G.R. No. 206912, September 10, 2014
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DEMOSTHENES BONTUYAN, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
That on or about the 26th day of July, 2005, at about 4:55 A.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with deliberate intent, did then and there have in his/her (sic) possession and under his/her (sic) control the following:“Twenty (20) small heat-sealed plastic sachets each containing white crystalline substance having a total weight of 7.04 grams.”locally known as “SHABU”, containing methamphetamine hydrochloride a dangerous drug/s, without being authorized by law.3
That on or about the 26th day of July, 2005, at about 4:55 o’clock A.M., in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with [deliberate] intent, and without any lawful purpose, did then and there have in his possession and control the following:1. one (1) disposable lighterfit or intended for smoking, consuming, administering, ingesting or introducing any dangerous drug into the body.4
2. one (1) tinfoil strip
3. two (2) pcs. used candle
4. one (1) long folded tissue paper
The Evidence of the Prosecution
The prosecution, through the corroborative testimonies of its two (2) police officer witnesses, PO2 Jonas Tajanlangit8 [(Tahanlangit) and] SPO1 Alfredo Petallar [(SPO1 Petallar)], was able to establish the following:
By virtue of Search Warrant No. 07-05-F issued by the court a quo against accused[-appellant], a team of Police Officers headed by P/Supt. Pablo Labra, with members PO2 [Tahanlangit] designated as the Searcher and SPO1 Petallar as the Recorder, together with some SWAT and CIIB members implemented the said warrant on July 26, 2005, at around 4:55 early dawn at Sitio Dita, Barangay Pulangbato, Cebu City.
With the assistance of PO1 Luardo, one of the deponents for the issuance of the Search Warrant, the team was able to locate the residence of the accused[-appellant]. Upon their arrival, PO2 [Tahanlangit] saw the accused[-appellant] sleeping. He knocked the door calling the accused[-appellant’s] attention; informed him that they have a search warrant; and ordered him to read the same. After reading the warrant, accused requested that his brother, Barangay Councilor Segundo Bontuyan, Jr. [(Councilor Bontuyan)], be summoned to witness the search, which the police officers granted. In less than one (1) minute and being a neighbour of the accused[-appellant], Councilor Bontuyan arrived at the subject house and read the search warrant.
Thenceforth, the searcher PO2 [Tahanlangit], together with SPO1 Petallar, witnesses Councilor Bontuyan and Barangay Tanod [Lucio] Leyson [(Barangay Tanod Leyson)], conducted the search first in the sala where he found no illicit items. They went to the room where he found one (1) tin foil, two (2) used candles, one (1) disposable lighter, (and) one (1) folded long tissue paper found on top of a small wooden stool. When they proceeded to the lower portion of the house, PO2 [Tahanlangit] found a plastic container with a name Centrum. Councilor Bontuyan opened the container and found therein twenty (20) small packs of white crystalline substance believed to be shabu.
PO2 [Tahanlangit] turned over the confiscated items to SPO1 Petallar for proper inventory. The latter, who was designated as the “Recorder” then prepared a Receipt and a Certificate of Good Conduct of the Search which were duly signed by Councilor Bontuyan and Barangay Tanod Leyson. Accused refused to sign them.
The police officers then placed the accused under arrest, informed him of his constitutional rights, and proceeded to the Police Station with the confiscated items. SPO1 Petallar took custody of the evidence and marked the twenty (20) plastic sachets with SW-DB-1 to SW-DB-20.9
x x x x
The Evidence of the Accused-Appellant
The defense presented another version of the story. The corroborative testimonies of accused[-appellant], his brother Councilor Bontuyan and Barangay Tanod Leyson showed that on July 26, 2004 at around 4 o’clock in the morning, accused was sleeping at the house of his deceased parents when somebody woke him up. He turned the lights on and saw some police officers in uniform informing him that they are conducting a raid in his house. Showing no authority to search the house, accused argued that the said search cannot be done. He also requested that his brother be ordered to witness the search, which the police officers acceded.
