July 2011 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2011 > July 2011 Decisions > [G.R. No. 192816 : July 06, 2011] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, APPELLEE, VS. JOEL GASPAR Y WILSON, APPELLANT.:
[G.R. No. 192816 : July 06, 2011]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, APPELLEE, VS. JOEL GASPAR Y WILSON, APPELLANT.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is an appeal assailing the Decision dated 16 March 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02117. The CA affirmed with modification the Decision dated 3 February 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, Branch 70, in Criminal Case Nos. 12840-D, 12841-D, 12842-D, convicting appellant Joel Gaspar y Wilson of violation of (1) Section 5, paragraph 1, Article II (Illegal Sale of Shabu); (2) Section 11, 2nd paragraph, No. 3, Article II (Illegal Possession of Shabu); and (3) Section 12, Article II (Possession of Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs), all of Republic Act No. 9165 (RA 9165) or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
On 25 August 2003, four separate Informations for different violations of RA 9165 were filed with the RTC of Pasig, Branch 70. Three informations were against Joel Gaspar y Wilson (Gaspar), docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 12840-D, 12841-D and 12842-D. The fourth information was against Leomar San Antonio (San Antonio), docketed as Criminal Case No. 12843-D. The informations state:
Criminal Case No. 12840-D
That, on or about the 22nd day of August, 2003 in the Municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to sell any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly sell, deliver and give away to another, 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance contained in one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, which was found positive to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride known as "shabu", a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Criminal Case No. 12841-D
That, on or about the 22nd day of August, 2003 in the Municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being authorized by law to possess any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly, possess and have in his custody and control 0.08 gram of white crystalline substance contained in two (2) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets, with 0.04 gram each, which was found positive to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, also known as shabu, a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Criminal Case No. 12842-D
That, on or about the 22nd day of August, 2003 in the Municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly, possess and have under his custody and control ten (10) transparent plastic sachets, one (1) improvised water pipe, one (1) plastic container, two (2) disposable lighter, one (1) pair of scissors and one (1) wooden stick, which are all instrument, equipment, apparatuses, or paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, sniffing, consuming and ingesting "shabu", a dangerous drug, into the body, in violation of the above-cited law.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Criminal Case No. 12843-D
That, on or about the 22nd day of August, 2003 in the Municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being authorized by law to possess any dangerous drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly, possess and have in his custody and control 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance contained in one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet, which was found positive to the test for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, also known as shabu, a dangerous drug, in violation of the above-cited law.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
At the arraignment on 6 October 2003, both accused pleaded not guilty.
On 17 November 2003, at the pre-trial conference, the prosecution and defense entered into stipulations of facts regarding the due execution and genuineness of the recovered items marked in evidence, which dispensed with the presentation of the prosecution's witness, Forensic Chemist Isidro Cariño. The stipulations of facts provide:
1. The due execution and genuineness of the Request for Laboratory Examination dated 22 August 2003 which was marked in evidence as Exhibit "A", the Specimens Submitted to be marked as Exhibit "A-1" and the stamp showing receipt thereof by the PNP Crime Laboratory as Exhibit "A-2";
2. The due execution and genuineness, as well as the truth of the contents, of Chemistry Report No. D-1618-03e dated August 22, 2003 issued by Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Isidro Cariño of the Crime Laboratory, Eastern Police District Crime Laboratory Office, Mandaluyong City, which was marked in evidence as Exhibit "B", the findings as appearing on the report as Exhibit "B-1" and the signature of the forensic chemist over his typewritten name likewise as appearing on the report as Exhibit "B-2";
3. The existence of the plastic sachets, but not their source or origin, the contents of which was the subject of the Request for Laboratory Examination, which were marked in evidence as follows: as Exhibit "C" (the transparent plastic bag), as Exhibit "C-1" (the 1st plastic sachet marked JWG buy-bust), as Exhibit "C-2" (the 2nd plastic sachet marked JWG1), as Exhibit "C-3" (the 3[rd] plastic sachet marked JWG2), as Exhibit "C-4" (the 4th plastic sachet marked LASA), as Exhibit "C-5" (the 5th plastic sachet marked JWG9), as Exhibit "C-6" (the improvised water pipe marked JWG4), as Exhibit "C-7" (the plastic contained marked JWG3), as Exhibit "C-8" (the yellow disposable lighter marked JWG5), as Exhibit "C-9" (the scissors), as Exhibit "C-10" (the pink disposable lighter marked JWG7), as Exhibit "C-11" (the wooden stick marked JWG8) and as Exhibit "C-12" (the nine unused plastic sachets marked JWG10).
Shortly after the pre-trial conference, San Antonio jumped bail and did not appear before the RTC during the trial. Thus, San Antonio was deemed to have waived the presentation of his evidence and the case was submitted for decision without any evidence on his part.
