Home of ChanRobles Virtual Law Library

 

Home of Chan Robles Virtual Law Library

www.chanrobles.com

G.R. No. 205202, June 09, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NENITA GAMATA Y VALDEZ, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 205202, June 09, 2014 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NENITA GAMATA Y VALDEZ, Accused-Appellant.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 205202, June 09, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NENITA GAMATA Y VALDEZ, Accused-Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

REYES, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated May 11, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04839 which affirmed the Decision2 dated September 15, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 64 in Criminal Case Nos. 06-1344 to 1345 finding Nenita Gamata y Valdez (accused-appellant) guilty in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 for violating Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.

The Information in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 to which the accused-appellant pleaded “Not Guilty” contained the following accusations:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

That on or about the 25TH day of July 2006, in the City of Makati, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, give away, distribute and deliver to another, zero point zero three [0.03] gram of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride which is a dangerous drug, in exchange of Php.500.00 pesos.3 [sic]

Meanwhile, the information in Criminal Case No. 06-1345 indicted the accused-appellant for illegal possession of 0.14 gram of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, an act punishable under Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.4 Considering, however, that the accused-appellant was acquitted by the RTC of such criminal charge, the present discussion shall concern only Criminal Case No. 06-1344.

During trial, the prosecution presented the testimonies of Police Officer 2 Renie Aseboque (PO2 Aseboque), Noel Pulido (Pulido) and Juan Siborboro, Jr., both operatives of the Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council (MADAC), and Police Inspector May Andrea Bonifacio (P/Insp. Bonifacio), Forensic Chemist of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory. Their declarations depicted the following events:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

On July 25, 2006, an information was received by Senior Inspector Joefel Felongco Siason (S/Insp. Siason) of the Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (SAIDSOTF), Makati City, from a confidential asset of the MADAC that rampant illegal drug peddling in Laperal Compound, Barangay Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City was being carried out by the accused-appellant, Jun Gamata (Jun), Toto Madera and Totoy Pajayjay. Apparently, their names are also included in the watch list of the MADAC.

Forthwith, a team composed of SAIDSOTF police officers and MADAC operatives was formed to conduct a buy-bust operation against the said subjects. During the briefing, PO2 Aseboque was designated as the poseur-buyer while the rest of the team members were assigned to be his back-up. The operation was coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) under Pre-Coordination Sheet Control Number MMRO-072506-0212 duly acknowledged to have been received by PO1 Nemencio V. Domingo of the PDEA.5 One piece of a P500.00 bill was also marked for use in the operation.6

At around 4:30 p.m., the team, together with the confidential informant, proceeded to the subject area. The team members positioned themselves in spots where they can monitor the possible transaction. Meanwhile, PO2 Aseboque and the informant walked towards Laperal Compound and thereupon noticed a woman clad in white t-shirt and maong pants. The informant identified her to PO2 Aseboque as the accused-appellant.

The two of them then approached the accused-appellant whom PO2 Aseboque queried as to the whereabouts of Jun. In response, the accused-appellant said that Jun was not around and that “kami nandito lang, bakit kukuha ba kayo?” PO2 Aseboque comprehended her response as the street language used in the dealing of dangerous drugs and that she actually meant that she was selling shabu if they wanted to buy one. PO2 Aseboque repeated his query to which the accused-appellant replied, “Wag niyo ng hintayin si Jun, ako meron.” PO2 Aseboque took her response as a confirmation that she was indeed selling shabu. He then asked her if she had P500.00 worth of shabu. The accused-appellant took out one plastic sachet from her right pocket and handed it over to PO2 Aseboque who in turn examined its contents and thereafter handed the buy-bust money to the accused-appellant. As she was placing the money inside her pocket, PO2 Aseboque made the pre-arranged signal to his buy-bust team mates by lighting a cigarette.

Upon seeing MADAC operative Pulido rushing towards the scene, PO2 Aseboque held the accused-appellant and introduced himself as a police officer. He directed her to empty the contents of her pockets but she refused. This prompted PO2 Aseboque to order Pulido to dig into the accused-appellant’s pockets. Pulido complied and discovered three more pieces of transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance suspected as shabu along with the buy-bust money and P120.00 of the accused-appellant’s personal money.

The accused-appellant was then informed of her constitutional rights while the sachet she sold to PO2 Aseboque was immediately marked by the latter with his initials “REA” while those recovered by Pulido were marked with “REA-1”, “REA-2”, and “REA-3”. At the crime scene, PO2 Aseboque also prepared an Acknowledgment Receipt7 which he and the arresting team signed.

The accused-appellant and the seized evidence were subsequently brought to the Makati SAIDSOTF office where they were turned over to PO2 Rafael Castillo (PO2 Castillo) for investigation, interrogation and proper disposition. At the same office, PO2 Aseboque executed an Affidavit of Arrest8 and a Supplemental Affidavit.

