January 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 210454, January 13, 2016 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. RONALDO CASACOP Y AMIL, Accused-Appellant.
G.R. No. 210454, January 13, 2016
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. RONALDO CASACOP Y AMIL, Accused-Appellant.
R E S O L U T I O N
On appeal is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 10 July 2013 in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 05055 affirming the conviction by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 93 of appellant Ronaldo Casacop y Amil for violation of Sections 5, 11 and 12 of Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.
Appellant was charged with the crime following a "buy-bust" operation. The accusatory portion of the Information against appellant reads:
Criminal Case No. 5485-SPL
On July 21, 2005, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court the said above-named accused not being authorized/permitted by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, control and custody dangerous drugs paraphernalia such as one (1) rolled aluminum foil strip and one (1) improvised "tooter," both positive of traces 'shabu'.2chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Criminal Case No. 5486-SPL
On July 21, 2005, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court above-named accused without the authority of law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control two (2) small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE, commonly known as shabu, a dangerous drug, with a total weight of zero point nineteen (0.19) gram.3chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Criminal Case No. 5487-SPL
On July 21, 2005, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court the said accused without any legal authority, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously in consideration of three (3) pieces one-hundred peso bill, sell, pass and deliver to a police poseur-buyer one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet of METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE weighing zero point zero six (0.06) gram.4chanrobleslaw
When arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued.
Acting on a tip from an informant that a. certain Edong was selling shabu in Quezon Street, Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna, the Chief of Police of San Pedro Police Station, Police Superintendent Sergio Dimandal formed a team to conduct surveillance on appellant. Upon receiving a positive result, Senior Police Officer 4 Melchor Dela Pena (SPO4 Dela Pena) prepared a pre-operation report which was sent to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).5chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SPO4 Dela Pena then formed a buy-bust team composed of Police Officer 1 Jifford Signap (POl Signap) as the poseur-buyer, SPO2 Diosdado Fernandez, SPO1 Jorge Jacob and POl Rommel Bautista, as police backup." Thereafter, the buy-bust team proceeded to the target area. POl Signap and the informant approached appellant's house. PO1 Signap was introduced to appellant by the informant as the buyer of shabu. He handed the marked money, consisting of three (3) P100.00 bills, to appellant, who took a plastic sachet from his left pocket and gave it to him. POl Signap made the prearranged signal of calling SPO4 Dela Pena. The backup team rushed towards appellant's house and arrested him. PO1 Signap frisked appellant and recovered an improvised glass tooter, aluminum foil strip, cigarette lighter, two (2) small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets, and the marked money. PO1 Signap conducted a physical inventory of the seized items and correspondingly marked them in appellant's house.6chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thereafter, appellant was brought to the police station. Thereat, SPO4 Dela Pena prepared a certificate of inventory.7 A request letter8 was sent to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime laboratory for the examination of the seized items. Forensic Chemist Donna Villa P. Huelgas issued Chemistry Report No. D-808-059 which confirmed the seized items as positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
Appellant, for his part, denied the charges of possession of shabu and its paraphernalia and sale of shabu. Appellant testified that he was urinating at the back of his house on 21 July 2005 at around 12:00 pm when five (5) police officers barged into his house. After confirming that he is Edong, appellant was handcuffed and brought to the police station. Appellant claimed that the police only planted evidence against him because they were not able to pin him down in a robbery case.
On 7 January 2011, the RTC rendered a Decision10 finding appellant guilty of all the charges against him. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby renders judgment:
1) Finding accused Ronaldo Casacop y Amil guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section 12 of Republic Act No. 9165 otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in Criminal Case No. 5485-SPL, hereby sentencing him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment from two (2) years as minimum to four (4) years as maximum, to pay a fine in the amount of Twenty Thousand (P20,000.00) Pesos, and to pay the costs. 2) Finding accused Ronaldo Casacop y Amil guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of violation of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in Criminal Case No. 5486-SPL, hereby sentencing him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from twelve (12) years and one (1) day as minimum to fifteen (15) years as maximum and to pay a fine in the amount of P300,000.00. 3) Finding accused Ronaldo Casacop y Amil guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in Criminal Case No. 5487-SPL, and hereby sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) Pesos and to pay the costs.
The drugs paraphernalia such as one (1) rolled aluminum foil strip and one (1) improvised "tooter", the 0.19 and 0.06 grams (sic) of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "shabu" which constitutes the instrument in the commission of the crime is confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government. The Branch Clerk of Court of this Court is hereby directed to immediately transmit the drugs paraphernalia such as one (1) rolled aluminum strip and one (1) improvised "tooter", the 0.19 and 0.06 grams (sic) of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride "shabu" to the Dangerous Drugs Board for proper disposition.11chanrobleslaw
Appellant seasonably filed a Notice of Appeal before the Court of Appeals. On 10 July 2013, the appellate court affirmed in toto the judgment of the RTC.
Appellant appealed his conviction before this Court, adopting the same arguments in his Brief12 before the Court of Appeals.
Appellant asserts that the chain of custody of the object evidence was never established. Moreover, appellant claims that Section 21 (a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165 was not complied with.
