CASE BrieF 2018-418

CASE: People of the Philippines vs. Marvin Madrona Otico (G.R. No. 231133, June 06, 2018)

PONENTE: Caguiao, J.:

SUBJECT: R.A. No. 9165, Entrapment

FACTS: On the strength of police surveillance, it was confirmed that Marvin Madrona Otico was engaged in the sale of illegal drugs or shabu in Barangay Looc, Oslob, Cebu.

The poseur-buyer (civilian agent), P03 Saquibal and PO1 Villasurda arrived at the area and positioned themselves in a strategic location to carry out an entrapment operation. P03 Saquibal and PO1 Villasurda stood about ten (10) meters away from the poseur-buyer.

Otico arrived and approached the poseur-buyer. PO1 Villasurda saw the poseur-buyer give the money to Otico, who, in exchange, handed to the latter a plastic sachet. Upon receiving the plastic sachet from Otico, the poseur-buyer executed the pre-arranged signal by scratching his head, indicating that the transaction was completed.

PO3 Saquibal immediately held Otico and announced his authority as a police officer while PO1 Villasurda took the plastic sachet from the poseur-buyer.

As soon as Otico was subdued, and after verifying that the plastic sachet contained shabu, PO3 Saquibal arrested him for violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, and informed him of his constitutional rights. Subsequently, the buy-bust team proceeded to the PNP Oslob Police Station together with Otico.

At the police station, PO1 Villasurda conducted an inventory of the seized items in the presence of Otico and Municipal Councilor Guillermo Zamora. The items were photographed by PO2 Nelson Mendaros and then marked by PO1 Villasurda. The seized plastic sachet was marked “MMO-1” and the marked money, “MMO-2,” the initials referring to Otico’s complete name, Marvin Madrona Otico. PO3 Saquibal then prepared the Certificate of Inventory, a spot report and a letter-request for laboratory examination. PO1 Villasurda personally delivered the request and the specimen to the PNP Crime Laboratory for laboratory examination.

During the trial, to prove the transaction (sale  of illegal drugs) between the poseur-buyer and Otico, the prosecution presented PO1 Villasurda and PO3 Saquibal. They testified that they were 10 meters away from Otico and the purported civilian agent, who acted as the poseur-buyer. PO1 Villasurda saw them exchanging something with the poseur-buyer handing first the money and the subject also handling something to the poseur buyer. On the other hand, PO3 Saquibal saw that the poseur buyer handed to Otico the buy-bust money and in exchanged Otico gave the plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance to the poseur buyer.

Also, to prove the identity of the illegal drugs (shabu), the prosecution presented the Affidavit of Apprehension, the Spot Report and Certificate of Inventory , the dangerous drug was described as “One (1) small longitudinal size transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline granules ‘Marked MMO-1’ believed to be SHABU”. In the Spot Report the “WEIGHT/VOLUME/QUANTITY” column is left blank. The Certificate of Inventory describes the dangerous drug as “one (1) small longitudinal size heat sealed transparent plastic sachet of white crystalline granules believed to be ‘SHABU’ marked MMO-1”.

ISSUES:

A) Given the foregoing testimonies of PO1 Villasurda and PO3 Saquibal, was the prosecution able prove that the illegal sale of dangerous drug really took place?

B) Whether the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the identity of the object (shabu).

RULING:

A) No.

Basic is the rule that, for a conviction of the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs to stand, the prosecution should have proven the following elements beyond reasonable doubt: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and its payment. The prosecution has the onus to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the transaction actually took place, coupled with the presentation before the court of the prohibited or regulated drug or the corpus delicti.

In this case, the prosecution’s proof that the “transaction actually took place” consists of the “eyewitness” accounts of police officers PO1 Alan Villasurda (PO1 Villasurda) and PO3 Nelson Saquibal (PO3 Saquibal), neither of whom was the poseur-buyer, and who were admittedly 10 meters away from where the poseur-buyer allegedly transacted with Otico. The civilian agent, who was assigned as the poseur-buyer, was never presented as a witness.

