken. Copies shall also be furnished
to the Director General of Philippine National Police and the Director General of Philippine Drugs
Enforcement Agency for their information.

The Regional Trial Court is directed to turn over the seized sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride
to the Dangerous Drugs Board for destruction in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Villarama, Jr.*, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

O R D E R OF R E L E A S E

TO: The Director


Bureau of Corrections
1770 Muntinlupa City

G R E E T I N G S:

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court on August 11, 2014 promulgated a Decision in the above-entitled
case, the dispositive of which reads:chanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision dated February 18, 2013 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04635 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellants Roberto Holgado y Dela
Cruz and Antonia Misarez y Zaraga are hereby ACQUITTED for failure of the prosecution to prove their
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention, unless they
are confined for any other lawful cause.

Let a copy of this decision be furnished to the Director of the Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City, for
immediate implementation. The Director of Bureau of Corrections is directed to report to this court
within five (5) days from receipt of this decision the action he has taken. Copies shall also be furnished
to the Director General of Philippine National Police and the Director General of the Philippine Drugs
Enforcement Agency for their information.

The Regional Trial Court is directed to turn over the seized sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride
to the Dangerous drugs Board for destruction in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED. chanrobles law

NOW, THEREFORE, You are hereby ordered to immediately release ROBERTO HOLGADO y DELA
CRUZ and ANTONIO MISAREZ y ZARAGA unless there are other causes fro which they should be
further detained, and to return this Order with the certificate of your proceedings within five (5) days
from notice hereof.

GIVEN by the Honorable PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR., Chairperson of the Third Division of the
Supreme Court of the Philippines, this 11th day of August 2014.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.)
WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court

Endnotes:
*
Designated as Acting Member in view of the vacancy in the Third Division per Special Order No. 1691
dated May 22, 2014.

Rollo, pp. 3–4.


1

2
CA rollo, p. 27.

3
Id. at 28.

4
Id. at 28–29.

5
Id. at 29.

6
CA rollo, pp. 29–30 and rollo, p. 5.

7
CA rollo, p. 30.

8
Id. at 29–30.

Rollo, pp. 2–3.


9

10
CA rollo, p. 30.

11
Rollo, p. 5 and CA rollo, p. 158.

12
Section 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of
Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten
million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall
sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute dispatch in transit or
transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity
and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.

The penalty of imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and
a fine ranging from One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos
(P500,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade,
administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any
controlled precursor and essential chemical, or shall act as a broker in such transactions.

If the sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution or transportation of any


dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical transpires within one hundred (100)
meters from the school, the maximum penalty shall be imposed in every case.

For drug pushers who use minors or mentally incapacitated individuals as runners, couriers and
messengers, or in any other capacity directly connected to the dangerous drugs and/or controlled
precursors and essential chemical trade, the maximum penalty shall be imposed in every case.

If the victim of the offense is a minor or a mentally incapacitated individual, or should a dangerous drug
and/or a controlled precursor and essential chemical involved in any offense herein provided be the
proximate cause of death of a victim thereof, the maximum penalty provided for under this Section
shall be imposed.

The maximum penalty provided for under this Section shall be imposed upon any person who
organizes, manages or acts as a "financier" of any of the illegal activities prescribed in this Section.

The penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of imprisonment and a fine
ranging from One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos
(P500,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who acts as a "protector/coddler" of any violator of
the provisions under this Section.

13
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:cra lawlawlib ra ry

(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; chan roblesv irtuallawl ib rary

(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.
14
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.

Rollo, p. 4.
15

16
CA rollo, pp. 32-33.

17
Id. at 33-38.

18
Id. at 37–38.

Rollo, pp. 2–10.


19

20
Id. at 12.

21
Rollo, p. 17.

22
Id. at 21-22.

23
Id. at 28-37.

24
G.R. No. 172873, March 19, 2010, 616 SCRA 223 [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division].

25
Id. at 235, citing People v. Darisan, 597 Phil. 479, 485 (2009) [Per J. Corona, First Division]
and People v. Partoza, 605 Phil. 883 (2009) [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division].

People v. Morales, G.R. No. 172873, March 19, 2010, 616 SCRA 223, 236 [Per J. Del Castillo, Second
26

Division].

People v. Laxa, 414 Phil. 156, 170 (2001) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division], as cited in People v.
27

Orteza, G.R. No. 173051, July 31, 2007, 528 SCRA 750, 758 [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].

28
G.R. No. 173474, August 29, 2012, 679 SCRA 318 [Per J. Bersamin, First Division].

29
Id. at 337–338.

30
576 Phil. 576 (2008) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].
31
Id. at 588–589.

32
G.R. No. 184760, April 23, 2010, 619 SCRA 389 [Per J. Perez, Second Division].

33
Id. at 401.

People v. Navarrete, G.R. No. 185211, June 6, 2011, 650 SCRA 609, 618 [Per J. Carpio-Morales, Third
34

Division]. See also People v. Ulat, G.R. No. 180504, October 5, 2011, 650 SCRA 607 [Per J. Leonardo-
De Castro, First Division].

35
588 Phil. 395 (2008) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].

36
Id. at 97.

37
G.R. No. 188905, July 13, 2010, 625 SCRA 123 [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].

38
Id. at 133, citing People v. Zaida Kamad, G.R. No. 174198, January 19, 2010, 610 SCRA 295 [Per J.
Brion, Second Division].

39
Id. at 133–134.

Rollo, pp. 31–32; supplemental brief, pp. 4–5.


40

41
CA rollo, p. 30.

Rollo, p. 29; supplemental brief, p. 2.


42

43
Id. at 31; supplemental brief, p. 5.

44
Id.

45
G.R. No. 186467, July 13, 2011, 653 SCRA 803 [Per J. Mendoza, Third Division].

46
G.R. No. 178202, May 14, 2010, 620 SCRA 561 [Per J. Velasco, Jr., Third Division].

47
Id. at 576–577.

48
Id. at 577.

49
G.R. No. 188905, July 13, 2010, 625 SCRA 123 [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division], citing People v.
Zaida Kamad, G.R. No. 174198, January 19, 2010, 610 SCRA 295 [Per J. Brion, Second Division].

50
576 Phil. 576 (2008) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].

51
Id. at 633.

52
CA rollo, pp. 33-38.
FIRST DIVISION

ELIZA ABUAN, G.R. No. 168773


Petitioner,
Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J., Chairperson,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR., and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE Promulgated:


PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. October 27, 2006

x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision[1] of


the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 25726 and Resolution[2] denying the
motion for reconsideration thereof. The CA affirmed the Decision[3] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 41, Dagupan City in Criminal Case No. 98-
02337-D, convicting Eliza T. Abuan of violating Section 16, Article III of Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 6425, as amended, otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act
of 1972.

The Antecedents

A criminal complaint was filed in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao,
Pangasinan charging Abuan with violating R.A. No. 6425, as amended. On May
8, 1998, she filed a motion to quash the criminal complaint, praying that
pending the resolution of her motion, she be allowed to post bail without
waiving her right to question her arrest and assail Search Warrant No. 98-
62.[4] The public prosecutor conformed to the motion. Thus, the motion was
granted and bail was fixed at P60,000.00.[5]
The MTC found probable cause against Abuan for violation of Section 16,
Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, and recommended the filing of an
Information against her. It ordered the elevation of the records to the RTC for
further proceedings.

On November 12, 1998, an Amended Information was filed in the RTC of


Dagupan City, charging Abuan with violating Section 16, Article III of R.A. No.
6425, as amended.The inculpatory portion of the Information reads:

That on or about 8:45 oclock in the morning of May 6, 1998 at Brgy, Lasip,
[M]unicipality of Calasiao, [P]rovince of Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously has in her possession, custody and control of the
following to wit:

Fifty seven (57) small heat-sealed plastic sachets of met[h]aphetamine


hydrochloride (shabu) weighing 5.67 grams.

one (1) roll aluminum foil and assorted plastic (luminous) sachets.

without authority to possess the same.

CONTRARY to Art. III, Section 16 of R.A. 6425, as amended.[6]

During the arraignment on November 12, 1998, the accused, assisted by


counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charge.[7] During the pre-trial on November 19,
1998, Abuan rejected the prosecutions proposal for her to admit the validity of
Search Warrant No. 98-62, and that, in the enforcement thereof, 57 sachets
of shabu were found in her house and later confiscated by the policemen. [8] She
maintained that the warrant was invalid and that any material allegedly
confiscated from her house was inadmissible in evidence.

The court set the initial presentation of evidence by the prosecution


on December 3, 1998. However, on said date, accused filed a Motion to Suppress
Evidence, alleging that there was no probable cause for the issuance of Search
Warrant No. 98-62; the applicant, Cesar Ramos, had no personal knowledge of
his claim that she had in her possession methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
and other drug paraphernalia; Marissa Gorospe was a fictitious person, and her
testimony was fabricated to convince the Executive Judge to make a finding of
probable cause required for the issuance of a search warrant; and the Executive
Judge failed to ask searching questions and elicit from Gorospe the particularity
of the alleged paraphernalia in Abuans possession. Abuan asserted that since the
search warrant is void, whatever evidence was discovered as a result of the search
conducted based on the warrant was inadmissible in evidence.[9]

Instead of allowing the accused to present her evidence in support of her motion,
the court declared that any such evidence may be adduced at the trial.[10]

The Case for the Prosecution

At around 8:30 a.m. on May 5, 1998, SPO2 Marcelino Gamboa and SPO2
Beliguer de Vera of the Calasiao Police Station received information from a
confidential informant that Abuan was conducting illegal drug activities in her
house at Barangay Lasip, Calasiao, Pangasinan. Acting on the said information,
Gamboa and de Vera conducted surveillance-monitoring operations on her
residence, three times for more than an hour. They saw more or less 20 people
who were coming in and out of Abuans house. According to the informant,
these people were drug addicts,[11]and Abuan was a known drug pusher.[12] On
the same day, the officers, through SPO3 Cesar Ramos, applied for a
warrant[13] with Executive Judge Eugenio G. Ramos of the RTC in Lingayen,
Pangasinan, to search the house of Abuan for violation of Section 16, Article III
of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, and the seizure of methamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu), weighing scale, aluminum foil, and burner.

The application was docketed as Search Warrant No. 98-62. To establish


probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, Ramos presented their
informant, Marissa Gorospe, who was subjected to searching questions by the
Executive Judge.[14]

Gorospe testified that she was a resident of Barangay Sapang, Manaoag,


Pangasinan. She knew Abuan because they were employed as dealers of Avon
Cosmetics. Abuan was a prominent personality in Barangay Lasip.[15] Her
unnumbered house is a green bungalow-type, cemented and decorated with
ornamental plants up front. She visited Abuan in her house at least three to four
times a week.[16] She first came upon the drugs in Abuans house when the latter
invited her to a jamming and drinking session. She refused because she had to
go home to Barangay Sapang, Manaoag, Pangasinan, a place of considerable
distance from Calasiao.[17] Abuan then suggested that they use the shabu that she
kept
inside her bedroom instead. Abuan kept a substantial amount of shabu in her
house and sold it.[18] The informant further narrated that several people, including
teenagers, arrived in the house of Abuan and bought the substance.[19] During her
visits, she observed that Abuan placed shabu inside plastic bags. She also saw
weighing scales and paraphernalias used in sniffing shabu. Being a mother
herself, she did not want teenagers and her children to become drug
addicts.[20] Gorospe identified and affirmed the truth of the contents of her
deposition.[21]

The Executive Judge found probable cause and issued Search Warrant No. 98-
62 which reads:

TO ANY OFFICER OF THE LAW:

GREETINGS:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned after examining under oath


thru searching questions on the applicant, SPO3 Cesar A. Ramos, PNP, and his
witnesses that there is probable cause to believe that the respondent is in
possession without any authority to do so in violation of R.A. 6425 of the
following:

Met[h]amphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu)


Tooter
Weighing Scale
Aluminum Foil
Burner

which she keeps and conceals in her house premises at Brgy. Lasip, Calasiao,
Pangasinan, which should be seized and brought to the undersigned.

YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to make an immediate search at any time of the day
or night and take possession of the above-described properties and bring them to
the undersigned to be dealt with as the law directs.

This Search Warrant shall be valid only for ten (10) days from its issuance, thereafter,
the same shall be void.[22]

On May 6, 1998, police operatives composed of Col. Fidel Posadas, Major


Froilan Perez, SPO2 Gamboa, SPO2 Madrid, SPO2 de Vera, PO2 Tomelden, PO2
Rosario, PO3 Ubando, PO1 Moyano and PO3 Vallo went to Barangay Lasip to
enforce the search warrant. However, before proceeding to Abuans residence,
the policemen invited BarangayCaptain Bernardo Mangaliag
and Kagawad Miguel Garcia of Barangay Lasip to witness the search.

Upon arriving at the premises, Officers De Vera, Gamboa and Garcia and
Mangaliag entered the house; the rest of the policemen remained
outside. Mangaliag introduced the police officers to Abuan who presented
Search Warrant No. 98-62 to her. Abuan read the warrant and permitted the
officers to conduct the search.[23]
De Vera, Mangaliag, Gamboa and Garcia entered the bedroom and found
57 sachets of suspected shabu, one roll of aluminum foil and assorted luminous
plastic sachets in the drawer just beside Abuans bed.[24] The police officers
confiscated all these and brought them, along with Abuan, to the police station
where an inventory of the items was made. Mangaliag and Garcia affixed their
signatures on the inventory/receipt,[25] but Abuan refused to sign it.[26]

The police officers prepared a certification of orderly search which Garcia


and Mangaliag also signed. Abuan likewise refused to sign the
certification.[27] The police officers requested the PNP Crime Laboratory Unit of
Lingayen, Pangasinan to conduct a laboratory examination on the confiscated
substance.[28] According to the laboratory examination conducted by P/Supt.
Theresa Ann Bugayong CID, Regional Chief Chemist, the 57 sachets of the
suspected shabu weighing 5.67 grams gave positive results for the presence of
methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug.[29]

After presenting its witnesses, the prosecution offered in evidence Search


Warrant No. 98-62, the Receipt of the Property Seized, the Physical Science
Report and the articles confiscated from Abuans house.[30] However, Abuan
objected to the admission of the search warrant and the articles confiscated
based thereon on the ground that the warrant was issued without probable
cause.[31] The court admitted the documentary evidence of the prosecution
subject to the comment or objection interposed by accused and the eventual
determination of their probative weight.[32]

The Case for the Accused

Abuan testified that she was jobless in 1998. Her parents and her sister Corazon
Bernadette sent her money from Canada once or twice a month to support her
and her daughters.It was her father who spent for the education of her
daughters.[33] She was married to Crispin Abuan, a policeman, but they
separated in 1997.[34] She did not know any person by the name of Marissa
Gorospe. She did not work for Avon Cosmetics nor used any of its products.[35]
At around 8:30 a.m. on May 6, 1998, she was with her two daughters, 21-
year old Ediliza Go and 9-year old Mae Liza Abuan.[36] They were still in bed
inside their room. Suddenly, four armed men barged into their house and
declared a raid.[37] About eight to ten others were outside her house. She
inquired if they had a search warrant but she was not shown any.[38] The men
searched her house for about 10 to 15 minutes and turned up with
nothing.[39] Some of the men went out of the house and boarded a jeepney. The
men outside again went into the bedroom and came out with powder placed in
a plastic.[40] At this instance, Barangay Captain Bernardo Mangaliag was
brought to the scene and was shown the powder substance recovered from her
bedroom. She refused to sign the inventory and receipt of the property seized
and the certification of orderly search.However, Mangaliag signed the same.[41]

She declared that the sachets/substances which the policemen claimed to have
found in her house were merely planted to implicate her. The raid as well as the
charge against her were instigated by her brother Arsenio Tana, who was
enraged when she refused his demand to entrust the properties of the family
to the care of his son. It appears that Tana carried out his threat to have her
house raided since the policemen did come to her house on May 6, 1998.[42] Her
brother was by the gate of her house at the time of the raid.

Abuan also testified that, during the raid, she saw Tana talking to the
police officers who arrested her. Abuan also declared that the money kept
inside a box in her room amounting to P25,000.00 (US$1,100.00) given by her
sister Corazon Bernardino had gone missing after the raid.[43] She did not file
any charge for the loss of her money because she was scared. She did not know
who took it.

Barangay Captain Robert Calachan of Barangay Sapang, Manaoag,


Pangasinan and Mercedes Carvajal, an employee of Avon Cosmetics in Dagupan
holding the position of team leader, testified for accused.