Along with a Request for Laboratory Examination9 prepared by S/Insp. Siason, Pulido brought the seized specimens to the PNP Crime Laboratory. The same were received by a certain Relos, officer of the day, in the presence of Crime Laboratory Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Bonifacio.

P/Insp. Bonifacio conducted the necessary tests on the subject specimens and the results thereof yielded positive results for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. Thereafter, she tagged each item with tape markings and reduced her findings in Physical Science Report Number D-506-06S.10 She then turned over the specimens to the evidence custodian from whom she later on retrieved them upon the instructions of the prosecutor after the filing of criminal informations against the accused-appellant.11

The defense refuted all of the above occurrences and claimed, through the testimony of the accused-appellant, that at around 3:00 p.m. of July 25, 2006, she had just finished taking a bath when she heard someone banging the door of her house in Laperal Compound. When she opened the door, five armed men in civilian clothing greeted her and asked for Jun, her brother-in-law. When she answered them that she did not know Jun’s whereabouts, they began searching her house. Since Jun actually resides at about five houses away from hers, the armed men were unable to locate him at the accused-appellant’s house. They then handcuffed the accused-appellant and loaded her in a van where she saw her neighbor, Alaw, and a certain Jonalyn Silvano. The three of them were brought to the SAIDSOTF office where the accused-appellant was shown items that will be used as evidence against her.12

In a Decision13 dated September 15, 2010, the RTC sustained the prosecution’s version and held that the pieces of evidence submitted established the presence of the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, viz: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, object and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. Both elements were found present in the poseur-buyer’s positive identification of the accused-appellant as the person from whom he was able to purchase P500.00 worth of shabu.

The accused-appellant’s denial and alibi were rejected for being unsubstantiated. Her imputations of frame-up to the police officers were likewise found uncorroborated by convincing proof and thus overthrown by the presumption of regularity attached to the performance of the police officers’ official duties.

The RTC disposed thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, [judgment] is hereby rendered as follows:
  1. Finding the accused NENITA GAMATA y VALDEZ, GUILTY in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 of the charge for violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 and sentencing her to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (Php500,000.00);

  2. ACQUITTING the accused NENITA GAMATA y VALDEZ in Criminal Case No. 06-1345 of the charge for violation of Section 11, Article II of RA 9165.
SO ORDERED.14 (Emphasis ours)

On appeal, the accused-appellant argued for her acquittal on the ground that the identity of the drugs seized from her was not proved beyond reasonable doubt because the prosecution failed to supply all the links in the chain of their custody. She further pointed out the inconsistent testimonial and documentary evidence on the markings placed on the seized items. The accused-appellant also questioned the failure of the police officers to comply with the procedure laid down in Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 particularly, the preparation of the inventory and taking of photographs of the seized items.15

In a Decision16 dated May 11, 2012, the CA denied the appeal and concurred with the findings and conclusions of the RTC that the identities of the buyer and seller as well as the consummation of the sale of illegal drugs was proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution through the straightforward testimony of the poseur-buyer himself, PO2 Aseboque, as believably corroborated by two other members of the buy-bust team and by extensive documentary evidence. The CA rejected the accused-appellant’s arguments and held that the same were disproved by the evidence on record, thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Accused-appellant contends that while [PO2] Aseboque maintains that he had custody of the items seized from her, Pulido testified that he was the one who held the items recovered from accused-appellant. A careful perusal of the transcript of stenographic notes, however, reveals that there was actually no inconsistency as what Pulido testified to as the items that was with him were the ones he recovered from the pocket of the accused-appellant and not the one that was subject of the sale. x x x

x x x x

x x x [W]hen Pulido testified as to the seized items, he was referring to those sachets that he was able to fish out of the pocket of accused-appellant and he held on to the same as [PO2] Aseboque had his hands full trying to restrain accused-appellant. x x x Pulido corroborated [PO2] Aseboque’s statement that it was the latter who prepared the inventory of the items seized from the accused-appellant. x x x

x x x x

It is noted that the four sachets were already marked with the initial of the apprehending officer at the scene of the crime. The act was attested to by the rest of the arresting team and the markings were reflected in the acknowledgement report. Even if [PO2] Castillo failed to note in his spot report that the items were marked with the initial of [PO2] Aseboque, it could not be discounted that the items were the ones seized from the person of accused-appellant because if the same were different, the items that were turned over to the forensic chemist P/Insp. Bonifacio would not have borne the initial of [PO2] Aseboque considering that from the hands of [PO2] Castillo, the seized items were personally handed by him to Relos, who in turn gave the same to P/Insp. Bonifacio who was, likewise, present when [PO2] Castillo handed the items to Relos. Moreover, [P/Insp.] Bonifacio explained that there is actually no difference between the marking “REA” and “R.E.A.” x x x

