People v. Ambrosio : 135378 : April 14, 2004 : J. Austria-Martinez :
Second Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 135378.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
AMBROSIO y CAMPOS, ROMAN OZAETA y LAO and WARREN QUE alias WEDDY, WILLY, SHAO
WEI GUO, QUE SIAO UY, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is an appeal by way of a Petition for Review on Certiorariof the decision,1 dated August 31, 1998, rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 103, Quezon
City in Criminal Case No. 97-71733, convicting appellants Angelito Ambrosio,2 Roman Ozaeta3 and Warren Que of the offense of selling 750. 02 grams of shabu in violation of
R. A. No. 6425, as amended by R. A. No. 7659 (Dangerous Drugs Law) and sentencing
Que, as principal, to reclusion perpetuaand imposing upon him a fine of
P2,000,000. 00; and Ambrosio
Ozaeta as accomplices, to suffer imprisonment for a period of six years, one
month and one day of prision mayoras minimum to fourteen years, eight
months and ten days of reclusion temporaland to pay a fine of P1,000,000. 00
Appellants Ambrosio, Ozaeta and Que were charged in an Amended
Information5 filed by the prosecution, as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The undersigned State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice
accuses ANGELITO AMBROSIO y CAMPOS, ROMAN JOSE OZAETA y LAO and WARREN QUE
alias WEDDY, WILLY GUO, SHAO WEI GUO, QUE SIA UY of the crime of violation of
Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Republic Act
No. 7659, committed as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That on or about February 20, 1997, in Quezon City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with deliberate
intent and without authority of law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously sell and deliver to a poseur-buyer 1,001. 61 grams of
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu),
which is a regulated drug.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Manila for Quezon City, Philippines.
July 14, 1997.6 cralawred
Appellants entered their respective pleas of not guilty.
After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered
herein assailed judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered finding:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1. WARREN QUE, alias
Weddy, Willy Guo, Shao Wei Guo or Que Siao Uy, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt
of the offense of selling 991. 7 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride with a
purity weight of 750. 02 grams as a PRINCIPAL thereto in violation of R. A. 6425,
as amended (Dangerous Drugs Law) and he is hereby sentenced to suffer an
imprisonment term of Reclusion Perpetua and to pay a fine of Two Million Pesos;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
2. ANGELITO AMBROSIO y
CAMPOS and ROMAN JOSE OZAETA y LAO are found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as
ACCOMPLICES of accused WARREN QUE in the same of 991. 7 grams of methamphetamine
hydrochloride with a purity weight of 750. 02 grams in violation of R. A. 6425,
as amended (Dangerous Drugs Law) and each of said accused is ordered to suffer
an indeterminate jail term of six (6) years, one (1) month and one (1) day of
Prision Mayor as minimum to Fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and ten (10)
days of Reclusion Temporal and to pay a find of One Million Pesos each,
The methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu involved in this casE
are ordered disposed of and/or destroyed in accordance with law upon finality
of this judgment.
In convicting appellants, the trial court found the version of
the prosecution evidence more credible and held that the defense failed to
overcome the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed by the
Hence, the present
Pending resolution of the appeal, that is on January 10, 2001,
appellant Ambrosio, acting on his own, filed with us a Motion to Withdraw
A similar motion was filed by
his lawyer on January 22, 2001.
per Resolution dated February 5, 2001, we granted Ambrosios motion to withdraw
appeal and consequently, his appeal was dismissed.
Appellant Que filed his Brief raising the following Assignment of
I. The trial court
erred in concluding that there was a buy-bust operation on February 20, 1997 at
the residence of accused Warren Que when there was none at all.
II. The trial court
erred in holding that accused Warren Que was caught in flagrante
delictoselling the regulated drug on the occasion of the alleged buy-bust operation.
III. The trial court
erred in holding that the fluorescent powder found in the hand of accused
Warren Que was sourced from handling chemically treated money.
IV. The trial court erred
in assigning to the acts of the NBI agents Martin Soriano and Pio Palencia in
the alleged buy-bust operation the presumption of regularity in the performance
of official duty and, corollarily, shifting the burden of overcoming it upon
V. The trial court erred
in refusing to require the prosecution to identify the alleged confidential
informant named Venus and, consequently, depriving accused-appellant Warren
Que, his fundamental right to confront and cross examine her.
VI. The trial court erred
in discrediting as implausible, the defense of accused Warren Que.
VII. The trial court erred
in not finding him innocent of the crime charged, and instead found him guilty
Appellant Ozaeta filed his Brief raising the following issues:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN
CONVICTING OZAETA ON THE MAIN BASIS OF PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY IN THE
PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL DUTY.
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN
HOLDING ACCUSED OZAETA AS AN ACCOMPLICE, AND COROLLARY THERETO, WHETHER OR NOT
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING OZAETA AS ACCOMPLICE DESPITE THE WEAK AND
VAGUE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION.
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN
CONVICTING OZAETA DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE POSEUR-BUYER VENUS WAS NOT
PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION AS A WITNESS.
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN
CONVICTING OZAETA DESPITE THE TESTIMONY OF THE FORENSIC CHEMIST, MS. JULIETA
FLORES, THAT OZAETA COULD NOT HAVE TOUCHED THE MARKED MONEY.
WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN
CONVICTING THE ACCUSED DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE MARKED MONEY WAS NOT PRESENTED
AS EVIDENCE.8 cralawred
The errors assigned by appellant Que and the issues raised by
appellant Ozaeta boil down to the following questions: (1) whether the
participation of appellants Ozaeta and Que in the illegal sale of methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu was proven beyond reasonable doubt; and (2) whether or
not the trial court erred in basing the conviction of appellants on mere
presumption of regularity in the performance of the official duties of the
We will resolve them
jointly as they are inter-related to each other.
Rule 131 of the Rules on Evidence, provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
presumptions. The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted,
but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(m) That official duty has
been regularly perfomed;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It is a well-settled rule that credence should be given to the
narration of an incident by prosecution witnesses who are police officers and
presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner in the absence of
evidence to the contrary.9 But, it is likewise a hornbook doctrine that an accused may not be convicted on
the basis of a mere presumption.
ruled in People v. Tan :10 cralawred
The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty
cannot be used as basis for affirming accused-appellants conviction because,
[f]irst, the presumption is precisely just that a mere presumption.
Once challenged by evidence, as in this
case, xxx [it] cannot be regarded as binding truth. Second, the presumption of regularity in the performance of
official functions cannot preponderate over the presumption of innocence that
prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt.11 cralawred
In the face of these jurisprudential rulings, it is imperative
that we examine the evidence presented before the trial court so as to
determine whether or not the trial court had actually no basis in convicting
appellants and merely relied on the disputable presumption that official duty
has been regularly performed.
The facts established by the prosecution evidence are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
A civilian informant reported to Agent Martin Soriano of the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of the illegal activities of appellant
Ozaeta and accused Ambrosio.
Surveillance activities were conducted on Ozaeta and Ambrosio beginning
February 15, 1997.
informant was able to contact a certain Grace, who is a trusted buyer of Ozaeta
and Ambrosio, and introduced her to a confidential agent they call
A first meeting at the Aristocrat
restaurant was arranged between Grace and Ambrosio, but the transaction did not
push through due to some disagreement regarding the money and place of
Another meeting at a hotel in
Pasig did not bring about the expected transaction. Subsequently, Ozaeta and Ambrosio agreed to meet with Venus on
February 20, 1997, at around 1:30 in the morning, in front of Club Filipino,
Greenhills, San Juan.12 Palencia and Soriano then prepared the buy-bust money, including some bills
that had been previously marked and dusted with fluorescent powder.13 cralawred
In the early morning of February 20, 1997, NBI Agent Soriano and
confidential informant Venus proceeded to the meeting place in front of Club
Filipino in Greenhills.
the Nissan car of Ambrosio near Ciudad Fernandina, which is about twenty meters
away from the front of Club Filipino.
Soriano and Venus then approached Ambrosios car and inside they found
Ambrosio and Ozaeta.
Soriano said that
at first, he believed the exchange would take place right there in front of
However, after Soriano
was introduced to Ambrosio and Ozaeta, the latter asked Soriano and Venus to
board the car being driven by Ambrosio.14 Agent Soriano and Venus sat at the back seat and upon boarding, Ambrosio and
Ozaeta told them they wanted to see the money.
Venus then opened the brown bag containing the buy-bust money and they
scanned the money bundle by bundle but did not count it.15 The buy-bust money consisted of ten pieces of marked and dusted
bills placed on top of the bundles of genuine money amounting to around P400,000. 00
the boodle money was placed at the
very bottom of the bag to make it appear that the money amounted to P650,000. 00,
the price they agreed upon for the sale of one kilo of shabu.16 Ambrosio then started driving towards Quezon City. All this time, Special Investigator Palencia and one Allan
Santiago, also from the NBI, were in a separate car around ten to fifteen
meters away tailing Ambrosios car.
around 2:45 to 3:00 in the morning, Ambrosio eventually stopped at an apartment
in Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City.
parked his car in front of the door of the first apartment of the compound
known as Villa Concepcion, located on a corner lot.17 Palencia parked their car around the corner, about five meters away from
Soriano, where he could still see everything that was happening.18 cralawred
Upon arrival at the apartment, Ambrosio and Venus alighted from
the car while Ozaeta and Soriano remained inside the car, parked around five
meters away from the door of the apartment.
Since the place was well-lighted, Soriano clearly saw everything that
was happening.19 Ambrosio and Venus rang the doorbell at the main door of said apartment and a
Chinese looking man, who was later identified as appellant Que, opened the
After a short conversation with
Ambrosio and Venus, Que went back inside the house and immediately came out
again with a plastic bag containing the white crystalline powder which he
handed to Venus.
The latter checked the
contents of the plastic bag then handed over to Que the bag containing the
Que unzipped the bag
and inspected the cash inside.
point, Venus pressed a radio transmitter as the sign for the back-up to arrest
Soriano, as well as Palencia and
Santiago, immediately alighted from their respective cars and approached the
Que ran inside the apartment
with the bag of buy-bust money but he was accosted by the NBI agents near the
stairs leading to the second floor of the apartment.20 Ambrosio and Venus ran back into Ambrosios car and that was where NBI agent
Santiago arrested Ozaeta and Ambrosio.