Calachan declared that he was born in Barangay Sapang and never left
the place. He was familiar with the residents of the small barangay.[44] He
issued a certification[45] stating that as per record of this barangay, a certain
Marissa Gorospe is not a resident of this barangay. Before he signed the
certification, he inquired from the barangay members if they knew a Marissa
Gorospe, and he was told that no one by that name was a transient.[46]

Carvajal, for her part, testified that, based on the certification


dated November 12, 1998 of Dagupan City Avon Branch Manager Gigi
dela Rosa, Marissa Gorospe is not a registered dealer of Avon Dagupan Branch
based on our records. She did not know any Avon Cosmetics employee or dealer
named Marissa Gorospe in Pangasinan. She further testified that she had been
a team leader/dealer of Avon Cosmetics for 21 years already, and that Abuan
was not such a dealer/employee. On cross-examination, she declared that she
was a team leader of Avon Cosmetics (Dagupan Branch), and thus had no
participation in the preparation of the certification of Gigi dela Rosa and was
not in a position to know if the certification was correct.

On March 28, 2001, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused
guilty of the charge. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, finding accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation


of Section 15 (sic), Article 6425, she is hereby sentenced to suffer an imprisonment
of TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO
(2) MONTHS of PRISION CORRECTIONAL.

The prohibited drug and paraphernalia seized from the accused are hereby
confiscated in favor of the government and should be turned over to the Dangerous
Drugs Board for disposition in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.[47]

The trial court declared that the testimonies of police officers Gamboa
and de Vera should be accorded great weight and credence as they testified
positively regarding what transpired during the raid. In contrast, the
testimony of accused was self-serving, negative and feeble. She failed to
prove that it was her brother who manipulated the unfortunate
events. Neither was she able to prove ill motive on the part of the police
officers who conducted a search in her house; hence, the presumption is that
they regularly performed their duties. The failure of the accused to present
her two daughters as witnesses amounted to suppression of evidence, giving
rise to the presumption that if they had been presented, their testimonies
would be adverse to her.

On the issue of the validity of the search warrant, the court ruled that
there was probable cause for its issuance. The proceedings conducted by the
Execute Judge relative to the application of the police for a search warrant,
its issuance and implementation were valid, regular, and in accordance with
the requirements of the law and Constitution.[48]The trial court declared that
Gorospe may have lied about her address and being a dealer of Avon
Cosmetics; however, it does not necessarily mean that she was a fictitious
person. It explained that Gorospe may have lied a little in order to conceal
herself for her protection, but the rest of her testimony constituted sufficient
evidence of probable cause.
Abuan filed her motion for reconsideration dated April 16, 2001, which
the court denied in an Order[49] dated May 10, 2001. She appealed the decision
to the CA, where she averred that:

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT CONSIDERED THE ALLEGED SHABU
AND OTHER PARAPHERNALIA AS ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ACCUSED
THEREBY DISREGARDING THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROHOBITION AGAINST FRUITS OF
THE POISONOUS TREE.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED AND GRAVELY MISAPPRECIATED THE EVIDENCE AGAINST
THE ACCUSED WHEN IT OVERLOOKED THE GLARING DISCREPANCIES IN THE
TESTIMONIES OF THE SUPPOSED EYEWITNESSES.

Abuan insisted that the applicant failed to show probable cause for the issuance
of Search Warrant No. 98-62. Marissa Gorospe is a fictitious person whose
alleged testimony is fabricated and was used by the police officers to convince
the Executive Judge that there was probable cause for the issuance of the
search warrant when, in fact, there was none.The Executive Judge failed to ask
Gorospe searching questions. Consequently, Search Warrant No. 98-62 is void
and the substances and paraphernalia confiscated by the policemen are
inadmissible in evidence. She further claimed that the testimonies of De Vera
and Gamboa were pockmarked with inconsistencies and as such, the trial court
should not have given them probative weight.

For its part, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) averred that the trial court
merely confirmed Executive Judge Ramos finding of probable cause. Besides,
appellant failed to file a motion to quash Search Warrant No. 98-62, hence, was
estopped from assailing it and the search and seizure conducted thereafter. The
OSG cited the ruling of this Court in Demaisip v. Court of Appeals.[50] It likewise
claimed that the inconsistencies adverted to by appellant pertained merely to
collateral matters and were not determinative of her guilt or innocence. As
gleaned from the evidence of the prosecution, her defenses could not prevail
over the evidence adduced by the prosecution.

The CA rendered judgment affirming the RTC decision. The fallo of the decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated
March 28, 1001 in Criminal Case No. 98-02337-D of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
41, Dagupan City convicting Eliza T. Abuan of violation of Section 16, Article III of
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, is AFFIRMED. Costs against the accused-
appellant.

SO ORDERED.[51]

The appellate court ruled that the prosecution adduced proof beyond
reasonable doubt of Abuans guilt for the crime charged. The alleged
discrepancies in the testimonies of Gamboa and de Vera were peripheral
matters. Moreover, Abuans failure to assail the legality of the search and
seizure conducted by the policemen before her arraignment was equivalent to
a waiver of her right to assail the search warrant. The CA cited the ruling of this
Court in Malaloan v. Court of Appeals.[52]

Abuan filed a motion for reconsideration,[53] reiterating her argument


that the search warrant is not valid. She also argued that she did not waive her
right to assail the validity of the search warrant at her arraignment and during
the trial. She maintained that the CA should not rely on the evaluation by the
RTC of the witnesses credibility, and that the inconsistencies in the testimonies
of the prosecution witnesses were on material relevant details.

The appellate court denied the motion in a Resolution[54] dated May 26,
2005 on its finding that no new and substantial matter was presented to
warrant reconsideration thereof.[55]

In the instant petition, Abuan, now petitioner, asserts that

I
THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE SEARCH WARRANT VALID DESPITE FAILURE
TO COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS MANDATED BY THE CONSTITUTION.

II
THE CA ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE ISSUE OF THE VALIDITY OF THE SEARCH
WARRANT WAS DEEMED WAIVED AFTER ARRAIGNMENT.

III
THE CA ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE SHABU AND OTHER PARAPHERNALIA
ALLEGEDLY TAKEN FROM THE PETITIONER AS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.
IV
THE CA ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE CONVICTION OF THE PETITIONER.[56]

Petitioner avers that the search warrant issued by the Executive Judge was
void because the circumstances leading to its issuance were not based on
probable cause but on mere fabrications. She points out that according to
Gorospe, she became acquainted with petitioner and visited her in her house
because of their employment with Avon Cosmetics. However, considering
that she and Gorospe were never employed by Avon Cosmetics and were not
even acquainted, such testimony is false. Thus, the search warrant should be
declared invalid as it is based on the testimony of a fictitious person, a
planted witness with a fabricated testimony and, consequently, any evidence
discovered on the basis thereof should be suppressed and excluded in
accordance with Section 3(2), Article III of the Constitution. Petitioner points
out that with the inadmissibility of the shabu and other paraphernalia, the
appellate court should have acquitted her of the charges by reason of the
prosecutions failure to prove the commission of the crime beyond
reasonable doubt.

Petitioner insists that, based on the records, she sought to suppress the
search warrant throughout the entire proceedings in the trial court. She
rejected the prosecutions offer to admit the validity of the search warrant
and even filed a motion to suppress the search. She was thus not proscribed
from filing her motion to suppress the search warrant even after the
arraignment.

In its Comment,[57] the OSG maintains that the search warrant is valid. It
insists that the CA correctly ruled that the requisites of a valid search warrant
were present, noting that the Executive Judge conducted searching questions
and answers on the person of Marissa Gorospe. It asserts that, in applying for
a search warrant, a police officer need not possess personal knowledge
regarding an illegal activity; it is the witness who should possess such
personal knowledge, and upon whose testimony under oath probable cause
may be established. In this case, it was Gorospe who narrated, under oath
and before the judge, her personal knowledge of (petitioners) criminal
activities.[58]

The OSG maintains that petitioner in effect waived whatever objections she
had regarding the validity of the search warrant. It points out that she never
questioned the warrant before the court which issued the same, never
questioned nor moved for the quashal of the warrant before her
arraignment. And while petitioner was allowed to present evidence on the
alleged invalidity of the search warrant, this did not cure her omission or
inaction in raising the issue at the proper time.
In her Reply,[59] petitioner declares that a close scrutiny of the judges
investigation of Gorospe would reveal that her personal circumstances are
pivotal in her acquisition of personal knowledge regarding the alleged
possession of shabu by petitioner. If these personal circumstances are
fabricated, then such personal knowledge regarding the possession bears no
credit.

Petitioner likewise maintains that contrary to the allegations of the


OSG, she did not waive her right to question the validity of the warrant. She
could not have done any better under the circumstances at that time because
all the evidence against Gorospe was made known and available to her only
after her arraignment.
The Court is tasked to resolve the following threshold issues: (a) whether
petitioner waived her right to question Search Warrant No. 98-62 and the
admissibility of the substances and paraphernalia and other articles
confiscated from her house based on said warrant; and (b) whether the
prosecution adduced evidence to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt
for violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

The Ruling of the Court

Petitioner Did not Waive


Her Right to File a Motion
To Quash Search Warrant
No. 98-62 and for the
Suppression of the Evidence
Seized by the Police Officers
Section 14, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure reads:

Sec. 14. Motion to quash a search warrant or to suppress evidence; where to file. A
motion to quash a search warrant and/or to suppress evidence obtained thereby may
be filed in and acted upon only by the court where the action has been instituted. If
no criminal action has been instituted, the motion may be filed in and resolved by
the court that issued the search warrant.However, if such court failed to resolve the
motion and a criminal case is subsequently filed in another court, the motion shall be
resolved by the latter court.

The Court ruled in the Malaloan case that the motion to quash the search
warrant which the accused may file shall be governed by the omnibus motion
rule, provided, however, that objections not available, existent or known
during the proceedings for the quashal of the warrant may be raised in the
hearing of the motion to suppress the resolution of the court not on the
motion to quash the search warrant and to suppress evidence shall be
subject to any proper remedy in the appropriate higher court.[60] A motion to
quash a search warrant may be based on grounds extrinsic of the search
warrant, such as (1) the place searched or the property seized are not those
specified or described in the search warrant; and (2) there is no probable
cause for the issuance of the search warrant.[61] Section 7, Rule 133 of the
Rules of Court provides that the court may hear the motion, as follows:

When a motion is based on facts not appearing of record, the court may hear the
matter on affidavits or depositions presented by the respective parties, but the court
may direct that the matter be heard wholly or partly on oral testimony or depositions.

In the present case, petitioner reserved her right to question Search Warrant
No. 98-62 when she filed her motion for bail in the RTC. The public prosecutor
conformed to the motion. During pre-trial in the RTC, petitioner rejected the
prosecutions proposal for her to admit the validity of Search Warrant No. 98-
62, insisting that it was void. In her motion to suppress, petitioner averred
that the search warrant is void for the following reasons: lack of probable
cause; failure of the Executive Judge to ask searching questions on Gorospe;
and the evidence seized by the police officers on the basis of the search
warrant are inadmissible in evidence. She likewise prayed that the search
warrant be nullified, and that the evidence seized by the policemen on the
basis of said warrant be suppressed.[62]

Petitioner was ready to adduce evidence in support of her motion, but the
court declared that this should be done during the trial. Petitioner thus no
longer assailed the ruling of the trial court and opted to adduce her evidence
at the trial. She likewise objected to the admission of the search warrant and
the evidence confiscated by the police officers after the search was
conducted. It bears stressing that the trial court admitted the same and she
objected thereto. It cannot, therefore, be said that petitioner waived her
right to assail the search warrant and object to the admissibility of the
regulated drugs found in her house.

On the second issue, the trial courts ruling (which the appellate court
affirmed) that the prosecution adduced evidence to prove petitioners guilt
of crime charged beyond reasonable doubt is correct.

Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by R.A. No. 7659 reads:

SEC. 16. Possession or Use of Regulated Drugs. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to
death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall
be imposed upon any person who shall possess or use any regulated drug without
the corresponding license or prescription, subject to the provisions of Section 20
hereof.
The elements of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs are as
follows: (a) the accused was in possession of the regulated drugs; (b) the
accused was fully and consciously aware of being in possession of the
regulated drug; and (c) the accused had no legal authority to possess the
regulated drug.[63] Possession may be actual or constructive. In order to
establish constructive possession, the People must prove that petitioner had
dominion or control on either the substance or the premises where
found.[64]The State must prove adequate nexus between the accused and the
prohibited substance.[65] Possession of dangerous drugs constitutes prima
facie evidence of knowledge or aminus possidendi sufficient to convict an
accused in the absence of any satisfactory explanation of such
possession. The burden of evidence is shifted to petitioner to explain the
absence of aminus possidendi.[66]

We agree with the trial courts finding that, indeed, petitioner had in her
possession and control 57 small, heat-sealed sachets of shabu weighing 5.67
gm when Search Warrant No. 98-62 was served on her. As testified to by the
witnesses of the prosecution, the police officers, in the presence of Garcia
and Mangaliag, found the said substances in a drawer in her
bedroom. Petitioner likewise failed to present any legal authority to justify
her possession of the regulated drug found in her bedroom.

The mere denial by petitioner of the crime charged and her bare claim of
being the victim of a frame-up by de Vera and Gamboa cannot prevail over
the positive and steadfast testimonies of the police officers. Their
testimonies were corroborated by the inventory/receipt of property, stating
that, indeed, 57 small heat-sealed plastic sachets containing
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) weighing 5.67 grams were found
in a drawer in petitioners bedroom. The police officers are presumed to have
performed their duties in good faith, in accordance with law. Absent any
clear and convincing evidence that such officers had ill or improper motive
or were not performing their duties, their testimonies with respect to the
surveillance operation, the implementation of search warrant, and the
seizure of the regulated drug in the house of petitioner must be accorded full
faith and credence.[67] Like alibi, the defense of denial and frame-up had been
invariably viewed by the courts with disfavor. Denial is a negative of self-
serving defense, while frame-up is as easily concocted and is a common and
standard defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of R.A. No. 6425, as
amended.[68] For the defense of frame-up to prosper, the evidence must be
clear and convincing.[69]

It bears stressing that the policemen saw to it that the search of petitioners
house was conducted with the assistance and in the presence
of Barangay Captain Mangaliag and Kagawad Garcia. They testified that the
regulated drugs confiscated by the policemen were found in the searched
premises. Petitioner failed to present clear and convincing evidence that the
policemen and the barangay officials had any improper motive to frame her
and falsely ascribe to her the crime of violating R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

Except for her bare testimony, petitioner failed to prove that her brother
Arsenio Tana instigated the policemen to secure Search Warrant No. 98-62,
conducted a search in her house, planted the drugs in her bedroom and stole
money from her. Petitioner failed to make such a claim when she was
arrested and brought to the MTC for preliminary investigation. She also failed
to file any criminal complaint against the policemen and her brother Arsenio
Tana for filing the fabricated charge against her and for planting evidence in
her house. It was only when she testified in her defense in the trial court that
she alleged, for the first time, that the charge against her was instigated by
her brother, in cahoots with the policemen. We quote with approval the
disquisitions of the OSG on this matter:

SECOND: The police officers who testified had not proven bad or ill motive to testify
against accused.

The suspicion of accused that it was her brother who manipulated the events in her
life is unsubstantiated and too far-fetched to happen and is, therefore, unbelievable.

The presumption, therefore, is that said police officers performed their official duties
regularly (People v. Cuachon, 238 SCRA 540).

THIRD: The testimony of accused is too self-serving. It is uncorroborated.

According to her, the intrusion into her house by the police was witnessed by her two
daughter (sic). However, she did not present them as witnesses.

In the case of her daughter Ediliza, she was already twenty years old at the time so
that she was already mature for all legal intents and purposes. In the case of her
daughter Mae Liza, who was nine years old, there was no reason why she could not
articulate what she personally saw and experienced, if what she would be made to
state was true.

The inability of the said accused, therefore, to present her two daughters is
tantamount to a suppression of evidence, thus raising the presumption that if they
were presented, their testimonies would have been adverse to her.

Furthermore, it has been [the] consistent ruling of the Supreme Court that a plain
denial or negative testimony, if unsubstantiated by a clear and convincing testimony,
cannot prevail over the positive testimonies of prosecution witnesses (People v.
Amaguin, 229 SCRA 155).

FOURTH: The other defense of accused is that it was unlikely for her to have engaged
in pushing or peddling drugs for a living because she had to set a good example of
decent living for the sake of her two beautiful daughters and good
neighbors. Furthermore, she did not have financial problems which could have
pushed her into the drug business because her sister Corazon Bernardino had been
regularly sending her money.

The aforecited unlikelihood perceived by accused could not prevail over the
affirmative testimonies of policemen Gamboa and de Vera who positively declared
that they found 57 sachets of shabu in her room.[70]

Search Warrant No. 98-62


Is Valid; the Articles,
Paraphernalia and Regulated
Drugs Found in Petitioners Bedroom
and Confiscated
by the Police Officers are
Admissible in Evidence

We agree with the ruling of the CA affirming, on appeal, the findings of the
trial court that based on the deposition and testimony of Gorospe, there was
probable cause for the issuance of Search Warrant No. 98-62 for violation of
Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

Section 2, Article III of the Constitution provides:

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

Thus, any evidence obtained in violation of this provision is inadmissible for any
purpose in any proceeding.[71]

Sections 4 and 5, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure


enumerate the requisites for the issuance of a search warrant, thus:
SEC. 4. Requisites for issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue
except upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be
determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of
the complainant and the witness he may produce, and particularly describing the
place to be searched and the things to be seized which may be anywhere in the
Philippines.