While informants are usually not presented in court because of the need to hide their identity and preserve their invaluable service to the police, and the non-presentation of the confidential informant is not fatal to the prosecution, as where the testimony of the informant will merely be corroborative of the apprehending officers’ eyewitness testimonies so that there is no need to present the informant in court where the sale was actually witnessed and adequately proved by prosecution witnesses. Their presentation is necessary, if not indispensable, when the informant was the poseur-buyer and the only one who actually witnessed the entire transaction.

The version of PO3 Saquibal is incredible. Given the distance of 10 meters, it is unbelievable that a very small or tiny plastic sachetcan be seen being handed from one person to another. To be able to see the “white crystalline substance” with a weight of 0.02 gram inside such tiny plastic sachet is utterly impossible, unless one has “bionic eyes” or x-ray vision. Also, PO3 Saquibal’s testimony wherein he was able to identify from 10 meters that the P500-bill, which the civilian asset allegedly handed to Otico, was the same one previously marked at the police station means that he was able to either read the serial number of the bill or see the marking “MO” thereon. Of course, that is again impossible.

PO1 Villasurda’s version that he saw the handing of “money” from the civilian asset to Otico is too tentative given the fact that he used “something” as his initial description. Also, the use of the word “something” in describing what Otico handed to the civilian agent creates reasonable doubt because the description is equivocal.

The acquittal of Otico is warranted on the ground that the evidence presented by the prosecution to prove that the illegal sale of dangerous drug really took place falls terribly short of the quantum of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

B) The identity of the object was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Nowhere is the weight of the plastic sachet containing the shabu, which was the object of the illegal sale, mentioned in the testimonies of police officers PO1 Villasurda and PO3 Saquibal. In their Affidavit of Apprehension, the Spot Report  and the Certificate of Inventory did not mention the object’s weight.

In the PNP Manual on Anti-Illegal Drugs Operation and Investigation (PNP Manual), approved by the National Police Commission in its Resolution No. 2010-094 on February 26, 2010, which provides for the standard rules to be followed by PNP members and units engaged in the enforcement of RA 9165 in support of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), part of the handling of drug evidence is “the weighing of dangerous drugs, and if possible under existing conditions, with the registered weight of the evidence on the scale focused by the camera, in the presence of persons required, as provided under Section 21, Art II, RA 9165.”

Given the failure to indicate the weight of the shabu in the documents required to be accomplished in the handling of the drug evidence starting from recovery of the shabu from the civilian agent to the request for laboratory examination to prove the regularity of the buy-bust operation and preserve the integrity of the recovered shabu, and to comply with the requirement in the PNP Manual on the weighing thereof, the object of the illegal sale has clearly not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. There is thus reasonable doubt that the alleged shabu, which was recovered from the civilian agent and bought by the latter from Otico, might not be the same one that was delivered to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination.


THINGS DECIDED:

A) For a conviction of the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs to stand, the prosecution should have proven the following elements beyond reasonable doubt: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and its payment.

B) The prosecution has the onus to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the transaction actually took place, coupled with the presentation before the court of the prohibited or regulated drug or the corpus delicti.

C) The non-presentation of the confidential informant is not fatal to the prosecution, as where the testimony of the informant will merely be corroborative of the apprehending officers’ eyewitness testimonies so that there is no need to present the informant in court where the sale was actually witnessed and adequately proved by prosecution witnesses. Their presentation is necessary, if not indispensable, when the informant was the poseur-buyer and the only one who actually witnessed the entire transaction.

D) In the PNP Manual on Anti-Illegal Drugs Operation and Investigation (PNP Manual), approved by the National Police Commission in its Resolution No. 2010-094 on February 26, 2010, which provides for the standard rules to be followed by PNP members and units engaged in the enforcement of RA 9165 in support of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), part of the handling of drug evidence is “the weighing of dangerous drugs.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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Read Full Text: People vs. Otico (2018)

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