G.R. No. 218106, December 14, 2017

FIRST DIVISION [ G.R. No. 218106, December 14, 2017 ] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. RENATO VILLARIN Y ROMERO, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

After a careful review of the records of the case, the Court finds the appeal to be lacking in merit. We adopt the findings of facts of the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA).

The prosecution satisfactorily established the elements of illegal sale of shabu, to wit: (1) identity of the buyer and the seller, the object and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council Operative Rogelio Milan (Milan) who acted as poseur buyer positively identified alias Dodong or accused-appellant Renato Villarin y Romero as the seller of the shabu during the buy-bust operation. His narration was corroborated by the testimony of PO2 Victoriano Cruz, Jr. who acted as his immediate back-up during said buy-bust operation. Accused-appellant gave to the poseur buyer one plastic heat-sealed sachet containing white crystalline substance in exchange for marked money. Upon qualitative examination at the crime laboratory, the seized item weighing 0.02 gram tested positive for shabu.

There is also no doubt that the prosecution adequately established all the elements for the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. It was proved that when accused-appellant was apprehended, three heat-sealed plastic sachets were recovered from his possession each containing 0.02 gram which all positively tested for shabu. Accused-appellant was without authority to possess said shabu yet he freely and consciously possessed said illegal drug.

Both the trial court and the CA correctly held that accused-appellant failed to rebut the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties by the police and drug operatives since neither evidence suggesting ill-motive on the part of the latter was presented nor a deviation from the regular performance of their duties was shown. In fact, accused-appellant himself categorically stated that he did not know of any reason why the prosecution witnesses would falsely testify against him.Moreover, the Court agrees that the integrity and the evidentiary weight of the seized plastic sachets containing shabu were properly preserved. Milan's act of putting the plastic sachet subject of the sale inside his pocket did not by itself compromise the identity of the seized item. The defense failed to show that Milan's pocket contained other plastic sachets with which the subject plastic sachet could have been mixed or switched. On the contrary, the CA aptly observed that:
True, Milan put the small plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance inside his pocket after the sale was consummated. However, after Milan frisked Accused-Appellant and recovered from him three (3) other small plastic sachets containing suspected shabu, Milan did not put the said three (3) plastic sachets inside Ms pocket where the other plastic sachet subject of the sale was put. Thus, the integrity of the plastic sachet containing suspected shabu was not compromised as Milan was still able to identify which was the subject of the illegal sale from illegal possession, x x x[1]
Anent the alleged non-immediate marking of the seized plastic sachets, the Court in People v. Ocfemia[2] reiterated that what is required is that the marking be made in the presence of the accused and upon immediate confiscation. "Immediate confiscation" having no exact definition "contemplates even marking at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending team."[3] Thus, it is of no moment if the seized plastic sachets were marked 10 or 15 minutes after they were confiscated. What is of essence here is that they were marked in the presence of accused- appellant, and at the place of arrest, which as discussed, all the more falls under the contemplation of marking upon "immediate confiscation".

Accused-appellant's contention that he was not provided with counsel during investigation and informed of his constitutional rights deserves scant consideration. As aptly observed by the CA, this issue was raised for the first time on appeal and hence cannot be allowed. Besides, any perceived irregularity in the arrest should have been raised prior to arraignment. In any event, the records show that upon his arrest, accused- appellant was informed of his constitutional rights.[4]

In fine, the Court entertains no doubt that accused-appellant is guilty of violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II, Republic Act No. 9165 or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The penalty for the unauthorized sale of shabu is life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10 million, regardless of its quantity and purity. Thus, accused-appellant was properly sentenced to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00. On the other hand, the penalty for illegal possession of dangerous drugs as provided in Section 11, Article II of the same law is imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from P300,000.00 to P400,000.00, if the quantity of the dangerous drugs is less than five grams. In this case, accused-appellant was found to have been in illegal possession of a total of 0.06 gram of shabu. Thus, he was properly meted the penalty of imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day as minimum to 15 years as maximum and to pay a fine of P400,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the Court ADOPTS the findings of facts of the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed January 23, 2014 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05466 affirming the October 5, 2011 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 64 in Criminal Case Nos. 08-606 and 08-607, which found accused-appellant Renato Villarin y Romero guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. (J. Peralta, designated as additional member per November 27, 2017 raffle vice J. Jardeleza who recusedfrom the case due to prior action as Solicitor General.)

SO ORDERED.

[1] CA rollo, p. 99.
[2] 718 Phil. 330,348 (2013), citing People v. Resurreccion, 618 Phil. 520 (2009)
[3] Id.
[4] TSN, September 10, 2008, p. 13.

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