G.R. No. 211199, March 25, 2015
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. RANDY ROLLO Y LAGASCA, Defendant and Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 18 September 2013 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04507 affirming the conviction by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Camiling, Tarlac, Branch 68 of appellant Randy Rollo y Lagasca for violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer life imprisonment and to pay a P500,000.00 fine.
Appellant was charged following a “buy-bust” operation. The accusatory portion of the Information against appellant reads:
That on or about June 23, 2008 at around 6:30 o’clock in the evening in the Municipality of Camiling, Province of Talac, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell two (2) transparent plastic sachet[s] containing white crystalline substance believed to be Methamphetamine Hydro Chloride (sic) known also as “shabu” weighing 0.021 grams, a dangerous drug without being authorized by law.2
That on June 23, 2008 at about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, a concerned citizen appeared to our office and reported that a certain RANDY ROLLO Y LAGASCA is a notorious peddler of Dangerous drugs particularly Methamphetamine Hydrochloride commonly known as “Shabu” in their place at Paterno Street Poblacion “E”, Camiling, Tarlac;
That acting on the said report, our Group Director directed us to commence appropriate police operation to neutralize, arrest and file appropriate charges in court against him, if evidence warrants;
That our Group Director coordinated to PDEA 3 with Coordination Form Control Number 06-08-0076 dated 231537H June 2008 and conducted buy bust operation to the target suspect;
That we planned strategies in the conduct of police operation against our subject; that we prepared proper documentation prior to our operation including markings of the buy bust money to be used consisting of one (1) Five hundred peso bill bearing serial number SH474713 and will conduct a drug buy bust operation wherein I, PO3 Rudy F. Verdadero and PO1 Ryan V. Ayad will as poseur buyers while other elements will be posted strategically at the vicinity of the said place to act as back up and perimeter security and augment our poseur buyers to effect the arrest of the suspect;
That as also planned, a prepared pre arrange signal will be used during the operation wherein I, PO1 Ryan V. Ayad will remove [the] handkerchief tied in my forehead which connotes that the transaction has been consummated;
That at about 4:30 in the afternoon of June 23, 2008 our team led by P1 RONIE G. ASTRERO proceeded at said place and arrived thereat at about 4:45 in the afternoon of the same date and we position ourselves strategically at the vicinity of our target place;
That at about 5:15 in the afternoon of the same date, we PO3 Rudy F. Verdadero and PO1 Ryan V. Ayad arrived at our target RANDY ROLLO Y LAGASCA who was then standing in front of Sari-Sari Store along Arellano Street Poblacion “E”, Camiling, Tarlac[;]
That at about 6:00 o’clock in the afternoon of the same date, got a brief conversation with our subject I, PO1 Ryan V. Ayad gave the marked money to RANDY ROLLO Y LAGASCA who in turn handed to me one (1) piece of transparent plastic heat sealed sachet of Shabu;
That at this juncture, I, PO1 Ryan V. Ayad signalled our back up by removing the handkerchief tied in my forehead, thereafter, they immediately responded and subsequently held our subject RANDY ROLLO Y LAGASCA;
That we introduced ourselves to the suspect as members of 312nd PMG and at the same time showed our police identification cards to him;
That at this juncture, we PO3 Rudy F. Verdadero and PO1 Ryan V. Ayad requested RANDY ROLLO Y. LAGASCA to bring out the contents of his pocket wherein one (1) empty transparent plastic sachet containing “Shabu” residues and one (1) disposable lighter including the one (1) Five Hundred Peso bill marked money bearing serial number SH474713 were recovered;
That we apprised the suspect of his constitutional right and further informed him the reason of his arrest and the nature of his offense in a dialect known to and understood by him. At the same time, subsequently brought to our Group Headquarters together with the confiscated evidence for proper disposition;14
