G.R. No. 204589, November 19, 2014
RIZALDY SANCHEZ Y CAJILI, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered convicting accused Rizaldy Sanchez y Cajili of Violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and hereby sentences him to suffer imprisonment from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) years and to pay a fine of Php300,000.00.Sanchez was charged with violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in the Information,5 dated March 20, 2003, filed before the RTC and docketed as Criminal Case No. 10745-03. The accusatory portion of the Information indicting Sanchez reads:
That on or about the 19th day of March 2003, in the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, control and custody, 0.1017 gram of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly known as “shabu,” a dangerous drug, in violation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.When arraigned, Sanchez pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. During the pre-trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated on the existence and due execution of the following pieces of evidence: 1] the request for laboratory examination; 2] certification issued by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); 3] Dangerous Drugs Report; and 4] transparent plastic sachet containing small transparent plastic sachet of white crystalline substance.6 Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
Around 2:50 pm of March 19, 2003, acting on the information that Jacinta Marciano, aka “Intang,” was selling drugs to tricycle drivers, SPO1 Elmer Amposta, together with CSU Edmundo Hernandez, CSU Jose Tagle, Jr., and CSU Samuel Monzon, was dispatched to Barangay Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite to conduct an operation.Version of the Defense
While at the place, the group waited for a tricycle going to, and coming from, the house of Jacinta. After a few minutes, they spotted a tricycle carrying Rizaldy Sanchez coming out of the house. The group chased the tricycle. After catching up with it, they requested Rizaldy to alight. It was then that they noticed Rizaldy holding a match box.
SPO1 Amposta asked Rizaldy if he could see the contents of the match box. Rizaldy agreed. While examining it, SPO1 Amposta found a small transparent plastic sachet which contained a white crystalline substance. Suspecting that the substance was a regulated drug, the group accosted Rizaldy and the tricycle driver. The group brought the two to the police station.
On March 20, 2003, Salud M. Rosales, a forensic chemist from the NBI, submitted a Certification which reads:This certifies that on the above date at 9:25 a.m. one PO1 Edgardo Nario of Imus, Mun. PS, PNP, Imus, Cavite submitted to this office for laboratory examinations the following specimen/s to wit:
White crystalline substance contained in a small plastic sachet, marked “RSC,” placed in a plastic pack, marked “Mar. 19, 2003.” (net wt. = 0.1017 gm)…
Examinations conducted on the above-mentioned specimen/s gave POSITIVE RESULTS for METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE.
Said specimen/s were allegedly confiscated from RIZALDY SANCHEZ y CAJILI and DARWIN REYES y VILLARENTE.
Official report follows:
This certification was issued upon request for purpose of filing the case.8
On 24 February 2005, the accused Rizaldy Sanchez took the witness stand. He testified that on the date and time in question, he, together with a certain Darwin Reyes, were on their way home from Brgy. Alapan, Imus, Cavite, where they transported a passenger, when their way was blocked by four (4) armed men riding an owner-type jeepney. Without a word, the four men frisked him and Darwin. He protested and asked what offense did they commit. The arresting officers told him that they had just bought drugs from Alapan. He reasoned out that he merely transported a passenger there but the policemen still accosted him and he was brought to the Imus Police Station where he was further investigated. The police officer, however, let Darwin Reyes go. On cross-examination, the accused admitted that it was the first time that he saw the police officers at the time he was arrested. He also disclosed that he was previously charged with the same offense before Branch 90 of this court which was already dismissed, and that the police officers who testified in the said case are not the same as those involved in this case.10The Ruling of the RTC
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered convicting accused Rizaldy Sanchez y Cajili of Violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and hereby sentences him to suffer imprisonment from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) years and to pay a fine of Php300,000.00.Unfazed, Sanchez appealed the RTC judgment of conviction before the CA. He faulted the RTC for giving undue weight on the testimony of SPO1 Amposta anchored merely on the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty of the said arresting officer. He insisted that the prosecution evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Imus, Cavite dated April 21, 2005 and Order dated October 1, 2007 in Criminal Case No. 10745-03 finding accused-appellant Rizaldy C. Sanchez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, is AFFIRMED.Sanchez filed a motion for reconsideration of the July 25, 2012 Decision, but it was denied by the CA in its November 20, 2012 Resolution.
Sanchez insists on his acquittal. He argues that the warrantless arrest and search on him were invalid due to the absence of probable cause on the part of the police officers to effect an in flagrante delicto arrest under Section 15, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court. He also contends that the failure of the police operatives to comply with Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 renders the seized item inadmissible in evidence and creates reasonable doubt on his guilt.
1. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT HELD THAT ACCUSED WAS CAUGHT IN FLAGRANTE DELICTO, HENCE, A SEARCH WARRANT WAS NO LONGER NECESSARY; AND
2. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH DUE RESPECT, COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT HELD THAT NON-COMPLIANCE WITH SECTION 21, PARAGRAPH 1, ARTICLE II OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165 DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY RENDER THE SEIZED ITEMS INADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.14
In the case at Bar, the acquisition of the regulated drug by the police officers qualifies as a valid search following a lawful operation by the police officers. The law enforcers acted on the directive of their superior based on an information that the owner of the residence where Sanchez came from was a notorious drug dealer. As Sanchez was seen leaving the said residence, the law enforcers had probable cause to stop Sanchez on the road since there was already a tip that illegal drug-related activities were perpetrated in the place where he came from and seeing a match box held on one hand, the police officers’ action were justified to inspect the same. The search therefore, is a sound basis for the lawful seizure of the confiscated drug, arrest and conviction of Sanchez.A judicious examination of the evidence on record belies the findings and conclusions of the RTC and the CA.
The case of People vs. Valdez (G.R. No. 127801, March 3, 1999) is instructive. In that case, the police officers, by virtue of an information that a person having been previously described by the informant, accosted Valdez and upon inspection of the bag he was carrying, the police officers found the information given to them to be true as it yielded marijuana leaves hidden in the water jug and lunch box inside Valdez’s bag. The Supreme Court in affirming the trial court’s ruling convicting Valdez declared that:In this case, appellant was caught in flagrante since he was carrying marijuana at the time of his arrest. A crime was actually being committed by the appellant, thus, the search made upon his personal effects falls squarely under paragraph (a) of the foregoing provisions of law, which allow a warrantless search incident to lawful arrest. While it is true that SPO1 Mariano was not armed with a search warrant when the search was conducted over the personal effects of appellant, nevertheless, under the circumstances of the case, there was sufficient probable cause for said police officer to believe that appellant was then and there committing a crime.The cited case is akin to the circumstances in the instant appeal as in this case, Sanchez, coming from the house of the identified drug dealer, previously tipped by a concerned citizen, walked to a parked tricycle and sped towards the direction of Kawit, Cavite. The search that gave way to the seizure of the match box containing shabu was a reasonable course of event that led to the valid warrantless arrest since there was sufficient probable cause for chasing the tricycle he was in. (Underscoring supplied)
In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large majority of these cases, e.g., whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for conducting a search. In this instance, the law requires that there first be a lawful arrest before a search can be made -- the process cannot be reversed. At bottom, assuming a valid arrest, the arresting officer may search the person of the arrestee and the area within which the latter may reach for a weapon or for evidence to destroy, and seize any money or property found which was used in the commission of the crime, or the fruit of the crime, or that which may be used as evidence, or which might furnish the arrestee with the means of escaping or committing violence.In the case at bench, neither the in flagrante delicto arrest nor the stop- and-frisk principle was applicable to justify the warrantless search and seizure made by the police operatives on Sanchez. An assiduous scrutiny of the factual backdrop of this case shows that the search and seizure on Sanchez was unlawful. A portion of SPO1 Amposta’s testimony on direct examination is revelatory, viz:
x x x x
We now proceed to the justification for and allowable scope of a “stop-and-frisk” as a "limited protective search of outer clothing for weapons," as laid down in Terry, thus:
We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others' safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him. Such a search is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment x x x x.
