People vs Clara (GR No. 195528 July 24, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Clara
GR No. 195528 July 24, 2013

Facts: On September 12, 2005, at about 4pm, an informant came at the district anti-illegal drug special task group office to give an information that a certain Ningning is selling illegal drugs. A buy-bust operation was conducted whereby accused Joel was arrested and no Ningning was found. During the investigations, the testimony of the witnesses police officers regarding the conduct of the buy-bust and the transfer of custody of the illegal, there were inconsistencies – as to gender of the informant, who marked the exhibit.

Issue: Whether or not the inconsistencies in the testimonies is material to the crime charged.

Held: Yes. Inconsistencies and discrepancies referring to minor details and not upon the basic aspect of the crime do not diminish the witnesses’ credibility. If the cited inconsistency has nothing to do with the elements of the crime, it does not stand as a ground to reverse conviction. However, in this case, the material inconsistencies are furthered by inconsistencies of the police officers on minor details. Referring back to the narration of circumstances of the buy-bust operation. SPO2 Nagera was asked about the gender of the informant who went to their office to report about the illegal activities committed by Ningning. He readily answered that the informant was a female.PO3 Ramos in turn, when asked to describe what happened in the afternoon before the buy-bust operation, testified that a male informant came to their office to report about a person selling illegal drugs. These conflicting statements of the prosecution effectively broke the chain of custody of evidence of the sale of dangerous drug.

Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. It must rest on its own merits and must not only rely on the weakness of the defense. If the prosecution fails to meet the required amount of evidence, the defense may logically not even present evidence on its own behalf, in which case, the presumption prevails and the accused should separately be acquitted.

It was explained that the chain of custody rule includes testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up to the time it was offered in evidence, in such a way that every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from it was received where it was and what happened to it while in the witnesses’ possession, the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was derived to the next link in the chain.

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