PROS. GUARDIANO: Q: After the planned, what did you do if any? A: After having that plan we proceeded to the place/area upon the person of Randy Rollo while the group back up posted as perimeter security near the vicinity of the suspect, sir. Q: Did you reach the place of Randy Rollo? A: Yes, sir. Q: You said, “we”, who was your companion? A: PO1 Ryan Ayad, sir. Q: What was the specific task of Ryan Ayad? A: He acted as poseur buyer that time, sir. Q: There is a pre-arranged signal, am I correct? A: Yes, sir. Q: What is the signal, Mr. witness? A: During that incident, PO1 Ayad signaled our back up by removing [the] handkerchief tied on his forehead, sir. Q: What is that mean? A: [T]hat the transaction has been consummated, sir. Q: After that, what happened? A: We introduced ourselves as policeman, sir. Q: To whom that signal is addressed to? A: To me, sir – sa akin. Q: When you said, you introduced yourselves to the suspect-accused? A: Yes, sir. Q: In effect, why you introduced yourselves to this suspect? A: Yes, sir in order to apprehend him, sir. Q: And you arrested this person? A: Yes, sir. Q: Who was that person again whom you arrested? A: Randy Rollo Y Lagasca, sir. Q: If he is inside the Courtroom, can you point to him? A: Yes, sir. Q: May I know the name of that person pointed to by the accused? x x x x PROS. GUARDIANO: May I manifest that the person pointed to by the witness is the same person charged and arraigned in this case, your Honor. THE COURT: Manifestation duly Noted. PROS. GUARDIANO: Q: What did you discover from the accused? A: One (1) plastic heat sealed sachet of shabu, sir. Q: From whom did this shabu come from? A: PO1 Ayad, sir. Q: What thing did you discover from Randy Rollo, from his possession? A: Marked money Five Hundred peso bill sir. Q: Are you referring to this photograph of Php500 peso bill with Serial Number SH474713? A: Yes sir, this is the one.15
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.
a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case or warrantless arrest; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.
Indeed, to erase all doubts as to the identity of the seized drugs, it is important to adhere to the so-called chain of custody rule where the prosecution should establish the following links: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug seized from the forensic chemist to the court.
In this case, the prosecution was able to sufficiently establish every link in the chain of custody, as well as the integrity of the corpus delicti. As testified to by PO3 Verdadero and PO1 Ayad, after the arrest and confiscation of the items, they immediately brought Accused-Appellant to Camp Makabulos, Tarlac City where the investigator at the station, SPO1 Jorge Caoagdan marked the seized items with the initials “RRL1” and “RRL2” in the presence of PO1 Ayad. From the investigating officer, the seized items were turned over to the forensic chemist PSI Jebie Timario [for] laboratory examination. After examination, PSI Timario also placed her own markings on the said seized items. On the witness stand, PSI Timario declared that the items shown to her were the same items which she received from Pereja in the presence of Police Officer Dinoy. Lastly, PO3 Verdadero testified that the items presented in court were the very same items that they seized during the buy-bust operation.
The foregoing facts clearly established that there was substantial compliance with the law, and the integrity of the drugs seized from Accused-Appellant was well preserved. The chain of custody of the drugs subject matter of the case was shown no to have been broken. Absent any missing link in the chain of custody of the seized drug items and absent any showing that substantial or relevant facts bearing on the elements of the crime have been misapplied or overlooked, [w]e can only accord full credence to such factual assessment of the Regional Trial Court which had the distinct advantage of observing the demeanor and conduct of the witnesses at the trial.20
1Rollo, pp. 2-15; Penned by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam with Associate Justices Romeo F. Barza and Ramon A. Cruz, concurring.
2 Records, p. 1.
3 Id. at 3; Joint Affidavit of Arrest.
4 TSN, 11 December 2009, p. 6.
5 Records, pp. 3-4.
6 TSN, 5 February 2009, pp. 4-5.
7 TSN, 9 July 2009, pp. 4-9.
8 Records, p. 12.
9 TSN, 21 May 2009, pp. 4-5.
10 TSN, 12 November 2009, pp. 2-8.
11Rollo, p. 16.
12Quelnan v. People, 553 Phil. 618, 637 (2007).
13People v. Montevirgen, G.R. No. 189840, 11 December 2013, 712 SCRA 459, 467; People v. Lorenzo, 633 Phil. 393, 402 (2010).
14 Records, pp. 3-4.
15 TSN, 11 December 2009, pp. 5-7.
16People v. Ocfemia, G.R. No. 185383, 25 September 2013, 706 SCRA 312, 333-334.
17People v. Presas, 659 Phil. 503, 516-517 (2011).
18 Records, p. 10.
19People v. Fang, G.R. No. 199874, 23 July 2014; People v. Monceda, G.R. No. 176269, 13 November 2013, 709 SCRA 355, 709-710.
20Rollo, pp. 12-13.
21People v. Gani, G.R. No. 198318, 27 November 2013, 711 SCRA 78, 93.