- People v. Miranda y Rama
- G.R. No. 174773
- CHICO-NAZARIO, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 174773. October 2, 2007.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. MARILYN MIRANDA y RAMA, accused-appellant.
D E C I S I O N
CHICO-NAZARIO, J p:
For review is the Decision, dated 30 June 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR H.C. No. 00395, which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Nueva Vizcaya, Branch 37, in Criminal Case No. 1826, finding appellant guilty of violation of Section 5,
The Information dated 16 February 2004, charged appellant and her co-accused Imeldo Caoile as follows:
That on January 12, 2004, around 7:00 o'clock in the evening in Barangay Calitlitan, Municipality of Aritao, Province of Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, caught in flagrante elicto (sic), did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, deliver and give away to a law enforcement agent who posed as a buyer of .25 gram methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), a dangerous drug, contained in four small size heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.
When arraigned on 5 March 2004, both appellant and Caoile pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The prosecution's version is based mainly on the testimony of PO1 Henry Valenzuela (PO1 Valenzuela), a member of the Provincial Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operation Task Force assigned at the police station in Alfonso Casta eda, Nueva Vizcaya. According to him, in the afternoon of 24 January 2004, he was at the Aritao police station together with Police Senior Inspector Prudencio Dela Cruz (PSI Dela Cruz), PO3 Manolo Lape a (PO3 Lape a), SPO2 Rogelio Orero (SPO2 Orero), and PO1 Rodelia Vergara (PO1 Vergara) discussing the conduct of the "buy-bust" operation within the town of Aritao. During the meeting, PSI Dela Cruz designated him as the poseur buyer and gave him a P500.00 bill for use as buy-bust money.
From the Aritao police station, they proceeded to Barangay Bone for the execution of the first buy-bust operation which was directed against a certain Reynaldo Mazo (Mazo). Apparently, the operation was a success as they were able to apprehend Mazo and to bring him to the police station. While being interviewed by PSI Dela Cruz, Mazo allegedly revealed the identities of the other people involved in the drug trade in the area. And so, their team planned another buy-bust operation. This time, the subject of their operation was herein appellant who lived in Barangay Calitlitan of the same town. Their team arrived at appellant's house at around seven o'clock in the evening. Upon their arrival, Mazo, who they brought along for the purpose of the buy-bust operation, introduced PO1 Valenzuela to appellant. Mazo told appellant that PO1 Valenzuela needed to buy shabu. Appellant then sought the permission of Caoile for the transaction. The latter allegedly agreed and so appellant went inside a room. When she returned, she pulled heat-sealed sachets from her pocket and handed them to Mazo who, in turn, gave appellant the marked P500.00 bill. Mazo then turned over to PO1 Valenzuela the items he got from appellant. Convinced that what appellant had given them was shabu, PO1 Valenzuela gave the pre-arranged signal to his companions who were then within the vicinity of appellant's house. PO1 Vergara and Police Chief Zaidee Daculog (Police Chief Daculog), entered the house and identified themselves as police officers. PO1 Vergara proceeded to frisk appellant and subjected her to a body search, but the procedure did not produce any contraband. For his part, PO1 Valenzuela went up to Caoile to prevent the latter from giving any aid to appellant. PO3 Lape a also helped Police Chief Daculog in searching for more illegal drugs in the living room of appellant's house. Again, the search yielded nothing. ECTIHa
Appellant was then taken to the Aritao police station. It was there that PO1 Vergara put the markings on the four plastic sachets allegedly sold by appellant. Another police officer, PO1 Magdalena Alicum (PO1 Alicum), took over the preparation of the request for laboratory examination and transfer of the confiscated items to the provincial office of the PNP crime laboratory. When the prosecutor presented four marked plastic sachets, PO1 Valenzuela identified them to be the ones they recovered from appellant in the course of the buy-bust operation.
For its part, the defense presented Caoile, appellant's boyfriend, as its first witness. He testified that on 12 January 2004, he went to appellant's house and found her resting on the bed. After taking a brief rest, the two of them went outside to buy meat at a nearby store. Upon their return, he immediately went to the kitchen to prepare their food, while appellant sat on the hammock. Thereafter, Mazo arrived together with another man whom he identified as PO1 Valenzuela. According to him, Mazo was an acquaintance, as the latter's family was a customer of the store he used to work for. He claimed that it was appellant who talked to Mazo and the unidentified man while he remained in the kitchen and was unaware of what the conversation was all about. All of a sudden, more men barged inside appellant's house and started searching the living room and the bedroom. PO1 Valenzuela then told him that they had recovered shabu. Another police officer started frisking his front pocket but he slapped the latter's hand as he thought evidence might be planted against him. His back pocket was likewise searched and again, he slapped the police officer's hand. He claimed that he opted to tear up his back pocket and that he even offered to remove all his clothing to prove that he did not have any illegal drugs in his possession.
The police then invited appellant to the municipal police headquarters and he insisted on coming along to make sure that "nothing will happen" to her. Instead of heading straight to the headquarters, they first passed by the house of SPO2 Orero at Bone South where they were told to sit at the terrace while the police officers took a rest. From there, they proceeded to the Aritao police station.
Caoile added that he and appellant were not the only ones who were taken to the police headquarters that night for according to him, two individuals, Sarmiento and Valdez, were with them as well as Mazo himself.
