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671 Phil. 201


[ G.R. No. 193379, August 15, 2011 ]




In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, accused-appellant Cesar D. Castro (Castro) assails the January 6, 2010 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31793, as effectively reiterated in its August 10, 2010 Resolution,[2] which affirmed in toto the July 11, 2008 Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 16 in Laoag City, in Criminal Case No. 10784-16. The RTC found Castro guilty of violating Sec. 11, Art. II of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Castro was charged with possession of shabu in an Information dated July 26, 2003, the inculpatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 25th day of July 2003 in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the herein accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, control and custody, Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, locally known as “shabu”, a dangerous drug, contained in one (1) plastic sachet, weighing more or less 0.1 gram including the plastic sachet, without any license or authority, in violation of the aforecited law.


When arraigned, Castro pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.

At the pre-trial conference, the prosecution and the defense jointly stipulated as to the identity of the accused, such that whenever the name Cesar Castro is mentioned, the reference is to the accused thus charged in the information. They likewise stipulated on the issue of whether or not the accused, when arrested on July 25, 2003, was in possession of shabu and, if so, whether he was authorized.

Trial on the merits then ensued.

The trial court summarized the state’s evidence, as follows:

PO1 JONEL MANGAPIT testified that: On July 25, 2003, he was assigned in the Intelligence and Operation Section of Laoag City Police Station at Barangay I, Laoag City. At about 4:45, SPO2 Nestor Felipe informed them that he received a phone call from a concerned citizen that a male person wearing green t-shirt and brown maong bought shabu near the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Police Superintendent Pagdilao dispatched a team of police officers composed of PO1 Inspector Aldos, SPO3 Lagundino, SPO2 Bal and himself to verify the veracity of the report. They rode on the black Toyota Corolla … and proceeded to the place. (The Iglesia Ni Kristo is farther west of the Police station of Laoag City at Brgy. I, along Rizal Street). Upon reaching the Iglesia Ni Cristo church, they saw a male person with the green description. They know his person as one of the drug personalities. He was walking towards the east with his right hand placed on his pocket. They were about ten (10) meters away from the accused. They approached him. The accused panic upon recognizing them as policemen and brought something [out] from his pocket and threw it at his back. The things thrown by the accused were plastic sachets of shabu, lighter and a coin. They arrested the accused and he was informed of his constitutional rights. He could not answer when he was asked whether or not he had authority to possess illegal drug. They brought the accused to the police station and he was indorsed to Investigation Section. The plastic sachet of shabu was turned over to the Evidence Custodian, SPO2 Loreto Ancheta. x x x Police Officers Aldos and Bal also saw the accused threw something in the manner he described. It was SPO2 Bal who picked up the plastic sachet of shabu. The accused was facing east and their vehicle was facing west. The accused was walking. He took hold of the accused. The thing that was thrown was 1 meter away from the back of the accused. From his experience he knew that the content of the plastic sachet thrown by the accused was shabu. (TSN April 13, 2004, pp. 2-10) On additional examination, he confirmed that he saw the accused making a motion of bringing out from his front pants pocket his hands causing the dropping of an item. He likewise confirmed that the item dropped was a sachet of shabu and it is the same item that was picked up by SPO2 Bal. He received the sachet of shabu from Officer Bal and turned over the same to the evidence custodian five to ten minutes after the operation. SPO3 Lagundino and Senior Insp. Aldos were present when Officer Bal turned over the shabu to him. He cannot remember if there was a Post Operation Report. (TSN, January 13, 2006, pp. 13-17)

SPO2 ERNESTO BAL testified that: In the afternoon of July 25, 2003, the complaint desk officer received a telephone call informing that a male person wearing a green t-shirt and a brown maong pants had just bought a shabu at Brgy. I near the Iglesia Ni Cristo. The Chief of Police x x x dispatched them to verify the information. They rode in an unmarked vehicle x x x. When they were at the Rizal Street, they saw a male person that matched the description given coming from the house of the Valeriano family which is southwest of Iglesia Ni Cristo. From a distance of about ten (10) to twelve (12) meters, they saw the male person place his right hand into his right side pocket. When they got near the male person, they noticed him removing his right hand from his pocket and he threw something backward. They were more or less four (4) meters away from the accused. PO1 Mangapit alighted and took hold of the accused. He also alighted, went to PO1 Mangapit who told him to pick-up the thing which the accused threw. He picked-up a plastic sachet which contained white crystalline substance. He asked the accused if he has license or permit to possess shabu. Accused Cesar Castro did not answer. They brought the accused together with the plastic sachet to the police station and they delivered the plastic sachet with crystalline substance to the evidence custodian. (TSN, December 2, 2004, pp. 2-7) On cross examination, [he stated that] x x x When he picked up the plastic sachet it was more or less half-meter from the accused. He heard PO1 Mangapit inform the accused of his constitutional rights. (ibid, pp. 11-24) The distance between the police station and the Iglesia Ni Cristo is more or less 200 meters. (TSN, March 17, 2006, p. 5) x x x He (the witness) did not mark the shabu. It was only the evidence custodian who marked it. (ibid, p. 16)