SEC. 5. Examination of complainant, record. The judge must, before issuing


the warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in
writing and under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts
personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements, together
with the affidavits submitted.

The requisites for the issuance of a search warrant are: (1) probable
cause is present; (2) such probable cause must be determined personally by
the judge; (3) the judge must examine, in writing and under oath or
affirmation, the complainant and the witnesses he or she may produce; (4)
the applicant and the witnesses testify on the facts personally known to
them; and (5) the warrant specifically describes the place to be searched and
the things to be seized.[72]

Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances which would


lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense
has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense
are in the place sought to be searched. Reasonable minds may differ on the
question of whether a particular affidavit/deposition or testimony of the
affiant/deponent establishes probable cause. However, great deference is to be
accorded to the Judges determination.[73] The affidavit/deposition supporting
an application for a search warrant is presumed to be valid.[74]

Affidavits/depositions for search warrants must be tested and


interpreted by Judges in a common-sense and realistic fashion. They are
normally drafted by non-lawyers in the midst and haste of a criminal
investigation. Technical requisites of elaborate specificity have no place in this
area.[75] The Judge in determining probable cause is to consider the totality of
the circumstances made known to him and not by a fixed and rigid
formula,[76] and must employ a flexible, totality of the circumstances
standard.[77] Probable cause exists if a practical, common-sense evaluation of
the facts and circumstances show a fair possibility that dangerous drugs will be
found in the asserted location.[78] There must be a factual showing sufficient to
comprise probable cause of particular facts and circumstances so as to allow
the Judge to make an independent evaluation of the matter. It is sufficient if the
information put forth in the affidavit/deposition or testimony of the
affiant/deponent are believed or appropriately accepted by the
affiant/deponent as true.[79]Sufficient information must be presented to allow
a Judge to determine probable cause; his action cannot be a mere ratification
of the bare/unsubstantiated contention of others.

The general rule is that the task of a reviewing court is not to conduct a de
novo determination of probable cause but only to determine whether there is
substantial evidence in the records supporting the Judges decision to issue the
search warrant.[80] The reviewing court is simply to ensure that the Judge had a
substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed,[81] and once
ascertained that the Judge had substantial basis for concluding that a search
would unearth evidence of a wrongdoing, the determination of probable cause
must be upheld. In the absence of any showing that the Judge was recreant of
his duties in connection with the personal examination he so conducted on the
affiants/deponent before him, there is no basis for doubting the reliability and
correctness of his findings and impressions.[82]

However, the finding of probable cause of the Judge may be set aside and the
search warrant issued by him based on his finding may be quashed; the
evidence seized by the police officers based on said search warrant may be
suppressed if the accused presents clear and convincing evidence that the
police officers and/or a government informant made a deliberate falsehood or
reckless disregard for the truth in said affidavit/deposition or testimony which
is essential or necessary to a showing of probable cause. Such evidence must
focus on the state of mind of the affiants/deponents that he was conscious of
the falsity of his assertion or representation.[83] The requirement that a search
warrant not issue but upon probable cause would be reduced to a nullity if a
police officer and his informant are able to use deliberately falsehood
allegations to demonstrate probable cause and, having misled the Judge, was
able to remain confident that the ploy succeeded.[84] However, innocent and
negligent omissions or misrepresentation of a police officer or government
informant will not invalidate a search warrant. And even if the police officer or
government informant may have deliberately made a falsehood or reckless
disregard for the truth in his or her affidavit/deposition but the remaining
portions thereof are sufficient to establish probable cause, the search warrant
will not be quashed for lack of probable cause.[85]
The evidence presented by petitioner that Gorospe was not a resident or
transient of Barangay Sapang, even if true and credible, is not at all material or
necessary to the determination of probable cause. Whether petitioner and
Gorospe were dealers of Avon Cosmetics as of May 5, 1998 may be relevant to
the issue of whether there was factual basis for the finding of probable cause
by the Executive Judge against petitioner; however, petitioners evidence to
prove his claim is tenuous and does not warrant the quashal of Search Warrant
No. 98-62 and the suppression of the evidence seized after the enforcement of
the search warrant.

The evidence petitioner presented to disprove the testimony of Gorospe that


they were dealers of Avon Cosmetics are her (petitioners) testimony and that
of Carvajal. The certification purportedly signed by dela Rosa, the Branch
Manager of Avon Cosmetics Dagupan Branch, is hearsay because she did not
testify. Carvajal admitted that she was not in a position to confirm the veracity
of the contents of the certification:

PROSECUTOR JAIME DOJILLO


ON CROSS-EXAMINATION

q What is your position at Dagupan Avon Cosmetics?


a Team Leader, Sir.

q Do you have any participation in the preparation of this certification?


a None, Sir.

q So, you had not in position to know the truth of this certification, hence, you were
not the one who prepared the same?
a Yes, Sir.[86]

Carvajal was merely one of many team leaders of Avon Cosmetics


in Dagupan City. She did not testify nor did petitioner adduce evidence that
Gorospe was not such a dealer in places other than Dagupan City or Pangasinan
for that matter. In fine, petitioner failed to adduce competent and credible
evidence that Gorospe was not a dealer of Avonproducts in the branches of
Avon Cosmetics other than Pangasinan. Other than the denial of
petitioner and the testimony of Carvajal, petitioner failed to present evidence
that she was not a dealer of Avon Cosmetics. On the other hand, the testimony
of Gorospe before the Executive Judge was corroborated by the testimonies of
police officers Gamboa and de Vera.

In the present case, the Executive Judge found probable cause after conducting
the requisite searching questions on Gorospe for violation of Section 16, Article
III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. The trial court reviewed the testimony of
Gorospe before the Executive Judge[87] and confirmed that, indeed, there was
probable cause against petitioner for violation of said crime. The finding of the
Executive Judge was corroborated by the testimony of police officers de Vera
and Gamboa, who, in their surveillance operation, partially confirmed Gorospes
claim that, indeed, people had been going to the house of petitioner to
buy shabu. The findings of the trial court were, in turn, affirmed by the CA.

The well-entrenched rule is that the findings of the trial court affirmed by
the appellate court are accorded high respect, if not conclusive effect, by this
Court, absent clear and convincing evidence that the tribunals ignored,
misconstrued or misapplied facts and circumstances of substances such that, if
considered, the same will warrant the modification or reversal of the outcome
of the case. In this case, petitioner failed to establish any such circumstance.

The trial and appellate courts ruled that petitioner possessed 5.67 gm of
methamphetamine hydrochloride and sentenced her to an indeterminate
penalty of two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and
two (2) months of prision correccional. The penalty imposed by the trial court
and affirmed by the CA is incorrect. As the Court ruled in People v. Tira:[88]

Under Section 16, Article III of Rep. Act No. 6425, as amended, the imposable
penalty of possession of a regulated drug, less than 200 grams, in this case, shabu,
is prision correccionalto reclusion perpetua. Based on the quantity of the regulated
drug subject of the offense, the imposable penalty shall be as follows:

QUANTITY IMPOSABLE PENALTY


Less than one (1) gram to 49.25 grams prision correccional
49.26 grams to 98.50 grams prision mayor
98.51 grams to 147.75 grams reclusion temporal
147.76 grams to 199 grams reclusion perpetua

Considering that the regulated drug found in the possession of the appellants
is only 1.001 grams, the imposable penalty for the crime is prision
correccional. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the appellants are
sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from four (4) months and one (1)
day of arresto mayor in its medium period as minimum, to three (3) years of prision
correccional in its medium period as maximum, for violation of Section 16 of Rep. Act
No. 6425, as amended.[89]

The penalty imposed in the Tira case is the correct penalty, which should
likewise be imposed against petitioner herein.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 25726 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATIONas
to penalty. Petitioner is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of from
four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor in its medium period as
minimum to three (3) years of prision correccional in its medium period as
maximum.

SO ORDERED.

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.


Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
Chairperson

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby


certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

[1]
Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid, with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Estela
M. Perlas-Bernabe, concurring; rollo, pp. 35-43.
[2]
Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid, with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Aurora
Santiago-Lagman, concurring; id. at 49.
[3]
Penned by Judge Victor T. Llamas, Jr.; id. at 106-114.
[4]
Records, p. 11.
[5]
Id. at 12.
[6]
Rollo, p. 52.
[7]
Records, p. 49.
[8]
Id. at 51-52.
[9]
Id. at 56-57.
[10]
TSN, June 28, 2000, p. 8.
[11]
TSN, December 17, 1998, p. 9.
[12]
Id. at 7.
[13]
Rollo, p. 36.
[14]
Exhibit 3, Folder of Exhibits, p. 10.
[15]
TSN, May 5, 1998, p. 6.
[16]
Id. at 3.
[17]
Id. at 4.
[18]
Id. at 5.
[19]
Id.
[20]
Id.
[21]
Id. at 6.
[22]
Rollo, p. 51.
[23]
Id. at 37.
[24]
TSN, December 17, 1998, p. 6.
[25]
Exhibit B, Folder of Exhibits, p. 2.
[26]
Exhibit B-4, id.
[27]
Exhibit C-4, Folder of Exhibits, p. 3.
[28]
Exhibit D, id. at 4.
[29]
Exhibit I, id. at 7.
[30]
Exhibits A to I and their submarkings; records, pp. 134-136.
[31]
Records, pp. 137-138.
[32]
Id. at 140.
[33]
TSN, June 28, 2000, pp. 3-5.
[34]
Id. at 10.
[35]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 10.
[36]
Rollo, p. 91.
[37]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 12.
[38]
Id. at 8.
[39]
Rollo, p. 99.
[40]
Id. at 100.
[41]
Id. at 98-100.
[42]
TSN, August 17, 2000, p. 4.
[43]
Rollo, pp. 102-103.
[44]
TSN, November 26, 1999, p. 4.
[45]
Rollo, p. 60.
[46]
TSN, November 26, 1999, pp. 5-6.
[47]
Rollo, p. 114.
[48]
Id. at 110-113.
[49]
Id. at 181.
[50]
G.R. No. 89393, January 25, 1991, 193 SCRA 373.
[51]
Rollo, p. 43.
[52]
G.R. No. 104879, May 6, 1994, 232 SCRA 249.
[53]
Rollo, pp. 44-48.
[54]
Id. at 49.
[55]
Id.
[56]
Id. at 19-20.
[57]
Id. at 174.
[58]
Id. at 185.
[59]
Id. at 198.
[60]
Garaygay v. People, G.R. No. 135503, July 6, 2000, 335 SCRA 272, 279-280.
[61]
Franks v. State of Delaware, 438 US 154, 98 S.Ct. 2674 (1978); US v. Leon, 468 US 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405
(1984); US v. Mittelman, 999 F.2d 440 (1993); US v. Lee, 540 F.2d 1205 (1976).
[62]
The pertinent allegations in the motion are as follows:
4. Search Warrant No. 98-62 was issued in violation of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Article III, Section
2 thereof;
5. Transcript of the proceedings shows that Cesar Ramos has no personal knowledge of his allegation that
Elisa Abuan has in her possession Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu) and other drug paraphernalia;
6. On the basis of Cesar Ramos testimony alone, the search warrant should not have been issued. In the
case of Burgos v. Chief of Staff, 133 SCRA 800, the Supreme Court held that, the constitution required no
less than personal knowledge by the complainant or his witnesses of the facts upon which the issuance of a
search warrant may be justified. It must not be based on a mere information or belief (CRUZ, Isagani,
Constitutional Law, 1993 ed., p. 142).
7. Cesar Ramos lone witness in the application for the search warrant, an alleged Marissa Gorospe, testified
before the judge, claiming personal knowledge of Elisa Abuans possession of drugs and other drug
paraphernalia;
8. Such Marissa Gorospe is fictitious and her testimony is fabricated, designed to achieve the probable cause
required for the issuance of a search warrant;
9. Granting but not conceding that the alleged Marissa Gorospe and her testimony were factual, the
presiding judge failed to ask searching questions as to find out from her the particularity of the
paraphernalia in Elisa Abuans possession.
10. Since the search warrant is invalidly issued, whatever fruits it allegedly yielded must be suppressed in
accordance with Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution. (records, pp. 53-54)
[63]
People v. Chua, G.R. No. 149878, July 1, 2003, 405 SCRA 280, 288.
[64]
People v. Tira, G.R. No. 139615, May 28, 2004, 430 SCRA 134, 152.
[65]
People v. Burton, 335 Phil. 1003, 1024 (1997).
[66]
Id.
[67]
People v. Saludes, G.R. No. 144157, June 10, 2003, 403 SCRA 590, 597.
[68]
People v. Sy Bing Yok, 368 Phil. 326, 337 (1999).
[69]
Asuncion v. Court of Appeals, 362 Phil. 118, 130 (1999).
[70]
Rollo, pp. 151-152.
[71]
Section 3(2), Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
[72]
People v. Francisco, G.R. No. 129035, August 22, 2002, 387 SCRA 569, 575.
[73]
Spinelli v. US, 393 US 410, 89 S.Ct. 584 (1969); US v. Leon, supra note 61.
[74]
Id.
[75]
US v. Ventresca, 13 L.ed.2d 684 (1965).
[76]
People v. Tampis, 467 Phil. 582, 590 (2003); Massachusetts v. Upton, 466 US 727, 104 S.Ct. 2085 (1984).
[77]
US v. Canan, 48 F.3d 954 (1995).
[78]
US v. Adams, 110 F.3d 31 (1997).
[79]
Franks v. State of Delaware, supra note 61.
[80]
Massachusetts v. Upton, supra note 79.
[81]
Jones v. United States, 362 US 257, 80 S.Ct. 725 (1960).
[82]
Kho v. Makalintal, 365 Phil. 511, 517 (1999).
[83]
Franks v. State of Delaware, supra note 61.
[84]
Id.
[85]
Id.
[86]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 4.
[87]
Supra note 14.
[88]
Supra note 65.
[89]
Supra note 65, at 155.
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 ofPeople 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.
[45] [46]
People, and People v. Kimura.

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.
[60] [61]
Sanchez, and Malillin v. People.

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 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs) and Sec. 15[72] (Use of Dangerous Drugs)
[71]

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

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

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

CERTIFICATION

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

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief 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.
FIRST DIVISION

ELIZA ABUAN, G.R. No. 168773


Petitioner,
Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J., Chairperson,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR., and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE Promulgated:


PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. October 27, 2006

x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision[1] of


the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 25726 and Resolution[2] denying the
motion for reconsideration thereof. The CA affirmed the Decision[3] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 41, Dagupan City in Criminal Case No. 98-
02337-D, convicting Eliza T. Abuan of violating Section 16, Article III of Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 6425, as amended, otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act
of 1972.

The Antecedents

A criminal complaint was filed in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao,
Pangasinan charging Abuan with violating R.A. No. 6425, as amended. On May
8, 1998, she filed a motion to quash the criminal complaint, praying that
pending the resolution of her motion, she be allowed to post bail without
waiving her right to question her arrest and assail Search Warrant No. 98-
62.[4] The public prosecutor conformed to the motion. Thus, the motion was
granted and bail was fixed at P60,000.00.[5]
The MTC found probable cause against Abuan for violation of Section 16,
Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, and recommended the filing of an
Information against her. It ordered the elevation of the records to the RTC for
further proceedings.

On November 12, 1998, an Amended Information was filed in the RTC of


Dagupan City, charging Abuan with violating Section 16, Article III of R.A. No.
6425, as amended.The inculpatory portion of the Information reads:

That on or about 8:45 oclock in the morning of May 6, 1998 at Brgy, Lasip,
[M]unicipality of Calasiao, [P]rovince of Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously has in her possession, custody and control of the
following to wit:

Fifty seven (57) small heat-sealed plastic sachets of met[h]aphetamine


hydrochloride (shabu) weighing 5.67 grams.

one (1) roll aluminum foil and assorted plastic (luminous) sachets.

without authority to possess the same.

CONTRARY to Art. III, Section 16 of R.A. 6425, as amended.[6]

During the arraignment on November 12, 1998, the accused, assisted by


counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charge.[7] During the pre-trial on November 19,
1998, Abuan rejected the prosecutions proposal for her to admit the validity of
Search Warrant No. 98-62, and that, in the enforcement thereof, 57 sachets
of shabu were found in her house and later confiscated by the policemen. [8] She
maintained that the warrant was invalid and that any material allegedly
confiscated from her house was inadmissible in evidence.

