G.R. No. 227996. August 23, 2017


THIRD DIVISION: [G.R. No. 227996, August 23, 2017] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. MICHAEL NARCISO Y PELAEZ.

This is an appeal of the Court of Appeals' (CA) Decision[1] dated October 23, 2015 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 06070, affirming the Joint Decision dated February 21, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 44 in Dagupan City, in Criminal Cases Nos. 2010-0643-D and 2010-0644-D.

Accused-appellant Michael Narciso y Pelaez (Narciso) was charged of violating Sections 5 and 11 of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The accusatory portions of the separate Informations respectively read:
  1. Criminal Case No. 2010-0643-D

    That on or about the 23rd day of November 2010, in the City of Dagupan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused MICHAEL NARCISO y PELAEZ, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally, sell and deliver to a customer dried marijuana leaves contained in heat sealed plastic sachets, weighing more or less 3.931 grams, in exchange for P100.00, without authority to do so.

    Contrary to Article II, Section 5, R.A. 9165.[2]
  2. Criminal Case No. 2010-0644-D

    That on or about the 23rd day of November 2010, in the City of Dagupan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, MICHAEL NARCISO y PELAEZ, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and criminally, have in his possession, custody and control dried marijuana contained in two (2) heat sealed plastic sachets, with respective weights of 9.975 and 9.817 grams without authority to possess the same.

    Contrary to Article II, Section 11, R.A. 9165. [3]
The Facts 

As culled from the assailed Decision, the facts are as follows:
In the evening of November 23, 2010 at around 9:00 o'clock in the evening, PO1 Guarin (PO1 Guarin) received an instruction from their team leader, Inspector Dauz[,] that he will be acting as the poseur buyer in a buy-bust operation that they will be conducting against Narciso.

[PO1 Guarin] personally prepared the 100 peso bill to be used in the buy-bust operation [sic] which he marked with his initials "AEG". Prior to the operation, he contacted Narciso at around 8:00 o'clock in the same evening through cellphone with the help of his asset, and agreed about the buying of marij uana.

[Narciso and PO1 Guarin] agreed to meet and the selling of marijuana will take place at the City Plaza. Narciso told PO1 Guarin that he will be wearing dark colored shirt. After contacting Narciso, PO1 Guarin, [together with] PO3 Landingin, proceeded to the City Plaza particularly [in front] of the Museum at A.B. Fernandez West where they will be having the transaction.

Upon reaching the area, PO1 Guarin approached Narciso and transacted with him by introducing himself "I am the one who will buy the (sic) 100 pesos worth of marijuana." Narciso gave him three (3) plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves and in return, he gave the former the 100 peso bill. After the exchange of the money and the three (3) plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves, PO1 Guarin immediately grabbed the hand of Narciso while the unidentified companion of the latter ran away upon sensing that he is a policeman.

PO1 Guarin's companion chased the companion of Narciso but he was apprehended. After informing Narciso of his rights, PO1 Guarin recovered another two (2) plastic sachets containing dried marijuana leaves from his right pocket.

PO1 Guarin further declared that immediately thereafter, they brought Narciso to the Dagupan City Police Station where he prepared the Confiscation Receipt for security reasons and executed an Affidavit of Arrest which he signed on the same date of November 23, 2010; he indorsed the plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves to PO3 Mendones who was the duty investigator that time and who took pictures thereof; on November 24, 2010 he received the same plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves from PO3 Mendones and he was the one who brought the same items to the crime laboratory as evidenced by the letter request for laboratory examination; and Narciso was brought to Region 1 Medical Center for medical examination by the on-duty uniform personnel as he was then wearing civilian clothes.

Denial and frame-up were advocated by the [accused-appellant] for his exculpation. In particular, the [accused-appellant] claimed that he was just accompanying his friend, a certain Kokoy Flores to meet his textmate at the plaza. He then saw Kokoy who talked to another person and suddenly his friend ran away. He waited for Kokoy to come back but he never returned. Thereafter, two police officers came and brought him to the police station where he was allegedly forced to admit sachets of marijuana.[4]
The RTC Ruling

The RTC, Branch 44 of Dagupan City rendered a Joint Decision[5] dated February 21, 2013, disposing the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in:

1. Crim. Case No. 2010-0643-D finding accused MICHAEL NARCISO y PELAEZ GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt with Violation of Art. II, Sec. 5 of R.A. 9165 otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and is hereby sentenced to suffer life imprisonment and to pay a fine in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) pesos; and,

2. Crim. Case No. 2010-0644-D finding the accused MICHAEL NARCISO y PELAEZ GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt with violation of Art. II, Sec. 11 of R.A. 9165 otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of Twelve (12) years and One (1) day to Twenty (20) years and to pay a fine in the amount of Three Hundred Thousand (P300,000.00) pesos.

The subject sachets of marijuana are hereby ordered disposed of in accordance with law.

