People vs Belocura (G.R. No. 173474 August 29, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Belocura
G.R. No. 173474 August 29, 2012

Facts: Belocura was charged on April 13, 1999 by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila with a violation of Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, in the Manila RTC through the information: That on or about March 22, 1999, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control one (1) plastic bag colored red and white, with label “SHIN TON YON”, containing the following: One (1) newspaper leaf used to wrap one (1) brick of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing 830.532 grams; One (1) newspaper leaf used to wrap one (1) brick of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing 959.291 grams. With a total weight of 1,789.823 grams, a prohibited drug.

Issue: Whether or not the prosecution established the guilt of the accused using the evidence obtained.

Held: No. The Court holds that the guilt of Belocura for the crime charged was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Mere suspicion of his guilt, no matter how strong, should not sway judgment against him. Every evidence favoring him must be duly considered. Indeed, the presumption of innocence in his favor was not overcome.

The elements of illegal possession of marijuana under Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, are that: (a) the accused is in possession of an item or object that is identified to be marijuana, a prohibited drug; (b) such possession is not authorized by law; and (c) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. What must be proved beyond reasonable doubt is the fact of possession of the prohibited drug itself. This may be done by presenting the police officer who actually recovered the prohibited drugs as a witness, being the person who has the direct knowledge of the possession.

The Prosecution thereby failed to establish the linkage between the bricks of marijuana supposedly seized by PO2 Santos from Belocura’s jeep following his arrest and the bricks of marijuana that the Prosecution later presented as evidence in court. That linkage was not dispensable, because the failure to prove that the specimens of marijuana submitted to the forensic chemist for examination were the same marijuana allegedly seized from Belocura irreparably broke the chain of custody that linked the confiscated marijuana to the marijuana ultimately presented as evidence against Belocura during the trial. Proof beyond reasonable doubt demanded that unwavering exactitude must be observed in establishing the corpus delicti – the body of the crime whose core was the confiscated prohibited substances. Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established.

That this case was a prosecution brought under Republic Act No. 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972), as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, did not matter. The chain-of-custody requirement applied under both laws by virtue of the universal need to competently and sufficiently establish the corpus delicti. It is basic under the Rules of Court, indeed, that evidence, to be relevant, must throw light upon, or have a logical relation to, the facts in issue to be established by one party or disproved by the other. The test of relevancy is whether an item of evidence will have any value, as determined by logic and experience, in proving the proposition for which it is offered, or whether it would reasonably and actually tend to prove or disprove any matter of fact in issue, or corroborate other relevant evidence. The test is satisfied if there is some logical connection either directly or by inference between the fact offered and the fact to be proved.

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