The prosecution presented the only witness: Police Officer 1 German Soreta (PO1 Soreta), the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation. The other prosecution witness, PO1 Armalito Magumcia (PO1 Magumcia), failed to appear in court despite subpoenas sent to him; thus, his testimony was considered waived in an Order dated 26 April 2005.
The prosecution summed up its version of the facts: On 22 August 2003, at around 11:30 in the morning, the San Juan Police Station Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) through PO1 Soreta received an information via text message that sale of shabu was in progress at the house of a person named Joel Gaspar, appellant in this case, located at No. 26-A Third Street Barangay West Crame, San Juan.
PO1 Soreta immediately informed the head of the DEU, Police Inspector Ricardo Marso (Inspector Marso), regarding the message received. Inspector Marso then directed PO1 Soreta, PO1 Magumcia, PO1 Jeffrey Timado, and PO1 Dave Loterte to verify the report and, if necessary, to conduct a buy-bust operation. Inspector Marso gave PO1 Soreta, as poseur-buyer, two one-hundred peso bills to be used as buy-bust money. After coordinating with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on the planned buy-bust operation, the police officers proceeded to the target area.
Upon reaching the house of Gaspar, the police officers saw two persons just outside the door. One was later identified as Gaspar, who handed something to the other, later identified as San Antonio. After San Antonio left Gaspar's house, the police officers stopped San Antonio and asked him, "Anong inabot sa iyo?" San Antonio replied, "Bakit?" The police officers said, "Pulis kami." San Antonio opened his hand and there was a sachet of shabu. The police officers immediately arrested San Antonio. PO1 Soreta and PO1 Magumcia informed San Antonio of his constitutional rights and turned him over to PO1 Timario.
PO1 Soreta then approached Gaspar, who was already about to enter the house, and told him "Joel pa-iskor naman ng dalawang piso." Gaspar went out and asked for payment. After receiving the amount of P200.00, Gaspar took out from his right pocket a small transparent plastic sachet and handed it to PO1 Soreta. PO1 Soreta introduced himself as a police officer and arrested and handcuffed Gaspar. The other police officers then rushed to the scene and assisted PO1 Soreta.
The police officers recovered from Gaspar's possession two other small transparent plastic sachets, as well as drug paraphernalia inside the house, which were in plain view from the widely open door. Gaspar and San Antonio were brought to the San Juan Police Station for investigation and filing of charges. The plastic sachets and drug paraphernalia recovered were appropriately marked and brought by PO1 Antazo to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for examination. PO1 Soreta also executed an Affidavit of Arrest narrating the circumstances which led to Gaspar's apprehension.
Based on Chemistry Report No. D-1618-03-E dated 22 August 2003, Forensic Chemist Isidro Cariño found the recovered sachets positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
The defense, on the other hand, presented Gaspar and Gloria Santiago (Santiago) as witnesses.
Gaspar testified that on 22 August 2003 at about 8:00 in the morning, while he was sleeping with his wife at home, he was awakened by a loud noise and saw two men in civilian attire armed with guns who said, "Mga pulis Crame kami." Gaspar asked the men what his offense was but they did not answer him and instead told him to stand up. Gaspar was then handcuffed by one while the other searched the house. The one who made the search, later identified as PO1 Soreta, who did not find anything illegal inside the house, told his companion, later identified as PO1 Magumcia, "Pare, dalhin natin sa Crame yan. Doon natin imbestigahan." PO1 Magumcia then told Gaspar, "Tara, sumama ka na."
At the San Juan Police Station, PO1 Soreta told Gaspar, "Dito, kaya kitang ilubog dito. Kung magbibigay ka ng treinta, wala na tayong pag-uusapan pa, wala kang kaso." Gaspar, believing that he did not commit any offense, told them to proceed with the filing of the charge. On 25 August 2003, Gaspar was brought for inquest. Here, Gaspar disclosed that he only came to know his co-accused San Antonio inside the jail.
To corroborate Gaspar's testimony, the defense presented Santiago, a neighbor of Gaspar's who was washing clothes outside her house when the incident occurred. Santiago testified that on 22 August 2003 at around 9:00 in the morning, she saw three persons in civilian clothes kick open the door of Gaspar's house. Two of them entered the house. Filled with fear, Santiago went inside her house and observed the incident from the window. After some time, she saw Gaspar being pulled out of his house. After the group left with Gaspar, Gaspar's wife asked Santiago to accompany her to Camp Crame. Upon reaching Camp Crame, they were told that Gaspar was not brought there. Later, they found out that Gaspar was brought to the San Juan Police Station, which they visited the next day. On cross-examination, Santiago admitted that she did not know what actually transpired inside the house since she only peeped through the window when the incident occurred.