The court set the initial presentation of evidence by the prosecution


on December 3, 1998. However, on said date, accused filed a Motion to Suppress
Evidence, alleging that there was no probable cause for the issuance of Search
Warrant No. 98-62; the applicant, Cesar Ramos, had no personal knowledge of
his claim that she had in her possession methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
and other drug paraphernalia; Marissa Gorospe was a fictitious person, and her
testimony was fabricated to convince the Executive Judge to make a finding of
probable cause required for the issuance of a search warrant; and the Executive
Judge failed to ask searching questions and elicit from Gorospe the particularity
of the alleged paraphernalia in Abuans possession. Abuan asserted that since the
search warrant is void, whatever evidence was discovered as a result of the search
conducted based on the warrant was inadmissible in evidence.[9]

Instead of allowing the accused to present her evidence in support of her motion,
the court declared that any such evidence may be adduced at the trial.[10]

The Case for the Prosecution

At around 8:30 a.m. on May 5, 1998, SPO2 Marcelino Gamboa and SPO2
Beliguer de Vera of the Calasiao Police Station received information from a
confidential informant that Abuan was conducting illegal drug activities in her
house at Barangay Lasip, Calasiao, Pangasinan. Acting on the said information,
Gamboa and de Vera conducted surveillance-monitoring operations on her
residence, three times for more than an hour. They saw more or less 20 people
who were coming in and out of Abuans house. According to the informant,
these people were drug addicts,[11]and Abuan was a known drug pusher.[12] On
the same day, the officers, through SPO3 Cesar Ramos, applied for a
warrant[13] with Executive Judge Eugenio G. Ramos of the RTC in Lingayen,
Pangasinan, to search the house of Abuan for violation of Section 16, Article III
of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, and the seizure of methamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu), weighing scale, aluminum foil, and burner.

The application was docketed as Search Warrant No. 98-62. To establish


probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, Ramos presented their
informant, Marissa Gorospe, who was subjected to searching questions by the
Executive Judge.[14]

Gorospe testified that she was a resident of Barangay Sapang, Manaoag,


Pangasinan. She knew Abuan because they were employed as dealers of Avon
Cosmetics. Abuan was a prominent personality in Barangay Lasip.[15] Her
unnumbered house is a green bungalow-type, cemented and decorated with
ornamental plants up front. She visited Abuan in her house at least three to four
times a week.[16] She first came upon the drugs in Abuans house when the latter
invited her to a jamming and drinking session. She refused because she had to
go home to Barangay Sapang, Manaoag, Pangasinan, a place of considerable
distance from Calasiao.[17] Abuan then suggested that they use the shabu that she
kept
inside her bedroom instead. Abuan kept a substantial amount of shabu in her
house and sold it.[18] The informant further narrated that several people, including
teenagers, arrived in the house of Abuan and bought the substance.[19] During her
visits, she observed that Abuan placed shabu inside plastic bags. She also saw
weighing scales and paraphernalias used in sniffing shabu. Being a mother
herself, she did not want teenagers and her children to become drug
addicts.[20] Gorospe identified and affirmed the truth of the contents of her
deposition.[21]

The Executive Judge found probable cause and issued Search Warrant No. 98-
62 which reads:

TO ANY OFFICER OF THE LAW:

GREETINGS:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned after examining under oath


thru searching questions on the applicant, SPO3 Cesar A. Ramos, PNP, and his
witnesses that there is probable cause to believe that the respondent is in
possession without any authority to do so in violation of R.A. 6425 of the
following:

Met[h]amphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu)


Tooter
Weighing Scale
Aluminum Foil
Burner

which she keeps and conceals in her house premises at Brgy. Lasip, Calasiao,
Pangasinan, which should be seized and brought to the undersigned.

YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to make an immediate search at any time of the day
or night and take possession of the above-described properties and bring them to
the undersigned to be dealt with as the law directs.

This Search Warrant shall be valid only for ten (10) days from its issuance, thereafter,
the same shall be void.[22]

On May 6, 1998, police operatives composed of Col. Fidel Posadas, Major


Froilan Perez, SPO2 Gamboa, SPO2 Madrid, SPO2 de Vera, PO2 Tomelden, PO2
Rosario, PO3 Ubando, PO1 Moyano and PO3 Vallo went to Barangay Lasip to
enforce the search warrant. However, before proceeding to Abuans residence,
the policemen invited BarangayCaptain Bernardo Mangaliag
and Kagawad Miguel Garcia of Barangay Lasip to witness the search.

Upon arriving at the premises, Officers De Vera, Gamboa and Garcia and
Mangaliag entered the house; the rest of the policemen remained
outside. Mangaliag introduced the police officers to Abuan who presented
Search Warrant No. 98-62 to her. Abuan read the warrant and permitted the
officers to conduct the search.[23]
De Vera, Mangaliag, Gamboa and Garcia entered the bedroom and found
57 sachets of suspected shabu, one roll of aluminum foil and assorted luminous
plastic sachets in the drawer just beside Abuans bed.[24] The police officers
confiscated all these and brought them, along with Abuan, to the police station
where an inventory of the items was made. Mangaliag and Garcia affixed their
signatures on the inventory/receipt,[25] but Abuan refused to sign it.[26]

The police officers prepared a certification of orderly search which Garcia


and Mangaliag also signed. Abuan likewise refused to sign the
certification.[27] The police officers requested the PNP Crime Laboratory Unit of
Lingayen, Pangasinan to conduct a laboratory examination on the confiscated
substance.[28] According to the laboratory examination conducted by P/Supt.
Theresa Ann Bugayong CID, Regional Chief Chemist, the 57 sachets of the
suspected shabu weighing 5.67 grams gave positive results for the presence of
methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug.[29]

After presenting its witnesses, the prosecution offered in evidence Search


Warrant No. 98-62, the Receipt of the Property Seized, the Physical Science
Report and the articles confiscated from Abuans house.[30] However, Abuan
objected to the admission of the search warrant and the articles confiscated
based thereon on the ground that the warrant was issued without probable
cause.[31] The court admitted the documentary evidence of the prosecution
subject to the comment or objection interposed by accused and the eventual
determination of their probative weight.[32]

The Case for the Accused

Abuan testified that she was jobless in 1998. Her parents and her sister Corazon
Bernadette sent her money from Canada once or twice a month to support her
and her daughters.It was her father who spent for the education of her
daughters.[33] She was married to Crispin Abuan, a policeman, but they
separated in 1997.[34] She did not know any person by the name of Marissa
Gorospe. She did not work for Avon Cosmetics nor used any of its products.[35]
At around 8:30 a.m. on May 6, 1998, she was with her two daughters, 21-
year old Ediliza Go and 9-year old Mae Liza Abuan.[36] They were still in bed
inside their room. Suddenly, four armed men barged into their house and
declared a raid.[37] About eight to ten others were outside her house. She
inquired if they had a search warrant but she was not shown any.[38] The men
searched her house for about 10 to 15 minutes and turned up with
nothing.[39] Some of the men went out of the house and boarded a jeepney. The
men outside again went into the bedroom and came out with powder placed in
a plastic.[40] At this instance, Barangay Captain Bernardo Mangaliag was
brought to the scene and was shown the powder substance recovered from her
bedroom. She refused to sign the inventory and receipt of the property seized
and the certification of orderly search.However, Mangaliag signed the same.[41]

She declared that the sachets/substances which the policemen claimed to have
found in her house were merely planted to implicate her. The raid as well as the
charge against her were instigated by her brother Arsenio Tana, who was
enraged when she refused his demand to entrust the properties of the family
to the care of his son. It appears that Tana carried out his threat to have her
house raided since the policemen did come to her house on May 6, 1998.[42] Her
brother was by the gate of her house at the time of the raid.

Abuan also testified that, during the raid, she saw Tana talking to the
police officers who arrested her. Abuan also declared that the money kept
inside a box in her room amounting to P25,000.00 (US$1,100.00) given by her
sister Corazon Bernardino had gone missing after the raid.[43] She did not file
any charge for the loss of her money because she was scared. She did not know
who took it.

Barangay Captain Robert Calachan of Barangay Sapang, Manaoag,


Pangasinan and Mercedes Carvajal, an employee of Avon Cosmetics in Dagupan
holding the position of team leader, testified for accused.

Calachan declared that he was born in Barangay Sapang and never left
the place. He was familiar with the residents of the small barangay.[44] He
issued a certification[45] stating that as per record of this barangay, a certain
Marissa Gorospe is not a resident of this barangay. Before he signed the
certification, he inquired from the barangay members if they knew a Marissa
Gorospe, and he was told that no one by that name was a transient.[46]

Carvajal, for her part, testified that, based on the certification


dated November 12, 1998 of Dagupan City Avon Branch Manager Gigi
dela Rosa, Marissa Gorospe is not a registered dealer of Avon Dagupan Branch
based on our records. She did not know any Avon Cosmetics employee or dealer
named Marissa Gorospe in Pangasinan. She further testified that she had been
a team leader/dealer of Avon Cosmetics for 21 years already, and that Abuan
was not such a dealer/employee. On cross-examination, she declared that she
was a team leader of Avon Cosmetics (Dagupan Branch), and thus had no
participation in the preparation of the certification of Gigi dela Rosa and was
not in a position to know if the certification was correct.

On March 28, 2001, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused
guilty of the charge. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, finding accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a violation


of Section 15 (sic), Article 6425, she is hereby sentenced to suffer an imprisonment
of TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO
(2) MONTHS of PRISION CORRECTIONAL.

The prohibited drug and paraphernalia seized from the accused are hereby
confiscated in favor of the government and should be turned over to the Dangerous
Drugs Board for disposition in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.[47]

The trial court declared that the testimonies of police officers Gamboa
and de Vera should be accorded great weight and credence as they testified
positively regarding what transpired during the raid. In contrast, the
testimony of accused was self-serving, negative and feeble. She failed to
prove that it was her brother who manipulated the unfortunate
events. Neither was she able to prove ill motive on the part of the police
officers who conducted a search in her house; hence, the presumption is that
they regularly performed their duties. The failure of the accused to present
her two daughters as witnesses amounted to suppression of evidence, giving
rise to the presumption that if they had been presented, their testimonies
would be adverse to her.

On the issue of the validity of the search warrant, the court ruled that
there was probable cause for its issuance. The proceedings conducted by the
Execute Judge relative to the application of the police for a search warrant,
its issuance and implementation were valid, regular, and in accordance with
the requirements of the law and Constitution.[48]The trial court declared that
Gorospe may have lied about her address and being a dealer of Avon
Cosmetics; however, it does not necessarily mean that she was a fictitious
person. It explained that Gorospe may have lied a little in order to conceal
herself for her protection, but the rest of her testimony constituted sufficient
evidence of probable cause.
Abuan filed her motion for reconsideration dated April 16, 2001, which
the court denied in an Order[49] dated May 10, 2001. She appealed the decision
to the CA, where she averred that:

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT CONSIDERED THE ALLEGED SHABU
AND OTHER PARAPHERNALIA AS ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ACCUSED
THEREBY DISREGARDING THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROHOBITION AGAINST FRUITS OF
THE POISONOUS TREE.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED AND GRAVELY MISAPPRECIATED THE EVIDENCE AGAINST
THE ACCUSED WHEN IT OVERLOOKED THE GLARING DISCREPANCIES IN THE
TESTIMONIES OF THE SUPPOSED EYEWITNESSES.

Abuan insisted that the applicant failed to show probable cause for the issuance
of Search Warrant No. 98-62. Marissa Gorospe is a fictitious person whose
alleged testimony is fabricated and was used by the police officers to convince
the Executive Judge that there was probable cause for the issuance of the
search warrant when, in fact, there was none.The Executive Judge failed to ask
Gorospe searching questions. Consequently, Search Warrant No. 98-62 is void
and the substances and paraphernalia confiscated by the policemen are
inadmissible in evidence. She further claimed that the testimonies of De Vera
and Gamboa were pockmarked with inconsistencies and as such, the trial court
should not have given them probative weight.

For its part, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) averred that the trial court
merely confirmed Executive Judge Ramos finding of probable cause. Besides,
appellant failed to file a motion to quash Search Warrant No. 98-62, hence, was
estopped from assailing it and the search and seizure conducted thereafter. The
OSG cited the ruling of this Court in Demaisip v. Court of Appeals.[50] It likewise
claimed that the inconsistencies adverted to by appellant pertained merely to
collateral matters and were not determinative of her guilt or innocence. As
gleaned from the evidence of the prosecution, her defenses could not prevail
over the evidence adduced by the prosecution.

The CA rendered judgment affirming the RTC decision. The fallo of the decision
reads:
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision dated
March 28, 1001 in Criminal Case No. 98-02337-D of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
41, Dagupan City convicting Eliza T. Abuan of violation of Section 16, Article III of
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, is AFFIRMED. Costs against the accused-
appellant.

SO ORDERED.[51]

The appellate court ruled that the prosecution adduced proof beyond
reasonable doubt of Abuans guilt for the crime charged. The alleged
discrepancies in the testimonies of Gamboa and de Vera were peripheral
matters. Moreover, Abuans failure to assail the legality of the search and
seizure conducted by the policemen before her arraignment was equivalent to
a waiver of her right to assail the search warrant. The CA cited the ruling of this
Court in Malaloan v. Court of Appeals.[52]

Abuan filed a motion for reconsideration,[53] reiterating her argument


that the search warrant is not valid. She also argued that she did not waive her
right to assail the validity of the search warrant at her arraignment and during
the trial. She maintained that the CA should not rely on the evaluation by the
RTC of the witnesses credibility, and that the inconsistencies in the testimonies
of the prosecution witnesses were on material relevant details.

The appellate court denied the motion in a Resolution[54] dated May 26,
2005 on its finding that no new and substantial matter was presented to
warrant reconsideration thereof.[55]

In the instant petition, Abuan, now petitioner, asserts that

I
THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE SEARCH WARRANT VALID DESPITE FAILURE
TO COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS MANDATED BY THE CONSTITUTION.

II
THE CA ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE ISSUE OF THE VALIDITY OF THE SEARCH
WARRANT WAS DEEMED WAIVED AFTER ARRAIGNMENT.

III
THE CA ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE SHABU AND OTHER PARAPHERNALIA
ALLEGEDLY TAKEN FROM THE PETITIONER AS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.
IV
THE CA ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE CONVICTION OF THE PETITIONER.[56]

Petitioner avers that the search warrant issued by the Executive Judge was
void because the circumstances leading to its issuance were not based on
probable cause but on mere fabrications. She points out that according to
Gorospe, she became acquainted with petitioner and visited her in her house
because of their employment with Avon Cosmetics. However, considering
that she and Gorospe were never employed by Avon Cosmetics and were not
even acquainted, such testimony is false. Thus, the search warrant should be
declared invalid as it is based on the testimony of a fictitious person, a
planted witness with a fabricated testimony and, consequently, any evidence
discovered on the basis thereof should be suppressed and excluded in
accordance with Section 3(2), Article III of the Constitution. Petitioner points
out that with the inadmissibility of the shabu and other paraphernalia, the
appellate court should have acquitted her of the charges by reason of the
prosecutions failure to prove the commission of the crime beyond
reasonable doubt.

Petitioner insists that, based on the records, she sought to suppress the
search warrant throughout the entire proceedings in the trial court. She
rejected the prosecutions offer to admit the validity of the search warrant
and even filed a motion to suppress the search. She was thus not proscribed
from filing her motion to suppress the search warrant even after the
arraignment.

In its Comment,[57] the OSG maintains that the search warrant is valid. It
insists that the CA correctly ruled that the requisites of a valid search warrant
were present, noting that the Executive Judge conducted searching questions
and answers on the person of Marissa Gorospe. It asserts that, in applying for
a search warrant, a police officer need not possess personal knowledge
regarding an illegal activity; it is the witness who should possess such
personal knowledge, and upon whose testimony under oath probable cause
may be established. In this case, it was Gorospe who narrated, under oath
and before the judge, her personal knowledge of (petitioners) criminal
activities.[58]

The OSG maintains that petitioner in effect waived whatever objections she
had regarding the validity of the search warrant. It points out that she never
questioned the warrant before the court which issued the same, never
questioned nor moved for the quashal of the warrant before her
arraignment. And while petitioner was allowed to present evidence on the
alleged invalidity of the search warrant, this did not cure her omission or
inaction in raising the issue at the proper time.
In her Reply,[59] petitioner declares that a close scrutiny of the judges
investigation of Gorospe would reveal that her personal circumstances are
pivotal in her acquisition of personal knowledge regarding the alleged
possession of shabu by petitioner. If these personal circumstances are
fabricated, then such personal knowledge regarding the possession bears no
credit.

