G.R. No. 203048, August 13, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RUSTY BALA, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
That on or about the 4th day of April 2001, in the Municipality of Malabon, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and helping with one another, being private persons and without authority of law, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell and deliver in consideration of undetermined pieces of money (boodle money) to poseur-buyer, two (2) pieces of transparent plastic bags each containing yellowish crystalline substance with the following net weights:A- (ABI-R1 4-4-01) = 105.89 gramswhich substances when subjected to chemistry examination gave positive results for METHYLAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE otherwise known as “shabu” which is a regulated drug.4
B- (ABI-R2 4-4-01) = 105.71 grams
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of 28 August 2001 of the Regional Trial Court of Malabon City, Branch 72, in Criminal Case No. 24514-MN is hereby AFFIRMED insofar as JAMIL MALA y RAJID is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged as penalized under Section 15, Article III, R.A. No. 6425, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine in the amount of P1 MILLION and the costs. However, insofar as appellant Rusty Bala is concerned, the decision is SET ASIDE and this case is hereby remanded to the trial court below for the reception of evidence for Rusty Bala, unless it is determined that he is not mentally fit to face trial, in which case the trial court should take the appropriate steps provided by law.5 (Emphasis supplied).
On 4 April 2001, at around 5:30 p.m., a confidential informant came to the office of the Drug Enforcement Group, Malabon Police Station. He reported that a transaction with two Muslims for the sale of 200 grams of shabu in the amount of P130,000 would take place between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. in his house at C-4 Road, Barangay Tañong, Malabon, Metro Manila. Acting on this information, Police Inspector Virgilio Olalia forthwith formed a buy-bust team composed of PO1 Joel Fernandez [PO1 Fernandez] as poseur-buyer, SPO2 Armando Isidto [SPO2 Isidto], SPO2 Manolito Manalo, and other policemen. PO1 Fernandez was then given “boodle money” consisting of fake P1,000 bills on both ends of the bundle and cut newspaper prints in the middle, which were wrapped in a plastic bag. At about 8:30 p.m. the team proceeded to the place of operation. They then waited along C-4 Road.
An hour later, the appellants arrived on board a taxicab. Fernandez and the confidential informant immediately entered the latter’s house. After a short while, there was a knocking at the door. The confidential informant opened the door and let appellants Jamil Mala and Rusty Bala enter his house. He then talked with the appellants and introduced Fernandez to the two as the buyer of shabu. When Mala asked for the money, Fernandez showed to him the boodle money contained in a plastic bag. The former then gave to the latter the suspected shabu wrapped with a yellow transparent plastic bag. As Mala was counting the money, he noticed it to be fake or merely boodle money. The appellants then talked with each other in Muslim and instantly grabbed the suspected shabu from Fernandez.
Meanwhile, the confidential informer went out of the house and gave the pre-arranged signal to the other policemen by scratching his head. Isidto and Manalo immediately entered the house just as Fernandez was drawing his gun. Isidto confiscated the suspected shabu from Mala, and the boodle money from Bala. The shabu was sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination, which yielded positive result for methylamphetamine hydrochloride.
For his part, appellant Jamil Mala denied the accusation against him and his co-appellant. He claimed that he was engaged in the selling of VCDs in the Muslim area in Greenhills, as well as in Caloocan City. He was also selling at the Caloocan City market readymade pants on installment basis. One time, he met a certain Manny in Czar Bar near the Wise Hotel in Monumento, Caloocan City; and later Manny borrowed P18,000 from him. On 4 April 2001, he went to the house of Manny to collect the P18,000 he loaned to him (Manny). He arrived at 7:00 p.m. only to be told by Manny’s daughter that Manny was not around. While Mala was saying that he would leave and would just return later, Manny’s wife told him to wait, as she would ask her daughter to fetch Manny.
Fifteen minutes thereafter, four persons in civilian clothes arrived. They frisked him and told him to undress. They then handcuffed him along with his companion Rusty Bala. Two of the armed men went out of the house and later returned with two plastic bags. Mala and Bala were thereupon taken to the Pagamutang Bayan ng Malabon and then to a detention cell. When appellant Mala subsequently learned of the charges against him and Bala, he asked his wife to file charges against the arresting officers. But his wife instead returned home to their home province.
Appellant Rusty Bala was no longer called to testify because his lawyer allegedly “had a hard time communicating with him”; and besides, he (Bala) appeared somewhat mentally deficient and would only corroborate Mala’s testimony.6
Q: And after they entered the house, referring to the 2 accused, what happened next? A: The 2 accused and the confidential informan[t] talked to each other. Q: You were present when they talked? A: Yes, sir. Q: And after the confidential informant and the 2 accused talked to each other, what happened next? A: Our confidential informant introduced me, sir. Q: As what? A: As the buyer of the shabu, sir. Q: And after you were introduced by the confidential informant to the 2 accused as the buyer, what happened next? A: They demanded the money. Q: The 2 of them? A: Jamil, sir. Q: Only Jamil? A: Yes, sir. Q: And what did you do when Jamil Mala asked for the money? A: I showed the boodle money, sir, wrapped with yellow plastic bag. Q: Then what happened? A: I asked for the shabu, sir. Q: From whom? A: From Jamil, sir. Q: And what did Jamil Mala do? A: He gave to me the shabu, sir. What happened was like this: Jamil Mala was asked by the other to count the money and while doing so, Mala noticed the money to be fake so the 2 accused talked in Muslim after which Jamil Mala tried to grab from me the shabu and was able to do so. But before that, the confidential informant went out of his house and gave the signal to the others. Q: Will you be able to identify the buy-bust shabu if shown to you? A: Yes, sir. Q: From whom did he grab the shabu? A: From me. Q: You said the confidential informant went out. What happened later when the confidential informant went out? A: It was our pre-arranged signal that that is the time that the deal was consummated already. Q: What happened next after the confidential informant went out of his house? A: When Jamil Mala was able to grab the shabu from me, I drew my gun and at the same time, SPO Armando Isidto and SPO2 Manolito Manalo entered the house. Q: Were you in civilian clothes? A: Yes, sir. I was wearing shorts, sir. Q: What about Isidto and Manalo? Were they also in civilian clothes? A: Yes, sir. Q: Where was your gun at the time? A: Under my shirt at the back of my waist. Q: What did they do when they entered the house? A: Isidto recovered the shabu from Mala and the boodle money from Bala, sir. Q: And who recovered the boodle money? A: Isidto recovered the money. Q: From whom did he recover the boodle money? A: From Rusty Bala, sir.14
Section 1. All prohibited and regulated drugs, instruments, apparatuses and articles specially designed for the use thereof when unlawfully used or found in the possession of any person not authorized to have control and disposition of the same, or when found secreted or abandoned, shall be seized or confiscated by any national, provincial or local law enforcement agency. Any apprehending team having initial custody and control of said drugs and/or paraphernalia, should immediately after seizure or confiscation, have the same physically inventoried and photographed in the presence of the accused, if there be any, and/or his representative, who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof. Thereafter, the seized drugs and paraphernalia shall be immediately brought to a properly equipped government laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination.