SPO2 LORETO ANCHETA, evidence custodian of the Laoag City, PNP testified that: In the afternoon of July 25, 2003, he received one (1) plastic sachet containing crystalline substance from Officer Ernesto Bal. Upon receipt of the specimen, he placed markings on the sachet of the crystalline substance. He prepared a request addressed to Chief of Hospital of the Laoag City General Hospital for physical and ocular examination of the specimen. The request was signed by P/Supt. Joel Pagdilao. He delivered the request and the specimen to Dr. Eliezer John Asuncion and waited for the result of the physical and ocular examination. Upon receipt of the result of the examination, he went back to the office and prepared another request for laboratory examination addressed to the Regional Chief Chemist PNP Crime Laboratory Service, Camp Brigidier General Oscar Florendo Parian, San Fernando, La Union. This was signed by P/Insp. Dominic Guerrero. He brought the specimen and the letter request to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Camp Juan, Laoag City. It was received by P/Insp. Valeriano Panem Laya II. (TSN, June 25, 2004, pp. 10-16)

P/INSP. VALERIANO PANEM LAYA II, testified that: As a Forensic Officer, x x x he also holds office at the PNP Crime Laboratory, Camp Juan, Laoag City. He remembered having received a specimen for examination with respect to a case against Cesar Castro from Officer Loreto Ancheta (When he was asked where the specimen was, he handed to the prosecutor the plastic sachet marked as Exhibit D). x x x The result of his examination was that the specimen was positive for the presence of [shabu]. This is contained in his Chemistry Report D-327-03. Exhibit E (TSN, February 18, 2005, pp. 10-12) On cross examination he testified that: he weighed the specimen at San Fernando, La Union. The weight was .08 gram and was indicated in his Report. He did not weigh the representative sample. (ibid, p. 29)[5]

The defense presented in evidence the testimonies of accused Castro and one Rodolfo Bunnao. The RTC also summarized them, as follows:

CESAR CASTRO x x x testified that: In the afternoon of July 25, 2003, he was at the house of Crispin Valeriano to ask for the payment of his debt. Because Crispin Valeriano has no money, he went home taking the southward direction to the national road west of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. He was about to cross towards the other side of the road when a car suddenly stopped in front of him and a policeman in the person of Ernesto Bal alighted x x x. Ernesto Bal called for him and when he went near him Ernesto Bal immediately searched his two (2) front pockets and x x x his back pockets but was not able to get anything. He asked Ernest Bal why x x x. Bal told him that somebody called them telling them that he went to the house of Crispin Valeriano to buy shabu. After he was searched he was invited by Officer Bal to the police station to make a statement x x x. He voluntarily went with them x x x. Officer Mangapit went out from the right side of the car and went behind him. When he alighted from the car, Officer Mangapit asked him, “What is this?” (holding something placed in a plastic) to which he answered, “I don’t know.” While inside their office, they undressed him and examined thoroughly even the sleeves of his shirt as well as his pants. He claimed that the plastic is inside and longer when Exhibit D was shown to him and that the same was 1/3 inch wider and longer. After he was dressed-up, they placed him at the prison cell, where he resisted. He did not see were PO Mangapit took the plastic sachet but the latter insisted that he took it from the seat where he was seated. On cross examination, he testified that Police Officers Bal and Mangapit were familiar to him x x x. After the police officers conducted the investigation and charged him of possession of shabu, they brought him to the Office of Mayor Roger Fariñas, a close relative of him. The policemen did not prepare any document stating that they did not hurt him and nothing was lost. He did not protest when they told him to strip. (TSN, August 24, 2007, pp. 3-14)