With costs against the accused. SO ORDERED.[6]
Before the CA, the accused-appellant assigned the following errors:
  1. Whether the RTC gravely erred in convicting the accused- appellant; and
  2. Whether the RTC gravely erred in finding that the prosecution established the corpus delicti of the offense charged. [7]
The CA Ruling

The CA, in its Decision dated October 23, 2015, affirmed in toto the Decision of the RTC, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the instant APPEAL is hereby DENIED. Hence, the Joint Decision dated February 21, 2013 in Criminal Cases No. 2010-0643-D and 2010-0644-D of RTC, Branch 44, Dagupan City, which adjudged accused-appellant MICHAEL NARCISO y PELAEZ guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.[8]
The CA found no cogent reason to overrule the findings of the RTC. For the appellate court, the prosecution has proven with moral certainty all the elements of the sale and material possession by the accused of marijuana during the buy-bust operation. Also, the argument of the accused-appellant regarding the chain of custody rule failed to persuade the CA.

Accused-appellant filed a Notice of Appeal[9] dated November 13, 2015.

The Court's Ruling

The Court finds no compelling reason to overturn the Decision of CA, which affirmed the Decision of the RTC. Prevailing jurisprudence uniformly holds that findings of facts of the trial court, particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon this Court.[10]In appreciating the facts of the present case, the RTC gave credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as to the existence and legitimacy of the buy-bust operation. Accused-appellant's defense of denial and frame- up cannot prevail over the positive testimonies of the police officers. The testimony of PO1 Guarin deserves great weight and credence than the accused- appellant's defense of denial and frame-up. This Court has invariably viewed with disfavor the defenses of denial and frame-up. Such defenses can easily be fabricated and are common ploys in prosecutions for the illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs.[11]

The CA did not also err in ruling that the lack of prior surveillance did not fatally affect the validity and regularity of the buy-bust operation in light of the circumstances obtaining in the present case.[12] Indeed, prior surveillance is not a requisite for the validity of an entrapment operation.

With respect to the chain of custody of the confiscated drug materials, Section 21 (a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 9165 provides:

Sec. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment.
The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/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 copy thereof. Provided that the physical inventory and the photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at least 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 evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team/officer, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items. (Emphasis supplied)
The failure to comply with the procedure in the handling and disposition of seized prohibited drugs as provided under paragraph 1, Section 21, Art. II of RA 9165 is not fatal. As held in People v. Manalao,[13] the failure of the prosecution to show that the police officers conducted the required physical inventory and to take photograph of the objects confiscated does not ipso facto render inadmissible in evidence the items seized. There is & proviso in the implementing rules stating that when it is shown that there exist justifiable grounds and proof that the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence have been preserved, the seized items can still be used in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused.

In the case at bar, the prosecution was able to present a narrative of how the seized items were transferred, thus preserving the integrity and evidentiary value of the marijuana. As found by the CA, PO1 Guarin marked the seized items with the initials "AEG-1", "AEG-2" and "AEG-3." After the marking, PO1 Guarin indorsed the seized items to SPO1 Mendones and thereafter PO1 Guarin submitted the items to the crime laboratory for examination which were duly received by Police Inspector Manuel. An examination of Chemistry Report No. D-l 80-2010-L showed that the specimen, bearing identical markings on the police request, was subjected to laboratory examination, completed at 1:30 p.m. of November 24, 2010 and the items yielded a positive result for marijuana. Moreover, the defense admitted that SPO1 Mendones, who was the duty investigator at the time of the arrest, received the seized illegal drugs from PO1 Guarin and took pictures of the accused-appellant and the confiscated items; and that there exists a Chemistry Report on said items. More importantly, PO1 Guarin identified and testified that the marijuana examined was retrieved from the appellant in the buy-bust operation conducted on November 23, 2010.[14]

In sum, the police officers have sufficiently complied with the proper procedure in the handling and disposition of the seized items. There is no showing that the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated marijuana have been impaired or compromised. Moreover, the failure of the defense to show that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired with bad faith or ill motives supports the presumption that the police officers had performed their duties in a regular manner and that the integrity of the evidence was preserved.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court hereby resolves to DISMISS the appeal for failure to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in its assailed Decision dated October 23, 2015 in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 06070 as to warrant the exercise of the Court's appellate jurisdiction and, thus, AFFIRM said Decision, finding accused- appellant Michael Narciso y Pelaez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-12. Penned by Associate Justice Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco P. Acosta and Florito S. Macalino.

[2] Id. at 3.

[3] Id. at 3-4.

[4] Id. at 4-5.

[5] CA Rollo, pp. 45-53

[6] Rollo, p. 6

[7] CA Rollo, p. 32.

[8] Rollo, p. 12.

[9] Id. at 13.

[10] Castillo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 106472, August 7, 1996, 260 SCRA 374.

[11] People v. Andres, G.R. No. 193184, February 7, 2011, 641 SCRA 602.

[12] Rollo, p. 8.

[13] G..R. No. 187496, February 6, 2013, 690 SCRA 106, 119.

[14] Rollo, pp. 10-11.

Popular Posts