[G.R. No. L-12958. November 28, 1917. ]
THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JAO LI SING (alias Chua Wat), Choa Seem, and Go Po, Defendants. Jao Li Sing and Choa Seem, Appellants.
E. F. Du Fresne for Appellants.
Acting Attorney-General Paredes for Appellee.
1. OPIUM LAW; "ANIMUS POSSIDENDI." — The rule as to animus possidendi (U. S. v. Bandoc , 23 Phil., 14) applied. The explanation of the defendants to the effect that they were ignorant of the presence of the opium found in a house under their control, deemed to be unsatisfactory. On the contrary, the circumstantial evidence against the accused, including their conduct when apprehended, the condition of the room in which they were found with a strong odor of opium, the water and towel showing traces of opium, the barricaded nature of the house, and their being in control of a place, said to be a gambling and opium den, is sufficient to warrant a finding as to the existence of animus possidendi.
2. ID.; ID.; VALIDITY. — The penalty imposed by Act No. 2381, the Opium Law, does not violate the provisions of the Philippine Bill of Rights, prohibiting the imposition of excessive fines, or the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. (U. S. v. Valera Ang Y , 26 Phil., 598.) The Opium Law is not repugnant to the Act of Congress of Jewelry 15,1916, (December 17, 1914) and is not repealed by the said Act of Congress. (U. S. V8. Tan Oco , 34 Phil., 772.) The local Opium Law is valid (U. S. V8. Wayne Shoup , 35 Phil., 56.)
D E C I S I O N
In the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila the defendants Jao Li Sing alias Chua Wat, Choa Seem, and Go Po were charged with the illegal possession of opium. Jao Li Sing was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of five months, to pay a fine of P500, and to pay one third of the costs. Choa Seem was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of six months, to pay a fine of P500, and to pay one third of the costs. Go Po was acquitted. Jao Li Sing and Choa Seem have appealed.
The facts as found by the trial court, and which we should not disturb without good reason, may be stated briefly as follows: The defendant Choa Seem was in 1916 the owner of a hotel for Chinamen located at No. 610, Calle Juan Luna, city of Manila. The defendant Jao Li Sing lived in the same house and was the assistant to Choa Seem. When arrested, the two defendants had occupied the house for the period of a year. About 2 o’clock on the afternoon of September 22, 1916, the police came to search the house for opium. They were required to wait about eight minutes before the door was opened. They found in the house the two defendants and other Chinamen. The main room was full of smoke and the odor of opium was apparent. On a search, the police discovered 2 kilos and 91 grams of opium and 610 grams of opium ash. This opium together with numerous other articles for its use was found secreted under an aparador and in the attic. A towel with stains of opium was also discovered. Water in a washbasin was taken, and on analysis found to contain traces of opium. The defendants endeavored to establish that they were ignorant of the existence of the contraband, that the contraband might have been the property of some of the guests, that the opium and opium ash as well as the pipes and other instruments are old, and that the water contained in the bottles as well as the towel had been used on the day of the search by Captain Manning.
Appellants allege six errors.
1. The first assignment of error is that the trial court erred in not esteeming the testimony of Alejandro Herrera. The trial court was surely warranted in not believing a portion of the testimony of Alejandro Herrera in view of the quality and quantity of evidence contradicting and refuting his statements.
2. The second assignment of error is that the trial court erred in admitting the exhibits presented by the prosecution and in presuming that they are the property of the accused. The trial court was justified from every aspect of the case in admitting these exhibits.
3. The third assignment of error is that the trial court erred in not appreciating the absence of animus possidendi on the part of the accused. The rule as to animus possidendi is as stated in United States v. Bandoc (, 23 Phil., 14), in which it is held that, "While it is true that in the case of United States v. Tan Tayco and Co Sencho (12 Phil. Rep., 739) we held that the discovery of opium in the house or upon the premises of an accused person is not conclusive evidence that such opium was in his possession and control, nevertheless it is under the law prima facie evidence to that effect, and is sufficient to sustain a conviction in the absence of a satisfactory explanation." In connection with this rule, it should further be noted that as was said in the case of United States v. Tin Masa ( 17 Phil., 463), "direct proof of facts of this nature in a criminal proceeding is rarely forthcoming, except in cases of confession, and their existence may, and usually must be inferred from the varying circumstances in each particular case." An analogous rule was recently announced in the case of United States v. Sy Toon (, 36 Phil., 736), by which the existence of an opium joint could be established by facts and circumstances tending to prove that it was such. We have, therefore, to resolve whether the explanation of the defendants to the effect that they were ignorant of the presence of the opium is satisfactory, or whether on the contrary there are circumstances from which animus possidendi can be inferred. We have as circumstantial evidence against the accused their conduct when apprehended, the condition of the room in which they were found with a strong odor of opium the water and towel showing traces of opium, the barricaded nature of the house, and their being in control of a place said not to be a hotel at all but merely a gambling and opium den. We think that the circumstantial evidence herein is sufficient to warrant a finding of animus possidendi.
4. This assignment of error is covered in No. 3.
5. This assignment of error relates to the question of reasonable doubt, a discussion of which would not prove profitable.
6. The sixth assignment of error raises the question of the validity of Act No. 2381, the Opium Law. There are two branches to this assignment. In the first place it is contended that the penalty imposed by the Opium Law for the illegal possession of opium is violative of those provisions of the Philippine Bill of Rights, prohibiting the imposition of excessive fines, or the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. This question was decided against such an argument in United States v. Valera Ang Y ( 26 Phil., 598), and need not therefore be again discussed. The second claim of appellant is that Act No. 2381 is repugnant to the Act of Congress of January 15, 1915 (December 17, 1914). This contention also has been adversely disposed of by this court in United States v. Tan Oco ( 34 Phil., 772), holding that Act No. 2381 has not been repealed by the said Act of Congress. The late case of United States v. Wayne Shoup ( 35 Phil., 56) further found the local opium law to be valid.
Believing that we should not disturb the findings of the trial court, having disposed of the assignments of error of the appellants, and finding the penalty imposed to be within the discretionary limits fixed by law, it results that the judgment of the lower court should be, and is hereby affirmed, with one-half of the costs of this instance against each appellant. So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson, Carson, Araullo, Street, and Avancena, JJ., concur.