In its Decision dated 3 February 2006, the RTC found Gaspar and San Antonio guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of RA 9165. The RTC stated that given the presumption of regularity in the performance of the police officers' official duty and absent any clear showing of bias, malice or ill-motive on the part of the prosecution witness, PO1 Soreta, the court gives credence to his testimony. The RTC added that the testimony of a single witness suffices to support a conviction if it is trustworthy and reliable, such as in this case. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
In Criminal Case No. 12840-D accused Joel Gaspar is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 5, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (Illegal Sale of Shabu), and is hereby sentenced to LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay a FINE of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 500,000.00).
In Criminal Case No. 12841-D accused Joel Gaspar is likewise found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 11, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (Illegal Possession of Shabu), and is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment from Twelve (12) Years and One (1) Day to Twenty (20) Years and to pay a FINE of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 300,000.00).
In Criminal Case No. 12842-D accused Joel Gaspar is also found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 12, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (Possession of Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs), and is hereby sentenced to Six (6) Months and One (1) Day to Four (4) Years imprisonment and to pay a FINE of Ten Thousand Pesos (PHP 10,000.00).
In Criminal Case No. 12843-D accused Leomar San Antonio is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 11, Article II, Republic Act 9165 (Illegal Possession of Shabu) and is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment from Twelve (12) Years and One (1) Day to Twenty (20) Years and to pay a FINE of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 300,000.00).
Considering the penalty imposed by the Court on accused Joel Gaspar relative to Criminal Case No. 12840-D, his immediate commitment to the National Penitentiary, New Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City, is hereby ordered.
Pursuant to Section 20 of Republic Act 9165, the amount of PHP 200.00 recovered from the accused Joel Gaspar representing the proceeds from the illegal sale of shabu is hereby ordered forfeited in favor of the government.
Again, pursuant to Section 21 of the same law, representatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are hereby ordered to take charge and have custody over the sachets of shabu and drug paraphernalia object of these cases for proper disposition.
Gaspar filed an appeal with the CA. Gaspar imputed the following errors on the RTC:
I. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING FULL CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE PROSECUTION'S LONE WITNESS AND IN DISREGARDING THE THEORY OF THE DEFENSE.
II. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR VIOLATION OF SECTIONS 5, 11 & 12 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 DESPITE THE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO OVERTHROW THE CONSTITUTIONAL PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE IN HIS FAVOR.
In a Decision dated 16 March 2010, the CA affirmed with modification the decision of the RTC. The CA found that the prosecution fully discharged its burden of establishing all the elements of the crimes charged. The CA stated that the prosecution was able to prove that the chain of custody of the seized prohibited drugs remained intact from the time the drugs were recovered until they were submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory for testing. As a result, the integrity and evidentiary value of the drugs seized from Gaspar were duly proven not to have been compromised. The CA added that the corpus delicti and the other elements of the crimes charged were sufficiently established by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, the evidence presented by the prosecution prevails over the defense of frame-up alleged by Gaspar, which was not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal of accused-appellant Joel Gaspar y Wilson is DENIED. The Decision dated 3 February 2006 of the Regional trial Court, Branch 70, Pasig City convicting accused-appellant Joel Gaspar y Wilson of Violation of Sections 5, 11, and 12, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in Criminal Case Nos. 12840-D, 12841-D and 12842-D is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION on the penalty imposed to wit:
In Criminal Case No. 12840-D accused-appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay a FINE of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 500,000.00).
In Criminal Case No. 12841-D accused-appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of TWELVE (12) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY as minimum to FIFTEEN (15) YEARS as maximum and to pay a fine of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P300,000.00), as provided in Section 11, Article II, RA No. 9165; and
In Criminal Case No. 12842-D accused-appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of SIX (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY, as minimum, to TWO (2) YEARS and SEVEN (7) MONTHS, as maximum and to pay a fine of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00), as provided in Section 12, Article II, RA No. 9165.
Appellant Gaspar now comes before the Court, submitting that the Decision dated 16 March 2010 of the CA is contrary to facts, law and applicable jurisprudence.
The appeal lacks merit.
At the outset, we reiterate the fundamental rule that findings of the trial court, which are factual in nature and which involve the credibility of witnesses, are accorded respect when no glaring errors, gross misapprehension of facts or speculative, arbitrary and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such findings. This rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are sustained by the Court of Appeals, like in the present case.
In a successful prosecution for offenses involving the illegal sale of dangerous drugs under Section 5, Article II of RA 9165, the following elements must concur: (1) the identities of the buyer and seller, object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment for it. What is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti.