Petitioner likewise maintains that contrary to the allegations of the


OSG, she did not waive her right to question the validity of the warrant. She
could not have done any better under the circumstances at that time because
all the evidence against Gorospe was made known and available to her only
after her arraignment.
The Court is tasked to resolve the following threshold issues: (a) whether
petitioner waived her right to question Search Warrant No. 98-62 and the
admissibility of the substances and paraphernalia and other articles
confiscated from her house based on said warrant; and (b) whether the
prosecution adduced evidence to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt
for violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

The Ruling of the Court

Petitioner Did not Waive


Her Right to File a Motion
To Quash Search Warrant
No. 98-62 and for the
Suppression of the Evidence
Seized by the Police Officers
Section 14, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure reads:

Sec. 14. Motion to quash a search warrant or to suppress evidence; where to file. A
motion to quash a search warrant and/or to suppress evidence obtained thereby may
be filed in and acted upon only by the court where the action has been instituted. If
no criminal action has been instituted, the motion may be filed in and resolved by
the court that issued the search warrant.However, if such court failed to resolve the
motion and a criminal case is subsequently filed in another court, the motion shall be
resolved by the latter court.

The Court ruled in the Malaloan case that the motion to quash the search
warrant which the accused may file shall be governed by the omnibus motion
rule, provided, however, that objections not available, existent or known
during the proceedings for the quashal of the warrant may be raised in the
hearing of the motion to suppress the resolution of the court not on the
motion to quash the search warrant and to suppress evidence shall be
subject to any proper remedy in the appropriate higher court.[60] A motion to
quash a search warrant may be based on grounds extrinsic of the search
warrant, such as (1) the place searched or the property seized are not those
specified or described in the search warrant; and (2) there is no probable
cause for the issuance of the search warrant.[61] Section 7, Rule 133 of the
Rules of Court provides that the court may hear the motion, as follows:

When a motion is based on facts not appearing of record, the court may hear the
matter on affidavits or depositions presented by the respective parties, but the court
may direct that the matter be heard wholly or partly on oral testimony or depositions.

In the present case, petitioner reserved her right to question Search Warrant
No. 98-62 when she filed her motion for bail in the RTC. The public prosecutor
conformed to the motion. During pre-trial in the RTC, petitioner rejected the
prosecutions proposal for her to admit the validity of Search Warrant No. 98-
62, insisting that it was void. In her motion to suppress, petitioner averred
that the search warrant is void for the following reasons: lack of probable
cause; failure of the Executive Judge to ask searching questions on Gorospe;
and the evidence seized by the police officers on the basis of the search
warrant are inadmissible in evidence. She likewise prayed that the search
warrant be nullified, and that the evidence seized by the policemen on the
basis of said warrant be suppressed.[62]

Petitioner was ready to adduce evidence in support of her motion, but the
court declared that this should be done during the trial. Petitioner thus no
longer assailed the ruling of the trial court and opted to adduce her evidence
at the trial. She likewise objected to the admission of the search warrant and
the evidence confiscated by the police officers after the search was
conducted. It bears stressing that the trial court admitted the same and she
objected thereto. It cannot, therefore, be said that petitioner waived her
right to assail the search warrant and object to the admissibility of the
regulated drugs found in her house.

On the second issue, the trial courts ruling (which the appellate court
affirmed) that the prosecution adduced evidence to prove petitioners guilt
of crime charged beyond reasonable doubt is correct.

Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by R.A. No. 7659 reads:

SEC. 16. Possession or Use of Regulated Drugs. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to
death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall
be imposed upon any person who shall possess or use any regulated drug without
the corresponding license or prescription, subject to the provisions of Section 20
hereof.
The elements of the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs are as
follows: (a) the accused was in possession of the regulated drugs; (b) the
accused was fully and consciously aware of being in possession of the
regulated drug; and (c) the accused had no legal authority to possess the
regulated drug.[63] Possession may be actual or constructive. In order to
establish constructive possession, the People must prove that petitioner had
dominion or control on either the substance or the premises where
found.[64]The State must prove adequate nexus between the accused and the
prohibited substance.[65] Possession of dangerous drugs constitutes prima
facie evidence of knowledge or aminus possidendi sufficient to convict an
accused in the absence of any satisfactory explanation of such
possession. The burden of evidence is shifted to petitioner to explain the
absence of aminus possidendi.[66]

We agree with the trial courts finding that, indeed, petitioner had in her
possession and control 57 small, heat-sealed sachets of shabu weighing 5.67
gm when Search Warrant No. 98-62 was served on her. As testified to by the
witnesses of the prosecution, the police officers, in the presence of Garcia
and Mangaliag, found the said substances in a drawer in her
bedroom. Petitioner likewise failed to present any legal authority to justify
her possession of the regulated drug found in her bedroom.

The mere denial by petitioner of the crime charged and her bare claim of
being the victim of a frame-up by de Vera and Gamboa cannot prevail over
the positive and steadfast testimonies of the police officers. Their
testimonies were corroborated by the inventory/receipt of property, stating
that, indeed, 57 small heat-sealed plastic sachets containing
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) weighing 5.67 grams were found
in a drawer in petitioners bedroom. The police officers are presumed to have
performed their duties in good faith, in accordance with law. Absent any
clear and convincing evidence that such officers had ill or improper motive
or were not performing their duties, their testimonies with respect to the
surveillance operation, the implementation of search warrant, and the
seizure of the regulated drug in the house of petitioner must be accorded full
faith and credence.[67] Like alibi, the defense of denial and frame-up had been
invariably viewed by the courts with disfavor. Denial is a negative of self-
serving defense, while frame-up is as easily concocted and is a common and
standard defense ploy in most prosecutions for violation of R.A. No. 6425, as
amended.[68] For the defense of frame-up to prosper, the evidence must be
clear and convincing.[69]

It bears stressing that the policemen saw to it that the search of petitioners
house was conducted with the assistance and in the presence
of Barangay Captain Mangaliag and Kagawad Garcia. They testified that the
regulated drugs confiscated by the policemen were found in the searched
premises. Petitioner failed to present clear and convincing evidence that the
policemen and the barangay officials had any improper motive to frame her
and falsely ascribe to her the crime of violating R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

Except for her bare testimony, petitioner failed to prove that her brother
Arsenio Tana instigated the policemen to secure Search Warrant No. 98-62,
conducted a search in her house, planted the drugs in her bedroom and stole
money from her. Petitioner failed to make such a claim when she was
arrested and brought to the MTC for preliminary investigation. She also failed
to file any criminal complaint against the policemen and her brother Arsenio
Tana for filing the fabricated charge against her and for planting evidence in
her house. It was only when she testified in her defense in the trial court that
she alleged, for the first time, that the charge against her was instigated by
her brother, in cahoots with the policemen. We quote with approval the
disquisitions of the OSG on this matter:

SECOND: The police officers who testified had not proven bad or ill motive to testify
against accused.

The suspicion of accused that it was her brother who manipulated the events in her
life is unsubstantiated and too far-fetched to happen and is, therefore, unbelievable.

The presumption, therefore, is that said police officers performed their official duties
regularly (People v. Cuachon, 238 SCRA 540).

THIRD: The testimony of accused is too self-serving. It is uncorroborated.

According to her, the intrusion into her house by the police was witnessed by her two
daughter (sic). However, she did not present them as witnesses.

In the case of her daughter Ediliza, she was already twenty years old at the time so
that she was already mature for all legal intents and purposes. In the case of her
daughter Mae Liza, who was nine years old, there was no reason why she could not
articulate what she personally saw and experienced, if what she would be made to
state was true.

The inability of the said accused, therefore, to present her two daughters is
tantamount to a suppression of evidence, thus raising the presumption that if they
were presented, their testimonies would have been adverse to her.

Furthermore, it has been [the] consistent ruling of the Supreme Court that a plain
denial or negative testimony, if unsubstantiated by a clear and convincing testimony,
cannot prevail over the positive testimonies of prosecution witnesses (People v.
Amaguin, 229 SCRA 155).

FOURTH: The other defense of accused is that it was unlikely for her to have engaged
in pushing or peddling drugs for a living because she had to set a good example of
decent living for the sake of her two beautiful daughters and good
neighbors. Furthermore, she did not have financial problems which could have
pushed her into the drug business because her sister Corazon Bernardino had been
regularly sending her money.

The aforecited unlikelihood perceived by accused could not prevail over the
affirmative testimonies of policemen Gamboa and de Vera who positively declared
that they found 57 sachets of shabu in her room.[70]

Search Warrant No. 98-62


Is Valid; the Articles,
Paraphernalia and Regulated
Drugs Found in Petitioners Bedroom
and Confiscated
by the Police Officers are
Admissible in Evidence

We agree with the ruling of the CA affirming, on appeal, the findings of the
trial court that based on the deposition and testimony of Gorospe, there was
probable cause for the issuance of Search Warrant No. 98-62 for violation of
Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended.

Section 2, Article III of the Constitution provides:

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

Thus, any evidence obtained in violation of this provision is inadmissible for any
purpose in any proceeding.[71]

Sections 4 and 5, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure


enumerate the requisites for the issuance of a search warrant, thus:
SEC. 4. Requisites for issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue
except upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be
determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of
the complainant and the witness he may produce, and particularly describing the
place to be searched and the things to be seized which may be anywhere in the
Philippines.

SEC. 5. Examination of complainant, record. The judge must, before issuing


the warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in
writing and under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts
personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements, together
with the affidavits submitted.

The requisites for the issuance of a search warrant are: (1) probable
cause is present; (2) such probable cause must be determined personally by
the judge; (3) the judge must examine, in writing and under oath or
affirmation, the complainant and the witnesses he or she may produce; (4)
the applicant and the witnesses testify on the facts personally known to
them; and (5) the warrant specifically describes the place to be searched and
the things to be seized.[72]

Probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances which would


lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense
has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense
are in the place sought to be searched. Reasonable minds may differ on the
question of whether a particular affidavit/deposition or testimony of the
affiant/deponent establishes probable cause. However, great deference is to be
accorded to the Judges determination.[73] The affidavit/deposition supporting
an application for a search warrant is presumed to be valid.[74]

Affidavits/depositions for search warrants must be tested and


interpreted by Judges in a common-sense and realistic fashion. They are
normally drafted by non-lawyers in the midst and haste of a criminal
investigation. Technical requisites of elaborate specificity have no place in this
area.[75] The Judge in determining probable cause is to consider the totality of
the circumstances made known to him and not by a fixed and rigid
formula,[76] and must employ a flexible, totality of the circumstances
standard.[77] Probable cause exists if a practical, common-sense evaluation of
the facts and circumstances show a fair possibility that dangerous drugs will be
found in the asserted location.[78] There must be a factual showing sufficient to
comprise probable cause of particular facts and circumstances so as to allow
the Judge to make an independent evaluation of the matter. It is sufficient if the
information put forth in the affidavit/deposition or testimony of the
affiant/deponent are believed or appropriately accepted by the
affiant/deponent as true.[79]Sufficient information must be presented to allow
a Judge to determine probable cause; his action cannot be a mere ratification
of the bare/unsubstantiated contention of others.

The general rule is that the task of a reviewing court is not to conduct a de
novo determination of probable cause but only to determine whether there is
substantial evidence in the records supporting the Judges decision to issue the
search warrant.[80] The reviewing court is simply to ensure that the Judge had a
substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed,[81] and once
ascertained that the Judge had substantial basis for concluding that a search
would unearth evidence of a wrongdoing, the determination of probable cause
must be upheld. In the absence of any showing that the Judge was recreant of
his duties in connection with the personal examination he so conducted on the
affiants/deponent before him, there is no basis for doubting the reliability and
correctness of his findings and impressions.[82]

However, the finding of probable cause of the Judge may be set aside and the
search warrant issued by him based on his finding may be quashed; the
evidence seized by the police officers based on said search warrant may be
suppressed if the accused presents clear and convincing evidence that the
police officers and/or a government informant made a deliberate falsehood or
reckless disregard for the truth in said affidavit/deposition or testimony which
is essential or necessary to a showing of probable cause. Such evidence must
focus on the state of mind of the affiants/deponents that he was conscious of
the falsity of his assertion or representation.[83] The requirement that a search
warrant not issue but upon probable cause would be reduced to a nullity if a
police officer and his informant are able to use deliberately falsehood
allegations to demonstrate probable cause and, having misled the Judge, was
able to remain confident that the ploy succeeded.[84] However, innocent and
negligent omissions or misrepresentation of a police officer or government
informant will not invalidate a search warrant. And even if the police officer or
government informant may have deliberately made a falsehood or reckless
disregard for the truth in his or her affidavit/deposition but the remaining
portions thereof are sufficient to establish probable cause, the search warrant
will not be quashed for lack of probable cause.[85]
The evidence presented by petitioner that Gorospe was not a resident or
transient of Barangay Sapang, even if true and credible, is not at all material or
necessary to the determination of probable cause. Whether petitioner and
Gorospe were dealers of Avon Cosmetics as of May 5, 1998 may be relevant to
the issue of whether there was factual basis for the finding of probable cause
by the Executive Judge against petitioner; however, petitioners evidence to
prove his claim is tenuous and does not warrant the quashal of Search Warrant
No. 98-62 and the suppression of the evidence seized after the enforcement of
the search warrant.

The evidence petitioner presented to disprove the testimony of Gorospe that


they were dealers of Avon Cosmetics are her (petitioners) testimony and that
of Carvajal. The certification purportedly signed by dela Rosa, the Branch
Manager of Avon Cosmetics Dagupan Branch, is hearsay because she did not
testify. Carvajal admitted that she was not in a position to confirm the veracity
of the contents of the certification:

PROSECUTOR JAIME DOJILLO


ON CROSS-EXAMINATION

q What is your position at Dagupan Avon Cosmetics?


a Team Leader, Sir.

q Do you have any participation in the preparation of this certification?


a None, Sir.

q So, you had not in position to know the truth of this certification, hence, you were
not the one who prepared the same?
a Yes, Sir.[86]

Carvajal was merely one of many team leaders of Avon Cosmetics


in Dagupan City. She did not testify nor did petitioner adduce evidence that
Gorospe was not such a dealer in places other than Dagupan City or Pangasinan
for that matter. In fine, petitioner failed to adduce competent and credible
evidence that Gorospe was not a dealer of Avonproducts in the branches of
Avon Cosmetics other than Pangasinan. Other than the denial of
petitioner and the testimony of Carvajal, petitioner failed to present evidence
that she was not a dealer of Avon Cosmetics. On the other hand, the testimony
of Gorospe before the Executive Judge was corroborated by the testimonies of
police officers Gamboa and de Vera.

In the present case, the Executive Judge found probable cause after conducting
the requisite searching questions on Gorospe for violation of Section 16, Article
III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. The trial court reviewed the testimony of
Gorospe before the Executive Judge[87] and confirmed that, indeed, there was
probable cause against petitioner for violation of said crime. The finding of the
Executive Judge was corroborated by the testimony of police officers de Vera
and Gamboa, who, in their surveillance operation, partially confirmed Gorospes
claim that, indeed, people had been going to the house of petitioner to
buy shabu. The findings of the trial court were, in turn, affirmed by the CA.

The well-entrenched rule is that the findings of the trial court affirmed by
the appellate court are accorded high respect, if not conclusive effect, by this
Court, absent clear and convincing evidence that the tribunals ignored,
misconstrued or misapplied facts and circumstances of substances such that, if
considered, the same will warrant the modification or reversal of the outcome
of the case. In this case, petitioner failed to establish any such circumstance.

The trial and appellate courts ruled that petitioner possessed 5.67 gm of
methamphetamine hydrochloride and sentenced her to an indeterminate
penalty of two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and
two (2) months of prision correccional. The penalty imposed by the trial court
and affirmed by the CA is incorrect. As the Court ruled in People v. Tira:[88]

Under Section 16, Article III of Rep. Act No. 6425, as amended, the imposable
penalty of possession of a regulated drug, less than 200 grams, in this case, shabu,
is prision correccionalto reclusion perpetua. Based on the quantity of the regulated
drug subject of the offense, the imposable penalty shall be as follows:

QUANTITY IMPOSABLE PENALTY


Less than one (1) gram to 49.25 grams prision correccional
49.26 grams to 98.50 grams prision mayor
98.51 grams to 147.75 grams reclusion temporal
147.76 grams to 199 grams reclusion perpetua

Considering that the regulated drug found in the possession of the appellants
is only 1.001 grams, the imposable penalty for the crime is prision
correccional. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the appellants are
sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from four (4) months and one (1)
day of arresto mayor in its medium period as minimum, to three (3) years of prision
correccional in its medium period as maximum, for violation of Section 16 of Rep. Act
No. 6425, as amended.[89]

The penalty imposed in the Tira case is the correct penalty, which should
likewise be imposed against petitioner herein.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 25726 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATIONas
to penalty. Petitioner is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of from
four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor in its medium period as
minimum to three (3) years of prision correccional in its medium period as
maximum.

SO ORDERED.

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.


Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
Chairperson

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby


certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

[1]
Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid, with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Estela
M. Perlas-Bernabe, concurring; rollo, pp. 35-43.
[2]
Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid, with Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion and Aurora
Santiago-Lagman, concurring; id. at 49.
[3]
Penned by Judge Victor T. Llamas, Jr.; id. at 106-114.
[4]
Records, p. 11.
[5]
Id. at 12.
[6]
Rollo, p. 52.
[7]
Records, p. 49.
[8]
Id. at 51-52.
[9]
Id. at 56-57.
[10]
TSN, June 28, 2000, p. 8.
[11]
TSN, December 17, 1998, p. 9.
[12]
Id. at 7.
[13]
Rollo, p. 36.
[14]
Exhibit 3, Folder of Exhibits, p. 10.
[15]
TSN, May 5, 1998, p. 6.
[16]
Id. at 3.
[17]
Id. at 4.
[18]
Id. at 5.
[19]
Id.
[20]
Id.
[21]
Id. at 6.
[22]
Rollo, p. 51.
[23]
Id. at 37.
[24]
TSN, December 17, 1998, p. 6.
[25]
Exhibit B, Folder of Exhibits, p. 2.
[26]
Exhibit B-4, id.
[27]
Exhibit C-4, Folder of Exhibits, p. 3.
[28]
Exhibit D, id. at 4.
[29]
Exhibit I, id. at 7.
[30]
Exhibits A to I and their submarkings; records, pp. 134-136.
[31]
Records, pp. 137-138.
[32]
Id. at 140.
[33]
TSN, June 28, 2000, pp. 3-5.
[34]
Id. at 10.
[35]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 10.
[36]
Rollo, p. 91.
[37]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 12.
[38]
Id. at 8.
[39]
Rollo, p. 99.
[40]
Id. at 100.
[41]
Id. at 98-100.
[42]
TSN, August 17, 2000, p. 4.
[43]
Rollo, pp. 102-103.
[44]
TSN, November 26, 1999, p. 4.
[45]
Rollo, p. 60.
[46]
TSN, November 26, 1999, pp. 5-6.
[47]
Rollo, p. 114.
[48]
Id. at 110-113.
[49]
Id. at 181.
[50]
G.R. No. 89393, January 25, 1991, 193 SCRA 373.
[51]
Rollo, p. 43.
[52]
G.R. No. 104879, May 6, 1994, 232 SCRA 249.
[53]
Rollo, pp. 44-48.
[54]
Id. at 49.
[55]
Id.
[56]
Id. at 19-20.
[57]
Id. at 174.
[58]
Id. at 185.
[59]
Id. at 198.
[60]
Garaygay v. People, G.R. No. 135503, July 6, 2000, 335 SCRA 272, 279-280.
[61]
Franks v. State of Delaware, 438 US 154, 98 S.Ct. 2674 (1978); US v. Leon, 468 US 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405
(1984); US v. Mittelman, 999 F.2d 440 (1993); US v. Lee, 540 F.2d 1205 (1976).
[62]
The pertinent allegations in the motion are as follows:
4. Search Warrant No. 98-62 was issued in violation of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Article III, Section
2 thereof;
5. Transcript of the proceedings shows that Cesar Ramos has no personal knowledge of his allegation that
Elisa Abuan has in her possession Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu) and other drug paraphernalia;
6. On the basis of Cesar Ramos testimony alone, the search warrant should not have been issued. In the
case of Burgos v. Chief of Staff, 133 SCRA 800, the Supreme Court held that, the constitution required no
less than personal knowledge by the complainant or his witnesses of the facts upon which the issuance of a
search warrant may be justified. It must not be based on a mere information or belief (CRUZ, Isagani,
Constitutional Law, 1993 ed., p. 142).
7. Cesar Ramos lone witness in the application for the search warrant, an alleged Marissa Gorospe, testified
before the judge, claiming personal knowledge of Elisa Abuans possession of drugs and other drug
paraphernalia;
8. Such Marissa Gorospe is fictitious and her testimony is fabricated, designed to achieve the probable cause
required for the issuance of a search warrant;
9. Granting but not conceding that the alleged Marissa Gorospe and her testimony were factual, the
presiding judge failed to ask searching questions as to find out from her the particularity of the
paraphernalia in Elisa Abuans possession.
10. Since the search warrant is invalidly issued, whatever fruits it allegedly yielded must be suppressed in
accordance with Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution. (records, pp. 53-54)
[63]
People v. Chua, G.R. No. 149878, July 1, 2003, 405 SCRA 280, 288.
[64]
People v. Tira, G.R. No. 139615, May 28, 2004, 430 SCRA 134, 152.
[65]
People v. Burton, 335 Phil. 1003, 1024 (1997).
[66]
Id.
[67]
People v. Saludes, G.R. No. 144157, June 10, 2003, 403 SCRA 590, 597.
[68]
People v. Sy Bing Yok, 368 Phil. 326, 337 (1999).
[69]
Asuncion v. Court of Appeals, 362 Phil. 118, 130 (1999).
[70]
Rollo, pp. 151-152.
[71]
Section 3(2), Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
[72]
People v. Francisco, G.R. No. 129035, August 22, 2002, 387 SCRA 569, 575.
[73]
Spinelli v. US, 393 US 410, 89 S.Ct. 584 (1969); US v. Leon, supra note 61.
[74]
Id.
[75]
US v. Ventresca, 13 L.ed.2d 684 (1965).
[76]
People v. Tampis, 467 Phil. 582, 590 (2003); Massachusetts v. Upton, 466 US 727, 104 S.Ct. 2085 (1984).
[77]
US v. Canan, 48 F.3d 954 (1995).
[78]
US v. Adams, 110 F.3d 31 (1997).
[79]
Franks v. State of Delaware, supra note 61.
[80]
Massachusetts v. Upton, supra note 79.
[81]
Jones v. United States, 362 US 257, 80 S.Ct. 725 (1960).
[82]
Kho v. Makalintal, 365 Phil. 511, 517 (1999).
[83]
Franks v. State of Delaware, supra note 61.
[84]
Id.
[85]
Id.
[86]
TSN, January 18, 2000, p. 4.
[87]
Supra note 14.
[88]
Supra note 65.
[89]
Supra note 65, at 155.
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

RUBEN DEL CASTILLO @ BOY G.R. No. 185128


CASTILLO, [Formerly UDK No. 13980]
Petitioner,
Present:

VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson,


- versus - PERALTA,
MENDOZA,
REYES,* and
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.
PEOPLE OF
THE PHILIPPINES, Promulgated:
Respondent. January 30, 2012
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

For this Court's consideration is the Petition for


[1]
Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of Ruben del Castillo assailing the
Decision[2] dated July 31, 2006 and Resolution[3] dated December 13, 2007 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 27819, which affirmed the
Decision[4] dated March 14, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 12,
Cebu, in Criminal Case No. CBU-46291, finding petitioner guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act (R.A.)
6425.
The facts, as culled from the records, are the following:

Pursuant to a confidential information that petitioner was engaged in


selling shabu, police officers headed by SPO3 Bienvenido Masnayon, after
conducting surveillance and test-buy operation at the house of petitioner, secured
a search warrant from the RTC and around 3 o'clock in the afternoon of
September 13, 1997, the same police operatives went to Gil Tudtud St., Mabolo,
Cebu City to serve the search warrant to petitioner.
Upon arrival, somebody shouted raid, which prompted them to immediately
disembark from the jeep they were riding and went directly to petitioner's house
and cordoned it. The structure of the petitioner's residence is a two-storey house
and the petitioner was staying in the second floor. When they went upstairs, they
met petitioner's wife and informed her that they will implement the search
warrant. But before they can search the area, SPO3 Masnayon claimed that he
saw petitioner run towards a small structure, a nipa hut, in front of his
house. Masnayon chased him but to no avail, because he and his men were not
familiar with the entrances and exits of the place.

They all went back to the residence of the petitioner and closely guarded the
place where the subject ran for cover. SPO3 Masnayon requested his men to get
a barangay tanodand a few minutes thereafter, his men returned with
two barangay tanods.

In the presence of the barangay tanod, Nelson Gonzalado, and the elder sister of
petitioner named Dolly del Castillo, searched the house of petitioner including
the nipa hut where the petitioner allegedly ran for cover. His men who searched
the residence of the petitioner found nothing, but one of the barangay tanods was
able to confiscate from the nipa hut several articles, including four (4) plastic
packs containing white crystalline substance. Consequently, the articles that
were confiscated were sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination. The
contents of the four (4) heat- sealed transparent plastic packs were subjected to
laboratory examination, the result of which proved positive for the presence
of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu.

Thus, an Information was filed before the RTC against petitioner, charging him
with violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. 6425, as amended. The
Information[5] reads:
That on or about the 13th day of September 1997, at about 3:00 p.m. in the City
of Cebu, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
said accused, with deliberate intent, did then and there have in his possession
and control four (4) packs of white crystalline powder, having a total weight
of 0.31 gram, locally known as shabu, all containing methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without license or prescription from any
competent authority.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[6]

During arraignment, petitioner, with the assistance of his counsel, pleaded not
guilty.[7] Subsequently, trial on the merits ensued.

To prove the earlier mentioned incident, the prosecution presented the


testimonies of SPO3 Bienvenido Masnayon, PO2 Milo Arriola, and Forensic
Analyst, Police Inspector Mutchit Salinas.
The defense, on the other hand, presented the testimonies of petitioner, Jesusa
del Castillo, Dalisay del Castillo and Herbert Aclan, which can be summarized
as follows:

On September 13, 1997, around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, petitioner was


installing the electrical wirings and airconditioning units of the Four Seasons
Canteen and Beauty Parlor at Wacky Bldg., Cabancalan, Cebu. He was able to
finish his job around 6 o'clock in the evening, but he was engaged by the owner
of the establishment in a conversation.He was able to go home around 8:30-9
o'clock in the evening. It was then that he learned from his wife that police
operatives searched his house and found nothing. According to him, the small
structure, 20 meters away from his house where they found the confiscated
items, was owned by his older brother and was used as a storage place by his
father.

After trial, the RTC found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable of the charge
against him in the Information. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds the accused Ruben del
Castillo alyas Boy Castillo, GUILTY of violating Section 16, Article III,
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended.There being no mitigating nor aggravating
circumstances proven before this Court, and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of Six (6) Months and One
(1) Day as Minimum and Four (4) Years and Two (2) Months as Maximum
of Prision Correccional.

The four (4) small plastic packets of white crystalline substance having a total
weight of 0.31 gram, positive for the presence of methamphetamine
hydrochloride, are ordered confiscated and shall be destroyed in accordance
with the law.

SO ORDERED.[8]

Aggrieved, petitioner appealed his case with the CA, but the latter affirmed the
decision of the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, the challenged Decision is AFFIRMED in toto and the appeal


is DISMISSED, with costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.[9]

After the motion for reconsideration of petitioner was denied by the CA,
petitioner filed with this Court the present petition for certiorari under Rule 45
of the Rules of Court with the following arguments raised:

1. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN ITS APPLICATION OF


THE PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION, THE RULES OF COURT
AND ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE VIS-A-VIS VALIDITY OF
SEARCH WARRANT NO. 570-9-1197-24;

2. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE


FOUR (4) PACKS OF WHITE CRYSTALLINE POWDER ALLEGEDLY
FOUND ON THE FLOOR OF THE NIPA HUT OR STRUCTURE ARE
ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE AGAINST THE PETITIONER, NOT ONLY
BECAUSE THE SAID COURT SIMPLY PRESUMED THAT IT WAS
USED BY THE PETITIONER OR THAT THE PETITIONER RAN TO IT
FOR COVER WHEN THE SEARCHING TEAM ARRIVED AT HIS
RESIDENCE, BUT ALSO, PRESUMING THAT THE SAID NIPA HUT OR
STRUCTURE WAS INDEED USED BY THE PETITIONER AND THE
FOUR (4) PACKS OF WHITE CRYSTALLINE POWDER WERE FOUND
THEREAT. THE SUBJECT FOUR (4) PACKS OF WHITE CRYSTALLINE
POWDER ARE FRUITS OF THE POISONOUS TREE; and

3. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN ITS APPLICATION OF


THE ELEMENT OF POSSESSION AS AGAINST THE PETITIONER, AS
IT WAS IN VIOLATION OF THE ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE ON
THE MATTER. HAD THE SAID COURT PROPERLY APPLIED THE
ELEMENT IN QUESTION, IT COULD HAVE BEEN ASSAYED THAT
THE SAME HAD NOT BEEN PROVEN.[10]

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in its Comment dated February
10, 2009, enumerated the following counter-arguments:

I
SEARCH WARRANT No. 570-9-11-97-24 issued by Executive Judge
Priscilla S. Agana of Branch 24, Regional Trial Court of Cebu City is valid.

II
The four (4) packs of shabu seized inside the shop of petitioner are admissible
in evidence against him.

III
The Court of Appeals did not err in finding him guilty of illegal possession of
prohibited drugs.[11]

Petitioner insists that there was no probable cause to issue the search warrant,
considering that SPO1 Reynaldo Matillano, the police officer who applied for it,
had no personal knowledge of the alleged illegal sale of drugs during a test-buy
operation conducted prior to the application of the same search warrant. The
OSG, however, maintains that the petitioner, aside from failing to file the
necessary motion to quash the search warrant pursuant to Section 14, Rule 127
of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, did not introduce clear and
convincing evidence to show that Masnayon was conscious of the falsity of his
assertion or representation.

Anent the second argument, petitioner asserts that the nipa hut located about 20
meters away from his house is no longer within the permissible area that may be
searched by the police officers due to the distance and that the search warrant
did not include the same nipa hut as one of the places to be searched. The OSG,
on the other hand, argues that the constitutional guaranty against unreasonable
searches and seizure is applicable only against government authorities and not
to private individuals such as the barangay tanodwho found the folded paper
containing packs of shabu inside the nipa hut.

As to the third argument raised, petitioner claims that the CA erred in finding
him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of prohibited drugs,
because he could not be presumed to be in possession of the same just because
they were found inside the nipa hut. Nevertheless, the OSG dismissed the
argument of the petitioner, stating that, when prohibited and regulated drugs are
found in a house or other building belonging to and occupied by a particular
person, the presumption arises that such person is in possession of such drugs in
violation of law, and the fact of finding the same is sufficient to convict.

This Court finds no merit on the first argument of petitioner.

The requisites for the issuance of a search warrant are: (1) probable cause is
present; (2) such probable cause must be determined personally by the judge; (3)
the judge must examine, in writing and under oath or affirmation, the
complainant and the witnesses he or she may produce; (4) the applicant and the
witnesses testify on the facts personally known to them; and (5) the warrant
specifically describes the place to be searched and the things to be
seized.[12] According to petitioner, there was no probable cause. Probable cause
for a search warrant is defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead
a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been
committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the
place sought to be searched.[13] A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on
evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and
that it was committed by the accused. Probable cause demands more than bare
suspicion; it requires less than evidence which would justify conviction.[14] The
judge, in determining probable cause, is to consider the totality of the
circumstances made known to him and not by a fixed and rigid formula,[15] and
must employ a flexible, totality of the circumstances standard.[16] The existence
depends to a large degree upon the finding or opinion of the judge conducting
the examination. This Court, therefore, is in no position to disturb the factual
findings of the judge which led to the issuance of the search warrant. A
magistrate's determination of probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant
is paid great deference by a reviewing court, as long as there was substantial
basis for that determination.[17] Substantial basis means that the questions of the
examining judge brought out such facts and circumstances as would lead a
reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been
committed, and the objects in connection with the offense sought to be seized are
in the place sought to be searched.[18] A review of the records shows that in the
present case, a substantial basis exists.

With regard to the second argument of petitioner, it must be remembered that the
warrant issued must particularly describe the place to be searched and persons or
things to be seized in order for it to be valid. A designation or description that
points out the place to be searched to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry
unerringly leads the peace officers to it, satisfies the constitutional requirement
of definiteness.[19] In the present case, Search Warrant No. 570-9-1197-
24[20] specifically designates or describes the residence of the petitioner as the
place to be searched. Incidentally, the items were seized by a barangay tanod in
a nipa hut, 20 meters away from the residence of the petitioner.The confiscated
items, having been found in a place other than the one described in the search
warrant, can be considered as fruits of an invalid warrantless search, the
presentation of which as an evidence is a violation of petitioner's constitutional
guaranty against unreasonable searches and seizure. The OSG argues that,
assuming that the items seized were found in another place not designated in the
search warrant, the same items should still be admissible as evidence because the
one who discovered them was a barangay tanod who is a private individual, the
constitutional guaranty against unreasonable searches and seizure being
applicable only against government authorities. The contention is devoid of
merit.
It was testified to during trial by the police officers who effected the search
warrant that they asked the assistance of the barangay tanods, thus, in the
testimony of SPO3 Masnayon:

Fiscal Centino:

Q For how long did the chase take place?


A Just a very few moments.

Q After that, what did you [do] when you were not able to reach him?
A I watched his shop and then I requested my men to get a barangay tanod.

Q Were you able to get a barangay tanod?


