People of the Philippines vs Eyam
GR No. 184056 November 26, 2012
Facts: An information for illegal possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was filed on July 17, 2003 against accused-appellant George Eyam Y Watang to which upon arraignment he pleaded not guilty. After evaluating the evidence for the prosecution and the defense, the trial court, in its Decision dated March 8, 2006, found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P400,000.00. The honorable court of appeals affirmed in toto the trial court’s decision.
Issue: Whether or not the the identity of the illegal drug was properly identified despite the failure to present the forensic chemist.
Held: Yes. Appellant wittingly overlooked the fact that during the pre-trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated that the specimen submitted for examination was positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, per Physical Science Report No. D-925-03S. This was the very reason why the testimony of the forensic chemist was dispensed with during the trial. Stipulation of facts at the pre-trial constitutes judicial admissions which are binding and conclusive upon the parties.
Regarding the chain of custody rule, records reveal that after S/G Sahid confiscated and marked with GEW the plastic sachet containing the substance seized from appellant, S/G Sahid, together with his OIC Ruben Geronimo, then immediately brought the appellant and the plastic sachet to Police Community Precinct 2 from whence the incident was referred to the DEU for investigation. PO3 Mapili thereafter received the plastic sachet and made a request for laboratory examination of its contents. When the prosecution presented the marked specimen in court, these witnesses positively identified it to be the same plastic sachet seized from the appellant. Thus, the prosecution had indubitably established the crucial links in the chain of custody as the evidence clearly show that the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated substance have been preserved. This is the clear import of the chain of custody rule to ensure the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized item as it would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.
Significantly, in no instance did appellant manifest or at least intimate before the trial court that there were lapses in the handling and safekeeping of the seized item that might affect its admissibility, integrity and evidentiary value. When a party desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection. Without such objection, he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal as we ruled in People v. Sta. Maria and reiterated in People v. Hernandez.
In People v. Sembrano, we ruled that “for illegal possession of regulated or prohibited drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and, (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.” All the foregoing elements were duly established by the prosecution in this case. Appellant was caught in possession of shabu, a dangerous drug. He failed to show that he was authorized to possess the same. Lastly, by his mere possession of the drug, there is already a prima facie evidence of knowledge, which he failed to rebut. All told, we sustain the conviction of appellant.
In the absence of palpable error or grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court, its evaluation of the credibility of witnesses will not be disturbed on appeal. And “in cases involving violations of Dangerous Drugs Act, credence should be given to the narration of the incident by the prosecution witnesses especially when they are police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner unless there is evidence to the contrary.” We cannot find anything to justify a deviation from the said rules.
People of the Philippines vs Robelo
GR No. 184181 November 26, 2012
Facts: At about 10:00 a.m. of March 26, 2004, the Station of Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (SAID), Police Station 2 in Moriones, Tondo, Manila received information from a civilian informer that a certain alias “Kalbo” (appellant) is involved in the sale of illegal drugs in Parola Compound. Forthwith, the Chief of SAID organized a team composed of eight police officers to conduct a “buy-bust” operation to entrap appellant. PO2 Arnel Tubbali (PO2 Tubbali) was designated as the poseur-buyer and was thus handed a 100 peso bill which he marked with his initials. The rest of the team were to serve as back-ups. During investigation it was found positive that the confiscated items were shabu. On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty and invoking his alibi that at the time of said sale, he was at his mother’s house.
Issue: Whether or not accused-appellant is liable for the crime charged.
Held: Yes. A buy-bust operation has been proven to be an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers. In this regard, police authorities are given a wide latitude in employing their own ways of trapping or apprehending drug dealers in flagrante delicto. There is no prescribed method on how the operation is to be conducted. As ruled in People v. Garcia, the absence of a prior surveillance or test-buy does not affect the legality of the buy-bust operation as there is no textbook method of conducting the same. As long as the constitutional rights of the suspected drug dealer are not violated, the regularity of the operation will always be upheld. Thus, in People v. Salazar, we ruled that “if carried out with due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards, buy-bust operation deserves judicial sanction.”
Neither impressive is appellant’s contention that it is contrary to human nature to sell the illegal stuff to a complete stranger. The law does not prescribe as an element of the crime that the vendor and the vendee be familiar with each other. As aptly held by the CA, peddlers of illicit drugs have been known with ever increasing casualness and recklessness to offer and sell their wares for the right price to anybody, be they strangers or not.
Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime suggesting concerted action and unity of purpose among them. In this case, the testimony of the poseur-buyer clearly shows a unity of mind between appellant and Umali in selling the illegal drugs to him. Hence, applying the basic principle in conspiracy that the “act of one is the act of all” appellant is guilty as a co-conspirator and regardless of his participation, is liable as co-principal. Appellant’s silence when the poseur-buyer was introduced to him as an interested buyer of shabu is non-sequitur.
Time and again, we have stressed virtually to the point of repletion that alibi is one of the weakest defenses that an accused can invoke because it is easy to fabricate. In order to be given full faith and credit, an alibi must be clearly established and must not leave any doubt as to its plausibility and veracity. Here, appellant’s claim that he was at his mother’s house at the time of the incident cannot stand against the clear and positive identification of him by the prosecution witnesses. As aptly held by the RTC, “the portrayal put forward by [appellant] remained uncorroborated. The testimonies of the witnesses presented by the defense do not jibe with one another and that of the claim of the [appellant] himself. x x x Lastly, the demand for money worth P10,000.00 remained unsubstantiated. x x x If indeed [appellant] is innocent he or his family who were his witnesses should have filed a case of planting of evidence against the police which is now punishable by life imprisonment.”
The general rule is that findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses deserve great weight, and are generally not disturbed, on appeal. We find no reason to depart from such old-age rule as there are no compelling reasons which would warrant the reversal of the verdict.
Moreover, “non-compliance with Section 21 does not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is essential is the ‘preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.’” The records reveal that at no instance did appellant hint a doubt on the integrity of the seized items.
Undoubtedly, therefore, the suspected illegal drugs confiscated from appellant were the very same substance presented and identified in court. This Court, thus, upholds the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties by the apprehending police officers.
Auza Jr. vs MOL Philippines Inc.
GR No. 175481 November 21, 2012
Facts: Respondent MOL is a common carrier engaged in transporting cargoes to and from the different parts of the world. On October 1, 1997, it employed Auza and Jeanjaquet as Cebu’s Branch Manager and Administrative Assistant, respectively. It also employed Otarra as its Accounts Officer on November 1, 1997. On October 14, 2002, Otarra tendered her resignation letter effective November 15, 2002 while Auza and Jeanjaquet submitted their resignation letters on October 30, 2002 to take effect on November 30, 2002. Petitioners were then given their separation pay and the monetary value of leave credits, 13th month pay, MOL cooperative shares and unused dental/optical benefits as shown in documents entitled “Remaining Entitlement Computation,” which documents were signed by each of them acknowledging receipt of such benefits. Afterwhich, they executed Release and Quitclaims and then issued Separation Clearances. In February 2004 or almost 15 months after their severance from employment, petitioners filed separate Complaints for illegal dismissal before the Arbitration Branch of the NLRC against respondents and MOL’s Manager for Corporate Services, George Dolorfino alkeging that the reason for their resignations were that the clmpany informed everyone that it is downsizing ang even has to close the said branch which did not happen.
Issue: Whether or not petitioners were constructively dismissed.
Held: No. “Resignation is the formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office.” The overt act of relinquishment should be coupled with an intent to relinquish, which intent could be inferred from the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation.
It appears that petitioners, on their own volition, decided to resign from their positions after being informed of the management’s decision that the Cebu branch would eventually be manned by a mere skeletal force. As proven by the email correspondences presented, petitioners were fully aware and had, in fact, acknowledged that Cebu branch has been incurring losses and was already unprofitable to operate. Note that there was evidence produced to prove that indeed the Cebu branch’s productivity had deteriorated as shown in a Profit and Loss Statement for the years 2001 and 2002. Also, there was a substantial reduction of workforce as all of the Cebu branch staff and personnel, except one, were not retained. On the other hand, petitioners’ assertions that the Cebu branch was performing well are not at all substantiated. What they presented was a document entitled “1999 Performance Standards”, which only provides for performance objectives but tells nothing about the branch’s progress. Likewise, the Cebu Performance Reports submitted which showed outstanding company performance only pertained to the year 1999 and the first quarter of year 2000. No other financial documents were submitted to show that such progress continued until year 2002.
Ample jurisprudence provides that subsequent and substantial compliance may call for the relaxation of the rules. Indeed, “imperfections of form and technicalities of procedure are to be disregarded, except where substantial rights would otherwise be prejudiced.” Due to petitioners’ subsequent and substantial compliance, we thus apply the rules liberally in order not to frustrate the ends of justice.