The apprehending team shall: (a) within forty-eight (48) hours from the seizure inform the Dangerous Drugs Board by telegram of said seizure, the nature and quantity thereof, and who has present custody of the same, and (b) submit to the Board a copy of the mission investigation report within fifteen (15) days from completion of the investigation.
First, it must be made clear that in several cases decided by the Court, failure by the buy-bust team to comply with said section did not prevent the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty from applying.
Second, even prior to the enactment of R.A. 9165, the requirements contained in Section 21(a) were already there per Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979. Despite the presence of such regulation and its non-compliance by the buy-bust team, the Court still applied such presumption. x x x.
Notwithstanding the minor lapse in procedure committed by the police officers in the handling of the illegal drugs taken from appellant, the identity and integrity of the evidence was never put into serious doubt in the course of the proceedings of this case. x x x.17
A review of the evidence on record will show that the prosecution was able to establish an unbroken chain of custody over the shabu which it claims as having been sold and possessed by the accused-appellant. SPO2 Armando Isidto testified that he recovered the shabu from accused-appellant Bala and Mala. He then sealed the recovered shabu in a plastic bag and marked it at the police station. He turned over the dangerous drugs to investigator SPO1 Vic Mandac, who prepared the request for examination. The recovered shabu was then sent to NPDC Crime Laboratory. P/Insp. Sandra Go acknowledged the receipt of the sealed plastic bag. She stated that the test she conducted on the specimens yielded a positive result for methamphetamine hydrochloride.18
Sec. 15. Sale, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Transportation and Distribution of Regulated Drugs. - The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any regulated drug. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, if the victim of the offense is a minor, or should a regulated drug involved in any offense under this Section be the proximate cause of the death of a victim thereof, the maximum penalty herein provided shall be imposed.
Sec. 20. Application of Penalties, Confiscation and Forfeiture of the Proceeds or Instruments of the Crime. - The penalties for offenses under Sections 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 of Article II and Sections 14, 14-A, 15 and 16 of Article III of this Act shall be applied if the dangerous drugs involved is in any of the following quantities:Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalty shall range from prision correccional to reclusion perpetua depending upon the quantity.
- 40 grams or more of opium;
- 40 grams or more of morphine;
- 200 grams or more of shabu or methylamphetamine hydrochloride;
- 40 grams or more of heroin;
- 750 grams or more of Indian hemp or marijuana;
- 50 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil;
- 40 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrocholoride; or
- In the case of other dangerous drugs, the quantity of which is far beyond therapeutic requirements, as determined and promulgated by the Dangerous Drugs Board, after public consultations/hearings conducted for the purpose.
* Per Raffle dated 1 October 2012.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. with Associate Justices Antonio L. Villamor and Ramon A. Cruz, concurring. Rollo, pp. 2-14.
2 Presided by Judge Benjamin M. Aquino, Jr. CA rollo, pp. 27-33.
3People v. Mala, 458 Phil. 180 (2003).
4 Records, p. 1.
5People v. Mala, supra note 3 at 195.
6 Id. at 185-187.
7 CA rollo, p. 28.
8 TSN, 8 June 2006, pp. 4-19.
9 TSN, 2 August 2007, pp. 4-8.
10 CA rollo, p. 33.
11 Id. at 36.
12Rollo, pp. 8-13.
13People v. Isnani, G.R. No. 133006, 9 June 2004, 431 SCRA 439, 449 citing People v. Tan, 432 Phil. 171, 183 (2002) citing further People v. Zheng Bai Hui, 393 Phil. 68, 131 (2000); People v. Tiu, 460 Phil. 95, 103 (2003).
14 TSN, 9 July 2001, pp. 5-7.
15 People v. Seraspe, G.R. No. 180919, 9 January 2013, 688 SCRA 289, 305 citing People v. Ebet, G.R. No. 181635, 15 November 2010, 634 SCRA 689, 706.
16 G.R. No. 182236, 22 June 2011, 652 SCRA 551.
17 Id. at 566-568.
18Rollo, pp. 12-13.
19People v. Musa, G.R. No. 199735, 24 October 2012, 684 SCRA 622, 635 citing People v. Andres, G.R. No. 193184, 7 February 2011, 641 SCRA 602, 610.
20People v. Vasquez, G.R. No. 200304, 15 January 2014.