Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 184174 April 7, 2009
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
REYNALDO CAPALAD y ESTO, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
This is an appeal from the September 27, 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02108 entitled People of the Philippines v. Reynaldo Capalad which affirmed the March 16, 2006 Decision in Criminal Case Nos. C-69458-59 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 127 in Caloocan City. The RTC convicted accused-appellant Reynaldo Capalad of violations of Sections 5 and 11 of Article II, Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Accused-appellant was charged under the following Informations:
Criminal Case No. C-69458
(Violation of Sec. 5 [Sale] of Art. II, RA 9165)
That on or about the 29th day of October 2003, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell and deliver to PO1 JEFFRED PACIS one (1) small sealed transparent plastic sachet of ‘Shabu’ Methamphethamine Hydrochloride, with a weight of 0.04 [gram] x x x, a dangerous drug, without being authorized by law in violation of said cited law.
Contrary to law.
Criminal Case No. C-69459
(Violation of Sec. 11 [Possession] of Art. II, RA 9165)
That on or about the 29th of October 2003, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without any authority of law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control three (3) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing 0.04, 0.05 and 0.05 [gram], with the total 0.14 [gram] of white crystalline substance Methamphetamine Hydrochloride known as ‘SHABU,’ a dangerous drug and knowing the same to be such.
Contrary to law.1
On January 15, 2004, accused-appellant entered a plea of "not guilty" to both charges against him.
At the trial, the prosecution presented PO3 Fernando Moran, PO1 Jeffred Pacis, and PO1 Victor Manansala as witnesses. The defense witnesses consisted of accused-appellant and his son, Reymel Capalad.
According to the prosecution, an informant arrived at the SAID-SOU Office on October 29, 2003 and relayed to the desk officer that one "Buddha" was selling shabu along Bulusan Street. The desk officer then passed on the report to PO3 Rangel, who informed Police Inspector Cesar Gonzales Cruz of it. A buy-bust team was formed shortly thereafter and was composed of PO3 Rangel, PO2 Caragdag, PO2 Tayag, PO1 Perillo, PO1 Paras, PO1 Manansala, and PO1 Pacis, with the latter as poseur-buyer and PO1 Manansala as his back-up. The others formed the perimeter security. Inspector Cruz then sent a Request for Detection of Ultra Violet Powder addressed to the NPD PNP Crime Laboratory Office for the dusting of a PhP 100 bill with Serial Number BB945809. The bill was to be used by PO1 Pacis as buy-bust money.2
The buy-bust team was dispatched to the target area at midnight. They arrived at around 1:00 a.m. and instructed their informant to look for "Buddha." When the informant spotted "Buddha," a fat man with a bulging stomach, PO1 Pacis and the informant proceeded to where he was while the rest of the team hid in strategic places. PO1 Pacis approached "Buddha" and told him, "Pare, pakuha ng piso panggamit lang."3 He then handed the powder-dusted hundred peso bill. "Buddha" reached for the garter of his underwear and gave him a plastic sachet upon receiving the money. He remarked to PO1 Pacis, "Ayan, maganda yan." When PO1 Pacis got hold of the plastic sachet he gave the pre-arranged signal by scratching his head. He introduced himself as a police officer and held on to "Buddha’s" arm. PO1 Manansala joined the two men and assisted in holding on to "Buddha," who turned out to be accused-appellant. PO1 Pacis recovered the dusted hundred peso bill from accused-appellant while PO1 Manansala retrieved three (3) pieces of plastic sachets from the garter of accused-appellant’s underwear.4
Accused-appellant was later brought to PO3 Moran along with the seized items. PO3 Moran then marked the seized items "RCE-1" to "RCE-3," the letters standing for accused-appellant’s initials. The items were referred for chemical analysis to the PNP Crime Laboratory per request of Inspector Cruz. Forensic Chemical Officer Jesse Abadilla Dela Rosa subsequently conducted an examination. He documented the results in Physical Sciences Report No. D-1384-03, which showed the following entries:
Four (4) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets each containing white crystalline substance with the following markings and recorded net weights:
A (JP/RCE-BUY-BUST 10-29-03) = 0.04 gram
B (JP/RCE-1 10-29-03) = 0.04 gram
C (JP/RCE-2 10-29-03) = 0.05 gram
D (JP/RCE-3 10-29-03) = 0.05 gram
x x x x
PURPOSE OF LABORATORY EXAMINATION:
To determine the presence of dangerous drugs. x x x
Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimen gave POSITIVE result to the tests for Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
x x x x
Specimen A through D contain Methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.5 x x x
