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.