Case Digest: People v. Calumbres

G.R. No.94382 : June 10, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GLORIA CALUMBRES y AUDITOR, Accused-Appellant.



SPO1 Reynaldoelaictoria (SPO1elaictoria), the prosecution loneitness ,as in his office at the Special Operation Unit of the City Drug Enforcement Unit in Cagayan de Oro City when an informant reported to him that someone was sellinghabuttoino,rgy. 31. SPO1Delaictoria then hired a faux-buyer, giving the latter five twenty-peso bills marked money. He saw his poseur-buyer handing something to Gloriaalumbres Calumbres) after receiving something from the latter;he poseur-buyer pre-arranged signal followed, prompting him to immediately approachalumbres. He took the money fromalumbresnd retrieved the suspectedhaburom the faux-buyer who was standing two meters away.

Calumbresaintained her innocence and presented her defense. She stated that she was at the ACCP Used Clothing Enterprise (ukay-ukay) when she snatched a wallet of a man, a customer of the store.he was caught, however, by the man wife. She was brought to the police station where Inspectorelsoontel interrogated her.

Minutes late, SPO1elaictoria arrived. He promised her release if she would give him three cell-phone units. At that time, however, she had none and the man from whom she snatched the wallet was supposedly her first victim.

Calumbresdefense was corroborated byelianbarrientosAbarrientos), a store employee who witnessed the whole incident.barrientostestifiedhat in April 2004, a woman tried to snatch a wallet from a man inside their store.barrientoslaimed that this was the only incident that happened in the store.

The RTC convictedalumbress charged and sentenced her to life imprisonment. Finding no reversible error in the RTC ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision; hence, this appeal.

ISSUE: hether or not the prosecution failed to prove the accused guilt beyond reasonable doubt?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is reversed and set aside.loriaalumbress hereby acquitted for the failure of the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

POLITICAL LAW: presumption of innocence vs. presumption of regularity

The presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot by its lonesome overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence.othing less than evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt can erase the postulate of innocence.

The solo performance by SPO1elaictoria of all the acts necessary for the prosecution of the offense is unexplained. No definite answer can be established regarding the question as to who possessed what from the time of the alleged apprehension until the trial of the case. We are left in doubt whether or not the sachet ofhabullegedly seized fromalumbresas the very same object offered in court as the corpus delicti.

As was held ini>Zafra. People, prosecutions for illegal possession of prohibited drugs necessitates that the elemental act of possession of a prohibited substance be established with moral certainty. The dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delict if the offense and the fact of its existence is vital to a judgment of conviction. Essential therefore in these cases is that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. Be that as it may, the mere fact of unauthorized possession will not suffice to create in a reasonable mind the moral certainty required to sustain a finding of guilt. More than just the fact of possession, the fact that the substance illegally possessed in the first place is the same substance offered in court as exhibit must also be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make a finding of guilt. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed.

Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165 reads:

(a) 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: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.

SPO1elaictoria claim that the sachet of shabu presented in court was the same one confiscated from Calumbres, cannot be taken at its face value, solely on the presumption of regularity of one performance of duty. SPO1elaictoria blatantly broke all the rules established by law to safeguard the identity of a corpus delicti. To allow this to happen is to abandon everything that has been said about the necessity of proving an unbroken chain of custody of the corpus delicti.

REMEDIAL LAW: the application of the hornbook doctrine

While it is hornbook doctrine that the evaluation of the trial court on the credibility of the witness and the testimony is entitled to great weight and is generally not disturbed upon appeal, such rule does not apply when the trial court overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied facts of weight or substance, that would point to a different conclusion. In the instant case, these circumstances are present, that, when properly appreciated, would warrant the acquittal of the accused.

First, the police blotter shows that she was arrested due to pickpocketing, a fact hichas corroborated by the testimony in open court of the store-employee who witnessed the whole incident. The succeeding charge was for the sale of illegalrugs whichaslotteredn the same day, separated only by hours. There was no record that while in custody in the police station that she was released.

Second, it did not escape us that while there were five 20-peso bills used, only one of them was presented in court. SPO1elaictoria also claimed to have taken a photograph of the confiscated items but he failed to present it in court on the lame excuse that there was no money to have the picture developed; and alone, he inventoried these items without the participation of the accused and in the absence of the authorities.

SPO1elaictoria informant never identifiedalumbress the drug pusher. Without the informant details of who the pusher was, it was incomprehensible how a poseur buyer, randomly and instantly hired, would have been able to dentify Calumbres's the pusher.

Third, a reading of the RTC decision on this matter reveals that the conviction was arrived at upon reliance on the presumption of regularity in the performance of SPO1elaictoria official duty.

Petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED.