Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 182231 April 16, 2009
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff,
EDDIE GUM-OYEN y SACPA, Appellee.
D E C I S I O N
Two separate informations1 for violations of Sections 5 and 11 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, were filed against appellant Eddie Gum-Oyen y Sacpa. He pleaded not guilty to both charges at the arraignment.2
During the pre-trial conference, the prosecution and the defense stipulated on the existence of Chemistry Report Nos. D-049-03 and P1-002-03, as well as the existence of the request for the ultraviolet fluorescent dusting addressed to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, Regional Office No. 1; the identity of the accused, and the date indicated in the information as the alleged date of the incident. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
The prosecution presented, as witnesses, Police Officer (PO)3 Allan Bañana, Police Inspector and Forensic Chemist Imelda Roderos, Senior Police Inspector and Forensic Chemist Valeriano P. Laya II, and Senior Police Officer (SPO)1 Wilfredo Montero. On the other hand, the defense called to the witness stand the accused himself Marilou Panit and Balloguing Gum-Oyen.
According to the prosecution, the facts are as follows:
On 5 February 2003, PO3 Allan Bañana and SPO1 Wilfredo Montero of the Drug Enforcement Unit, Naguilian, La Union received a report from a police asset that a certain Eddie would deliver marijuana to Barangay Cabaritan, Naguilian, La Union. PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero immediately relayed this information to their station commander, Police Superintendent Rolando Nana, who directed them to conduct a buy-bust operation together with PO3 Mendoza and PO1 Mendoza.3
With the police asset acting as the poseur-buyer and
P1,120.00 as buy-bust money,4 PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero proceeded to the target place. PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero positioned themselves at a waiting shed while the rest of the buy-bust team who followed stood by the houses opposite the shed. The police asset waited for the arrival of the appellant by the road close to the houses.5
Around 11:30 a.m, appellant arrived at the place on board a tricycle. Carrying a blue bag, he alighted therefrom and talked to the police asset. Then appellant put down his bag, opened it and took out a square-shaped object wrapped in a brown-colored plastic. Appellant partially opened it and gave it to the police asset. After smelling the object, the police asset handed the buy-bust money to appellant. While appellant was counting the money, the buy-bust team identified themselves as policemen, arrested him, apprised him of his rights and frisked him for dangerous weapons.6
PO3 Bañana searched appellantís bag and recovered three (3) more bricks of marijuana. Thereafter, they brought appellant to the police station and to the hospital for medical examination.7
At the police station, the buy-bust money was recovered from appellant, together with the four (4) bricks of marijuana, and turned over to the investigator on duty, SPO1 Valentin Abenoja, who marked the items. The police next presented appellant to the Municipal Mayor, and photographs of them with several police officers and the seized items were taken.8
Afterward, PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Abenoja, with appellant in tow, brought the marijuana, seven (7) of the
P10.00 bills and one (1) P50.00 bill with two (2) requests for laboratory examination to the PNP Crime Laboratory. When the initial and the final laboratory reports confirmed the positive existence of marijuana, PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero executed a joint affidavit against appellant and a request for his inquest. 9
Police Inspector Imelda Roderos, a forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory testified that she had received a request to conduct an ultraviolet examination of several money bills and of the person of the appellant. Both hands of appellant and the money bills were found positive for the presence of ultraviolet powder. Her findings are embodied in Chemistry Report No. PI-002-03.10
Senior Police Inspector Valeriano P. Laya II, also a forensic chemist of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, stated that he had received a letter-request from the Naguilian Police Station for the laboratory examination of four (4) bricks of dried marijuana fruiting tops. The specimen tested positive for marijuana, and the findings were recorded in Chemistry Report No. D-049-03.11
In his defense, appellant maintained that he had only been instigated to commit the offenses charged. He testified that on 12 January 2003, a certain Roger Fundanera, a former co-worker at a construction firm in Irisan, Baguio City and a police asset, had gone to his house and asked him to go buy marijuana from someone in San Gabriel. Roger returned a couple more times and, on the last date, 4 February 2003, gave him
P2,500.00 and a letter and instructed him to give them to the person from whom he was going to buy marijuana. On even date, appellant left for Sacdaan, San Gabriel.12
Appellant reached the place at 2:00 p.m. and thereat handed the letter and the money, in the amount of
P2,200.00, to Ponsing. Appellant used the remaining P300.00 for his fare. Ponsing then told him to meet him at Lon-oy, San Gabriel the following day at 6:30 a.m. Subsequently, appellant went home to his parentsí house in Bayabas, San Gabriel.13
In the morning of the next day, appellant met with Ponsing in Lon-oy. Appellant handed to him his handbag, and the latter placed inside it something wrapped in plastic. Thereafter, appellant traveled to Bauang to meet with Roger. At the meeting place, after appellant had given Roger the handbag, the latter placed it inside a tricycle, boarded the same and asked appellant to ride with him to Naguilian. En route, three (3) men in civilian clothes boarded the tricycle. Roger asked appellant to give one (1) bundle from inside the bag to one of the three (3) persons. Following this, the three (3) persons, whom he later found out to be police officers, arrested him and brought him to the Municipal Hall of Naguilian.14
Appellant denied having
P1,120.00 in his pocket at the time of his arrest but he confirmed that his hands were found positive for the presence of ultraviolet powder.15 Appellant also testified that he had gone to San Gabriel upon Rogerís request to help the latter procure marijuana, without any intent to gain on his part and despite the fact that he knew it was prohibited for anybody to have in his possession any amount of marijuana.16
Marilou Panit, appellantís live-in partner, testified that Roger Fundanera, a police asset, had been to their house on 12 and 20 January 2003, and on 4 February 2004. Marilou stated that appellant had merely gone to San Gabriel to purchase marijuana for Roger upon the insistence of and as an accommodation to Roger in order for the policemen to believe appellantís story about its real source. After appellant left for San Gabriel, Marilou next saw him when he was already behind bars.17
Balloguing Gum-Oyen, appellantís father, testified that in the evening of 4 February 2003, he was roused from sleep by the knocking at the door. When he opened it, he saw appellant. Asked about the purpose for his visit, appellant replied that somebody had ordered him to get something. Appellant left at dawn the next day without telling him where he was going. 18
In a Decision promulgated on 5 May 1995, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bauang, La Union, Branch 67 found appellant guilty of illegal possession of marijuana. Appellant, however, was acquitted of the offense of illegal sale of marijuana. The dispositive portion of the decision reads, as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered:
In Criminal Case No. 2808 ACQUITTING the accused Eddie Gum-oyen y Sacpa on reasonable doubt of the charge;
In Criminal Case No. 2809, finding the accused Eddie Gum-oyen y Sacpa GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Illegal Possession of Marijuna defined and penalized under Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and sentencing him to suffer the supreme penalty of death by lethal injection and to pay a fine of Ten Million (
P10,000,000.00) Pesos, and the cost.
The confiscated and/or seized items were already destroyed in accordance with Section 21, par. 4 of Republic Act 9165 on October 29, 2004 at 9:30 A.M. in front of the Justice Hall, Municipality of Bauang, Province of La Union.
Before the Court of Appeals, appellant raised a lone assignment of erroró"the trial court gravely erred in convicting accused-appellant of the crime charged despite the failure of the prosecution to establish the identity of the corpus delicti."
On 19 November 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered the assailed decision20 affirming the judgment of the trial court but modifying the penalty to life imprisonment conformably to R.A. No. 934621 prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty. The pertinent portions of the decision follow:
The prosecution successfully proved the existence of all elements necessary to convict accused-appellant of illegal possession of dangerous drugs penalized under Section 11, Article II of R.A. 9165. PO3 Bañana, SPO1 Montero and the other police operatives caught accused-appellant in unauthorized possession of the three (3) bricks of marijuana at the time of his arrest. Accused-appellant was not authorized to possess marijuana. He knew that the unauthorized possession of marijuana is penalized by law. He freely and consciously possessed the bricks of marijuana notwithstanding his knowledge that such possession is illegal.
Likewise, the prosecution established the corpus delicti of the offense with moral certainty. PO3 Bañana and the other members of the buy-bust team immediately turned over the three bricks of marijuana to the police investigator on duty, SPO1 Abenoja. The latter, PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero marked the three bricks of marijuana with their respective initials at the police station after accused-appellantís arrest. PO3 Bañana also recorded in the police blotter the items seized from accused-appellant including the three bricks of marijuana subject of this case. PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Abenoja turned over the three bricks of marijuana to the crime laboratory for examination. Chemistry Report No. D-049-03 shows that the three bricks tested positive to the laboratory examination for the presence of marijuana. The three marijuana bricks were properly identified, marked and offered in evidence during the trial. The testimony of PO3 Bañana sufficiently proves that the three bricks of marijuana seized from accused-appellant are the same items presented as evidence against him before the court a quo.
x x x
The defense of instigation put up by accused-appellant does not inspire belief. Accused-appellantís testimony in this regard is inconsistent and not credible. He initially testified that he worked with Roger Fundanera in a construction work, and that Roger asked him to buy marijuana for him. Despite the incredulity of Rogerís request, accused-appellant gave in and traveled to Sacdaan, San Gabriel to buy marijuana from the person whom Roger mentioned. It was, however, only during the next hearing that accused-appellant testified that Roger was a police asset. Significantly, Roger never testified for the prosecution and for the defense. His identity remains questionable to this Court. Clearly, what the records reveal is that accused-appellant merely weaved a flimsy tale of instigation in a futile attempt to secure his acquittal.
It is a settled rule that in cases involving violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act, credence is given to prosecution witnesses who are police officers for they are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner, unless there is evidence to the contrary suggesting ill-motive on the part of the police officers or deviation from the regular performance of their duties. The records do not show that prosecution witnesses PO3 Bañana and SPO1 Montero were moved by an improper motive in testifying against accused-appellant. Neither is there any evidence showing that the two police officers failed to perform their duties in a regular manner when they seized the three (3) bricks of marijuana from accused-appellantís possession immediately after his apprehension.1avvphi1
All elements of illegal possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II, R.A. 9165 being present in the case at bar, and the corpus delicit of the said offense having been established beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution, this Court sees no convincing reason to overturn the conviction of accused-appellant.22
The Court sustains the verdict of conviction.