In his defense, accused-appellant adamantly denied he was arrested following a buy-bust operation. He testified that he was suddenly arrested between 8:00 and 9:00 in the evening of October 29, 2003 and not past midnight as the police stated. He was then with his son, who had been playing video games with him. While he was being taken into custody, he was handcuffed and was told, "Sumama ka sa amin dahil may nagrereklamo patungkol sa iyo." Accused-appellant asked, "Bakit ninyo ako hinuhuli?" and inquired on the charges against him. The police officers, however, just told him not to answer and to provide his defense at the precinct.6
Upon reaching the police headquarters he was led to a detention cell where he was asked if he knew a certain "Taba," to which he replied in the affirmative. PO3 Rangel then told him, "Hindi pala ikaw yung Arnel Taba." He then proposed to accused-appellant, "Sige ganito na lang meron ka bang isandaang libo?" Accused-appellant responded with "Saan ako kukuha ng ganyang kalaking pera samantalang nagka-karpintero lang ako." Negotiating with accused-appellant, PO3 Rangel retorted, "O sige singkwenta na lang." When accused-appellant answered that he did not have such a big amount of money, PO3 Rangel warned him, "Hindi mo ba alam na kakasuhan ka ng pagtutulak at pagbebenta ng droga?" Accused-appellant then asked how he can be charged with any offense when he was only playing a video game with his son in front of his brother’s house. To this, PO3 Rangel replied, "Sige para matapos na tayo magbigay ka na lang ng kinse tatanggalin ko na lang yung tulak." Finally, accused-appellant told him, "Sir, I don’t have that big an amount, if you want to incarcerate me I can do nothing."7
After the interrogation, PO1 Pacis took from his pocket PhP 100 and told accused-appellant, "Bro mag-softdrinks muna tayo" and handed over to him the money to be given to his companions. After accused-appellant held the money, PO1 Pacis retrieved it and told him, "Ay teka muna ipasok muna natin si Buda doon tayo mag-softdrinks sa canteen."8
The other defense witness, nine-year old Reymel, testified that accused-appellant was God-fearing and knew right from wrong. He recalled that accused-appellant, his father, was arrested around 8:00 in the evening since he was beside him playing a video game and he happened to look at the time. After finishing a game, accused-appellant dropped a coin so that they could play again. Before they could continue, however, police officers arrived and handcuffed accused-appellant. They alleged having a warrant for accused-appellant’s arrest. Reymel ran after accused-appellant while he was being boarded in a stainless steel jeep but his mother stopped him and sent him home. From then on accused-appellant was unable to go back to their house as he was detained at the Caloocan City Jail.9
On cross-examination, Reymel admitted that he had twice heard the words "warrant of arrest" only on television. The video game he was playing with his father at the time the latter was arrested was "Top Gear," a car racing challenge which could be played at one peso per game and lasts five minutes. After their game ended, his father dropped a few more coins so they could play again. They were playing in a room adjacent to his uncle Lito’s house. After his father was boarded in a vehicle, his mother, who had been cleaning, ran towards the house of his uncle Lito. After his father was detained, he heard nothing about the circumstances of the arrest being discussed in their house. He visited his father in jail and asked him when he would be coming home and the latter simply said "Balang araw."10
After trial, the RTC convicted accused-appellant of both charges. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, and the prosecution having established to a moral certainty the guilt of Accused REYNALDO CAPALAD y ESTO, this Court hereby renders judgment as follows:
1. In Criminal Case No. C-69458 for Violation of Section 5, Art. II of RA 9165, this Court in the absence of any aggravating circumstance hereby sentences said Accused to LIFE IMPRISONMENT, and to pay the fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and
2. In Criminal Case No. C-69459 for Violation of Section 11, Art. II of the same Act, this Court in the absence of any aggravating circumstance hereby sentences said Accused to a prison term of twelve (12) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to seventeen (17) years and eight (8) months and to pay the fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00), with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
It is noteworthy to state that this Court considers the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT meted upon the Accused in Criminal Case No. C-69458 for selling 0.04 [gram] of Methylamphetamine hydrochloride to be too stiff but that is the penalty imposable under R.A. 9165. Thus, this Court has no option but to apply the same. DURA LEX SED LEX.