After the arrest, Special Investigator Palencia also found in the
possession of Ambrosio three small plastic bags or sachets of the same white
crystalline substance, while Ozaeta had a cream round container and a glass
tube also containing the same substance.21 cralawred
Thereafter, the NBI agents brought Que, Ambrosio and Ozaeta to
the NBI Headquarters in Taft Avenue, Manila, arriving at said headquarters at
around 5:30 in the morning.22 Palencia proceeded with the marking of the plastic bag containing the white
crystalline powder recovered from Que and the containers with a similar
substance recovered from Ambosio and Ozaeta for purposes of identification.
Palencia also requested the forensic chemist
to examine the contents of the plastic bag and sachets recovered from the
Appellants were fingerprinted
and made to fill-up the Booking and Arrest Report and Investigation Sheet, then
subjected to the ultra-violet light test to determine the presence of the
fluorescent powder on their hands.23 cralawred
NBI Forensic Chemist Salud Rosales, who conducted the requisite
tests on the white crystalline powder recovered from appellants, testified that
all specimens submitted to her were positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride,
more popularly known as shabu.24 The presiding judge ordered that tests be conducted on the substance contained
in the big plastic bag recovered from appellant Que to determine its purity and
the same forensic chemist reported that out of the 991. 7 grams of said
substance, the weight of pure methamphetamine hydrochloride was 750. 02 grams.25 cralawred
NBI Chemist Julieta Flores who dusted the marked money and
examined the hands of the appellants reported that both hands of appellants
were contaminated with the fluorescent powder dusted on the ten
bills placed on top of the buy-bust money.26 On cross-examination, she admitted that she heard the appellants say that they
were merely forced to hold the marked money, but she does not recall them say
anything about Agent Soriano shaking hands with them.27 She also stated that based on the pattern or placement of the specks and
smudges of fluorescent powder on the hands of appellants, it is most possible
that appellant Que and accused Ambrosio have touched the buy-bust money, while
there is a possibility that appellant Ozaeta did not touch said money.28 cralawred
Countervailing the prosecution evidence, the defense witnesses
testified that no such buy-bust operation was conducted. They insist that the
NBI agents illegally abducted them and then planted the evidence.
Appellants Que and Ozaeta as well as accused
Ambrosio denied knowing each other prior to their alleged abduction and claim
that they only learned the names of their co-accused when they were already at
the NBI Headquarters.
Appellant Ozaeta testified as follows:At around 5:00 in the afternoon of February 19, 1997, he was
having merienda at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.
After eating, he went out to buy cigarettes
from one of the street vendors and while walking along the street, he was
abducted by NBI Agent Soriano.29 During cross-examination, however, he stated that it was actually two men who
accosted him and pushed him inside a waiting Land Cruiser.30 Inside the vehicle, there was already another man who was handcuffed.
Four other men, who identified themselves as
NBI agents, were also in the Land Cruiser.
Both he and the other person, who he later came to know at the NBI
Headquarters as Sonny Ambrosio, were blindfolded. The vehicle roamed around for some time and then they were
brought to what he believes is a safehouse somewhere in Project 6, Quezon City.31 In the safehouse, he and Ambrosio were beaten up by the NBI agents and were
asked questions about shabu.
8:30 to 9:30 that night of February 19, 1997, the NBI men took him (Ozaeta)
with them to a place in West Triangle where the NBI men talked to a certain
The latter called up Joel
Tan who arrived at around 12:30 or 1:30 in the early morning of February 20,
Joel Tan was brought back to the
safehouse in Project 6 and placed in the same room with him.
Joel Tan who was also beaten up by the NBI
men was brought out of the house.
one hour, the NBI men came back bringing with them another person, later
identified as appellant Que.
men started beating up Que.
Ledesma and Tan, he never saw them again.32 At around 4:00 in the morning of February 20, 1997, he, Ambrosio and Que were
brought to the NBI Headquarters on Taft Avenue, Manila.
They were made to fill up some papers or
forms and fingerprinted. Their hands were put under the ultra-violet light to
test for the presence of fluorescent powder.
He remembered that on their way to the room where their hands were
placed under the light, agent Soriano shook hands with the three of them.33 cralawred
Ozaeta claims that it was through Sorianos handshake that his
(Ozaetas) hands were contaminated with the fluorescent powder.
Ozaeta further testified that despite repeated requests with the
NBI agents to allow him to call his family, he was never given the opportunity
to communicate with them.34 On cross-examination, he testified that he or his family did not file a case
against the NBI agents who allegedly abducted him.35 cralawred
Accused Ambrosios recollection of the incident is as
In the afternoon of February
19, 1997, he received a telephone call from a certain Venus who mentioned the
name of his friend Pepe Dadivas.
he agreed to have a date with Venus at Club Filipino in Greenhills.
At around 5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon,
after dropping off his wife at their store in Shoppesville, located also in
Greenhills, he drove his Nissan Sentra car towards Club Filipino.