There is no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the lower courts. Well-entrenched is the rule that an appellate court will generally not disturb the assessment of the trial court on factual matters considering that the latter, as a trier of facts, is in a better position to appreciate the same. The only exceptions allowed are when the trial court has plainly overlooked certain facts of substance which, if considered, may affect the result of the case; or in instances where the evidence fails to support or substantiate the lower courtís findings and conclusions, or where the disputed decision is based on a misapprehension of facts.23 This case does not fall under any of the exceptions. Hence, there is no reason for us to modify the factual findings of the lower courts.
Moreover, the prosecution's evidence sufficiently established the unbroken chain of custody of the seized drugs beginning from the entrapment team, to the investigating officer, to the forensic chemist whose laboratory tests were well-documented, up to the time there were offered in 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.24
The Court also finds that the arresting officers strictly complied with the guidelines prescribed by law regarding the custody and control of the seized drugs.25 There was testimony regarding the marking of the seized items at the police station and in the presence of appellant. Likewise there was mention that an elected official was present during the inventory. In addition, it appears on record that the team photographed the contraband in accordance with law.26 Absent any indication that the police officers were ill-motivated in testifying against appellant, full credence should be given to their testimonies. In sum, contrary to appellantís lone argument, the prosecution established the corpus delicti with moral certainty.
In contrast, appellantís defense of instigation is unsubstantiated. Not only was his testimony in this regard inconsistent, he was also unable to support his assertions with any other evidence. Significantly, the person named Roger whom he referred to as his instigator was never presented in court, raising questions as regards his identity and existence. As correctly quipped by the appellate court, appellantís tale of instigation was a futile attempt to secure his acquittal.
Finally, it bears underscoring that appellant himself admitted that he was carrying marijuana at the time of his arrest and even though he knew it was against the law to so possess it in any amount.27 Hence, the lower courts aptly held him liable for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of conviction is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
DANTE O. TINGA
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
|CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
|PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
ARTURO D. BRION
A T T E S T A T I O N
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 Courtís Division.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersonís Attestation, it is hereby certified 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 Courtís Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
1 Records, Vol. 1, p.1; Records, Vol. II, p. 1.
Criminal Case No. 2808-Bg
That on or about the 5th day of February, 2003, in the Municipality of Naguilian, Province of La Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority of law, did then and there, for and in consideration of the amount of ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED TWENTY PESOS (P1,120.00), willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously sell, deliver, and give away to another one (1) brickof dried marijuana, a dangerous drug, weighing about nine hundred ninety-one point five (991.5) grams.
CONTRARY TO Sec. 5 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Criminal Case No. 2809-Bg
That on or about the 5th day of February, 2003, in the Municipality of Naguilian, Province of La Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority of law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously have in his possession, control and custody three (3) bricks of dried marijuana, a dangerous drug, weighing nine hundred eighty-five point seven (985.7) grams, nine hundred eighty-nine point two (989.2) grams, and nine hundred ninety-one point six (991.6) grams, respectively, for a total weight of two thousand nine hundred sixty-six point five (2966.5) grams.
CONTRARY TO Sec. 11 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
3 TSN, 12 August 2003, pp. 3-7.
4 In the following denominations: ten (10)
P100.00 predusted bills consisting of one (1) P50.00 bill and seven (7) P10.00 bills, all bearing the initials of PO3 Bañana and whose serial numbers were recorded in the police blotter. All the bills, except the P100.00 bills, were dusted with ultraviolet powder.
5 TSN, 12 August 2003, pp. 8-15.
6 Id. at 15-22.
7 Id. at 22-24.
8 Id. at 24-26.
9 Id. at 26-30.
10 Rollo, pp. 7, 77.
11 Id. at 7.
12 Id. at 8, 79-80.
13 TSN, 27 January 2004, pp. 4-5.
14 Id. at pp. 6-9.
15 Id. at 15-16.
16 Id. at 16.
17 TSN, 10 February 2004, pp. 4-8.
18 TSN, 2 March 2004, pp.4-5.
19 Rollo, pp. 89-90.
20 In C.A.-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01105. Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid and concurred in by Associate Justices Rodrigo V. Cosico and Arturo G. Tayag; id. at 2-21.
21 Entitled "An act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines."
22 Rollo, pp. 18-20.
23 People v. Naag, G.R. No. 136394, 15 February 2001.
24 Lopez v. People, G.R. No. 172953, 30 April 2008, citing United States v. Howard-Arias, 679 F. 2d. 363, 363 and United States v. Ricco, 52 F. 3d 58.
25 Section 21 of R.A No. 9165 states that:
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.
26 Cf People of the Philippines v. Ranilo de la Cruz y Lizing, G.R. No. 177222, 29 October 2008.
27 TSN, 27 January 2004, pp. 13-14, 16.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation