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.