Subject drug in both cases are declared confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government to be dealt with in accordance with law.11
On appeal before the CA, accused-appellant questioned the legality of his arrest. He disputed the prosecution witnesses’ claim that an entrapment operation took place. He also argued that the testimony of his son, Reymel, should have been given more weight.
The CA affirmed the lower court’s judgment. It ruled that all the elements for the successful prosecution of drugs were proved with moral certainty: (1) PO1 Pacis testified that the sale took place; (2) the illicit drug seized was identified, marked, and presented as evidence; and (3) PO1 Pacis testified that accused-appellant was the seller and he was the buyer. The CA agreed with the Solicitor General in finding the testimony of PO1 Pacis categorical, straightforward, and corroborated on its material points. It dismissed the allegation of frame-up as there was no clear and convincing proof that the police officers did not properly perform their duties or were motivated by ill will.
The CA, thus, disposed of the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, the assailed Joint Decision dated March 16, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 127, is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.
Accused-appellant filed a timely Notice of Appeal of the CA Decision.
On September 29, 2008, this Court required the parties to submit supplemental briefs if they so desired. The parties manifested their willingness to submit the case on the basis of the records already submitted.
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTION’S FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
Accused-appellant stresses that no entrapment took place. He places emphasis on his son’s testimony corroborating his version of events. He argues that the principle that a child is the best witness should have been applied to his case. Another matter he puts forth is the non-refutation of his charge of extortion. He laments that the trial court disregarded his accusation that the police officers tried to extort money from him in exchange for his freedom.
We sustain accused-appellant’s conviction.
The accused in a prosecution for drug pushing or possession has to contend with the credibility contest that ensues between the accused and the police.13 In scrutinizing this issue, we are guided by the rule that findings of the trial courts, which are factual in nature and which involve the credibility of witnesses, are accorded respect when no glaring errors, gross misapprehension of facts, or speculative, arbitrary, and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings. This rule is applied more rigorously where said findings are sustained by the CA.14
In the instant case, both the RTC and CA found the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies to be credible and corroborative on its material points. In contrast, the defenses proffered by accused-appellant have been found wanting, as underscored in the discussion below.
Accused-appellant provides the following story to back up his claim of extortion: Police officers were looking for one "Arnel Taba." They mistook accused for "Arnel Taba" and he was unjustly arrested and brought to the police headquarters. Upon realizing their mistake, the police officers, particularly PO3 Rangel, offered to release accused upon his payment of PhP 100,000. He then replied that he did not have such a huge sum of money as he was merely a carpenter. The sum was allegedly lowered to PhP 50,000 and then to PhP 15,000 but accused-appellant still could not come up with the amount.
The question now is whether accused-appellant’s version of what happened is believable in the face of the evidence presented against him.
Charges of extortion and frame-up are frequently made in this jurisdiction. Courts are, thus, cautious in dealing with such accusations, which are quite difficult to prove in light of the presumption of regularity in the performance of the police officers’ duties. To substantiate such defense, which can be easily concocted, the evidence must be clear and convincing15 and should show that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty. Otherwise, the police officers’ testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit.161avvphi1
In the instant case, the defense of frame-up has not been substantiated by accused-appellant. No clear and convincing evidence has been adduced showing the police officers’ alleged extortion. As we have previously held, against the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, accused-appellant’s plain denial of the offenses charged, unsubstantiated by any credible and convincing evidence, must simply fail.17 What is more, if accused-appellant were truly aggrieved, he could have filed a complaint against the arresting officers.18 We are, thus, constrained to uphold the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties by the police officers.