RODOLFO BUNNAO testified that: After eating at the kitchenette and went out, he saw Cesar Castro west of the Iglesia Ni Cristo standing when all of the sudden, a black car stopped and two (2) men alighted from the car, went near Cesar Castro and bodily searched him. He knew the accused x x x. About one (1) minute after the search, they brought him inside the car proceeding west. x x x On cross examination [he stated that] x x x [o]n July 25, 2003, there was a cockfight in Laoag City x x x. He took his lunch at the Modern Kitchenette after he borrowed cockfight money from Marcial Baracao east of the GSIS. Modern Kitchenette is further west from the most western fence of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Two (2) men alighted from the black car one is the driver and the other one from the passenger’s side. He knew for a fact that there is another man inside the car whom he does not know x x x. (TSN, February 15, 2008, pp. 3-6)[6]

On the main finding that the corpus delicti has been established by the open court narrations of the People’s witnesses and whose testimony bespoke of an unbroken chain of custody, the RTC, in its Decision of July 11, 2008, found Castro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, and after weighing carefully the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, the Court finds the accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.  Considering that the weight of the methamphetamine hydrochloride is less than 5 grams, he is hereby sentenced to the penalty of TWELVE (12) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY as minimum to TWENTY (20) YEARS as maximum and a fine of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P300,000.00) in accordance with Section 11 of R.A. 9165.


Castro appealed to the CA. Following the submission of the Appellant’s Brief,[8] the Appellee’s Brief,[9] and Reply Brief of Accused-Appellant,[10] the CA rendered judgment dismissing the appeal. Castro later moved for, but was denied, reconsideration.

The CA brushed aside Castro’s threshold defense line that he did not have, when arrested, possession and custody of prohibited drug, the court stating in this regard that illegal drug possession under the law includes both actual and constructive possessions.  Citing the testimony of Police Officer 1 (PO1) Mangapit, as corroborated by that of Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Bal, the CA also declared that Castro, by his prior and contemporaneous acts, had actual and constructive possession of, or, in fine, had the intent to possess, the seized plastic sachet containing shabu, for the plastic sachet in question was initially in Castro’s pants pocket but which he tossed to the ground upon realizing that the ones about to accost him were police officers.

Anent allegations of non-compliance by the police officers of the requirements under Sec. 21 of RA 9165[11] on inventory and photographing of the seized shabu, the CA aptly held that failure to literally comply with said requirements is not fatal to the prosecution, if there is a clear showing that the identity and integrity of the seized shabu specimen have been preserved, as in the case at bar.  In net effect, the CA held that the chain of custody, as the term is understood in drug-prosecution cases, has not been broken.

In the instant appeal, accused-appellant Castro imputes error on the part of the appellate court respecting its conclusion about the corpus delicti  having been established, it being his contention that: (1) the crucial link in the chain of custody of the alleged seized shabu had not been established; and (2) accused-appellant’s possession of the drug had remained unproved. By questioning the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses and the weight the courts a quo gave their narration of events, accused-appellant veritably says that he was a victim of frame-up.

The appeal is bereft of merit.

As a mode of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that the presentation and admission of the seized prohibited drug as an exhibit be preceded by evidence to support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent clams it to be.[12] This requirement is essential to obviate the possibility of substitution as well as to ensure that doubts regarding the identity of the evidence are removed through the monitoring and tracking of the movements and custody of the seized prohibited item, from the accused, to the police, to the forensic laboratory for examination, and to its presentation in evidence in court.[13]  Ideally, the custodial chain would include testimony about every link in the chain or movements of the illegal drug, from the moment of seizure until it is finally adduced in evidence. It cannot be overemphasized, however, that a testimony about a perfect chain is almost always impossible to obtain.[14]

A circumspect review of the evidence extant on record shows that the chain of custody rule has been sufficiently observed.  The prosecution had proved with moral certainty, thru the testimony of their key witnesses––i.e., SPO2 Bal, one of the apprehending officers; SPO2 Ancheta, the evidence custodian; and Police Inspector Laya II, the forensic officer––that what was seized from accused-appellant in the afternoon of July 25, 2003 near a church building in Laoag City was the very same item presented in court after it was subjected to qualitative examination and was tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. In fine, the prosecution was able to establish that the identity, integrity, and evidentiary value of the seized prohibited drugs have not been compromised from the time of its seizure at the time and place aforestated to its presentation in evidence as part of the corpus delicti.

