G.R. No. 201364. Jan. 15, 2014

[ G.R. No. 201364, January 15, 2014 ]

We rule on the appeal filed by accused Ryan Kristoffer Moreno y Buena (appellant) from the October 18, 2011 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04413.

In a decision[2] dated February 23, 2010, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 65, Makati City, convicted the appellant of illegal sale and illegal possession of marijuana under Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165,[3] respectively. It gave full credence to the prosecution's version of the events leading to these crimes, as testified to by Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council (MADAC) Operative Jeffrey Paloma, PO2 Ronnie Aseboque, SPO1 Amelia Waje, and Barangay Captain Rodolfo Doromal. The RTC rejected the appellant's defense of a frame-up in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to prove the same and the lack of ill-motive on the part of the police officers to falsely impute such crimes against the appellant.[4]

For the illegal sale of marijuana, the RTC sentenced the appellant to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00). For the illegal possession of marijuana, the RTC imposed an indeterminate sentence of twelve (12) years and one (1) day as minimum to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months as maximum, and to pay a fine of three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00).

On intermediate appellate review, the CA affirmed the RTC's judgment of conviction with modification as to the penalty imposed upon the appellant. But only with respect to the crime of illegal possession for which the CA imposed the penalty of imprisonment of twenty (20) years and one (1) day as minimum, to thirty-five (35) years, as maximum, and a fine of four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00).We now rule on the final review of the case.

Our Ruling

We dismiss the present appeal outright for lack of merit. The CA did not commit any reversible error in its decision of October 18, 2011.

We find no reason to reverse the RTC's findings on the appellant's guilt on the crimes charged against him, less so in the present case where the CA affirmed the RTC's judgment of conviction.

In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, "what is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti."[5] In this case, the prosecution established all the elements of the crime. The police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation faithfully described the events leading to the consummated sale of marijuana between the appellant and MADAC Operative Paloma, who acted as the poseur-buyer, and positively identified the appellant as the person who sold to the latter a small plastic tea bag containing tobacco like substances in exchange for the fifty peso-bill marked money.

For the charge of illegal possession of dangerous drugs, we similarly find the appellant guilty thereof. In a prosecution for illegal possession, it must be shown that "(1) the accused was in possession of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug, (2) such possession is not authorized by law, and (3) the accused was freely and consciously aware of being in possession of the drug."[6] These elements were properly established through the positive and credible testimonies of PO2 Aseboque and MADAC Operative Paloma who conducted a procedural body search on the appellant and recovered from the latter three (3) more plastic tea bags of marijuana.

The tobacco like substances contained in the plastic tea bags[7] that were confiscated from the appellant and, later, brought and identified in court, tested positive for marijuana, a dangerous drug.[8]

We affirm the penalty on the crime of illegal sale and the penalty, as modified by the CA, on the crime of illegal possession, as they are well within the ranges provided by law. Under Section 11 (on Possession of Dangerous Drugs) of R.A. 9165, the penalty of imprisonment of twenty (20) years and one (1) day to life imprisonment and a fine ranging from four hundred thousand pesos (P 400,000.00) to five hundred thousand pesos (P 500,000.00) shall be imposed if the quantity of the dangerous drug is five (5) grams or more but less than ten (10) grams. The three (3) plastic tea bags of marijuana that were recovered from the appellant weighed a total of seven point fifteen (7.15) grams.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated October 18, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 04413 is hereby AFFIRMED.


[1] Penned by Associate Justice Normandie B. Pizarro, and concurred in by Associate Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Rodil V. Zalameda; rollo, pp. 2-18.[2] Docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 08-1910 to 08-1911; CA rollo, pp. 61-68. Penned by Presiding Judge Edgardo M. Caldona.
[3] Otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
[4] CA rollo, p. 67.
[5] People v. Ulama, G.R. No. 186530, December 14, 2011, 662 SCRA 599, 605. See also People v. Zapata, G.R. No. 184054, October 19, 2011, 659 SCRA 691, 693.
[6] People v. Hajili, 447 Phil. 283, 295 (2003).
[7] Marked "RYAN," "RYAN-1," "RYAN-2" and "RYAN-3."
[8] As per Physical Science Report No. D-424-085 prepared by Police Senior Inspector Abraham Verde Tecson.

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