[G.R. No. 149878. July 1, 2003
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiffappellee, v. TIU WON CHUA a.k.a. Timothy Tiu and QUI YALING y CHUA a.k.a. Sun Tee Sy y Chua, accusedappellant.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 27, convicting appellants Tiu Won Chua a.k.a. Timothy Tiu (Tiu Won) and Qui Yaling y Chua a.k.a. Sun Tee Sy y Chua (Qui Yaling) for violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.
Appellants were charged with the crime of illegal possession of a regulated drug, i.e., methamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as shabu, in an information which reads:
The undersigned accuses TIU WON CHUA aka Timothy Tiu and QUI YALING Y CHUA aka Sun Tee Sy Y Chua of violation of Section 16, Article III in relation to Section 2 (e-2), Article I of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Batas Pambansa Blg. 179 and as further amended by Republic Act No. 7659, committed as follows:
That on or about the 3rd day of October 1998, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused without being authorized by law to possess or use any regulated drug, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, knowingly and jointly have in their possession and under their custody and control the following, to wit:
A sealed plastic bag containing two three four point five (234.5) grams of white crystalline substance;
Four (4) separate sealed plastic bags containing six point two two four three (6.2243) grams of white crystalline substance;
Sixteen (16) separate sealed plastic bags containing twenty point three six seven three (20.3673) grams of white crystalline substance; or a total of 261.0916 grams, and;
An improvised tooter with traces of crystalline substance
known as SHABU containing methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without the corresponding license or prescription thereof.
Contrary to law.1cräläwvirtualibräry
During arraignment, a plea of not guilty was entered. Appellants, with the assistance of counsel, and the prosecution stipulated on the following facts:
1. The authenticity of the following documents:
a. The letter of Police Senior Inspector Angelo Martin of WPD, District Intelligence Division, United Nations Avenue, Ermita, Manila, dated October 12, 1998, to the Director of the NBI requesting the latter to conduct a laboratory examination of the specimen mentioned therein;
b. The Certification issued by Forensic Chemist Loreto Bravo of the NBI, dated October 13, 1998, to the effect that the specimen mentioned and enumerated therein gave positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride, Exhibit B; and
c. Dangerous Drug Report No. 98-1200 issued by Forensic Chemist Bravo, dated October 13, 1998, to the effect that the specimen mentioned therein gave positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride;
2. The existence of one plastic bag containing 234.5 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride, Exhibit D; four (4) plastic sachets also containing methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total net weight of 6.2243 grams, Exhibits E, E-1, E-2 and E-3; additional 16 plastic sachets containing methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total net weight of 20.3673 grams, Exhibits F, F-1 to F-15, and one improvised tooter with a length of 8 inches more or less and with a red plastic band, Exhibit G;
3. Forensic Chemist Loreto Bravo has no personal knowledge as to the source of the regulated drug in question; and
4. Tiu Won Chua and Qui Yaling y Chua as stated in the information are the true and correct names of the two accused.2cräläwvirtualibräry
The witnesses presented by the prosecution were SPO1 Anthony de
Leon, PO2 Artemio Santillan and PO3 Albert Amurao. Their testimonies show that
the police authorities, acting on an information that drug-related activities
were going on at the HCL Building, 1025 Masangkay St., Binondo, Manila,
surveyed the place on October 2, 3, 4 and 5, 1998. At about 10 p.m. of October
6, they conducted a test-buy operation, together with a Chinese-speaking asset.
They were able to buy
During the enforcement of the warrant, there were three (3) persons inside the apartment, namely, appellants Tiu Won and Qui Yaling, and a housemaid. The search was conducted on the sala and in the three (3) bedrooms of Unit 4-B. On top of a table inside the masters bedroom, one (1) big pack, containing 234.5 grams of shabu, was found inside a black leather mans handbag supposedly owned by Tiu Won, while sixteen (16) small packs of shabu weighing 20.3673 grams were found inside a ladys handbag allegedly owned by Qui Yaling. Also contained in the inventory were the following items: an improvised tooter, a weighing scale, an improvised burner and one rolled tissue paper.5 The authorities also searched a Honda Civic car bearing Plate No. WCP 157, parked along Masangkay Street, registered in the name of the wife of Tiu Won and found four (4) plastic bags containing 6.2243 grams of shabu, which were likewise confiscated. A gun in the possession of Tiu Won was also seized and made subject of a separate criminal case.
