G.R. No. 192229. Jan 15, 2014

FIRST DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 192229, January 15, 2014 ]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES V. JUN PALALEO Y DAVID.

We resolve the appeal filed by accused-appellant from the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA)[1] in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02179. The CA affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)[2] finding appellant guilty of violating Sections 5 (Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs), 11 (Possession) and 12 (Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs), Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165,[3] respectively, under Criminal Case Nos. 23240-R, 23241-R and 23242-R.

The RTC Ruling

The RTC held that the following elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs had been established: (1) the methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was delivered and sold by appellant to the police officer designated as the poseur-buyer; (2) the object of the sale was 0.1226 gram of shabu valued at P300; and (3) the buyer was Police Officer 2 Paulino A. Lubos, Jr. (PO2 Lubos) and the seller was appellant Jun Palaleo. The trial court likewise found that appellant had in his possession 0.4872 gram of shabu, one improvised tooter, one improvised burner, one black leather coin purse containing 59 pieces of rolled aluminum foils, and 150 pieces of transparent plastic sachets.

In so ruling, the RTC appreciated that the prosecution had proven its case with the straightforward accounts of the police officers involved in the buy-bust operation and the results of the laboratory examinations. The laboratory examinations revealed not only that the confiscated items contained dangerous substances, but also that appellant himself was positive for shabu. On the other hand, the trial court remained unconvinced with his bare denial. As a result, it sentenced him (1) to life imprisonment and a P500,000 fine for selling dangerous drugs; (2) to imprisonment of 12 years and 1 day as minimum to 20 years as maximum and a P300,000 fine for possessing dangerous drugs; and (3) to imprisonment of 2 years and 1 day as minimum to 4 years as maximum and a P30,000 fine for possessing various drug paraphernalia.[4]

The CA Ruling

The appellate court rejected appellant's denial which was merely corroborated by Franklin Guiniden. Guiniden did not actually see the commission of any of the crimes, since he was sleeping during the buy-bust operations and was sent out of the room during the arrest of appellant. He was thus construed by the CA as incompetent to claim that appellant was innocent of selling and possessing the illegal drugs and paraphernalia.Moreover, the appellate court held that appellant's insinuation of inconsistent testimonies failed to dispute the presumption of regularity in the arresting officers' performance of their official duties. In conclusion, the CA affirmed the judgment of conviction by the RTC.

We now rule on the case on final review.

Our Ruling

We deny the Petition.

After a careful review of the records of the case, we see no reason to reverse or modify the findings of the RTC, less so in the present case in which its findings were affirmed by the CA.

Appellant posits three main reasons for his acquittal. He starts his defense by discrediting the testimonies of the arresting officers in three aspects. First, he asserts that their narrations differed on whether he did or did not resist his arrest. But this alleged minor inconsistency does not go into the elements of conviction for illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia.[5] Therefore, as in People v. Fernando,[6] the lack of uniformity in the arresting officers' testimonies, if any, will not justify the acquittal of appellant.

Second, appellant argues that it is incredible and unnatural for the arresting officers to conduct a buy-bust operation on the basis of a tip from a walk-in informant. This argument is tenuous. In People v. Macalaba,[7] this Court even affirmed the conviction of the appellant therein on the basis of an operation preceded by a tip from an anonymous telephone caller.

Third, appellant avers that the arresting officers failed to give straightforward testimonies when they did not explain the reason behind the 12-hour lapse before they subjected him to medical examination after his arrest. However, the calibration of witnesses' testimonies as credible and straightforward belongs to the province of the trial courts.[8] Without any clear showing that the RTC and the CA overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied a circumstance of weight and substance bearing on the elements of the crime, as in this case, this Court will not disturb the aforesaid rule.[9]

Appellant then insists that this Court give weight to the testimony of Guiniden, who narrated that no buy-bust operation had taken place. However, this Court denies his entreaty given the CA's undisputed appreciation of the fact that Guiniden was asleep during the buy-bust incident and was sent out of the room during appellant's arrest.[10] Logically, he failed to perceive the events, thus disqualifying his narration as testimonial evidence under the Rules of Court.[11]

In a last attempt to prove his innocence, appellant introduces a new controversy. He claims that "the testimonies do not show who took possession of the controversial items, who touch [sic] them, and what procedure was done by these people on the alleged illegal items, from the confiscation thereof to their presentation in court."[12] In effect, he makes a general averment questioning the chain of custody presented by the prosecution.

General averments, even in criminal cases, are frowned upon by the Court.[13] Worse, this argument was but newly raised on appeal. Nevertheless, we resolve the contention of appellant and rule that it is bereft of merit.

As can be read from the rulings of the RTC and the CA, the prosecution was able to demonstrate an unbroken chain of custody. Both courts found that the cora delicti of the crimes were identified;[14] and there is no issue over whether the confiscated substances were dangerous drugs based on the laboratory examination conducted by the forensic chemist of the National Bureau of Investigation.[15] Aside from these pronouncements, the following can be extracted from the records: (1) the poseur-buyer was able to buy shabu from appellant and recover from him dangerous drugs and paraphernalia; (2) the items confiscated at the place of his arrest were received with markings by the buy-bust team;[16] (3) the arresting officer Police Office 1 Benito B. Guingahan Jr.[17] personally delivered the items to the laboratory for examination; and (4) the laboratory reports yielded positive results for the presence of shabu. Remarkably, the CA noted that the arresting officers were able to make an inventory of the contraband, which was then transmitted to the evidence custodian in the presence of one representative each from the Department of Justice and the media, as well as a barangay official.[18] With these substantial links in the chain of custody observed to preserve the integrity of the seized items, this Court affirms the conviction rendered by the courts a quo.[19]

In sum, appellant has been correctly found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the illegal sale of 0.1226 gram of shabu in Criminal Case No. 23240-R; illegal possession of 0.4872 gram of shabu in Criminal Case No. 23241-R; and illegal possession of drug paraphernalia in Criminal Case No. 23242-R. The penalties imposed on him for these offenses are likewise proper and in accordance with law.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals Decision dated 15 June 2009 and Resolution dated 22 January 2010 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02179 affirming the conviction of Jun Palaleo y David for violation of Sections 5, 11 and 12, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

[1] The CA Decision dated 15 June 2009 and Resolution dated 22 January 2010 were penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo, with Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang and Marlene Gonzales- Sison concurring; CA rollo, pp. 90-108, 128-129.[2] The Baguio City RTC Branch 61 Decision dated 7 February 2006 was penned by Presiding Judge Antonio C. Reyes, id. at 46-52.
[3] Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
[4] CA rollo, pp. 51-52.
[5] People v. Madriaga, G.R. No. 82293, 23 July 1992, 211 SCRA 698.
[6] 549 Phil. 443 (2007).
[7] 443 Phil. 565(2003).
[8] Arcilla v. Court of Appeals, 463 Phil. 914 (2003).
[9] People v. Chang, 382 Phil. 669 (2000).
[10] Rollo, pp. 12-15.
[11] Rules of Court, Rule 130-C, Section 20.
[12] Appellant's Brief dated 7 September 2010, rollo, p. 63.
[13] See Kapunan, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 148213-17, 13 March 2009, 581 SCRA 42.
[14] Rollo, p. 9; CA rollo, p. 49.
[15] Id.
[16] Records, p. 11.
[17] Id. at 43, 45.
[18] Rollo, pp. 15-16; records, p. 48, 158.
[19] People v. Cadidia, G.R. No. 191263, 16 October 2013.

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