While looking for a parking space in front
of Club Filipino, a Land Cruiser blocked his car and several armed men wearing
black shirts with NBI markings alighted from said Land Cruiser.
They pointed their guns at him, handcuffed
him and loaded him into the Land Cruiser.36 Around five minutes later, another handcuffed man was loaded into the same
They were then both
Later, when they were
already at the NBI Headquarters, he came to know the other man loaded into the
vehicle as appellant Ozaeta.
that both he and Ozaeta were beaten up by the NBI men while they were inside
the Land Cruiser.
They were then taken
to what he believes is an NBI safehouse where he was kept in a room, handcuffed
and blindfolded the whole time.
around twelve oclock midnight or 1:00 in the early morning of February 20,
1997, he heard voices which he believed to be those of the NBI men bringing
another person into the safehouse.
heard that person begging for mercy, and shortly thereafter, the NBI men went
About an hour later, the
NBI men came back with another man, whom he later came to know as appellant
At around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning of February 20, 1997, they
were all brought to the NBI Headquarters in Taft Avenue, Manila.
From this point on, his narration of events
is the same as that of appellant Ozaeta, specially with the detail regarding
Agent Sorianos handshake.38 cralawred
To corroborate the story of appellant Ozaeta and accused
Ambrosio, the defense presented Rodolfo Banaga, a street vendor.
He narrated that at around 6:30 to 7:00 in
the evening of February 19, 1997, he was vending in front of the Club Filipino,
when he noticed three male persons wearing black t-shirts with the letters NBI
printed at the back, arrest a man who just came out of the Club Filipino.
The arrested man was handcuffed then pushed
into a waiting vehicle.
When the door
of the vehicle was opened, he saw that there was already another person inside
During the hearing in court,
he pointed to appellant Ozaeta as the person who was arrested and pointed to
accused Ambrosio as the person who was already inside the vehicle.
On cross-examination, however, he admitted
that when this incident was happening, he was quickly moving away, such that,
when the rear door of the vehicle was opened, he was already positioned at the
back of said vehicle.39 cralawred
Another defense witness, Eugenio de la Torre, the security guard
assigned at the parking lot of the Club Filipino on the evening of February 19,
1997, only stated that the car of Roman Ozaeta was parked at the Club Filipino
from the evening of February 19 until February 22, 1997, when he released the
car to a Sgt. Willy Cocjin, sent by General Ozaeta.40 cralawred
Appellant Que, for his defense, testified as follows:
At around 3:00 or 4:00 in the early morning
of February 20, 1997, he was sleeping with his family (wife and two children)
in their bedroom located on the second floor of his townhouse in Project 6,
He was awakened by his
wife, telling him that her father was knocking at their bedroom door.
At around that time, he also heard someone
throw a stone at the window.
He got up
and went downstairs so he could open the door and when he was already
downstairs, he saw his father-in-law peeping out the window who did not see
anybody outside the apartment.41 When he (Que) opened the door, he also did not find anyone there, so he went
back inside the house and got a glass of water. However, upon turning around, he was surprised to see several
people entering his house.
were wearing black clothes with NBI markings.
Later at the NBI Headquarters, he came to know the names of some of
those people as Agent Soriano, Palencia, and Santiago.
When the NBI people gained entry into his
house, Soriano started asking him about a certain William and a Mr. Tan.
He answered that there were no such persons
in his house.42 Agent Soriano, together with Santiago and a lady agent, went upstairs.
Palencia remained downstairs guarding him,
his father-in-law, his wife and two children.
When the three agents came down, they had with them a brown wine bag
belonging to him (Que),
which he claims is the very same bag that was later
shown in court by Agent Soriano as the one that contained the buy-bust
He asked the NBI men if they had
a warrant but they did not answer him.
They just proceeded to handcuff him then loaded him into a waiting
Nissan car outside his house.
inside the car which roamed around their subdivision for a while, Palencia
forced him to count one by one the ten pieces of
P100. 00 bills.43 cralawred
Later, the car stopped and brought him into a house not too far
away from his own house.
locked him inside the comfort room.
only maltreatment he received was when Palencia hit him in the chest once.
At around 6:00 in the morning of February
20, 1997, he, Ozaeta and Ambrosio were brought to the NBI Headquarters in Taft
Again, from this point,
his story as to what transpired at the NBI Headquarters is the same as those of
Ozaeta and Ambrosio.44 cralawred
Ques common-law wife, Ligaya Melgar, also testified in Ques
She testified as follows:
At around 4:00 in the morning of February
20, 1997, her father woke her up because there was someone knocking at the
Her father did not open the door
because he did not know the person at the door. She woke up Que who then went downstairs, while she went back to
About three minutes later, she
heard a commotion downstairs so she got up and went downstairs.
On her way down the stairs, she already saw
two men and one woman, holding firearms, on their way up the stairs.
These people wore clothes with NBI
She saw them enter their
bedroom, and she proceeded downstairs to look for Que.
There, she saw Que being guarded by two
persons. She asked these persons if they have a search warrant or a warrant of
arrest but they said they did not need one.
They then asked her the name of her husband and if she knows a certain
William Tan or Joel Tan, and she told them that there were no such persons in
the house.45 cralawred
After talking to the men guarding Que, she went back upstairs and
saw the three NBI agents searching all their rooms then taking their belongings
and putting them inside the wine bag.