The defense presented appellants Tiu Won and Qui Yaling. They denied that Timothy Tiu and Tiu Won Chua are one and the same person. They presented papers and documents to prove that appellant is Tiu Won Chua and not Timothy Tiu, as stated in the search warrant. Tiu Won also claimed that he does not live in the apartment subject of the search warrant, alleging that he is married to a certain Emily Tan and is a resident of No. 864 Alvarado St., Binondo, Manila. Nonetheless, he admitted that his co-appellant, Qui Yaling, is his mistress with whom he has two children. Qui Yaling admitted being the occupant of the apartment, but alleged that she only occupied one room, while two other persons, a certain Lim and a certain Uy, occupied the other rooms. Both appellants denied that they were engaged in the sale or possession of shabu. They asserted that they are in the jewelry business and that at the time the search and arrest were made, the third person, whom the prosecution identified as a housemaid, was actually a certain Chin, who was there to look at some of the pieces of jewelry sold by Tiu Won. They also denied that a gun was found in the possession of Tiu Won.
Qui Yaling recalled that upon asking who was it knocking at the door of her apartment on October 12, the police authorities represented that they were electric bill collectors. She let them in. She was surprised when upon opening the door, around ten (10) policemen barged inside her unit. She, together with Tiu Won and Chin, was asked to remain seated in the sofa while the men searched each room. Tiu Won alleged that after a fruitless search, some of the policemen went out, but came back a few minutes later with another person. Afterwards, he was made to sign a piece of paper. Appellants also claimed that the policemen took their bags which contained money, the pieces of jewelry they were selling and even Qui Yalings cell phone. They both denied that shabu was discovered in the apartment during the search. Appellants were arrested and brought to the police station.
In a decision, dated August 15, 2001, the RTC found proof beyond
reasonable doubt of the guilt of the appellants and sentenced them to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua and
a fine of
Thus, appellants interpose this appeal raising the following assignment of errors:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE LEGAL DEFECTS OF THE SEARCH WARRANT USED BY THE POLICE OPERATIVES AGAINST BOTH ACCUSED.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION EVIDENCES (sic) WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXCLUDED AND DISREGARDED WHICH RESULTED IN THE ERRONEOUS CONVICTION OF BOTH ACCUSED.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING BOTH ACCUSED DESPITE THE ABSENCE OF PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE FACT THAT THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF BOTH ACCUSED WERE SERIOUSLY VIOLATED BY THE POLICE OPERATIVES.7cräläwvirtualibräry
These issues can be trimmed down to two i.e., the legality of the search warrant and the search and arrest conducted pursuant thereto, and the correctness of the judgment of conviction imposed by the RTC.
As regards the propriety of the search warrant issued in the name of Timothy Tiu, which did not include appellant Qui Yaling, appellants contend that because of this defect, the search conducted and consequently, the arrest, are illegal. Being fruits of an illegal search, the evidence presented cannot serve as basis for their conviction.
We beg to disagree. There are only four requisites for a valid warrant, i.e,: (1) it must be issued upon probable cause; (2) probable cause must be determined personally by the judge; (3) such judge must examine under oath or affirmation the complainant and the witnesses he may produce; and (4) the warrant must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.8 As correctly argued by the Solicitor General, a mistake in the name of the person to be searched does not invalidate the warrant,9 especially since in this case, the authorities had personal knowledge of the drug-related activities of the accused. In fact, a John Doe warrant satisfies the requirements so long as it contains a descriptio personae such as will enable the officer to identify the accused.10 We have also held that a mistake in the identification of the owner of the place does not invalidate the warrant provided the place to be searched is properly described.11cräläwvirtualibräry
Thus, even if the search warrant used by the police authorities did not contain the correct name of Tiu Won or the name of Qui Yaling, that defect did not invalidate it because the place to be searched was described properly. Besides, the authorities conducted surveillance and a test-buy operation before obtaining the search warrant and subsequently implementing it. They can therefore be presumed to have personal knowledge of the identity of the persons and the place to be searched although they may not have specifically known the names of the accused. Armed with the warrant, a valid search of Unit 4-B was conducted.
We affirm, however, the illegality of the search conducted on the car, on the ground that it was not part of the description of the place to be searched mentioned in the warrant. It is mandatory that for the search to be valid, it must be directed at the place particularly described in the warrant.12 Moreover, the search of the car was not incidental to a lawful arrest. To be valid, such warrantless search must be limited to that point within the reach or control of the person arrested, or that which may furnish him with the means of committing violence or of escaping.13 In this case, appellants were arrested inside the apartment, whereas the car was parked a few meters away from the building.