While accused’s brother was being fetched by one of the implementing officers, he stayed in the living room. Thereafter, they placed a plastic bottle of Pharmaton vitamins in the table.
Just across the house subject of the raid, Segundo Bontuyan, Jr., accused’s brother, was sleeping in their house when he was awakened by police officers who commanded him to go with them to witness the search. When he reached his parents’ house, he saw his brother being handcuffed in the nook of the house.
When Councilor Bontuyan arrived, the police officers commanded him to open the plastic bottle and when he did so, they declared that the small packs inside it were shabu. They then introduced themselves as police officers and informed the accused that they were conducting a raid. The accused got scared but did not resist or attempt to run. He was then brought to the police station.
Barangay Tanod Leyson testified that when he arrived at the place of the raid, he saw accused seated in the house already handcuffed. The police officers then announced that they should start and subsequently opened the bottle placed on top of the table. When the bottle was opened, the police officers uttered that there was shabu. Later, he was instructed to sign a piece of document. He requested permission to go home and left the place.10
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Demosthenes Bontuyan GUILTY of Violation of Section 11, Article II, RA 9165 for possession of 7.04 grams of shabu containing [methamphetamine] hydrochloride and sentences him to suffer a penalty of imprisonment of from twenty (20) years and one (1) day to life imprisonment plus fine in the amount of P400,000.00. And for Violation of Sec. 12, Article II, RA 9165 the court sentences him to six (6) months and one (1) day to two (2) years imprisonment plus fine in the amount of P10,000.00.
The twenty (20) heat-sealed plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance locally known as shabu with a total weight of 7.04 grams and marked as Exhibit “B” for the prosecution and the shabu paraphernalia marked as Exhibit “H” are hereby ordered confiscated and destroyed pursuant to RA 9165.12
Despite the presence of such inconsistencies, the categorical fact remains, as proven by the implementing police officers, that there were indeed illegal drugs and paraphernalia recovered from the house of the accused-appellant where he was the sole occupant. With positive and straight-forward declarations, the police officers proved that the seized items composing the twenty (20) sachets marked with SW-DB-1 to SW-DB-20 and the shabu paraphernalia – one (1) disposable lighter, one (1) tin foil strip, two (2) used candles and one (1) long tissue paper – were the same illicit items recovered during the implementation of the search warrant issued against accused-appellant. What assumes primary importance in drug cases is the prosecution’s proof, to the point of moral certainty, that the prohibited drug presented in court as evidence against the accused is the same item recovered from his possession. In the same vein, the testimonial evidence coincides and concurs with the pieces of object evidence presented before the Court affording greater strength to the case of the prosecution.22 (Emphasis supplied)
In the instant case, the prosecution substantiated beyond an iota of doubt the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items as provided for by the rules. Records show that immediately after the seizure of the illegal items recovered inside the house of the accused-appellant, the designated searcher, PO2 [Tahanlangit], turned them over to SPO1 Petallar who thereafter prepared the Receipt of Property Seized and the Certification of Good Conduct Search both duly signed by witnesses Barangay Councilor Bontuyan and Barangay Tanod Leyson. SPO1 Petallar took custody of the seized items and marked them at the police station with SW-DB-1 to 20. The illegal paraphernalia were placed inside a plastic cellophane collectively marked Exhibit “H”.
At the police station, a Request for Laboratory Examination was prepared by Police Chief Labra. The request, together with the illegal drugs, were duly delivered by SPO1 Petallar to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory. As per Chemistry Report No. D-1079-2005 duly admitted by the court a quo, the specimen submitted with markings SW-DB-1 to 20 were positive for the presence of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. Under the circumstance, the prosecution’s evidence clearly established an unbroken link in the chain of custody, thus removing any doubt or suspicion that the shabu and drug paraphernalia had been altered, substituted or otherwise tampered with. The unbroken link in the chain of custody also precluded the possibility that a person, not in the chain, ever gained possession of the seized evidence.26 (Emphases supplied)
* Per Special Order No. 1772 dated 28 August 2014.