Ligaya claims the agents took jewelries, a video camera, and money both
in Philippine and foreign currencies amounting to several hundred thousand
Leopoldo Melgar, appellant Ques father-in-law residing in
Mabalacat, Pampanga, testified that he arrived at the house of his daughter and
Que at around 11:00 in the morning of February 19, 1997.
He slept at said house that evening, but in
the early morning of the next day, around 4:00, a knocking at the door awakened
He then woke up his daughter,
Ligaya, who in turn woke up her husband, appellant Que.
Que went downstairs and after hearing more
knocks, opened the door.
When the door
opened, two men entered the house, followed by another man a few minutes
Said persons were wearing NBI
They then asked Que if he is
When Que denied that he is
William, one of the men poked a gun at Que and insisted that the latter is
One of the men and a
woman went up to the second floor of the house. Later, the NBI people brought Que out of the house.47 cralawred
In attacking the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and
their testimonies, appellants assail the non-presentation in court of the
buy-bust money and the confidential agent Venus, who actually negotiated with
the three accused.
They argue that the
non-presentation of poseur-buyer Venus shows that no such person exists,
thereby reinforcing their claim that no buy-bust operation ever happened in
They further claim that
only Venus could testify on what was really agreed upon between her and
It is further argued by
appellants that the lower court relied too much on the presumption of
regularity of performance of official duty in giving credence to the buy-bust
account presented by the prosecution witnesses.
Appellant Que invokes the ruling of the Court in People v. Bagano
48 where the non-presentation of the informant and/or the poseur-buyer who
actively participated in the negotiation for the sale of prohibited drugs was
held to be fatal to the prosecutions case, leading to the acquittal of the
However, the Bagano
casecannot find application to the present case because the special
circumstance attending the buy-bust operation in said case does not exist in
the present case.
In the Bagano case, the poseur-buyer was an American who
did not understand a word of the Kankanai dialect being spoken by the accused
Thus, the informant had to act
as an interpreter between the American poseur-buyer and the accused.
Only the American poseur-buyer testified as
to how they entrapped the accused therein and he was able to testify only as to
what the informant/interpreter relayed to him as the supposed answers given by
the accused in the course of the buy-bust operation. The accused therein, however, disclaimed ownership of the bag
containing the marijuana, explaining that said bag actually belonged to the
informant and he was merely ordered by said informant to carry the bag.
Thus, the Court held that the presentation
of the informant who acted as interpreter is vital to the case for the
prosecution since the testimony of the American poseur-buyer regarding the
actual conversation between the interpreter and the accused in the Kankanai
dialect would be merely hearsay.
In People v. Uy ,49 the prosecution was not able to present the actual poseur-buyer on the witness
Just like in this case, only the
other members of the buy-bust team, who were twenty meters away, closely
watching the exchange between the poseur-buyer and the accused, testified as to
how the buy-bust operation was conducted.
The prosecution explained in the Uycase that they could not
present the actual poseur-buyer because he was then in the hospital, paralyzed
due to gunshot wounds.
We held in said
We have previously declared that what can be fatal is the
non-presentation of the poseur-buyer if there is no other eyewitness to the
In the case at
bar, the other members of the team that conducted the buy-bust operation
testified in court.
They declared that
they witnessed the consummation of the illegal sale perpetrated by the
positive identification of the accused-appellant rendered the non-presentation
of the poseur-buyer non-fatal to the case of the prosecution.. ..
A buy-bust operation has been considered as an effective mode of
apprehending drug pushers.
out with due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards, a buy-bust
operation deserves judicial sanction.
The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by
the seller of the marked money successfully consummates the buy-bust
transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused.50 cralawred
In the present case, the non-presentation of Venus was also
satisfactorily explained, i. e.,
that she was working on another buy-bust
Although her identity is
known to herein appellants, to require her to testify in open court would
divulge her real identity and expose her to danger considering that there was another
buy-bust operation that was still on-going.
In People v. Boco, 51 we held:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Intelligence agents, due to the nature of their work, are often not
called to testify in court so as not to reveal their identities publicly.
Once known, they could no longer be used
again and, worse, may be the object of revenge by the criminals they implicate.
The prevailing doctrine is that their
testimonies are not essential for conviction, nor are they indispensable to a
testimonies of the arresting officers, they would be, after all, merely
corroborative and cumulative.
Verily, we see no reason to rule that the
inability to present Venus would be fatal to the prosecutions case.
The testimony of NBI Agent Soriano,
corroborated by SI Palencia, that he (Soriano) was merely five meters away from
appellant Que and Venus and could clearly see when Que handed over to Venus the
plastic bag containing the white crystalline substance and in exchange, Que
received from Venus the bag containing the buy-bust money, is enough to sustain
the findings of the trial court that, indeed, the illegal sale of shabu between
Venus and Que was consummated.
Furthermore, as originally planned, Soriano was designated as the
poseur-buyer, but the buy-bust operation did not proceed exactly as the team
had planned or anticipated.