In a prosecution involving illegal possession of prohibited/dangerous   drugs, the following elements must be proved: (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 said drug.  As determined by both the trial and appellate courts, the prosecution was able to establish, through testimonial, documentary, and object evidence, the said elements.[15] As a matter of settled jurisprudence on illegal possession of drug cases, credence is usually accorded the narration of the incident by the apprehending police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner.

Accused-appellant denies having had possession of the prohibited drug in question.

The accounts of arresting officers PO1 Mangapit and SPO2 Bal belie accused-appellant’s gratuitous denial, both police officers testifying without any trace of hesitation that accused-appellant had the sachet containing the shabu in his pocket until the moment he threw it away. The fact that the plastic sachet containing shabu was already on the ground when the arrest was effected is not, standing alone, an exculpating factor. What the Court said in People v. De Leon is instructive:

Herein appellant was caught red-handed in the act of committing the offenses for which he was charged.  He made the sale in the presence of the police operatives, the poseur-buyer and the informant.  When he fled, he carried then threw the envelope containing the regulated drugs inside the bedroom in full view of PO1 Libuton, the pursuing arresting officer.  There was therefore no need for a warrant to arrest and search the person of appellant.[16]

In the instant case, the arresting officers, having been furnished a description of accused-appellant from a tipster, had a reason to suspect that petitioner is in possession of the prohibited substance.  Thereafter, they witnessed in plain view accused-appellant throwing to the ground a plastic sachet containing a white substance. The very act of throwing away the sachet, the contents of which were later determined to be shabu, presupposes that accused-appellant had prior possession of it. Ergo, all the elements of the crime have been met.

In People v. Isnani,[17] the Court likewise ruled the admissibility of shabu which was thrown outside the window by the appellant in that case.

Finally, accused-appellant’s allegation of frame-up or planting of evidence will not avail him any, given the categorical testimonies of PO1 Mangapit and SPO2 Bal of the events leading to accused-appellant’s apprehension and eventual custodial investigation.  In the absence of any evidence that the prosecution witnesses were motivated by motives less than proper, the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of the witnesses shall not be interfered with by this Court.[18]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.  The CA’s January 6, 2010 Decision and August 10, 2010 Resolution in CA-G.R. CR No. 31793 are, accordingly, AFFIRMED IN TOTO. Costs against accused-appellant.


Carpio,*  Brion,** Peralta, and Sereno,*** JJ., concur.

* Acting member per Special Order No. 1059 dated August 1, 2011.

** Acting member per Special Order No. 1056 dated July 27, 2011.

*** Additional member per Special Order No. 1028 dated June 21, 2011.

[1] Rollo, pp. 8-27. Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes and concurred in by Associate Justices Japar B. Dimaampao and Mario V. Lopez.

[2] Id. at 28-29.

[3] Id. at 73-86. Penned by Judge Conrado A. Ragucos.

[4] Id. at 8.

[5] Id. at 74-78.

[6] Id. at 78-80.

[7] Id. at 85-86.

[8] Id. at 87-128, dated March 9, 2009.

[9] Id. at 129-153, dated July 13, 2009.

[10] Id. at 154-167, dated September 9, 2009.

[11] SEC. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and /or Surrendered Drugs xxx.––The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs x x x 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 x x x a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, further that non- compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.

[12] People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 177777, December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 377, 392.

[13] Id.

[14] Malillin v. People, G.R. No. 172953, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 619, 633.

[15] People v. Naquita, G.R. No. 180511, July 28, 2008, 560 SCRA 430, 451.

[16] G.R. Nos. 132484-85, November 15, 2002, 391 SCRA 683, 695.

[17] G.R. No. 133006, June 9, 2004, 431 SCRA 439, 545.  The Court held:

To further strengthen the prosecution’s evidence, the two sachets of shabu were presented before the trial court as Exhibits “B” to “B-3” and “I” to “I-1”.  The first sachet was positively identified by PO3 Saradi as the very same sachet with shabu sold and delivered to him by accused Isnani who obtained the same from appellant.  The other sachet containing shabu was also positively identified by PO3 Morados as the one he recovered above the waterlily leaves after appellant threw it outside the window.  (Emphasis supplied.)

[18] People v. Calimon, G.R. No. 175229, January 29, 2009, 577 SCRA 116, 132; citing People v. Saulo, G.R. No. 125903, November 15, 2000, 344 SCRA 605, 614.

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