G.R. No. 169195 : February 17, 2010
FRANCISCO APARIS y SANTOS, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
Before the Court is a Petition For Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision[1cralaw of the Court of Appeals (CA) promulgated on August 31, 2004in CA-G.R. CR No. 24238 and its Resolution2cralaw dated August 5, 2005. The challenged Decision of the CA affirmed with modification the March 31, 2000 Decision3cralaw of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, Branch 64 in Criminal Case No. 96-146, finding herein petitioner Francisco Aparis y Santos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425 (RA 6425), otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended; while its questioned Resolution denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
The prosecution's version of the facts, as summarized by the trial court, are as follows:
In an Information dated January 18, 1996, petitioner and co-accused Edilberto Campos (Campos) were charged with violation of Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425.Pertinent portions of the Information filed against petitioner and Campos read as follows:
Upon arraignment, petitioner and Campos both pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.6cralaw Thereafter, trial ensued.
defense, petitioner denied the occurrence of any buy-bust operation, which the
prosecution claimed to have conducted, and which led to his andCampos' arrest. Petitioner alleged that he was billeted at the
Manila Hotel as early as January 15, 1996. Campos, whom he claimed to be his
driver, followed him to the hotel the following day.In the early morning of January 17, 1996,
while he was driving his car along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, on his way to a
casino in Silahis Hotel, his vehicle was suddenly blocked by two cars.Thereafter he was apprehended at gun point by
persons unknown to him. They took over his car, blindfolded, handcuffed him and
robbed him of his money and other valuables. They then proceeded to his room in
the Manila Hotel, where he was further robbed of his previous winnings in the
On March 31, 2000, the RTC rendered judgment and disposed as follows:
Insofar as petitioner is concerned, the trial court found that all the elements of the crime charged were present and were proven beyond reasonable doubt by the documentary and object evidence presented by the prosecution, as well as the testimonies of the witnesses, especially Police Officer 3 PO3 Labrador, who acted as the poseur-buyer; and Police Inspector Gozar, the team leader who led the buy-bust operation.
With respect to Campos, however, the RTC ruled that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that he actually sold or delivered shabu to PO3 Labrador, or that he was in conspiracy with petitioner in selling the said drugs.
Aggrieved by the Decision of the RTC, petitioner filed an appeal with the CA.
On August 31, 2004, the CA promulgated the presently assailed Decision with the following dispositive portion:
The CA ruled that the trial court committed no error in giving credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as against those of petitioner. The CA also held that petitioner failed to substantiate his defense that he was framed up.
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but the CA denied it in its Resolution of August 5, 2005.
Hence, the instant petition based on the following grounds:
Petitioner maintained his innocence and insisted that he was a victim of frame-up and robbery.He contends that the police officers who testified against him were paid to falsely charge him with a crime he did not commit.
Petitioner also asserted that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses contradicted each other.In particular, he claimed that the first two witnesses testified that he (petitioner) was the target of the buy-bust operation, that his name was in the Drug Watch List of the Narcotics Command (NARCOM), and that surveillance was conducted by PO3 Labrador, who acted as the poseur-buyer. However, petitioner averred that Labrador categorically denied knowing petitioner prior to his arrest, andhe admitted that no surveillance was conducted.
Petitioner further contends that the RTC of Makati had no jurisdiction over his case, as the place where the crime was supposedly committed iswithin Manila.
Lastly, petitioner claims that he was not properly apprised of his fundamental rights when he was arrested.
The Court is not persuaded.
To secure a conviction for illegal sale of shabu , the following essential elements must be established: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment thereof.10cralaw In prosecutions for illegal sale of shabu , what is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence.11cralaw
In the case before the Court, the prosecution was able to establish--through testimonial, documentary, and object evidence--the said elements. PO3 Labrador, who acted as the poseur-buyer, categorically testified about the buy-bust operation from the time he and the confidential informant waited for petitioner to arrive, to the time when petitioner met them and asked them if they had money, to the actual exchange of the marked money with the plastic bag containing a white substance, which was later proved to be shabu ; until the apprehension of petitioner, to wit:
Upon examination, the white
crystalline substance, bought by PO3 Labrador for
As to the question of credibility of the police officers who served as principal witnesses for the prosecution, settled is the rule that prosecutions involving illegal drugs depend largely on the credibility of the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation.14cralaw It is a fundamental rule that findings of the trial courts which are factual in nature and which involve credibility are accorded respect when no glaring errors; gross misapprehension of facts; or speculative, arbitrary, and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings.15cralaw The reason for this is that the trial court is in a better position to decide the credibility of witnesses, having heard their testimonies and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.16cralaw The rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are sustained by the Court of Appeals, as in the present case.17cralaw
Moreover, in the process of converting into written form the statements of living human beings, not only fine nuances but a world of meaning apparent to the judge present, watching and listening, may escape the reader of the translated words. Considering that this Court has access only to the cold and impersonal records of the proceedings, it generally relies upon the assessment of the trial court, which had the distinct advantage of observing the conduct and demeanor of the witnesses during trial.18cralaw Hence, their factual findings are accorded great weight, absent any showing that certain facts of relevance and substance bearing on the elements of the crime have been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied.19cralaw No cogent reason exists for the Court to deviate from this rule.
The inaccuracies in the testimonies of the arresting officers alluded to by petitioner are inconsequential and minor to adversely affect their credibility. Moreover the alleged inconsistencies pointed to by petitioner, namely: (a) the target of the buy-bust operation; (b) the presence or absence of a prior surveillance; and (c) the identity of the team leader, were not necessary to establish the elements of the crime committed.
