How to justify failure to follow chain of custody?

Although the High Court has ruled that non-compliance with the directives of Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 is not necessarily fatal to the prosecution’s case,[1] the prosecution must still prove that (a) there is a justifiable ground for the non-compliance, and (b) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items were properly preserved.[2] Further, the non-compliance with the procedures must be justified by the State’s agents themselves.[3] The arresting officers are under obligation, should they be unable to comply with the procedures laid down under Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, to explain why the procedure was not followed and prove that the reason provided a justifiable ground. Otherwise, the requisites under the law would merely be fancy ornaments that may or may not be disregarded by the arresting officers at their own convenience.[4]

Thus, in People v. Almorfe[5], the Supreme Court stressed that:
Respecting the team’s non-compliance with the inventory, not to mention the photograph, requirement of R.A. No. 9165, the same does not necessarily render void and invalid the seizure of the dangerous drugs. There must, however, be justifiable grounds to warrant exception therefrom, and provided that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/s.
For the saving clause to apply, it is important that the prosecution should explain the reasons behind the procedural lapses and that the integrity and value of the seized evidence had been preserved. [N]on-compliance with the strict directive of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 is not necessarily fatal to the prosecution’s case; police procedures in the handling of confiscated evidence may still have lapses, as in the present case. These lapses, however, must be recognized and explained in terms of their justifiable grounds and the integrity and evidentiary value of the evidence seized must be shown to have been preserved.[6]

[1] People v. Bara, G.R. No. 184808, November 14, 2011.

[2]  Zafra v. People, G.R. No. 190749, April 25, 2012.

[3] G.R. No. 182417, April 3, 2013.

[4] People v. Ancheta, G.R. No. 197371, June 13, 2012.

[5] G.R. No. 181831, March 29, 2010.

[6] G.R. No. 181831, March 29, 2010, at 59-60.

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