Other notable points of Terry are that while probable cause is not required to conduct a “stop-and-frisk,” it nevertheless holds that mere suspicion or a hunch will not validate a “stop-and-frisk.” A genuine reason must exist, in light of the police officer's experience and surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person detained has weapons concealed about him. Finally, a “stop-and-frisk” serves a two-fold interest: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer.22
A search as an incident to a lawful arrest is sanctioned by the Rules of Court.24 It bears emphasis that the law requires that the search be incidental to a lawful arrest. Therefore it is beyond cavil that a lawful arrest must precede the search of a person and his belongings; the process cannot be reversed.25
Pros. Villarin: Q: On March 19, 2003 at around 2:50 p.m., can you recall where were you? A: Yes, Mam. Q: Where were you? A: We were in Brgy. Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite. Q: What were you doing at Alapan 1-B, Imus, Cavite? A: We were conducting an operation against illegal drugs. Q: Who were with you? A: CSU Edmundo Hernandez, CSU Jose Tagle, Jr. and CSU Samuel Monzon. Q: Was the operation upon the instruction of your Superior? A: Our superior gave us the information that there were tricycle drivers buying drugs from “Intang” or Jacinta Marciano. Q: What did you do after that? A: We waited for a tricycle who will go to the house of Jacinta Marciano. Q: After that what did you do? A: A tricycle with a passenger went to the house of “Intang” and when the passenger boarded the tricycle, we chase[d] them. Q: After that, what happened next? A: When we were able to catch the tricycle, the tricycle driver and the passenger alighted from the tricycle. Q: What did you do after they alighted from the tricycle? A: I saw the passenger holding a match box. Q: What did you do after you saw the passenger holding a match box? A: I asked him if I can see the contents of the match box. Q: Did he allow you? A: Yes, mam. He handed to me voluntarily the match box. Court: Q: Who, the driver or the passenger? A: The passenger, sir. Pros. Villarin: Q: After that what did you find out? A: I opened the match box and I found out that it contained a small transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance.23
Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. - A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:For warrantless arrest under paragraph (a) of Section 5 (in flagrante delicto arrest) to operate, two elements must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer.27 On the other hand, paragraph (b) of Section 5 (arrest effected in hot pursuit) requires for its application that at the time of the arrest, an offense has in fact just been committed and the arresting officer has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be apprehended has committed it. These elements would be lacking in the case at bench.x x x
(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actuallly committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and (c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
A stop and frisk was defined as the act of a police officer to stop a citizen on the street, interrogate him, and pat him for weapon(s) or contraband. The police officer should properly introduce himself and make initial inquiries, approach and restrain a person who manifests unusual and suspicious conduct, in order to check the latter’s outer clothing for possibly concealed weapons. The apprehending police officer must have a genuine reason, in accordance with the police officer’s experience and the surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person to be held has weapons (or contraband) concealed about him. It should therefore be emphasized that a search and seizure should precede the arrest for this principle to apply.30In this jurisdiction, what may be regarded as a genuine reason or a reasonable suspicion justifying a Terry stop-and-frisk search had been sufficiently illustrated in two cases. In Manalili v. Court of Appeals and People,31 a policeman chanced upon Manalili in front of the cemetery who appeared to be “high” on drugs as he was observed to have reddish eyes and to be walking in a swaying manner. Moreover, he appeared to be trying to avoid the policemen and when approached and asked what he was holding in his hands, he tried to resist. When he showed his wallet, it contained marijuana. The Court held that the policeman had sufficient reason to accost Manalili to determine if he was actually “high” on drugs due to his suspicious actuations, coupled with the fact that the area was a haven for drug addicts.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Danton Q. Bueser with Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and Associate Justice Ramon R. Garcia, concurring; rollo pp. 111-121.
2 Id. at 141-142.
3 Penned by Judge Rommel O. Baybay; id. at 44-46.
4 Id. at 43
5 Id. at 42-43.
6 Id. at 44-45.
7 Id. at 184-193.
8 Id. at 184-185.
9 Id. at 12-39.
10 Id. at 17.
11 Supra note 3.
12 Id. at 46.
13 Id at 120-121.
14 Id. at 17.
15 Id. at 184-192.
16Heirs of Pagobo v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 1119, 1133 (1997).
17Oaminal v. Castillo, 459 Phil. 542, 556 (2003); Tagle v. Equitable PCI Bank, 575 Phil. 384, 4032008).
18Ten Forty Realty and Development Corporation v. Cruz, 457 Phil. 603, 613 (2003).
19People v. Alvarado, 429 Phil. 208, 219 (2002).
20Terry v. Ohio, 392 US 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 889.
21 347 Phil. 462 (1997).
22 Id. at 480-482.
23 TSN dated August 4, 2003, pp. 3-6.
24 Rule 126, Sec. 13, provides:
SEC. 13. Search incidental to a lawful arrest.-A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous weapons or anything which may have been used or constitute proof in the commission of an offense without a search warrant.
25People v. Nuevas, 545 Phil. 356, 371 (2007).
26People v. Milado, 462 Phil. 411, 416 ( 2003).
27Zalameda v. People, 614 Phil. 710, 729 ( 2009).
28People v. Villareal, G.R. No. 201363, March 18, 2013, 693 SCRA 549, 560-561.
29 444 Phil. 757 (2003).
30 Id. at 773-774.
31 345 Phil. 632 (1997).
32 330 Phil. 811 (1996).
33 G.R. No. 200334, July 30, 2014.
34People v. Go, 457 Phil. 885, 928 (2003).
35Judge Abelita III v. P/Supt. Doria, 612 Phil. 1127, 1135-1136.
36People v. Guzon, G.R. No. 199901, October 9, 2013, 707 SCRA 384, 396.
37People v. Langcua, G.R. No. 190343, February 6, 2013, 690 SCRA 123, 139.
38People v. Morate, G.R. No. 201156, January 29, 2014.