Indeed, as the defense asserts, a child witness’ testimony should normally be found credible due to his unlikely propensity to be dishonest. This Court, however, finds the credibility of accused-appellant’s nine-year old son, Reymel, to be doubtful. His testimony is necessarily suspect, as he is accused-appellant’s close relative.19 Furthermore, Reymel allegedly heard the police officers barge in and claim that they had a warrant of arrest for accused-appellant. Yet on cross-examination, he admitted having only heard the words "warrant of arrest" on television. Besides, even if accused-appellant and his son were actually playing a video game around 8:00 in the evening of October 29, 2003, this does not refute the police officers’ testimonies that he was arrested at 1:00 a.m. the following morning after an entrapment operation. He could have very well finished playing with Reymel when the buy-bust operation took place.
All told, the elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs have been established by the prosecution. These are (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it.20 What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti.21 These two elements were sufficiently established in court. Anent the first element, an examination of the records shows that the chain of custody over the drugs was unbroken. The prosecution was able to account for the drugs’ handling from the time it was seized until it was offered into evidence.22
Chain of Custody
Following the seizure of the three plastic sachets from accused-appellant, PO1 Manansala turned over the specimens to PO3 Moran, who marked the items "RCE-1" to "RCE-3," "RCE" being the initials of accused-appellant "Reynaldo Capalad y Esto." The specimens were turned over to the PNP Crime Laboratory per request of Inspector Cruz. The examination was assigned to Forensic Chemical Officer Dela Rosa who disclosed in his Physical Sciences Report No. D-1384-03 that the specimens tested positive for shabu. The second element was likewise established through PO1 Pacis and PO1 Manansala’s testimonies and the presentation of the buy-bust money recovered from accused-appellant.
Based on the above findings, we sustain accused-appellant’s conviction.
As to the penalties imposed, Sec. 5 of Art. II, RA 9165 provides that any person who sells any dangerous drug shall be punished with life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos (PhP 500,000) to ten million pesos (PhP 10,000,000). Sec. 11, Art. II of the same law punishes possession of shabu of quantities less than five (5) grams with imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from three hundred thousand pesos (PhP 300,000) to four hundred thousand pesos (PhP 400,000). The RTC, thus, meted the correct penalties in Criminal Case Nos. C-69458 and C-69459.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02108 finding accused-appellant guilty of the crimes charged is AFFIRMED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
|CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
|DANTE O. TINGA
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 Court’s Division.
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
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 Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
1 Rollo, pp. 3-4.
2 Id. at 5.
3 CA rollo, p. 16. According to the RTC, the statement means "he will buy Shabu for his use only."
4 Rollo, p. 5.
5 Id. at 6.
6 Id. at 7.
7 Id. 7.
8 Id. at 7-8.
9 Id. at 8-9.
10 CA rollo, pp. 19-20.
11 Id. at 23-24. Penned by Acting Presiding Judge Oscar P. Barrientos.
12 Rollo, p. 26. Penned by Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso and concurred in by Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and Marlene Gonzales-Sison.
13 People v. Cabacaba, G.R. No. 171310, July 9, 2008, 557 SCRA 475, 484.
14 People v. Encila, G.R. No. 182419, February 10, 2009.
15 People v. Bayani, G.R. No. 179150, June 17, 2008, 554 SCRA 741, 753.
16 People v. Naquita, G.R. No. 180511, July 28, 2008, 560 SCRA 430, 454.
17 People v. Concepcion, G.R. No. 178876, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 421, 443.
18 People v. Divina, G.R. No. 174067, August 29, 2007, 531 SCRA 631, 638.
19 Naquita, supra note 16, at 445.
20 Id. at 449.
21 People v. Del Monte, G.R. No. 179940, April 23, 2008, 552 SCRA 627, 638.
22 See Jones v. State, 172 Md.App. 444, 915 A.2d 1010, January 30, 2007.
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