x x x x

In addition, an examination of the letter request (Request for Laboratory Examination) shows that while the signatory mentioned that the item subject of the sale was marked as “REA”, when he attached the sachet to the request, the signatory made a handwritten reference to the attached specimen as “R.E.A.” To Our mind, the presence or absence of the punctuation marks is of no moment as the request was precisely clear that the items to be examined were the ones attached to the request itself.17 (Citation omitted)ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The CA also dismissed the accused-appellant’s contentions that the statutory procedure for the inventory and photograph of the seized items was not observed. The CA held that the absence of a media representative or an elected public official during the inventory was not material to overturn a conviction as it did not pertain to the elements of the crime charged. The CA further stressed that non-compliance with the inventory and photograph requirements will not render void and invalid the seizure and custody over the items.

Accordingly, the decision disposed as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DENIED and the appealed Decision dated September 15, 2010 rendered by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Makati City, in Criminal Case No. 06-1344 for Violation of Article II, Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.18cralawlawlibrary

The accused-appellant is now before the Court pleading for her acquittal based on the same arguments raised in her Appellant’s Brief before the CA.19

Ruling of the Court

The Court denies the appeal.

The arguments proffered in support of the accused-appellant’s plea for acquittal has already been exhaustively traversed by the CA and based on evidence on record, the Court finds no reversible error imputable to the appellate court and the trial court in finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal sale of shabu defined and penalized under Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.

Illegal sale of prohibited drugs is consummated at the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller. In a buy-bust operation, the crime is consummated when the police officer makes an offer to buy that is accepted by the accused, and there is an ensuing exchange between them involving the delivery of the dangerous drugs to the police officer.20 In order to successfully prosecute the offense, proof beyond reasonable doubt of two elements must be satisfied by the prosecution, viz: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the identity of the object and the consideration of the sale; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and of the payment for the thing.

As correctly ruled by the courts a quo, the presence of both requisites was clearly established by the testimony of the poseur-buyer himself, PO2 Aseboque, who positively testified that the illegal sale took place when he gave the P500.00 marked money to the accused-appellant in exchange for the shabu, thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WITNESS [PO2 Aseboque]: After I asked her if where is Jun, she told me that Jun is not around, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you do next?

WITNESS: She said: Kami nandito lang, bakit kukuha ba kayo?

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you understand by that?

WITNESS: It is a street language that they are using with dangerous drugs, so it is understood that we are going to buy shabu, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you reply, if any?

WITNESS: I asked her, “Si Jun wala ba?”

PROS. PAGGAO: Any answer from the woman?

WITNESS: She said, “Wag n’yo ng hintayin si Jun, ako meron.”

PROS. PAGGAO: What did you do?

WITNESS: I asked her if she has worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What was her reply, if any?

WITNESS: She told me that she has worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, after that, what did you do, if any?

WITNESS: She took one plastic sachet from her right pocket, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: What did she do with that?

WITNESS: She handed that to me, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, upon receiving the sachet of shabu, what did you do?

WITNESS: I checked it first if it has contents, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: After checking, what did you do?

WITNESS: I then handed the buy bust money worth Five Hundred Pesos, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: And, after she received the Five Hundred Pesos, what happened next?

WITNESS: While she is putting the buy bust money inside her pocket, I made the pre-arranged signal by lighting a cigarette, sir.

x x x x

PROS. PAGGAO: Now, you have been mentioning of Nenita against [sic] whom you were able to buy shabu and the one you arrested, is she in the courtroom?

WITNESS: Yes, sir.

PROS. PAGGAO: Will you kindly step down and tap her shoulder?

(The witness tapped the right shoulder of a female person and that woman upon being asked of her name answered: Nenita Gamata)21cralawlawlibrary

The CA was also correct in ruling that the failure of the arresting officers to strictly comply with paragraph 1, Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 916522 mandating the procedure for the inventory and photograph of seized illegal drugs did not affect the evidentiary weight of the drugs seized from the accused-appellant. As held in People v. Cardenas:23

[N]on-compliance with Section 21 of said law, particularly the making of the inventory and the photographing of the drugs confiscated and/or seized, will not render the drugs inadmissible in evidence. Under Section 3 of Rule 128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible when it is relevant to the issue and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be inadmissible, there should be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule, the evidence must be admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will accorded it by the courts. x x x

We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring about the non-admissibility of the confiscated and/or seized drugs due to non-compliance with Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if there is non-compliance with said section, is not of admissibility—but of weight—evidentiary merit or probative value—to be given the evidence. The weight to be given by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in each case.24 (Emphasis supplied)ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

This is especially true when the chain of custody of the corpus delicti or the illegal drug itself was shown to be unbroken,25 as in this case. Testimonial and documentary evidence show that the poseur-buyer, PO2 Aseboque, marked the seized illegal drug at the crime scene with his initials “REA”. At the same place, he also prepared an Acknowledgment Receipt of the items seized from the accused-appellant whose refusal to sign was duly noted in the same document.26 The seized item was then immediately turned over by PO2 Aseboque to SAIDSOTF investigating officer PO2 Castillo.27 On the same day, PO2 Castillo brought the seized illegal drug, together with the Request for Laboratory Examination,28 to the PNP Crime Laboratory where it was received by a certain Relos in the presence of Forensic Chemist, P/Insp. Bonifacio.29 In her Physical Science Report No. D-506-06S,30 the contents of the seized item marked REA weighed 0.03 gram tested positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. After her examination, P/Insp. Bonifacio turned over the seized item to the evidence custodian from whom she later retrieved them upon the instructions of and for submission to the prosecutor. On the witness stand, P/Insp. Bonifacio categorically identified the specimen presented as evidence as the very same specimen which she tested based on the marking she placed thereon: “D-506-06S”.31

Indeed, the following links in the chain of custody of the seized illegal drug were duly accounted for, to wit: (1) the seizure and marking of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; (2) the turnover of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; (3) the turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and (4) the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug seized by the forensic chemist to the court.32

The alleged discrepancy between the testimony of PO2 Aseboque that he placed the marking REA on the seized item, the forensic chemist’s report stating that the specimen was marked “R.E.A.” and the absence of any such description in the Spot Report33 of PO2 Castillo did not cause a gap in the chain of custody. As exhaustively discussed by the CA, the identity and integrity of the seized item was preserved because, despite lack of accurate description in the Spot Report, P/Insp. Bonifacio testified that the item she received for laboratory examination bore the markings “REA” placed by PO2 Aseboque at the crime scene. It is for this same reason that the punctuation marks after the letters R, E and A in her Physical Science Report No. D-506-06S did not alter the identity and integrity of the actual specimen marked as “REA.” The specimen marked at the crime scene, turned over to PO2 Castillo and then received by P/Insp. Bonifacio were one and the same.

Further, the failure of the evidence custodian to take the witness stand did not weaken the case for the prosecution because P/Insp. Bonifacio was able to positively identify that the evidence submitted in court was the very same specimen which she subjected to laboratory examination and its contents tested positive for shabu.34

In sum, the Court finds no reversible error in the conviction meted the accused-appellant. The penalty of life imprisonment and ?500,000.00 fine imposed upon her were in accord with Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165.35

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED and the Decision dated May 11, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04839 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.cralawred

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Associate Justice Franchito N. Diamante, with Associate Justices Michael P. Elbinias and Rodil V. Zalameda, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 139-157.

2 Issued by Judge Gina M. Bibat-Palamos; id. at 22-26.

3 Records, p. 2.

4 Id. at 4.

5 Id. at 13-14.

6 Id. at 15.

7 Id. at 17.

8 Id. at 19-20.

9 Id. at 9.

10 Id. at 10.

11 CA rollo, pp. 99-100.

12 Id. at 44-45.

13 Id. at 22-26.

14 Id. at 26.

15 Id. at 45-55.

16 Id. at 139-157.

17 Id. at 147-154.

18 Id. at 156.

19 Manifestation (In Lieu of Supplemental Brief) of the accused-appellant dated June 20, 2013, rollo, pp. 31-32.

20People of the Philippines v. Erlinda Mali y Quimno a.k.a. “Linda”, G.R. No. 206738, December 11, 2013.

21 TSN, August 6, 2008, pp. 12-14, 19.

22 Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

(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;

x x x x

23 G.R. No. 190342, March 21, 2012, 668 SCRA 827.

24 Id. at 843-844, citing Zalameda v. People, 614 Phil. 710, 741-742 (2009).

25 Id. at 843.

26 TSN, August 6, 2008, pp. 15-18; records, p. 17.

27 Records, pp. 7-8, 19-20.

28 Id. at 9.

29 TSN, June 2, 2010, pp. 4-5.

30 Records, p. 10.

31 TSN, June 2, 2010, pp. 4-7.

32People v. Arriola, G.R. No. 187736, February 8, 2012, 665 SCRA 581, 598.

33 Records, p. 16.

34People v. Cardenas, supra note 23, at 837.

35 Sec. 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.
HomeJurisprudenceSupreme Court Decisions2013 : Philippine Supreme Court DecisionsApril 2013 : Philippine Supreme Court DecisionsTop of Page