A Yes.

Q Can you tell us what is the name of the barangay tanod?


A Nelson Gonzalado.

Q For point of clarification, how many barangay tanod [did] your driver get?
A Two.

Q What happened after that?


A We searched the house, but we found negative.
Q Who proceeded to the second floor of the house?
A SPO1 Cirilo Pogoso and Milo Areola went upstairs and found nothing.

Q What about you, where were you?


A I [was] watching his shop and I was with Matillano.

Q What about the barangay tanod?


A Together with Milo and Pogoso.

Q When the search at the second floor of the house yielded negative what
did you do?
A They went downstairs because I was suspicious of his shop because he
ran from his shop, so we searched his shop.

Q Who were with you when you searched the shop?


A The barangay tanod Nilo Gonzalado, the elder sister of Ruben del
Castillo named Dolly del Castillo.

Q You mean to say, that when (sic) SPO1 Reynaldo Matillano, Barangay
Tanod Nilo Gonzalado and the elder sister of Ruben del Castillo were
together in the shop?
A Yes.

Q What happened at the shop?


A One of the barangay tanods was able to pick up white folded paper.

Q What [were] the contents of that white folded paper?


A A plastic pack containing white crystalline.

Q Was that the only item?


A There are others like the foil, scissor.

Q Were you present when those persons found those tin foil and others inside
the electric shop?
A Yes.[21]

The fact that no items were seized in the residence of petitioner and that the items
that were actually seized were found in another structure by a barangay
tanod, was corroborated by PO2 Arriola, thus:

FISCAL:

Q So, upon arriving at the house of Ruben del Castillo alias Boy, can you still
recall what took place?
A We cordoned the area.

Q And after you cordoned the area, did anything happen?


A We waited for the barangay tanod.

Q And did the barangay tanod eventually appear?


A Yes. And then we started our search in the presence of Ruben del Castillo's
wife.

Q What is the name of the wife of Ruben del Castillo?


A I cannot recall her name, but if I see her I can recall [her] face.
Q What about Ruben del Castillo, was she around when [you] conducted the
search?
A No. Ruben was not in the house. But our team leader, team mate Bienvenido
Masnayon saw that Ruben ran away from his adjacent electronic shop near his
house, in front of his house.

Q Did you find anything during the search in the house of Ruben del Castillo?
A After our search in the house, we did not see anything. The house was clean.

Q What did you do afterwards, if any?


A We left (sic) out of the house and proceeded to his electronic shop.

Q Do you know the reason why you proceeded to his electronic shop?
A Yes. Because our team leader Bienvenido Masnayon saw that (sic) Ruben
run from that store and furthermore the door was open.

Q How far is the electronic shop from the house of Ruben del Castillo?
A More or less, 5 to 6 meters in front of his house.

xxxx

Q So, who entered inside the electronic shop?

A The one who first entered the electronic shop is our team leader Bienvenido
Masnayon.

Q You mentioned that Masnayon entered first. Do you mean to say that there
were other persons or other person that followed after Masnayon?
A Then we followed suit.

Q All of your police officers and the barangay tanod followed suit?
A I led Otadoy and the barangay tanod.

Q What about you?


A I also followed suit.

Q And did anything happen inside the shop of Ruben del Castillo?
A It was the barangay tanod who saw the folded paper and I saw him
open the folded paper which contained four shabu deck.

Q How far were you when you saw the folded paper and the tanod open the
folded paper?
A We were side by side because the shop was very small.[22]

SPO1 Pogoso also testified on the same matter, thus:


FISCAL CENTINO:

Q And where did you conduct the search, Mr. Witness?


A At his residence, the two-storey house.

Q Among the three policemen, who were with you in conducting the search at
the residence of the accused?
A I, Bienvenido Masnayon.
Q And what transpired after you searched the house of Ruben del Castillo?
A Negative, no shabu.

Q And what happened afterwards, if any?


A We went downstairs and proceeded to the small house.

Q Can you please describe to this Honorable Court, what was that small house
which you proceeded to?
A It is a nipa hut.

Q And more or less, how far or near was it from the house of Ruben del
Castillo?
A 5 to 10 meters.

Q And could you tell Mr. Witness, what was that nipa hut supposed to be?
A That was the electronic shop of Ruben del Castillo.

Q And what happened when your team proceeded to the nipa hut?
A I was just outside the nipa hut.

Q And who among the team went inside?


A PO2 Milo Areola and the Barangay Tanod.[23]

Having been established that the assistance of the barangay tanods was sought
by the police authorities who effected the searched warrant, the same barangay
tanods therefore acted as agents of persons in authority. Article 152 of the
Revised Penal Code defines persons in authority and agents of persons in
authority as:

x x x any person directly vested with jurisdiction, whether as an individual or


as a member of some court or governmental corporation, board or commission,
shall be deemed a person in authority. A barangay captain and a barangay
chairman shall also be deemed a person in authority.
A person who, by direct provision of law or by election or by appointment by
competent authority, is charged with the maintenance of public order and
the protection and security of life and property, such as barrio councilman,
barrio policeman and barangay leader, and any person who comes to the
aid of persons in authority, shall be deemed an agent of a person in
authority.

The Local Government Code also contains a provision which describes the
function of a barangay tanod as an agent of persons in authority. Section 388 of
the Local Government Code reads:
SEC. 388. Persons in Authority. - For purposes of the Revised Penal Code, the
punong barangay, sangguniang barangay members, and members of the
lupong tagapamayapa in each barangay shall be deemed as persons in
authority in their jurisdictions, while other barangay officials and members
who may be designated by law or ordinance and charged with the
maintenance of public order, protection and security of life and property,
or the maintenance of a desirable and balanced environment, and any
barangay member who comes to the aid of persons in authority, shall be
deemed agents of persons in authority.

By virtue of the above provisions, the police officers, as well as the barangay
tanods were acting as agents of a person in authority during the conduct of the
search. Thus, the search conducted was unreasonable and the confiscated items
are inadmissible in evidence. Assuming ex gratia argumenti that the barangay
tanod who found the confiscated items is considered a private individual, thus,
making the same items admissible in evidence, petitioner's third argument that
the prosecution failed to establish constructive possession of the regulated drugs
seized, would still be meritorious.

Appellate courts will generally not disturb the factual findings of the trial court
since the latter has the unique opportunity to weigh conflicting testimonies,
having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and
manner of testifying,[24] unless attended with arbitrariness or plain disregard of
pertinent facts or circumstances, the factual findings are accorded the highest
degree of respect on appeal[25] as in the present case.

It must be put into emphasis that this present case is about the violation of Section
16 of R.A. 6425. In every prosecution for the illegal possession of shabu, the
following essential elements must be established: (a) the accused is found in
possession of a regulated drug; (b) the person is not authorized by law or by duly
constituted authorities; and (c) the accused has knowledge that the said drug is a
regulated drug.[26]

In People v. Tira,[27] this Court explained the concept of possession of regulated


drugs, to wit:

This crime is mala prohibita, and, as such, criminal intent is not an essential
element. However, the prosecution must prove that the accused had the intent
to possess (animus posidendi) the drugs. Possession, under the law, includes
not only actual possession, but also constructive possession. Actual possession
exists when the drug is in the immediate physical possession or control of the
accused. On the other hand, constructive possession exists when the drug is
under the dominion and control of the accused or when he has the right to
exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found. Exclusive
possession or control is not necessary. The accused cannot avoid conviction if
his right to exercise control and dominion over the place where the contraband
is located, is shared with another.[28]

While it is not necessary that the property to be searched or seized should be


owned by the person against whom the search warrant is issued, there must be
sufficient showing that the property is under appellants control or
possession.[29] The CA, in its Decision, referred to the possession of regulated
drugs by the petitioner as a constructive one. Constructive possession exists
when the drug is under the dominion and control of the accused or when he has
the right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found. [30] The
records are void of any evidence to show that petitioner owns the nipa hut in
question nor was it established that he used the said structure as a shop. The RTC,
as well as the CA, merely presumed that petitioner used the said structure due to
the presence of electrical materials, the petitioner being an electrician by
profession. The CA, in its Decision, noted a resolution by the investigating
prosecutor, thus:
x x x As admitted by respondent's wife, her husband is an electrician by
occupation. As such, conclusion could be arrived at that the structure, which
housed the electrical equipments is actually used by the respondent. Being the
case, he has control of the things found in said structure.[31]

In addition, the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution do not also
provide proof as to the ownership of the structure where the seized articles were
found. During their direct testimonies, they just said, without stating their basis,
that the same structure was the shop of petitioner.[32] During the direct testimony
of SPO1 Pogoso, he even outrightly concluded that the electrical shop/nipa hut
was owned by petitioner, thus:

FISCAL CENTINO:

Q Can you please describe to this Honorable Court, what was that small house
which you proceeded to?
A It is a nipa hut.

Q And more or less, how far or near was it from the house of Ruben del
Castillo?
A 5 to 10 meters.

Q And could you tell Mr. Witness, what was that nipa hut supposed to
be?
A That was the electronic shop of Ruben del Castillo.

Q And what happened when your team proceeded to the nipa hut?
A I was just outside the nipa hut.[33]

However, during cross-examination, SPO3 Masnayon admitted that there was an


electrical shop but denied what he said in his earlier testimony that it was owned
by petitioner, thus:

ATTY. DAYANDAYAN:
Q You testified that Ruben del Castillo has an electrical shop, is that
correct?
A He came out of an electrical shop. I did not say that he owns the shop.

Q Now, this shop is within a structure?


A Yes.

Q How big is the structure?


A It is quite a big structure, because at the other side is a mahjong den and at
the other side is a structure rented by a couple.[34]

The prosecution must prove that the petitioner had knowledge of the existence
and presence of the drugs in the place under his control and dominion and the
character of the drugs.[35] With the prosecution's failure to prove that the nipa hut
was under petitioner's control and dominion, there casts a reasonable doubt as to
his guilt. In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the law's own
starting perspective on the status of the accused - in all criminal prosecutions, he
is presumed innocent of the charge laid unless the contrary is proven beyond
reasonable doubt.[36] Proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of proof
sufficient to produce a moral certainty that would convince and satisfy the
conscience of those who act in judgment, is indispensable to overcome the
constitutional presumption of innocence.[37]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated July 31, 2006 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G. R. No. 27819, which affirmed the Decision dated March 14, 2003 of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, Cebu, in Criminal Case No. CBU-46291 is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Ruben del
Castillo is ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Chairperson

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA BIENVENIDO L. REYES


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
Third Division, Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

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

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

*
Designated as an additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad, per Special Order No. 1178
dated January 26, 2012.
[1]
Dated August 23, 2008, rollo, pp. 32-44.
[2]
Penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison, with Associate Justices Pampio A. Abarintos and
Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, concurring; id. at 54-70.
[3]
Dated August 23, 2008, id. at 71-72.
[4]
Penned by Presiding Judge Aproniano B. Taypin; id. at 45-53.
[5]
Records, pp. 1-2.
[6]
Id. at 1.
[7]
Id. at 57.
[8]
Id. at 254.
[9]
Rollo, p. 70.
[10]
Id. at 37.
[11]
Id. at 98-103.
[12]
Abuan v. People, G.R. No. 168773, October 27, 2006, 505 SCRA 799, 822, citing People v. Francisco, G.R.
No. 129035, August 22, 2002, 387 SCRA 569, 575.
[13]
Santos v. Pryce Gases, Inc., G.R. No. 165122, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 474, 484, citing Columbia
Pictures, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 329 Phil. 875, 903 (1996).
[14]
Id., citing Sarigumba v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 154239-41, February 16, 2005, 451 SCRA 533, 550.
[15]
Abuan v. People, supra note 12, citing People v. Tampis, 467 Phil. 582, 590 (2003); Massachusetts v. Upton,
466 US 727, 104 S.Ct. 2085 (1984).
[16]
Id., citing US v. Canan, 48 F.3d 954 (1995).
[17]
People v. Estela Tuan, G.R. No. 176066, August 11, 2011.
[18]
Id. citing People v. Tee, 443 Phil. 521, 540 (2003).
[19]
People v. Tee, supra.
[20]
Records, p. 114.
[21]
TSN, July 16, 1998, pp. 8-9. (Emphasis supplied.)
[22]
TSN, February 4, 1999, pp. 4-6. (Emphasis supplied.)
[23]
TSN, May 12, 1999, pp. 3-4. (Emphasis supplied.)
[24]
People v. Baygar, 376 Phil. 466, 473 (1999).
[25]
People v. Matito, 468 Phil. 14, 24 (2004).
[26]
Quelnan v. People, G.R. No. 166061, July 6, 2007, 526 SCRA 653, 662, citing Abuan v. People, supra note
12, and People v. Torres, G.R. No. 170837, September 12, 2006, 501 SCRA 591, 610.
[27]
G.R. No. 139615, May 28, 2004, 430 SCRA 134.
[28]
Id. at 151-152.
[29]
People v. Del Castillo, G.R. No. 153254, September 30, 2004, 439 SCRA 601, 613-614, citing People v.
Dichoso, G.R. Nos. 101216-18, June 4, 1993, 223 SCRA 174, 191, citing Burgos v. Chief of Staff, 133 SCRA
800 (1984).
[30]
People v. Tira, supra note 27.
[31]
Rollo, p. 65.
[32]
TSN, July 16, 1998, pp. 7-9; TSN, February 4, 1999, pp. 5-6.
[33]
TSN, May 12, 1999, pp. 3-4.
[34]
TSN, July 16, 1998, p. 15.
[35]
See People v. Tira, supra note 27.
[36]
People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569 SCRA 194, 207, citing Article III (Bill of Rights),
Section 14(2) of the 1987 Constitution which reads: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed
innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed
of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the
witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and production of
evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused
provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.
[37]
People v. Villanueva, G.R. No. 131773, February 13, 2002, 376 SCRA 615, 637, citing People v. Gomez,
G.R. No. 101817, March 26, 1997, 270 SCR
THIRD DIVISION

HON NE CHAN, YUNJI ZENG, AND G.R. No. 172775


JOHN DOE,
Present:
Petitioners,

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA,* and
- versus -
REYES, JJ.

Promulgated:

HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD., AND


HONDA PHIL., INC., December 19, 2007

Respondents.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision[1] of


the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 85353, granting respondents Petition
for Certiorari and setting aside the Orders dated 20 February 2004 and 18 May
2004, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 46.
On 14 November 2003, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI),
through Special Investigator (SI) Glenn Lacaran, applied for search warrants
with the RTC against petitioners for alleged violation of Section 168[2] in relation
to Section 170[3] of Republic Act No. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of
the Philippines.[4]

On the same date, RTC Judge Artemio S. Tipon issued two search
warrants. The first warrant, Search Warrant No. 03-4438,[5] was directed
against petitioner Hon Ne Chan and John Does, operating under the name and
style Dragon Spirit Motorcycle Center, located at No. 192 M.H. del Pilar Street
corner 10th Avenue, Grace Park, Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

On the other hand, the second search warrant, or Search Warrant No. 03-
[6]
4439 was issued against petitioner Yunji Zeng and John Does, operating under
the name and style Dragon Spirit Motorcycle Center, located at No. 192 E.
Delos Santos Avenue, Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

Except for the names of respondents and addresses to be searched, both


search warrants stated the following:

SEARCH WARRANT[7]

TO ANY PEACE OFFICER:

G R E E T I N G S:

It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned, after examining under


oath the applicant Special Investigator Glenn M. Lacaran of the National Bureau of
Investigation, and his witnesses Atty. Elmer NA. Cadano and Mr. Rene C. Baltazar,
that there are good and sufficient reasons to believe that a violation of Sec. 168 in
relation to Sec. 170 of the R.A. No. 8293 has been committed and that there are good
and sufficient reasons to believe that the following :

a) Motorcycles bearing the model names and/or markings DS-110,


DSM-110, SUPER WAVE, DS-125, DSM-125, WAVE
R, and WAVE and the engines, moldings, spare parts, tires and
accessories for the manufacture and assembly of such
motorcycles;

b) Papers, documents, brochures, documents, receipts, invoices,


ledgers, books of accounts, labels, materials, paraphernalia,
effects, computer software, computer systems, central
processing units, hard disks, floppy disks, diskettes, date storage
and retrieval devices, monitors, and vehicles used or intended to
be used in importing, producing, manufacturing, assembling,
selling, marketing, distributing, dealing with and/or otherwise
disposing of motorcycles bearing the model names and/or
markings DS-110, DSM-110, SUPER WAVE, DS-125, DSM-125,
WAVE R, and WAVE,

are in the possession and control of Respondents HON NE CHAN[8] and JOHN DOES,
operating under the name and style DRAGON SPIRIT MOTORCYCLE CENTER, located
at No. 192 M. H. Del Pilar Street corner 10th Avenue, Grace Park, Caloocan City, Metro
Manila, and are being kept and concealed at the said address.[9]

You are hereby commanded to make an immediate search at any time of the day of
the premises above-described and to search for, and seize, the above-described
personal properties which are the subject of the aforesaid offense and bring to this
Court said properties to be dealt with as the law directs.