For the successful prosecution of a case for illegal sale of shabu, the following elements must be proven: (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.13 On the other hand, in prosecuting a case for illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the following elements must concur: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified as a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.14chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In this case, all the elements for the illegal sale of shabu were established. POl Signap, the poseur-buyer, positively identified appellant as the person who sold him the white crystalline substance in one plastic sachet which was later proven to be positive for shabu. In exchange for this plastic sachet; PO1 Signap handed the marked money a.s payment. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt by the seller of the marked money successfully consummated the buy-bust transaction.15chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
All the elements in the prosecution for illegal possession of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia were likewise established. Found in appellant's pocket after he was caught in flagrante were two (2) more plastic sachets containing shabu, an improvised glass tooter containing shabu residue and the rolled aluminum foil with shabu residue. Under Rule 126, Section 13, a person lawfully arrested may be searched for anything which may have been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a warrant. There was no showing that appellant had legal authority to possess the shabu and its paraphernalia. Moreover, the fact that these contraband were found in his physical possession shows that he freely and consciously possessed them.
The dangerous drug itself, the shabu in this case, constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and in sustaining a conviction under R.A. No. 9165, the identity and integrity of the corpus delicti must definitely be shown to have been preserved.16chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Records show that PO1 Signap recovered from appellant three (3) plastic sachets of shabu, a glass tooter and aluminum foil. These items were marked and inventoried in the house of appellant and in his presence. Thereafter, these seized items were brought to the police station where a request for qualitative examination was made. SPO4 Dela Peņa signed the request and it was sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory. Police Senior Inspector and Forensic Chemist Donna Villa P. Huelgas conducted the examination. Thus, the chain of custody was clearly accounted for.
As the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items to establish the corpus delicti were proven, substantial compliance with Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 will suffice.
The Court of Appeals successfully rebutted appellant's argument that the. police officers failed to comply with procedure in the seizure and custody of the dangerous drugs, thus:
Appellant contends that the police officers failed to comply with the provisions of paragraph 1, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 for the proper procedure in the custody and disposition of the seized drugs. This cotention is untenable. It appears from the testimony of PO1 Signap during direct and cross-examination, as appreciated and contained in the decision of the court a quo, that after PO1 Signap showed the three (3) marked one hundred peso (PI00.00) bills, appellant brought out a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance which was later found out to contain "shabu," a dangerous drug. Two (2) more plastic sachets containing "shabu" and other drug paraphernalia were recovered from appellant after he was bodily searched. Thereafter, the apprehending team, before proceeding to the Police Station, had the seized drugs and drug paraphernalia inventoried and marked at appellant's house in his presence. At the said station, SPO4 Dela Pena prepared a Certification of Inventory as to the items seized from appellant. The said certification was signed by one representative from the media by the name of Edward Pelayo. A Booking Sheet/Arrest Report was issued to appellant and a letter request was sent to the PNP, Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba City, Crime Laboratory Office for examination of the seized plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance.17chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
All told, it has been established by proof beyond reasonable doubt that appellant sold and possessed shabu and shabu paraphernalia. Under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, the penalty of life imprisonment to death and fine ranging from P500,000.00 to 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. For the crime of illegal sale of shabu, appellant was properly sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of P500,000.00.
Appellant was also caught in possession of 0.19 gram of shabu. The crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs is punished under Section 11, paragraph 2(3), Article II of R.A. No. 9165, which provides an 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 methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
Section 12, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 provides that 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 any other paraphernalia fit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering, injecting, ingesting, or introducing any dangerous drug into the body.
We sustain the penalty imposed by the RTC and affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the crime of illegal possession of shabu.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 10 July 2013 of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of appellant Ronaldo Casacop y Amil by the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 93, for violation of Sections 5, 11 and 12 of Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 is hereby AFFIRMED.
Sereno, C.J., (Chairman), Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.
1Rollo, pp. 2-11; Penned by Associate Justice Sesinando E. Villon with Associate Justices Florito S. Macalino and Pedro B. Corales concurring.
2 Records, p. 1.
3 Id. at 16.
4 Id. at 31.
5 TSN, 3 December 2007, pp. 4-8; Testimony of SPO4 Dela Pena.
6 TSN, 3 August 2009, pp. 5-6; Testimony of PO1 Signap.
7 Records, p. 26.
8 Id. at 40.
9 Id. at 45.
10 Id. at 168-171; Presided by Judge Francisco Dizon Pano.
11 Id. at 171.
12 CA rollo, pp. 35-53.
13People v. Opiana, G.R. No. 200797, 12 January 2015.
14People v. Monlevirgen, G.R. No. 189840, 11 December 2013, 712 SCRA 459, 468.
15People v. Manalao, G.R. No. 187496 , 6 February 2013, 690 SCRA 106, 116 citing People v. Legaspi, 677 Phil. 181 92011).
16People v. Abelong, G.R. No. 209785, 4 June 2014, 725 SCRA 304, 319 citing People v. Climaco, G.R. No. 199403, 13 June 2013, 672 SCRA 631, 641.
17Rollo, p. 8.