594 Phil. 158
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
That on or about the 29th day of January 2004, in the City of Marikina, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly sell to poseur buyer 0.02 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu) contained in one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law. (Underscoring supplied)He was likewise charged for violation of Section 11, par. 2(3), Article II also of R.A. No. 9165, allegedly committed as follows:
That on or about the 29th day of January 2004, in the City of Marikina, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being authorized by law to possess or otherwise use any dangerous drugs, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession direct custody and control 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance contained in two (2) heat-sealed plastic sachets which gave positive result to the test for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), which is a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law. (Underscoring supplied)The cases were lodged at Branch 272 of the RTC of Marikina.
SPECIMEN SUBMITTED:Denying the charges against him, appellant, a former police officer, claimed that he was framed up and gave the following version:
Three (3) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets with markings marked as A through C respectively, each containing white crystalline substance with following recorded net weights and markings:
A = 0.02 gram "EBB-ED BUYBUST 01/29/04"
B = 0.02 gram "EBB-ED POSS 1 01/29/04"
C = 0.02 gram "EBB-ED POSS 2 01/29/04"x-x-x x-x-x x-x-x
F I N D I N G S: x x x
Qualitative examination conducted on the above-stated specimen gave POSITIVE result to the tests for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
x-x-x x-x-x x-x-x
C O N C L U S I O N:
Specimens A through C contain Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. (Italics and emphasis in the original)
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Court finds the accused ELPIDIO BONDAD, JR. y BURAC guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Violation of Sec. 11 par. 2(3), Art. II of R.A. 9165 and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a period of TWELVE (12) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY and to pay the fine of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (PhP300,000.00) as provided for in Sec. 11 par. 2(3), Art. II of RA 9165. The accused is likewise found guilty of the crime of Violation of Sec. 5 Art. II of RA 9165 and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and fine of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (PhP500,00.00) pursuant to Sec. 5, Art. II of RA 9165 the methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) is ordered confiscated in favor of the government for proper destruction by the proper agency.By Decision of February 8, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision with modification, disposing as follows:
SO ORDERED. (Underscoring supplied)
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the appeal is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed decision is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to thirteen (13) years, as maximum and to pay a fine of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00).Specifically with respect to the charge of possession of shabu, the appellate court held:
SO ORDERED. (Underscoring supplied)
The evidence for the prosecution fully proved beyond reasonable doubt the elements necessary to successfully prosecute a case for illegal possession of a prohibited drug, namely, (a) the accused is in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or a regulated drug, (b) such possession is not authorized by law and (c) the accused freely and consciously possessed said drug.Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari, appellant faulting the appellate court:
Under Section 11, Par. 2  of R.A. 9165, the mere act of possessing any dangerous drug consummates the crime. There is no doubt that the charge of illegal possession of shabu was proven beyond reasonable doubt since the accused-appellant knowingly possessed plastic sachets with white crystalline granules, without legal authority at the time he was caught during the buy-bust operation. The white crystalline granules found in his possession, upon laboratory examination, were positively identified as methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. (Italics in the original, underscoring supplied)
As the resolution of the second assignment of error is determinative of whether there is still necessity of segueing to the first and third assignments of error, it shall early on be passed upon.
- . . . IN CONVICTING [HIM] OF THE CRIME[S] CHARGED ON THE BASIS OF THE LONE TESTIMONY OF THE POSEUR BUYER AS AGAINST THE CORROBORATED STATEMENTS OF THE ACCUSED AND HIS WITNESSES;
- . . . IN ADMITTING THE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION DESPITE CLEAR VIOLATION OF SECTION 21 (1) OF R.A. 9165;
- . . . IN COMPLETELY DISREGARDING THE CLEAR EVIDENCE ON THE EXISTENCE OF IRREGULARITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS BY POLICE OFFICER/S IN THE CONDUCT OF THE BUY BUST OPERATIONS. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Section 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 or 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:Appellant claims that no physical inventory and photographing of the drugs took place. A reading of the testimony of the poseur-buyer, PO2 Dano indeed confirms appellant's claim, viz:
(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 persons/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; x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Clearly then, the apprehending police officers failed to comply with the above-quoted provision of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165.
Atty. Puentebella: When you brought him to the police, it was there that the items taken from him were inventoried, is it not? Witness: We did not make inventory because we simply brought the evidence confiscated. x x x x Atty. Puentebella: You also did not take photographs of the items taken from the accused? Witness: Yes, sir. Atty. Puentebella: And you know for a fact that under the new drugs law, this is a requirement for the apprehending team to do, is it not? Pros. Gapuzan: Counsel is asking for a conclusion of law. I will object. Court: Witness may answer the question. Witness: Yes, sir. x x x x Atty. Puentebella: So it is very clear now Mr. Witness that at the time you apprehended the accused, you did not make an inventory in the presence of the accused nor you did not [sic] make a photograph of the items seized in the presence of the accused, an elective official, a representative from the Department of Justice, or the media, that's very clear? Witness: Yes, sir. Atty. Puentebella: Since you did not make any inventory, it follows that you did not require them to sign your inventory as required by law? Witness: Yes, sir. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Non-compliance by the apprehending/buy-bust team with Section 21 is not fatal as long as there is justifiable ground therefor, and as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the confiscated/seized items, are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team. Its non-compliance will not render an accused's arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. (Citation omitted, emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)The Court's pronouncement in Pringas is based on the provision of Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165, viz:
IN FINE, as the failure to comply with the aforesaid requirements of the law compromised the identity of the items seized, which is the corpus delicti of each of the crimes charged against appellant, his acquittal is in order.x x x xExhibits "B" which is the brown envelope, "B-1", "B-2" and "B-3" are objected to for being product of irregular functions of police and therefore fruit of poisonous thinking [sic] and they are not admissible and they were not photographed in the presence of the accused as provided for by Sec. 21, par.1, R.A. 9165; (emphasis supplied)