Legitimate buy-bust operation

FIRST DIVISION
[ G.R. No. 203477, January 15, 2014 ]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VERSUS ESPERANZA PADILLA Y IGUIZ, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

Before this Court is an appeal from the January 20, 2012 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), which affirmed the judgment[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 154, of Pasig City, finding appellant guilty of violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.[3]

Prosecution witnesses PO1 Phillip Aure and PO1 Nelson Adamos testified that on September 19, 2007, a confidential informant reported that he knew the address of appellant, who was in the 2006 "Watch List" of sellers of shabu. A buy-bust team composed of PO1 Aure, PO1 Adamos, PO2 Jerven Galvez, SPO1 Aaron Gardon and PO3 Rolando Abuyme then went to appellant's residence in Sandoval Avenue, Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City. They approached appellant and the informant introduced PO1 Aure as a buyer of shabu. When appellant asked for the payment, PO1 Aure handed the marked money consisting of two P100 bills. Appellant then reached for a sachet of shabu from her coin purse and gave it to PO1 Aure. PO1 Aure removed his hat as a pre-arranged signal that the sale had been consummated and immediately arrested appellant. When appellant emptied her pocket, it yielded the marked money and the coin purse containing three more plastic sachets of shabu. PO1 Aure immediately marked the seized plastic sachets of shabu. He brought appellant to the police precinct and forwarded the confiscated sachets of shabu to the crime laboratory.[4] Forensic Chemist Police Senior Inspector Lourdeliza Cejes examined the contents of the plastic sachets and found the same positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.[5]

The defense, on the other hand, presented the following version: On September 19, 2007, appellant was sweeping in front of her house in Sandoval Avenue, Barangay Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City, when two persons approached her and inquired about the "room for rent" signage in front of their house. When appellant told them that they had to ask her landlady, PO1 Aure immediately grabbed her. When appellant shouted, Jennifer Abdeles came and asked the policemen why they handcuffed appellant. The police officers, however, did not give an answer. Instead, they dragged appellant to their car and brought her to Parancillo police station.[6]The RTC found appellant guilty of selling 0.03 gram of shabu and sentenced her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000. She was also found guilty of possession of 0.09 gram of shabu and was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of 12 years and 1 day to 15 years and 1 day of imprisonment and to pay a fine of P300,000.

The CA, as aforesaid, affirmed the RTC Decision. It held that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses prevail over appellant's defense of denial. The CA held that the police officers were presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner. The CA added that there was no showing of ill motive on the part of the police officers in arresting appellant, who admitted that she did not know any of the police officers before the arrest. Furthermore, it found that the prosecution's evidence established every link in the custody of the dangerous drug.

Appellant now comes to this Court raising the sole issue of whether her guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The appeal lacks merit.

After reviewing the case, the Court agrees with the trial court and the CA that there was a legitimate buy-bust operation and that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized drugs were properly preserved. Hence, we affirm appellant's conviction.

Appellant argues that the apprehending officers' failure to conduct a physical inventory and their failure to take photographs of the seized item immediately after its seizure, created doubt regarding the identity of the sachet of shabu. We, however, agree with the CA in holding that such failure to adhere strictly to the provisions of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 is not necessarily fatal for so long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items were properly preserved pursuant to the declaration in the case of People v. Rivera.[7] In the present case, the CA ruled that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items have been preserved as shown by the fact that PO1 Aure immediately placed the markings "EXH. A to D ESPIE/PA 09-19-07" on the plastic sachets of shabu upon confiscation. The CA also found that contrary to appellant's argument, there was no break whatsoever in the chain of custody of the prohibited drug.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated January 20, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03706, which affirmed the Decision dated September 5, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 154, of Pasig City, finding appellant Esperanza Padilla y Iguiz guilty of violation of Sections 5 and 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 is hereby AFFIRMED.

With costs against the accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-13. Penned by Associate Justice Michael P. Elbinias with Associate Justices Japar B. Dimaampao and Samuel H. Gaerlan concurring. The assailed decision was rendered in CA-G.R. CR- HC No. 03706.[2] CA rollo, pp. 18-25. Penned by Judge Abraham B. Borreta.
[3] The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
[4] Rollo, pp. 4-5; TSN, January 16, 2008, pp. 5-19; TSN, April 24, 2008, pp. 2-5; TSN, May 29, 2008, pp. 4-11.
[5] Id. at 5-6; records, p. 49.
[6] Id. at 6; TSN, June 12, 2008, pp. 3-8.
[7] G.R. No. 182347, October 17, 2008, 569 SCRA 879, 898-899.

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