In Criminal Case No. 12840-D, all these elements were present. PO1 Soreta testified that he was the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation conducted and identified Gaspar as seller of the plastic sachet containing shabu in exchange for a consideration of P200.00. The sale was consummated after the exchange of buy-bust money and plastic sachet occurred. In People v. Encila, we held that the delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapment officers and the accused. The crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs is committed as soon as the sale transaction is consummated.
On the other hand, under Section 11, Article II of RA 9165, the elements of the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.
Again, in Criminal Case No. 12841-D, all of these elements were duly proven. PO1 Soreta properly identified appellant as the one he transacted with in the buy-bust operation and later arrested after the sale took place. After being arrested in flagrante delicto, the police officers found in appellant's possession two small transparent plastic sachets each containing 0.04 gram of shabu, a prohibited drug, which appellant was not authorized to possess.
Next, appellant asserts that the recovery of the drug paraphernalia seen from outside the house because of the widely open door is unbelievable since no person in his right mind would display the same for anyone to see.
We disagree. Drug pushing, especially the ones done on a small scale, happens instantly. The illegal transaction takes place after the offer to buy is accepted and the exchange is made. Since Gaspar was already about to enter the house, he may not have intended to keep the door open when PO1 Soreta approached him to carry out a sale transaction. Thus, at the time the arrest was made, it would not have been improbable for the drug paraphernalia to be seen from outside because of the open door.
Appellant also claims that it is highly unlikely that PO1 Soreta could have easily bought shabu from him given that PO1 Soreta is a complete stranger.
In drug related cases, what is relevant is the agreement and acts constituting the sale and delivery of the dangerous drug between the seller and buyer and not the existing familiarity between them. It is of common knowledge that pushers, especially small-time dealers, peddle prohibited drugs in the open like any articles of commerce. Drug pushers do not confine their nefarious trade to known customers and complete strangers are accommodated provided they have the money to pay. Thus, it is not improbable that Gaspar sold shabu to a complete stranger like PO1 Soreta who presented himself as a buyer.
Appellant further insists that the courts relied mainly on the version of the prosecution's lone witness and placed more weight on the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty instead of the accused's right to be presumed innocent.
In People v. De Guzman, we held that in cases involving violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act, credence is given to prosecution witnesses who are police officers for they are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner, unless there is evidence to the contrary suggesting ill-motive on the part of the police officers. Here, appellant failed to show that the police officers deviated from the regular performance of their duties. Appellant's defense of denial is weak and self-serving. Unless corroborated by other evidence, it cannot overcome the presumption that the police officers have performed their duties in a regular and proper manner.
Also, while an accused in a criminal case is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the evidence of the prosecution must stand on its own strength and not rely on the weakness of the evidence of the defense. In this case, the quantum of evidence necessary to prove appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt had been sufficiently met. Thus, the prosecution was able to overcome appellant's constitutional right to be presumed innocent.
In sum, we find no cogent reason to depart from the decision of the RTC and CA. Gaspar is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Sections 5, 11 and 12, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165.
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the appeal. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 16 March 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02117.
Leonardo-De Castro,* Brion, Perez, and Sereno, JJ., concur.
*] Designated acting member per Special Order No. 1006 dated 10 June 2011.
 Rollo, pp. 2-15. Penned by Justice Florito S. Macalino with Justices Rosmari D. Carandang and Ramon M. Bato, Jr., concurring.
 CA rollo, pp. 21-30. Penned by Judge Pablito M. Rojas.
 Section 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions. x x x
 Section 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. - x x x Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be graduated as follows:
x x x
(3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) grams of opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or "ecstasy", PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana.
 Section 12. Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs. - The penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and a fine ranging from Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess or have under his/her control any equipment, instrument, apparatus and other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body x x x.
 An Act Instituting the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Repealing Republic Act No. 6425, Otherwise Known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, As Amended, Providing Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes. Approved on 23 January 2002 and took effect on 7 June 2002.
 CA rollo, pp. 11-18.
 Id. at 11.
 Id. at 13.
 Id. at 15.
 Id. at 17.
 Id. at 23-24.
 Id. at 26.
 Id. at 29-30.
 Id. at 49.
 Rollo, pp. 14-15.
 People v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 177569, 28 November 2007, 539 SCRA 306.
 People v. Politico, G.R. No. 191394, 18 October 2010, 633 SCRA 404, citing People v. Alberto, G.R. No. 179717, 5 February 2010, 611 SCRA 706.
 Supra note 17.
 G.R. No. 182419, 10 February 2009, 578 SCRA 341.
 People v. Lagata, 452 Phil. 846 (2003).
 People v. Merabueno, G.R. No. 87179, 14 December 1994, 239 SCRA 197.
 People v. Solon, 314 Phil. 495 (1995).
 Supra note 17.