CASE BRIEF 2019-0008

CASE: People of the Philippines vs. Brenda Camiñas [G.R. No. 241017, January 07, 2019]

PONENTE: Perlas-Bernabe, J.:

SUBJECT:

  1. RA 9165: Elements of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165; Required witnesses; Chain of Custody

FACTS:        This case stemmed from an Information filed before the RTC charging Brenda Camiñas with the crime of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, defined and penalized under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165.

Operatives of the District Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Group of the Quezon City Police District (DAID-SOTG), in coordination with the PDEA, conducted a buy-bust operation against Camiñas, during which ten (10) plastic sachets containing a total of 43.34 gramsof white crystalline substance were recovered from her. Afterwards, they immediately marked, inventoried, and photographed the seized items at the place of arrest in the presence of Camiñas, Barangay Kagawad Dennis Chico (Kagawad Chico), and Media Representative Alfred Oresto (Oresto). The seized items were then brought to the crime laboratory, where, after examination, the contents thereof yielded positive for the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug.

The RTC found Camiñas guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. It ruled that the prosecution was able to establish all the elements of the crime of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, and that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items were preserved. Aggrieved, Camiñas appealedto the CA.

The CA affirmed the RTC ruling.

ISSUES:

  1. What are the elements of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165?
  2. Who are the required witnesses during the photographing and inventory of seized dangerous drugs?
  3. Whether the buy-bust team complied with the chain of custody rule.

RULING:

  1. The elements of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 are: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment.
    Here, the courts a quo correctly found that Camiñas committed the crime of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, as the records clearly show that she was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu to the poseur-buyer, PO2 Trinidad, during a legitimate buy-bust operation conducted by the DAID­SOTG. Since there is no indication that the said courts overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case, the Court finds no reason to deviate from their factual findings. In this regard, it should be noted that the trial court was in the best position to assess and determine the credibility of the witnesses presented by both parties.
  2. As part of the chain of custody procedure, the law requires, inter alia, that the marking, physical inventory, and photography of the seized items be conducted immediately after seizure and confiscation of the same. The law further requires that the said inventory and photography be done in the presence of the accused or the person from whom the items were seized, or his representative or counsel, as well as certain required witnesses, namely: (a) if prior to the amendment of RA 9165 by RA 10640,  a representative from the media AND the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official; or (b) if after the amendment of RA 9165 by RA 10640, an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service OR the media. The law requires the presence of these witnesses primarily “to ensure the establishment of the chain of custody and remove any suspicion of switching, planting, or contamination of evidence.”
  3. The buy-bust team had sufficiently complied with the chain of custody rule under Section 21, Article II of RA 9165.
    It is glaring from the records that after Camiñas was arrested, the buy-bust team immediately took custody of the seized items. They likewise conducted the marking, inventory, and photographyof the seized items at the place of arrest in the presence of an elected public official, i.e., Kagawad Chico and a media representative, i.e., Oresto, in conformity with the amended witness requirement under RA 10640. PO2 Trinidad then secured the seized items and personally delivered the same to PCI Bacani of the Quezon City Police District Crime laboratory for laboratory examination, who in turn, brought the specimen to Evidence Custodian Ducad for safekeeping. In view of the foregoing, the Court holds that there is sufficient compliance with the chain of custody rule and, thus, the integrity and evidentiary value of the corpus delicti have been preserved. Perforce, Camiñas’s conviction must stand.
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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      The elements of Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 are: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment.

B)       The law requires that the said inventory and photography be done in the presence of the accused or the person from whom the items were seized, or his representative or counsel, as well as certain required witnesses, namely: (a) if prior to the amendment of RA 9165 by RA 10640,  a representative from the media AND the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official; or (b) if after the amendment of RA 9165 by RA 10640, an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service OR the media.

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