Is the existence of all dangerous drugs a sine qua non for conviction?

Next, appellant argues that the prosecution failed to prove the corpus delicti of the crime. In particular, she alleged that the apprehending police officers failed to follow the procedure in the custody of seized prohibited and regulated drugs, instruments, apparatuses, and articles.

In all prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the existence of all dangerous drugs is a sine qua non for conviction. The dangerous drug is the very corpus delicti of that crime.[35]

Thus, Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 prescribes the procedure for custody and disposition of seized dangerous drugs, to wit:

            Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 9165 further provides:

            SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.

          PO2 Pallayoc testified that after apprehending appellant, he immediately brought her to the police station. At the station, the police requested the Mayor to witness the opening of the bags seized from appellant. When the Mayor arrived, he opened the bag in front of appellant and the other police officers. The black bag yielded three bricks of marijuana wrapped in newspaper, while the plastic bag yielded two bundles of marijuana and two bricks of marijuana fruiting tops.[36] PO2 Pallayoc identified the bricks. He and PO3 Stanley Campit then marked the same. Then the seized items were brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination.

          It is admitted that there were no photographs taken of the drugs seized, that appellant was not accompanied by counsel, and that no representative from the media and the DOJ were present. However, this Court has already previously held that non-compliance with Section 21 is not fatal and will not render an accused’s arrest illegal, or make the items seized inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items.[37]

Based on the testimony of PO2 Pallayoc, after appellant’s arrest, she was immediately brought to the police station where she stayed while waiting for the Mayor. It was the Mayor who opened the packages, revealing the illegal drugs, which were thereafter marked and sent to the police crime laboratory the following day. Contrary to appellant’s claim, the prosecution’s   evidence establishes the chain of custody from the time of appellant’s arrest until the prohibited drugs were tested at the police crime laboratory.

While it is true that the arresting officer failed to state explicitly the justifiable ground for non-compliance with Section 21, this does not necessarily mean that appellant’s arrest was illegal or that the items seized are inadmissible. The justifiable ground will remain unknown because appellant did not question the custody and disposition of the items taken from her during the trial.[38] Even assuming that the police officers failed to abide by Section 21, appellant should have raised this issue before the trial court. She could have moved for the quashal of the information at the first instance. But she did not. Hence, she is deemed to have waived any objection on the matter.

Further, the actions of the police officers, in relation to the procedural rules on the chain of custody, enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions. Courts accord credence and full faith to the testimonies of police authorities, as they are presumed to be performing their duties regularly, absent any convincing proof to the contrary.[39]

          In sum, the prosecution successfully established appellant’s guilt. Thus, her conviction must be affirmed.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2010/june2010/188611.htm

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Dangerous Drug Act, Evidence, Presumption of Regularity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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