The RTC, as upheld by the CA, found that the testimonies of PO3 Labrador, Police Inspector (P/Insp.) Gozar, and Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) Edwin Anaviso were unequivocal, definite and straightforward. More importantly, their testimonies were consistent in material respects with each other and with other testimonies and physical evidence. Time and again, the Court has ruled that the testimonies of witnesses need only to corroborate one another on material details surrounding the actual commission of the crime.20cralaw In the present case, what is essential is that the prosecution witnesses positively identified petitioner as the one who sold and delivered the shabu to PO3 Labrador. There is nothing on record that sufficiently casts doubt on the credibility of the police operatives.
Neither does the Court give credit to petitioners contention that the conduct of the buy-bust operation was highly irregular, as there was no surveillance made before the operation.
Flexibility is a trait of good police work. The court has held that when time is of the essence, the police may dispense with the need for prior surveillance.21cralaw Moreover, prior surveillance is not necessary, especially where the police operatives are accompanied by their informant during the entrapment.22cralaw In the instant case, the entrapment or buy-bust operation was conducted without the necessity of any prior surveillance because theinformant, who was previously tasked by PO3 Labrador to deal with petitioner's assistant, accompanied the team and PO3 Labrador himself when the latter bought shabu from petitioner. To be sure, there is no textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. The Court has left to the discretion of police authorities the selection of effective means to apprehend drug dealers. Thus, the Court has refused to establish on a priori basis what detailed acts the police authorities might credibly undertake in their entrapment operations.23cralaw
For his part, petitioner could not offer any viable defense except to deny that there was a buy-bust operation and to claim that he was, instead,a victim of frame-up and extortion by the police officers.However, like alibi, the defenses of denial and frame-up are viewed by the Court with disfavor, as these can easily be concocted and are commonly used as standard lines of defense in most prosecutions arising from illegal sale of drugs.24cralaw Moreover, for the claim of frame-up to prosper, the defense must present clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the arresting policemen performed their duties in a regular and proper manner.25cralaw This, petitioner failed to do.
Petitioner failed to substantiate his claim that he was an unfortunate prey to a supposed ploy concocted by the police. By all indications and, in fact, by his own admission, he did not know anyone of the members of the buy-bust team which apprehended him.There was, therefore, no motive for them to trump up any charge against him. Neither was petitioner able to substantiate his allegation that the police officers who arrested him were paid to frame him up.Absent any proof of motive to falsely accuse him of such a grave offense, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty and the findings of the trial court with respect to the credibility of witnesses shall prevail over petitioners bare allegation that he was framed up.26cralaw In other words, the categorical and convincing testimonies of the policemen, backed up by physical evidence, overcome the unsubstantiated claim of ill motive by petitioner.
With respect to petitioner's contention that the RTC of Makati had no jurisdiction over the case, it is a fundamental rule that for jurisdiction to be acquired by courts in criminal cases, the offense should have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients should have taken place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.27cralaw Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases is the territory where the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance or to try the offense allegedly committed therein by the accused.28cralaw The jurisdiction of a court over a criminal case is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information.29cralaw Once these are shown, the court may validly take cognizance of the case.30cralaw In the instant case, the Information clearly alleged that the the crime was committed in Makati. The allegation in the Information was sufficiently proven by the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. Moreover, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the findings of the CA and the RTC that the defense failed to present sufficient evidence to substantiate its allegation that the place where the buy-bust operation took place was within the territorial jurisdiction of Manila and not of Makati. The trial court was correct in holding that the testimony of the defense witness, who was an engineering assistant at the Office of the City Engineer of Manila, cannot be given credence, considering that his claims were not backed up by any supporting evidence.While the defense referred to a certification issued by a certain Magdiwang Recato from the Office of the City Engineer of Manila, to the effect that the place where the buy-bust operation was conducted was within the territorial jurisdiction of the city of Manila, the same was not offered in evidence and, hence, cannot be given evidentiary value.
Lastly, petitioner claims in the present petition that he and Campos were presented for inquest proceedings only after a week of being incarcerated. However, his claim was contradicted by his own admission during his direct examination that the inquest proceedings were conducted within two days after their arrest.31cralaw This was consistent with his admission in his brief filed with the CA that the day following their arrest, they were brought to Makati for inquest and, a day thereafter, an Information was already filed against them.
With respect to petitioners claim that he was not informed of his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest, the same cannot prevail overthe testimonies of P/Insp. Gozar andSPO1 Anaviso, who were members of the apprehending team, attesting to the fact that petitioner was sufficiently apprised of his rights during his arrest.32cralaw As earlier discussed, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies on the operation were given full faith and credit.
In sum, the Court finds no cogent reason to overturn the findings and conclusions of the CA and the RTC in the present case. The positive identification made by the poseur-buyer and the arresting officers and the laboratory report, not to mention the dubious defenses of denial and frame-up which petitioner has resorted to, sufficiently prove beyond reasonable doubt that he committed the crime charged.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 24238, which affirmed, with modification, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 64, finding petitioner Francisco Aparis y Santos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 15, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, and sentencing him to an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years of prision correccional , as minimum, to eight (8) years and eight (8) months of prision mayor , as maximum, is AFFIRMED.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
RENATO C. CORONA
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice Associate Justice
JOSE P. PEREZ*
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
Third Division, Chairperson
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
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