Chung vs Mondragon
GR No. 179754 November 21, 2012
Facts: Petitioners Joaquin G. Chung, Jr., Paz Royeras-Soler, and Mansueto Maceda are descendants of Rafael Mondragon (Rafael) by his first wife, Eleuteria Calunia (Eleuteria), while respondent Jack Daniel Mondragon (Jack Daniel) is Rafael’s descendant by his second wife, Andrea Baldos (Andrea). Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 224476 is registered in the name of “Heirs of Andrea Baldos represented by Teofila G. Maceda” and covers 16,177 square meters of land in Macrohon, Southern Leyte (the land). Petitioners claim that from 1921 up to 2000, Rafael appeared as owner of the land in its tax declaration, and that a free patent was issued in 1987 in the name of Andrea’s heirs upon application of Teofila G. Maceda (Teofila), who is petitioners’ sister. On the other hand, respondents claim that Andrea is the exclusive owner of the land, having inherited the same from her father Blas Baldos. It was alleged that respondent Jack Daniel disposed an undivided portion of the subject parcel of land whereby it was questioned before the trial court whether he has authority to do so to which a favorable judgement was rendered for the former:
After trial, the court a quo rendered its May 19, 2003 Decision dismissing the case. It held that with the admission that Jack Daniel is an heir of Andrea, he being the latter’s grandson and therefore her heir, he is thus a co-owner of the land which forms part of Andrea’s estate, and thus possesses the right to dispose of his undivided share therein. The trial court held that petitioners’ remedy was to seek partition of the land in order to obtain title to determinate portions thereof.
Issues: Whether or not the trial court in rendering its decision violated the constitutional mandate under Art VIII section 14.
Whether or not respondent is entitled to the relief granted by the court.
Held: No. The constitutional requirement that every decision must state distinctly and clearly the factual and legal bases therefor should indeed be the primordial concern of courts and judges. Be that as it may, there should not be a mechanical reliance on this constitutional provision. The courts and judges should be allowed to synthesize and to simplify their decisions considering that at present, courts are harassed by crowded dockets and time constraints. Thus, the Court held in Del Mundo v. Court of Appeals:
It is understandable that courts with heavy dockets and time constraints, often find themselves with little to spare in the preparation of decisions to the extent most desirable. We have thus pointed out that judges might learn to synthesize and to simplify their pronouncements. Nevertheless, concisely written such as they may be, decisions must still distinctly and clearly express at least in minimum essence its factual and legal bases.
The Court finds in this case no breach of the constitutional mandate that decisions must express clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which they are based. The trial court’s Decision is complete, clear, and concise. Petitioners should be reminded that in making their indictment that the trial court’s Decision fails to express clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, they should not mistake brevity for levity.
Yes. The issues in a case for quieting of title are fairly simple; the plaintiff need to prove only two things, namely: “(1) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of the action; and (2) that the deed, claim, encumbrance or proceeding claimed to be casting a cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. Stated differently, the plaintiff must show that he has a legal or at least an equitable title over the real property in dispute, and that some deed or proceeding beclouds its validity or efficacy.”
It is evident from the title that the land belongs to no other than the heirs of Andrea Baldos, Rafael’s second wife. The land could not have belonged to Rafael, because he is not even named in OCT No. 22447. With greater reason may it be said that the land could not belong to petitioners, who are Rafael’s children by his first wife Eleuteria. Unless Eleuteria and Andrea were related by blood – such fact is not borne out by the record – they could not be heirs to each other. And if indeed Eleuteria and Andrea were blood relatives, then petitioners would have so revealed at the very first opportunity. Moreover, the fact that Rafael died ahead of Andrea, and that he is not even named in the title, give the impression that the land belonged solely to the heirs of Andrea, to the exclusion of Rafael. If this were not true, then the title should have as registered owners the “Heirs of Rafael and Andrea Mondragon”, in which case the petitioners certainly would possess equitable title, they being descendants-heirs of Rafael. Yet OCT No. 22447 is not so written.
People of the Philippines vs Aneslag
GR No. 185386 November 21, 2012
Facts: Respondents were arrested during a buy bust operation for sale of illegal drugs (Shabu) in the city of Iligan, Philippines. During the proceedings before the trial court, the credibility of evidence was challenged by impugning the chain of custody which was allegedly broken and questionable. There are several bags of shabu presented before the honorable court to establish the sale and testimonies of the investigating officer together with the forensic chemist were also presented. It was find out that there are discrepancies in the weight of the subject evidence upon its presentment before the court, as well as inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witness, hence this appeal.
Issue: Whether or not the conviction is proper.
Held: Yes. Section 21(1), Article II of R.A. No. 9165 provides the procedure for the handling of seized or confiscated illegal drugs:
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; x x x
However, non-compliance with Section 21 does not necessarily render the arrest illegal or the items seized inadmissible. What is essential is that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved which would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Thus, Section 21, Article II of the Implementing Rules of R.A. No. 9165 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 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. x x x (Emphasis supplied.)
Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which implements R.A. No. 9165, defines the chain of custody —
b. “Chain of Custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/ confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition.
In the case at bar, while the procedure under Section 21(1), Article II of R.A. No. 9165 was not strictly complied with, we find that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized shabu was duly preserved consistent with the chain of custody rule. As correctly observed by the appellate court, from the time of the arrest of the appellants and the confiscation of the subject shabu packs until their turnover for laboratory examination, SPO2 Salo was in sole possession thereof. During his testimony, he identified the subject shabu packs and the markings that he had previously made thereon.
We have examined the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and we find that the alleged inconsistencies are minor or trivial which serve to strengthen, rather than destroy, the credibility of the said witnesses as they erase doubts that the said testimonies had been coached or rehearsed.
Neither law nor jurisprudence requires that the police must apply fluorescent powder to the buy-bust money to prove the commission of the offense. The same holds true for the conduct of finger print examination on the money used in the buy-bust operation. What is crucial is that the prosecution proves, as in this case, the delivery of the prohibited drugs to the poseur-buyer and the presentation of the confiscated drugs before the court.
Anent the claim that the Thin Layer Chromatography used by the forensic chemist in determining the presence of shabu in the six packs is unreliable, we find the same to be unsubstantiated. Except for their bare allegation, the defense did not present clear and convincing evidence to prove that the findings of the forensic chemist were erroneous.
Spouses Magtoto vs Court of Appeals
GR No. 175792 November 21, 2012
Facts: Private respondent Leonila sold her 3 parcels of land located in Pampanga to herein petitioners as evidenced by a deed of absolute sale which was paid by the latter partially in cash and the balance by postdated checks. Upon its due and presentment, said checks were dishonored by the bank which prompted Leonila to send demands to make good the same. However, no action was taken on the part of spouses Magtoto compelling private respondent to file a complaint before the Regional Trial Court. After receiving summons, petitioners failed to file their answer causing a court’s judgement by default.
Issue: Whether or not the default judgement is valid.
Held: Yes. The spouses Magtoto are unable to show that their failure to timely file an Answer was due to fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence and, more importantly, that they have a meritorious defense pursuant to Section 3(b), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, viz:
(b) Relief from order of default. – A party declared in default may at any time after notice thereof and before judgment file a motion under oath to set aside the order of default upon proper showing that his failure to answer was due to fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence and that he has a meritorious defense. In such case, the order of default may be set aside on such terms and conditions as the judge may impose in the interest of justice.
Negligence to be excusable must be one which ordinary diligence and prudence could not have guarded against. Certainly, this is not the kind of negligence committed by the spouses Magtoto in this case. More significantly, a review of the records does not convince the court that the Spouses Magtoto have a meritorious defense. At most, the allegations in their answer and the attached affidavit of merit. To wit: that the agreed purchase price is only P10,000,000 that they provided financial support to Leonila for the settlement of the estate of the latter – the latter’s predecessor-in-interest and for the transfer of title in her name and that they already paid the total amount of P4,500,000 are mere allegations not supported by evidence they, at the outset supposed to present.
We agree with the CA that the RTC correctly declared the spouses Magtoto in default. The records show that after receipt of the summons, the spouses Magtoto thrice requested for extensions of time to file their Answer. The RTC granted these requests. For their final request for extension, the RTC gave the spouses Magtoto until August 2, 2003 within which to file their Answer. But still, no Answer was filed. Instead, on August 4, 2003, or two days after the deadline for filing their Answer, the spouses Magtoto filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. Despite its belated filing, the RTC acted on the motion and resolved the same, albeit not in favor of the said spouses. Thereafter, Atty. Canlas, petitioners’ former counsel, filed a motion to withdraw his appearance since he could no longer effectively defend spouses Magtoto because he had lost communication with them.
At the outset, it must be pointed out that petitioners’ resort to a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is inappropriate. Petitioners’ remedy from the adverse Decision of the CA lies in Rule 45 which is a Petition for Review on Certiorari. As such, this petition should have been dismissed outright for being a wrong mode of appeal. Even if the petition is to be treated as filed under Rule 45, the same must still be denied for late filing and there being no reversible error on the part of the CA. Records show that petitioners received a copy of the CA Resolution denying their Motion for Reconsideration on October 30, 2006. They therefore had 15 days or until November 14, 2006 within which to file their Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Court. However, they filed their Petition for Certiorari on December 29, 2006, after the period to file a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 had expired. Hence, this Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 was resorted to as a substitute for a lost appeal which is not allowed.