Soriano thought that the transaction would be consummated at Greenhills, for
which reason, they planned to entrap only appellant Ozaeta and Ambrosio. It was
only when Ambrosio brought them to the house of appellant Que that they learned
of the latters activities.52 It could be said, therefore, that the buy-bust operation proceeded in two
The first phase was what the
buy-bust team had planned, i. e.,
that the operation would be completed at
Greenhills where the sale was supposed to be consummated; and the second phase
had to be carried out when, unexpectedly, Ambrosio did not bring with him the
shabu and instead brought Soriano and Venus to Ques residence.
Understandably, with such sudden and
unexpected turn of events, the buy-bust team had to make the necessary
adjustments and changes to their original plans which could explain why it was
eventually Venus who accompanied Ambrosio to Ques door.
With regard to appellant Que, after a close scrutiny of the
entire records of the case, we find no fact or circumstance of special
importance that would justify overturning the ruling of the court a quoregarding the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and their
successfully proved the existence of all the elements necessary for conviction
for the offense of illegal sale of regulated or prohibited drugs, to wit: (1)
the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration;
and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.53 cralawred
In People v. Mala, et al.,
54 we held that what is material is the proof that the transaction or sale
actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus
The delivery of the
contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money consummated
the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused.
Anent the buy-bust money, the prosecution merely presented
photocopies of the marked money used in the buy-bust operation.
The trial court is correct in not
considering the non-presentation of the entire amount thereof as a mortal blow
to the prosecutions case.
We have held
in People v. Eugenio
55 presentation of buy-bust money is not indispensable to the prosecution of a
drug case.56 cralawred
Appellants asseveration that the lower court merely relied on
the presumption of regularity of performance of official duty in arriving at
its decision and in giving more credence to the buy-bust account presented by
the prosecution, is not plausible.
is on the basis of the positive testimonies of prosecution witnesses that the
trial court based the conviction of appellants Que.
We find no compelling reason to reject the ratiocination of the
trial court in not giving more credence or probative weight to the testimonies
of the witnesses, in defense of appellant Que, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
3. Accused Warren, his
wife Ligaya and her father testified that the NBI agents arrived in their
townhouse at between 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning of February 20, 1997.
One of the things the NBI agents repeatedly
asked them was where is Joel Tan.
according to accused Ozaeta, NBI agents already had Joel Tan with them in the
house of Tony Ledesma just after midnight of February 19, 1997.
The agents brought Joel Tan to the Project 6
safehouse, beat him there, and took Joel Tan away at around 2:30 that same
Why should agents
Palencia, Soriano and Allan then be still looking for Joel Tan from Warren at
4:00 oclock in the morning when they had Joel Tan all along already?
Only contrived stories could suffer from
6. Mrs. Ligaya M. Ques
testimony and that of her father are understandably favorable to Warren.
The testimonies of those two witnesses and
Warrens however, contain major incongruities, namely:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(a) Warren said he went
downstairs to open the door because someone was throwing stones on their
Ligaya and her father testified
someone knocked on the door.
(b) Ligaya testified that
on February 19, 1997 she left the house at 12:00 noon to go to Angeles City
while Warren stayed at home.
Ligaya said Warren left between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning and returned at
4:00 in the afternoon on February 19, 1997.
Ligayas father testified that he arrived at the townhouse on
February 19, 1997 and he found Warren there and Warren stayed the whole day and
night in the townhouse leaving only when he asked Warren to buy paint at 7:00
in the evening.
On the other hand, Warren testified that he arrived at his house on
February 19, 1997 at 11:00 in the evening.
9. The three accused
claimed that the reason their hands were found positive for nitrates is because
Agent Soriano shook hands with them before their hands were clinically
The court disagrees because:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
a) Warren testified that
even inside the car that took him agent Palencia forced him to count the marked
bills and even rubbed his hands with Palencias hands.
If that were so, then there is no need
anymore for agent Soriano to shake hands with him. Agent Soriano was, after all, in the same car and therefore knew of
such event if it really took place.
b) Warrens counsel on
cross-examination of Ms. Julieta Flores, the NBI chemist who examined the hands
of the accused, tried his best to point out that no nitrates were found on the
fingertips of Warren which would negate the prosecutions theory that Warren
rifled through the bags contents during the buy-bust.
If, as admitted, no nitrates were found on
Warrens fingertips as to negate the prosecutions theory, then the very expostulation
itself of Warrens counsel on this point would negate the claim of Warren twice
made in his affidavit and in court as a witness that he was made to count
the dusted bills one by one.
As will be shown below there was a good reason for the absence of
nitrates on Warrens fingertips as well as those of accused Ambrosio and
c) The defense itself,
that is, all three accused called for the production of the Booking Sheet and
Arrest Report (Exhibits 1, 2 and 9 for Ambosio and Exhibits 3 and 20 for
Ozaeta). The Booking Sheet for Warren
was not offered in evidence but he also admitted that he was made to fill it up
and was fingerprinted thereon.
An examination of said Booking Sheets and Arrest Reports shows that
the accused were fingerprinted on both hands involving all fingers, an SOP in
law enforcement procedure.
done at the SID room before the accused were brought to the laboratory room.
According to chemist Julieta Flores, nitrates, unlike paraffin
powder, are easy to remove; they can be removed from the hands by simply
cleaning ones hands with water.
Consequently, it is easy to understand why the fingertips of all accused
had no nitrates:
All fingers on both
hands were dipped in ink in a stamp pad and then pressed on the Booking Sheet
and Arrest Report (Pinagpiano in lock parlance) and hence, the easily removable
nitrates were left there.
d) The marked money bills
were dusted on February 7, 1997 yet and used in another operation in Pasay
City; hence, were not anymore as thickly dusted when used again on February 19,
1997 against the herein accused which account for why spots, specks and smudges
were the ones that appeared when the hands of the accused were exposed to the
lab light at NBI.
e) Indeed, the
handshaking defense raised here appears quite specious because if indeed
Agent Soriano shook hands with the accused, then the presence of nitrates in
their fingers would be inevitable for it must be assumed that if Agent Soriano
indeed had a sinister purpose against the accused, he would have made sure that
the fingers and palms of all three or, at least one or two of them will be
impregnated with nitrates.
one shakes anothers hand with only one hand and also only one hand of the
person whose hand is to be shook.
in this case, both hands of each of the accused were found positive for
There is no evidence, and it
seems really unusual, that Agent Soriano will shake the right hand and then the
left hand of each accused.
Soriano, to all appearances, seems to be a machoman.
The court thus concludes that the positive identification herein
made by the prosecution witnesses and the presumption of regular performance of
duty have not been successfully overcome by the accused.57 cralawred
In People v. Pacis, we held that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
courts generally give
full faith and credit to officers of the law, for they are presumed to have
performed their duties in a regular manner. Accordingly, in entrapment cases,
credence is given to the narration of an incident by prosecution witnesses who
are officers of the law and presumed to have performed their duties in a
regular manner in the absence of evidence to the contrary.58 cralawred
The defense failed to demonstrate any ill-motive on the part of
the prosecution witnesses in effecting the buy-bust operation and testifying
evidence presented by the prosecution show that Que was not initially the
target of their operation, since their informant only mentioned the activities
of appellant Ozaeta and Ambrosio.
have earlier discussed, agent Soriano thought that the transaction would be
consummated at Greenhills, for which reason, they planned to entrap only
appellant Ozaeta and Ambrosio. It was only when Ambrosio brought them to the
house of appellant Que that they learned of the latters activities.59 Hence, there is no cause for us to believe that the prosecution witnesses testified
falsely against appellant Que.
We reiterate our ruling in People v. Cueno
60 that in the absence of proof of any odious intent on the part of the police
authorities to falsely impute a serious crime, such as that made against herein
appellant, we will not allow their testimony to be overcome by the self-serving
and uncorroborated claim of frame-up.61 cralawred
In People v. Mala, et
we enunciated that this Court will not interfere with the trial
courts assessment of the credibility of witnesses except when there appears on
record some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which the trial court
has overlooked, misapprehended, or misinterpreted. The reason for this rule is that the trial court is in a better
position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and
observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.62 cralawred
The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses are positive and
convincing, sufficient to sustain the finding of the trial court that appellant
Ques guilt had been established beyond reasonable doubt.
Thus, as we have earlier stated, insofar as
appellant Que is concerned, his claim that in convicting him, the trial court
merely relied on the presumption that official duty has been regularly
performed, is without merit.
However, the prosecution evidence does not clearly establish the
participation of appellant Ozaeta in the sale of shabu.
Despite the fact that the Court gives full
faith and credit to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, such evidence,
even without taking into account the frame-up defense raised by Ozaeta, is
insufficient to prove that said appellant had a hand in the illegal sale of
shabu by appellant Que.
Prosecution witnesses SI Palencia and agent Soriano were not present
during the preliminary meetings among Venus, Grace, Ambrosio and Ozaeta.
Hence, they did not have personal knowledge, as
in fact, they did not testify if it was Ambrosio or Ozaeta or both of them who
were actively negotiating for the sale of shabu. From the testimonies of SI Palencia and agent Soriano, who were
the only eye-witnesses presented in court, Ozaeta was merely in the car with
Ambrosio when they met at Greenhills and he stayed in the same car during the
entire time that the sale transaction was going on at Ques front door on the
fateful morning of February 20, 1997.
was no evidence presented that appellant Ozaeta participated in the sale of
shabu between Que and Venus.
Palencia and agent Soriano testified that it was Ambrosio who drove the car in
going to Ques residence. Their testimonies do not indicate that Ozaeta was
aware of where they were going or what was supposed to transpire once they
arrive at their destination.
Soriano testified that they asked to see the money63 when they were in Ambrosios car, there is no direct testimony which shows that
himself asked to see the money
or that he knew that the money was for the illegal sale of shabu.
Doubts regarding Ozaetas participation in the illegal sale of
shabu are further fortified by the following facts and circumstances:
(1) accused Ambrosio and appellant Ozaeta
did not have the shabu with them when they were met by agent Soriano; (2) the
trial court failed to mention that NBI Forensic Chemist Salud Rosales
testified that it is possible that Ozaeta did not touch the buy-bust money;64 and (3) as narrated by SI Palencia and Soriano, it was only Ambrosio who
alighted from the car and accompanied Venus to Ques front door where the illegal
sale of shabu was consummated between Venus, the poseur buyer, on the one hand
and appellant Que and Ambrosio, on the other.