In a prosecution for illegal possession of a dangerous drug, it must be shown that (1) appellants were in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug, (2) such possession is not authorized by law, and (3) the appellants were freely and consciously aware of being in possession of the drug.14 We also note that the crime under consideration is malum prohibitum, hence, lack of criminal intent or good faith does not exempt appellants from criminal liability. Mere possession of a regulated drug without legal authority is punishable under the Dangerous Drugs Act.15cräläwvirtualibräry
In the case at bar, the prosecution has sufficiently proved that the packs of shabu were found inside Unit 4-B, HCL Building, 1025 Masangkay St., Binondo, Manila. Surveillance was previously conducted. Though no arrest was made after the successful test-buy operation, this does not destroy the fact that in a subsequent search, appellants were found in possession of shabu. The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses are consistent in that after the test-buy operation, they obtained a search warrant from Judge Makasiar, pursuant to which, they were able to confiscate, among others, several packs of shabu from a mans handbag and a ladies handbag inside a room in the unit subject of the warrant. Furthermore, the seizure of the regulated drug from Unit 4-B is proven by the Receipt for Property Seized16 signed by SPO1 de Leon, the seizing officer, Noel, the building administrator, and Joji Olarte, his wife, who were also present. De Leon attested to the truth and genuineness of the receipt which was not contradicted by the defense.
Be that as it may, we cannot sustain the trial courts decision attributing to both appellants the illegal possession of the same amount of shabu. We note that nowhere in the information is conspiracy alleged. Neither had it been proven during the trial. As such, we need to look at the individual amounts possessed by each appellant.
In his testimony, Tiu Won admitted ownership of the mans handbag where 234.5 grams of shabu were found, viz:
Q: During those ten to 20 minutes, what were those policemen doing inside that unit?
A: They went inside the rooms and started ransacking the drawers and everything. As a matter of fact, even handbags were searched by them.
Q: Whose handbags were searched?
A: My bag, the one I was carrying that day, with jewelry and checks and others were taken by them.17 (emphasis supplied)
Qui Yaling, in her appellants brief, denied owning the handbag where 20.3673 grams of shabu were discovered. However, during her testimony, she admitted its ownership, viz:
Q: Now, the police testified before this court that you has (sic) a bag and when they searched this bag, it yielded some sachets of shabu(.) (W)hat can you say about that?
A: That is an absolute lie, sir. What they saw in my bag were my cosmetics.18 (emphasis supplied)
An admission is an act or declaration of a party as to the existence of a relevant fact which may be used in evidence against him.19 These admissions, provided they are voluntary, can be used against appellants because it is fair to presume that they correspond with the truth, and it is their fault if they do not.20
Qui Yaling likewise argues that the lower court erred in attributing ownership of the handbag to her considering that there was another girl present at the apartment during the search. She contends that since the prosecution was not able to establish the ownership of the bag, then such could have also been owned by Chin.
We do not subscribe to this argument. The defense failed to bring Chin to court, although during the course of the presentation of their evidence, they manifested their intention to present her testimony. Furthermore, a visitor does not normally leave her bag lying anywhere, much more in the masters bedroom. Being the occupant of the apartment, it is more logical to presume that the handbag belongs to Qui Yaling. The failure of the prosecution to present the bags and proofs that the bags belong to the appellants is immaterial because the bags, the license of Tiu Won found inside the mans handbag and the passport of Qui Yaling found inside the ladies handbag are not illegal. Having no relation to the use or possession of shabu, the authorities could not confiscate them for they did not have the authority to do so since the warrant authorized them to seize only articles in relation to the illegal possession of shabu.21 Not within their control, they could not have been presented in court.
We now come to the penalties of the appellants. R. A. No. 6425, as amended by R. A. No. 7659, applies. Thus, since 234.5 grams of shabu were found inside the mans handbag, deemed to be owned by Tiu Won, he is guilty of violating Section 16, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, while Qui Yaling, whose handbag contained only 20.3673 grams of shabu is guilty of violating Section 20 thereof. Section 16, in connection with Section 20 (1st paragraph), provides the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos where the amount of shabu involved is 200 grams or more. Where the amount is less than 200 grams, Section 20 punishes the offender with the penalty ranging from prision correccional to reclusion perpetua.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the
decision of RTC Br. 27, Manila as to the penalty of appellant Tiu Won is
affirmed, while that of appellant Qui Yaling is modified. Tiu Won Chua is
sentenced to a penalty of reclusion
perpetua, and a fine of five hundred thousand pesos (
Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
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