** Per Special Order No. 1771 dated 28 August 2014.
1Rollo, pp. 3-24; Penned by Associate Justice Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan with Associate Justices Ramon Paul L. Hernando and Maria Elisa Sempio Diy, concurring.
2 Records, pp. 135-139; Penned by Presiding Judge Meinrado P. Paredes.
3 Id. at 1.
4 Id. at 12.
5 Id. at 19; Certificate of Arraignment dated 5 September 2005; RTC Order dated 5 September 2005. Id. at 20.
6 Id. at 51; Pre-trial Order dated 29 August 2007.
7 The prosecution proffered the testimonies of Forensic Chemical Officer Pinky Sayson-Acog of the PNP Crime Laboratory, PO2 Jonas Tahanlangit, and SPO1 Alfredo Petallar; while the defense presented as its witnesses accused-appellant Demosthenes Bontuyan with the testimonies of his brother Councilor Segundo Bontuyan, Jr. and Barangay Tanod Lucio Leyson as corroborating witnesses.
8 Records, pp. 4 and 15; Witness’ family name should be spelled “Tahanlangit” as appearing in his affidavit dated 27 July 2005.
9Rollo, pp. 6-8.
10 Id. at 8-10.
11 Records, pp. 135-139.
12 Id. at 139.
13 Id. at 138.
14Rollo, p. 14; CA Decision citing David v. People, G.R. No. 181861, 17 October 2011, 69 SCRA 150, 157.
15 Id. at 15 citing People v. Lorie Villahermosa, G.R. No. 186465, 1 June 2011, 650 SCRA 256, 274 and People v. Velasquez, G.R. No. 177224, 11 April 2012, 669 SCRA 307, 317-318.
16 Id. at 16-17 citing People v. Lorie Villahermosa, G.R. No. 186465, 1 June 2011, 650 SCRA 256, 276.
17 Id. at 16 citing People v. Abedin, G.R. No. 179936, 11 April 2012, 669 SCRA 322, 336 and People v. Miguel, G.R. No. 180505, 29 June 2010, 622 SCRA 210, 220-221.
18 Id. at 21 citing People v. Alivio, G.R. No. 177771, 30 May 2011, 649 SCRA 318, 333-334.
19 Id. at 22 citing David v. People, G.R. No. 181861, 17 October 2011, 659 SCRA 150.
20People v. Quiamanlon, G.R. No. 191198, 26 January 2011, 640 SCRA 697, 706 citing Fuentes v. CA, 335 Phil. 1163, 1167-1168 (1997).
21People v. Bautista, G.R. No. 177320, 22 February 2012, 666 SCRA 518 citing People v. Naquita, G.R. No. 180511, 28 July 2008, 560 SCRA 430, 451.
22Rollo, p. 17; CA Decision citing People v. De Jesus, G.R. No. 191753, 17 September 2012, 680 SCRA 680, 690-691.
23 People v. Quiamanlon, supra note 20 citing Buenaventura v. People, 556 Phil. 331, 345 (2007).
24People v. Le, G.R. No. 188976, 29 June 2010, 622 SCRA 571, 583. See also People v. Domado, G.R. No. 172971, 16 June 2010, 621 SCRA 73, 91-92.
25 Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002 which implements R.A. No. 9165 defines “Chain of Custody” as follows:“Chain of Custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition.26Rollo, pp. 20-21.
27People v. Castro, G.R. No. 194836, 15 June 2011, 652 SCRA 393, 404-405.
28 564 Phil. 282, 293 (2007).
29People v. Sembrano, G.R. No. 185848, 16 August 2010, 628 SCRA 328, 342 citing People v. Lamado, G.R. No. 185278, 13 March 2009, 581 SCRA 544, 552 and People v. Remerata, G.R. No. 147230, 449 Phil. 813, 822 (2003).
30People v. De Guzman, supra note 28 at 294.