There is no testimony as to the participation or role of Ozaeta in said
sale except that he was in the car with agent Soriano.
As held in People v. Geron ,65 the mere presence of the accused at
the locus criminis cannot be solely interpreted to mean that he
committed the crime charged.
In this case, the prosecution evidence which
merely showed that Ozaeta was in the company of Ambrosio when they met with
agent Soriano at Greenhills and in the car when Ambrosio brought agent Soriano
to the front of the house of appellant Que, is not sufficient to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that appellant Ozaeta was indeed involved in any way in the
illegal sale of shabu.
appellant Ozaeta must be absolved from criminal liability.
As to the penalty imposed by the trial court on appellant Que,
the Court finds the same to be in accord with the provisions of R. A. 6425 as
amended by R. A. No. 7659.
prescribed for the consummated sale of 200 grams of shabu without authority of law
is reclusion perpetuato death and a fine ranging from
to P10,000,000. 00.
63 (No. 2) of the Revised Penal Code, the lesser penalty is applied when there
are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the
In the case at bar, the
prosecution did not allege or prove the attendance of any modifying circumstance
to justify the imposition of the extreme penalty. Hence, the trial court did not err in imposing upon appellant Que
the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The fine of P1,000,000. 00 imposed on appellant Que is just and
WHEREFORE, the decision
of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City (Branch 103) dated August 31, 1998
97-71733 as to appellant Warren Que, finding
him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of selling 750. 02 grams of shabu and
sentencing him to suffer imprisonment term of reclusion perpetuaand
fining him in the amount of
P1,000,000. 00 is AFFIRMED.
However, as to appellant Roman Ozaeta y Lao, the decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City (Branch 103) dated August 31, 1998 in Crim.
97-71733 is REVERSEDfor failure of the
prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Appellant Ozaeta is ACQUITTED.
The Director of
the Bureau of Corrections is ordered to IMMEDIATELY
RELEASEOzaeta unless he is being detained for some other lawful cause, and to inform this Court, within five (5) days from notice hereof, the action
Puno, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Callejo, Sr., and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Penned by Judge Jaime N. Salazar, Jr..
Referred to as Sonny by prosecution witnesses.
Referred to as Romy by prosecution witnesses.
Boholst, 152 SCRA 263, 270 (1987); People v. Bansil
304 SCRA 384,
TSN, Testimony of Pio Palencia, August 13, 1997, pp. 16-30; TSN, Testimony of
Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp 27-35.
TSN, Testimony of Pio Palencia, August 13, 1997, pp. 31-32.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 31-36.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 176, 190-191.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 191-193.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 27-37; TSN, Testimony of
Pio Palencia, August 13, 1997, pp. 30-41.
TSN, Testimony of Pio Palencia, September 16, 1997, pp. 12-15.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 42-43.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 37-49.
TSN, Testimony of Pio Palencia, August 13, 1997, pp. 71-74.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 28, 1997, p. 69.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 50-56, 64-66; TSN,
Testimony of Pio Palencia, August 13, 1997, pp. 51-57.
TSN, August 6, 1997, pp. 37-60.
TSN, December 5, 1997, pp. 10, 35.
TSN, January 14, 1998, pp. 15-35.
TSN, January 14, 1998, pp. 95-97.
TSN, January 14, 1998, pp. 40-44.
TSN, March 3, 1998, pp. 13-16.
TSN, March 27, 1998, pp. 33-34.
TSN, March 3, 1998, pp. 16-24.
TSN, March 3, 1998, pp. 24-36.
TSN, March 3, 1998, pp. 36-61.
TSN, March 3, 1998, pp. 44-49.
TSN, March 27, 1998, pp. 37-38.
TSN, April 17, 1998, pp. 4-10.
TSN, April 17, 1998, pp. 11-15.
TSN, April 17, 1998, pp. 15-30.
TSN, April 1, 1998, pp. 3-17.
TSN, April 1, 1998, pp. 19-33.
TSN, May 14, 1998, pp. 22-31.
TSN, May 14, 1998, pp. 31-36.
TSN, May 14, 1998, pp. 37-48, 58-59.
TSN, May 14, 1998, pp. 49-67.
TSN, May 15, 1998, pp. 6-15, 19.
TSN, May 15, 1998, pp. 20-27.
TSN, June 8, 1998, pp. 13-39.
338 SCRA 232, 244-246 (2000).
309 SCRA 42, 62-63 (1999)
Testimony of Martin Soriano, TSN, October 9, 1997, pp. 31-36.
G. R. No. 146805, January 16, 2003.
Appealed Decision, Rollo
, pp. 103-119.
G. R. No. 146309.
July 18, 2002.
TSN, October 9, 1997, pp. 31-36.
G. R. No. 152351, September 18, 2003.
TSN, Testimony of Martin Soriano, October 9, 1997, pp. 176, 190-191.
TSN, January 14, 1998, pp. 43-44.
281 SCRA 36, 47 (1997).
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