G.R. No. 196961. Jan 15, 2014

[G.R. No. 196961, January 15, 2014]

This appeal assails the November 12, 2010 Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03475, which affirmed the Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 53, of Manila, convicting appellants Theng M. Matumanggar and Aliodin U. Bangon for violation of Section 15, Article III, in relation to Section 2, Article I and Section 21(b), Article IV of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425,[4] as amended.

Appellants were charged with unlawfully selling methamphetamine hydrochloride with a total net weight of 363.2 grams.[5] They pleaded "not guilty" to the charges,[6] and trial ensued.

The prosecution established that on April 3, 2000, a confidential informant relayed to the Metro Manila Narcotics Office that a certain Alex was selling illegal drugs. P/Supt. Pepito Urbano Domantay formed a buy-bust team composed of P/Insp. Jesus Son, PO1 Glen G. Manuel, PO1 Anthony Alpiz and SPO3 Susan Tumaob. They prepared the buy-bust money by placing a P1,000 bill on top of a bundle of boodle to make it appear that the same amounts to P350,000. The team then proceeded to Isetann Department Store in Quiapo, Manila. Upon reaching the place, the informant fetched Alex and introduced him to PO1 Manuel. Alex asked PO1 Manuel how much he wanted to get, to which the latter replied that he will get P350,000 worth of shabu. Alex said that he only had more or less 150 grams and asked them to wait while he went to get some more.[7]

After 15 to 20 minutes, Alex returned with Theng and they placed two sachets containing white crystalline substance in a plastic bag. Then, they gave the plastic bag to PO1 Manuel. PO1 Manuel in turn, handed the marked money to Theng, who accepted the same. PO1 Manuel scratched his head as a pre-arranged signal to the back-up team that the sale had been consummated. Immediately, the team arrested Alex and Theng. Alex and Theng were brought to the Metro Manila Narcotics Office in Kamuning.[8] The seized items, for their part, were submitted to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory for examination, where they gave a positive result for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug.[9]

On the other hand, Theng narrated that on April 3, 2000, at around 4:00 p.m., he decided to eat at a Jollibee restaurant along Claro M. Recto after looking for his brother June Matumanggar. Suddenly, two men in civilian clothes arrested him and boarded him in a vehicle. Upon reaching a house in Kamuning, they demanded P30,000 in exchange for his freedom. Failing to give the money, he was incarcerated at Police Station 10 in Kamuning where he saw his co-accused Alex Bangon for the first time.[10] Meanwhile, Alex testified that on April 3, 2000, at around 5:00 p.m., he and his wife were about to enter the Jollibee restaurant inside Isetann when people began running outside the store. After taking their meal, a man suddenly bumped his pregnant wife. Alex confronted the man and almost had a fistfight with him. The man drew a gun and introduced himself as PO1 Antonio Alpiz. Alex apologized, but PO1 Alpiz, together with several men, brought him to the Kamuning Police Station.[11]The RTC found appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 15, Article III in relation to Section 2(e), (f), (m), (o) of Article I and Section 21(b), Article IV of R.A. No. 6425, as amended. Thus, the RTC sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P500,000 each.

The CA as aforesaid affirmed the Decision of the RTC.

Appellants are now before this Court arguing that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Our Ruling

We agree with the CA that all the elements of the offense charged have been established beyond reasonable doubt. PO1 Manuel categorically testified about the entrapment operation from the time the buy-bust team waited for the confidential informant and Alex at Jollibee Isetann, until appellants' apprehension. He testified about how Alex was introduced to the police officers, about Theng's arrival and how the latter supplied more shabu, how the actual exchange of money with the plastic bag containing shabu was made, and how appellants were apprehended. PO1 Manuel positively identified appellants as the persons who were caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu. Moreover, both the RTC and the CA found that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized drugs was properly preserved and safeguarded.

In contrast, there was no clear and convincing evidence to support appellants' defense of frame-up. Neither was there any imputation or proof of ill motive on the part of the police officers. It must be stressed that the defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been invariably viewed with disfavor for it can easily be concocted and is a common defense in most prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.[12] To substantiate charges of extortion and frame-up, the evidence must be clear and convincing and should show that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty. Otherwise, the police officers' testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit.[13]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The November 12, 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03475, which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 53, of Manila, finding appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, is hereby AFFIRMED.

With costs against accused-appellants.


[1] See records, pp. 286-287. Also spelled as Undin in some parts of the records.[2] Rollo, pp. 2-15. Penned by Associate Justice Stephen C. Cruz with Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Michael P. Elbinias concurring.
[3] CA rollo, pp. 14-20. Penned by Judge Reynaldo A. Alhambra.
[4] The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. As amended by Presidential Decree No. 1683 and Batas Pambansa Bilang No. 179.
[5] Records, pp. 2-3.
[6] Id. at 25.
[7] Rollo, pp. 4-5; TSN, October 23, 2001, pp. 4-16.
[8] Id. at 5; id. at 16-25.
[9] Id.; Physical Sciences Report No. D-1423-00, records p. 11.
[10] Id.; TSN, March 21, 2006, pp. 3-9.
[11] Id. at 6; TSN, October 17, 2006, pp. 4-13.
[12] People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 177777, December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 377, 390.
[13] People v. Capalad, G.R. No. 184174, April 7, 2009, 584 SCRA 717, 727.