GIVEN UNDER MY HAND AND SEAL this 14th day of November, 2003 at the City of
Manila, Philippines.

ARTEMIO S. TIPON

Judge

On the strength of these search warrants, NBI agents conducted a search of


petitioners premises and seized the following items:

1. from petitioner Hon Ne Chans premises:


a) seven (7) motorcycles bearing the model name DSM WAVE R;

b) three (3) motorcycles bearing the model name DSM SUPER WAVE, and

c) one (1) motorcycle bearing the model name WAVE CX.

2. from petitioner Yunji Zengs premises:


a) twenty-one (21) motorcycles bearing the model name WAVE CX 110;

b) eight (8) motorcycles bearing the model name WAVE 110;

c) thirty-five (35) motorcycles bearing the model name WAVE 125;

d) one (1) motorcycle bearing the model name WAVE R;


e) eight (8) motorcycles bearing the model name SUPER WAVE 110; and

f) two (2) plastic bags containing various documents.[10]

On 1 December 2003, petitioners filed with the RTC a Joint Motion to


Quash Search Warrants and to Return Illegally Seized Items,[11] averring therein
that the search warrants were issued despite the absence of probable cause
and that they were in the nature of general search warrants. Respondents filed
their Opposition thereto on 7 January 2004[12] but despite this, the trial court
still issued an Order dated 20 February 2004 which quashed both Search
Warrants No. 03-4438 and 03-4439 and ordered the NBI to return to petitioners
the articles seized. In quashing the search warrants, the trial court held that the
return of the twenty-two WAVE CX 110 motorcycle units was proper for they
were never specifically mentioned therein. As regards the rest of the items
seized by the NBI agents, the trial court decreed that their return to petitioners
was justified due to lack of probable cause in the issuance of the search
warrants.

Respondents Motion for Reconsideration dated 12 March 2004[13] was denied


by the court a quo through its Order of 18 May 2004.[14] This prompted
respondents to seek recourse before the Court of Appeals via a Petition
for Certiorari.[15]

On 31 January 2006, the Court of Appeals rendered the now assailed Decision
granting respondents petition and setting aside the RTCs Orders dated 20
February 2004 and 18 May 2004.[16] The appellate court likewise denied
petitioners Motion for Reconsideration due to lack of merit.

Hence, the present petition imputing error to the Court of Appeals because of
the following:

i.

THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION
IN RULING THAT THE WARRANTS COMPLIED WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND
STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ISSUANCE OF VALID SEARCH WARRANTS
NOTWITHSTANDING THE LACK OF PROBABLE CAUSE IN CONNECTION WITH ONE
SPECIFIC OFFENSE TO SEARCH AND SEIZE THE MOTORCYCLE UNITS OF THE
PETITIONERS AND THE LACK OF PARTICULARITY IN THE DESCRIPTION OF THE THINGS
TO BE SEARCHED.

ii.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE, SERIOUS AND REVERSIBLE ERROR IN
RULING THAT RESPONDENT HAD ESTABLISHED GOODWILL IN HONDA WAVE
MOTORCYCLE DESPITE OF THE FACT THAT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE ON RECORD
SUPPORTING THE CLAIM.

iii.

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS IN RULING


THAT THE PETITIONERS PASSED OFF THEIR GOODS AS THAT OF THE RESPONDENTS
BY USING THE MODEL NAME WAVE AND EMBODYING THE PROMINENT FEATURES
OF THE DESIGNS, WHICH IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF UNFAIR COMPETITION.[17]

We are primarily tasked to resolve the questions of: 1) whether probable cause
existed in the issuance of the subject search warrants; 2) whether said search
warrants were in the nature of general search warrants and therefore null and
void; and 3) whether there existed an offense to which the issuance of the
search warrants was connected.

We affirm the Decision of the Court of Appeals.

The pertinent provision of the Rules of Court on the issuance of a search


warrant provides:

Rule 126

Search and Seizure

xxxx

SEC. 4. Requisites for issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue but
upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense 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 things to be seized which may be anywhere in the Philippines.

Thus, the validity of the issuance of a search warrant rests upon the following
factors: (1) it must be issued upon probable cause; (2) the probable cause must
be determined by the judge himself and not by the applicant or any other
person; (3) in the determination of probable cause, the judge must examine,
under oath or affirmation, the complainant and such witnesses as the latter
may produce; and (4) the warrant issued must particularly describe the place to
be searched and persons or things to be seized.[18]

In this case, petitioners argue that the requirements enumerated in Rule 126 of
the Rules of Court pertaining to the issuance of a search warrant were not
fulfilled when Search Warrants No. 03-4438 and 03-4439 were issued by the
trial court. First, they contend that no probable cause existed meriting the
issuance of the search warrants in that it was stated in the Application for
Search Warrant of National Bureau of Investigation Special Investigator (NBI SI)
Lacaran that (h)e has information and verily believes that (petitioners) are in
possession or has in their control properties which are being sold, retailed,
distributed, imported, dealt with or otherwise disposed of, or intended to be
used as a means of committing a violation of Section 168 in relation to Section
170 of Republic Act No. 8293 otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code
of the Philippines[19]Said statement, petitioners insist, failed to meet the
condition that probable cause must be shown to be within the personal
knowledge of the complainant or the witnesses he may produce and not based
on mere hearsay.[20]

It is settled that in determining probable cause, a judge is duty-bound to


personally examine under oath the complainant and the witnesses he may
present. Emphasis must be laid on the fact that the oath required must refer to
the truth of the facts within the personal knowledge of the petitioner or his
witnesses, because the purpose thereof is to convince the committing
magistrate, not the individual making the affidavit and seeking the issuance of
the warrant, of the existence of probable cause.[21] Search warrants are not
issued on loose, vague or doubtful basis of fact, or on mere suspicion or
belief.[22]

In the case at bar, petitioners capitalize on the first paragraph of the


Application for Search Warrant executed by NBI SI Lacaran to support their
argument that he lacked the personal knowledge required by both the Rules of
Court and by jurisprudence. However, the very next paragraph of the
application reveals the tremulous nature of their argument for it is clearly
stated therein that far from merely relying on mere information and belief, NBI
SI Lacaran personally verified the report and found [it] to be a fact.[23]This, to
our mind, removed the basis of his application from mere hearsay and
supported the earlier finding of probable cause on the part of the examining
judge. We cannot, thus, agree in his Order of 20 February 2004 quashing the
search warrants he earlier issued on 14 November 2003.
It is likewise well to reiterate here that probable cause, as far as the
issuance of a search warrant is concerned, has been uniformly defined as such
facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonable, discreet and prudent
man to believe that an offense has been committed, and that the objects sought
in connection with the offense are in the place sought to be searched.[24] Equally
important is our declaration in Microsoft Corporation and Lotus Development
Corporation v. Maxicorp, Inc.[25] that

The determination of probable cause does not call for the application of rules and
standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. As
implied by the words themselves, probable cause is concerned with probability, not
absolute or even moral certainty. The prosecution need not present at this stage
reasonable doubt. The standards of judgment are those of a reasonably prudent
man, not the exacting calibrations of a judge after a full-blown trial.[26]

Applying these standards, we hold that the trial court overstepped its
boundaries as far as determination of probable cause is concerned when it
ratiocinated in its Order dated 20 February 2004 that

With respect to the other units seized by the NBI, their immediate release is
likewise proper since there is no showing of probable cause that justified the issuance
of the search warrant.The (herein respondents) claims (sic) that the (herein
petitioners) are guilty of Unfair Competition because of the alleged similarities
between its motorcycle units and those of the (petitioners).There maybe similarities
as claimed by the (respondents) but the differences far outweigh the similarities that
any confusion to the consumer is remote and speculative. These differences are quite
evident from the very comparative pictures attached by the (petitioners) in its (sic)
application for Search Warrant as well as in the Opposition filed relative to the
pending Joint Motion to Quash Search Warrants and to Return Illegally Seized Items.

Aside from the differences in features, the motorcycle units sold by the
(petitioners) prominently bear the distinct trade name DRAGON SPIRIT. This is not
the same trade name of the (respondents), which is Honda. The fact alone would
practically eliminate any possible confusion on the part of the public that the
motorcycle units they would be buying from the (petitioners) are those manufactured
and/or sold by (respondents).[27]

Such pronouncement by the RTC is utterly premature for, at that point, all that
was presented before it by respondents was evidence, which to their minds, was
sufficient to support a finding of probable cause. The trial courts above-cited
declaration unmistakably conveys the message that no unfair competition exists
in this case a conclusion that is not within its competence to make, for its task is
merely confined to the preliminary matter of determination of probable cause
and nothing more. The evidence it requires to dispense this function is, as stated
before, far less stringent than that required in the trial on the merits of the
charge involving unfair competition.

Petitioners also argue that the search warrants in question partook the nature
of general search warrants in that they included motorcycles bearing the model
name WAVE. They insist that word WAVE is generic and that it fails to pass the
requirement of particularity of the items to be seized. They also maintain that
had the word WAVE been enough, there would have been no need for
petitioners to state in their application for search warrants the specific
motorcycle models, i.e., DSM WAVE, DSM SUPERWAVE 110, and WAVE R 125.[28]

It is elemental that in order to be valid, a search warrant must particularly


describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. The constitutional
requirement of reasonable particularity of description of the things to be seized
is primarily meant to enable the law enforcers serving the warrant to: (1) readily
identify the properties to be seized and thus prevent them from seizing the
wrong items; and (2) leave said peace officers with no discretion regarding the
articles to be seized and thus prevent unreasonable searches and seizures.[29] It
is not, however, required that the things to be seized must be described in
precise and minute detail as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the
searching authorities.[30]

In Bache and Co. (Phil.), Inc. v. Judge Ruiz,[31] it was pointed out that one
of the tests to determine the particularity in the description of objects to be
seized under a search warrant is when the things described are limited to those
which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued. A
reading of the search warrants issued by the trial court in this case reveals that
the items to be seized, including motorcycles, are those which are connected
with the alleged violation of Section 168 in relation to Section 170 of Republic
Act No. 8293, notwithstanding the use of the generic word WAVE. We,
therefore, adopt the following finding of the appellate court:

We may say this of the Wave motorcycles. It is evident that Wave is the model name
of the motorcycles produced by the (herein respondents) Honda and, therefore, any
imitation unit that is in the possession of the (herein petitioners) and carries the name
Wave is the fit object of the warrants whether some other name or figure is affixed to
it or not. The name Wave CX 110 is but a [species] of units under the generic name
Wave. The warrant that directs the seizure of Wave logically includes Wave CX 110
and is by no means converted into a roving commission when it allows the officer to
seize it.[32]
Anent petitioners contention that the search warrants were issued in relation
to no particular offense, they rely on the holding of this Court in Savage v. Judge
Taypin,[33] where it was held that

There is evidently no mention of any crime of unfair competition involving design


patents in the controlling provisions on Unfair Competition. It is therefore unclear
whether the crime exists at all, for the enactment of RA 8293 did not result in the
reenactment of Art. 189 of the Revised Penal Code. In the face of this ambiguity, we
must strictly construe the statute against the State and liberally in favor of the
accused, for penal statutes cannot be enlarged or extended by intendment,
implication or any equitable consideration.[34]

A reading of said case readily exposes its stark inapplicability to the instant
Petition.

To be sure, the search warrant in Savage was issued in the face of possible
violation of Republic Act No. 8293. The acts complained of in said case were the
alleged manufacture and fabrication of wrought iron furniture similar to that
patented by private respondent therein sans any license or patent for the same,
for the purpose of deceiving or defrauding private respondent and the buying
public.

In making the above-quoted declaration in said case, this Court recognized that
paragraph 3 of Article 189 of the Revised Penal Code stating that

3. Any person who, by means of false or fraudulent representations or declarations,


orally or in writing, or by other fraudulent means shall procure from the patent office
or from any other officewhich may hereafter be established by law for the purposes,
the registration of a tradename, trademark, or service mark, or of himself as the
owner of such tradename, trademark, or service mark or an entry respecting a
tradename, trademark, or servicemark.

was not included in the enactment of Section 168 of Republic Act No. 8293.

On the other hand, in the Application for Search Warrant filed by NBI SI Lacaran,
it is clearly stated that what respondents are complaining about was the alleged
violation of the goodwill they have established with respect to their motorcycle
models WAVE 110 S and WAVE 125 S and which goodwill is entitled to
protection in the same manner as other property rights. It is quite obvious then
that their cause of action arose out of the intrusion into their established
goodwill involving the two motorcycle models and not patent infringement, as
what existed in Savage.

WHEREFORE, premises considered the present petition for review is DENIED,


and the 31 January 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals and its 17 May
2006 Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 85353 are AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioners.

SO ORDERED

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice Associate Justice
RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice
ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above
Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

*
On leave.
[1]
Penned by Associate Justice Mario L. Guaria III with Associate Justices Roberto A. Barrios and Santiago
Javier Ranada, concurring; rollo, pp. 30-39.
[2]
SEC. 168. Unfair Competition, Rights, Regulation and Remedies. 168.1. A person who has identified in the
mind of the public the goods he manufactures or deals in, his business or services from those of others,
whether or not a registered mark is employed, has a property right in the goodwill of the said goods,
business or services so identified, which will be protected in the same manner as other property rights.

168.2. Any person who shall employ deception or any other means contrary to good faith by which he shall pass
off the goods manufactures by him or in which he deals, or his business, or services for those of the
one having established such goodwill, or who shall commit any acts calculated to produce said result,
shall be guilty of unfair competition, and shall be subject to any action therefor.

168.3. In particular, and without in any way limiting the scope of protection against unfair competition, the
following shall be deemed guilty of unfair competition:

(a) Any person, who is selling his goods and gives them the general appearance of goods of another
manufacturer or dealer, either as to the goods themselves or in the wrapping of the packages in which
they are contained, or the devices or words thereon, or in any other feather of their appearance, which
would be likely to influence purchasers to believe that the goods offered are those of a manufacturer
or dealer, other than the actual manufacturer or dealer, or who otherwise clothes the goods with such
appearance as shall deceive the public and defraud another of his legitimate trade, or any subsequent
vendor of such goods or any agent of any vendor engaged in selling such goods with a like purpose;

(b) Any person who by any artifice or device, or who employs any other means calculated to induce the false
belief that such person is offering the service of another who has identified such services in the mind
of the public; or

(c) Any person who shall make any false statement in the course of trade or who shall commit any other act
contrary to good faith of a nature calculated to discredit the goods, business or services of another.

168.4. The remedies provided by Sections 156, 157 and 161 shall apply mutatis mutandis.
[3]
SEC. 170. Penalties. Independent of the civil and administrative sanctions imposed by law, a criminal penalty
of imprisonment from two (2) years to five (5) years and a fine ranging from Fifty thousand pesos
(P50,000) to Two Hundred thousand pesos (P200,000), shall be imposed on any person who is found
guilty of committing any of the acts mentioned in Section 155, Section 168 and Subsection 169.1.
[4]
Records, pp. 1-57.
[5]
Id. at 74-76.
[6]
Id. at 64-66.
[7]
Search Warrant No. 03-4438.
[8]
Yunji Zeng.
[9]
No. 195, E. delos Santos Avenue, Caloocan City for Search Warrant No. 03-4439.
[10]
Rollo, pp. 12-13.
[11]
Id. at 85-93.
[12]
Records, pp. 104-117.
[13]
Id. at 136-172.
[14]
Id. at 296-297.
[15]
CA rollo, pp. 2-50.
[16]
Rollo, pp. 30-38.
[17]
Id. at 15-16.
[18]
Republic v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 112708-09, 29 March 1996, 255 SCRA 438, 481-482.
[19]
Records, p. 1.
[20]
Prudente v. Dayrit, G.R. No. 82870, 14 December 1989, 180 SCRA 69, 76.
[21]
Id. at 78.
[22]
Cupcupin v. People of the Philippines, 440 Phil. 712, 727 (2002).
[23]
Records, pp. 2-3.
[24]
Kho v. Hon. Lanzanas, G.R. No. 150877, 4 May 2006, 489 SCRA 444, 464.
[25]
G.R. No. 140946, 13 September 2004, 438 SCRA 224.
[26]
Id. at 236.
[27]
Records, p. 128.
[28]
Rollo, p. 21.
[29]
People v. Tee, 443 Phil. 521, 535 (2003).
[30]
Kho v. Makalintal, G.R. Nos. 94902-06, 21 April 1999, 306 SCRA 70, 77-78.
[31]
148 Phil. 794, 811 (1971) cited in Al-Ghoul v. Court of Appeals, 416 Phil. 759, 771 (2001).
[32]
Rollo, p. 35.
[33]
387 Phil. 718 (2000).
[34]
Id. at 727.