Appellant also testified in her defense and her testimony corroborated that of Caoile. She claimed that she knew Mazo because he was one of the customers at the videoke bar where she used to work. Contrary to the statement of PO1 Valenzuela that Mazo negotiated the sale of shabu with her on the evening of her arrest, appellant insisted that PO1 Valenzuela merely asked her if she was aware of Mazo's drug-related activities. After she denied any knowledge of said activities, about five men wearing short pants barged into her house and started conducting a search until one of them declared that he had found shabu.
After the trial, the court a quo rendered its decision finding appellant guilty as charged, while Caoile was acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
WHEREFORE, the court finds the accused Marilyn Miranda guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 5, Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and hereby imposes upon her the penalty of life imprisonment plus a fine of Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00), and to pay the costs. Considering the insufficiency of evidence, the court hereby acquits Imeldo Caoili on reasonable doubt. He is hereby ordered released unless he is being held for some other valid cause or causes.
The methamphetamine hydrochloride subject of this case is hereby declared forfeited in favor of the government, to be destroyed in accordance with the aforesaid law. The clerk of court is directed to coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for this purpose. HCITDc
In convicting appellant, the trial court declared that
The court believes, and so holds, that the specimen positively tested for methamphetamine hydrochloride by forensic chemist Alfredo Quintero was the same taken from the accused. Chemistry Report No. D-003-2004 not only indicated the names of the suspects, Imeldo Caoili and Marilyn Miranda but also the markings "RCV" written on the specimen examined. These initials were written by PO1 Rodelia C. Vergara in the presence of PO1 Valenzuela. The latter also testified that the sachets were delivered to the crime laboratory and even identified the receipts evidencing such delivery. More importantly, he identified the sachets in court and the accused had the opportunity to cross-examine him on this point (Peo. v. Babac, 204 SCRA 968). Finally, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties applies to this case, especially in the absence of any proof of any ulterior motive for the public officers to testify against the accused. The court therefore entertains no doubt that the sachets marked "RCV" were the very ones given by the accused Miranda to Mazo and Valenzuela during the buy-bust operation.
On 19 October 2004, appellant filed a Notice of Appeal, which was granted by the trial court in its Order, dated 22 October 2003, thereby elevating the case to the Court of Appeals.
On 30 June 2006, the Court of Appeals promulgated the herein assailed Decision affirming the appellant's conviction, thus:
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Vizcaya (Branch 37), dated October 9, 2004, is AFFIRMED. Costs against the appellant.
The Court of Appeals reiterated the oft-cited rule that factual findings of the trial court especially on the credibility of witnesses are accorded great weight and respect because of the trial court's unequalled opportunity to observe the demeanor and conduct of the witnesses. In this case, PO1 Valenzuela's testimony with regard to the buy-bust operation was found to be convincing, credible, and sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals also held that when a police officer, such as PO1 Valenzuela, was not moved by ill motive to testify falsely against an accused, courts are inclined to uphold the presumption of regularity in the performance of his duty.
The Court of Appeals likewise brushed aside appellant's argument that the evidence's chain of custody was not established for it was not shown that what were allegedly sold to the poseur-buyer and taken from appellant were the same ones actually forwarded to the crime laboratory. The Court of Appeals held that
We note that while the marking of the sachets in this case was not done by the arresting officers in strict compliance with Section 21, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 (The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), there is no doubt that the plastic sachets of shabu with the markings "RCV," referring to the initials of arresting officer PO1 Rodelio C. Vergara (PO1 Vergara), contained the same specimens recovered from the appellant. PO1 Valenzuela affirmed that this (sic) markings were made by PO1 Vergara in his presence. He also specifically narrated the incident from the time appellant turned over the plastic sachets to him until the time they were marked by PO1 Vergara in his presence and finally when the same was referred to the forensic chemist for qualitative examination. As correctly noted by the trial court, PO1 Valenzuela witnessed the delivery of the sachets of shabu to the Crime Laboratory and even identified the receipts evidencing such delivery. There is no question, therefore, that the identity of the prohibited drug in this case was certainly safeguarded.
Because of the adverse ruling of the Court of Appeals, appellant now seeks the review of her case by this Court. On 29 November 2006, we required the parties to submit their respective supplemental briefs if they so desired. HICSTa
On 23 January 2007, appellant filed her Manifestation stating that she was adopting her Appellant's Brief dated 21 June 2005 filed before the Court of Appeals as her supplemental brief.
Appellant makes a lone assignment of error:
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PROVE HER GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
Appellant argues that the prosecution failed to establish the elements of the crime she was charged with. She points out that other than the testimony of the alleged poseur-buyer, the prosecution failed to present any other evidence that the alleged buy-bust transaction took place. Moreover, she contends that the only subject of the police operation on that day was Mazo, while the operation involving her arose only out of what Mazo had supposedly told the police officers. To bolster her claim of innocence, she also draws our attention to the fact that the warrantless search of her house conducted by the police did not yield any incriminating evidence against her. She also contends that while the alleged buy-bust operation transpired at around seven o'clock in the evening, the excerpt from the police blotter showed that it was only at around nine o'clock of the same night when the alleged marked money used by the police was recorded therein. Appellant also argues that the chain of custody of the four sachets of shabu purportedly recovered from her was not established and that the prosecution failed to prove that the plastic sachets forwarded to the crime laboratory for examination were indeed the ones she "sold" to PO1 Valenzuela. Thus, appellant contends that the police failed to prove that the contraband items were first weighed before they were turned over to the crime laboratory.
In its Supplemental Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) counters that the chain of custody over the confiscated drug was duly established by the prosecution. It argues that the issue of the faithful handling of the shabu was never raised during the trial of this case and that appellant is belatedly raising such issue on appeal. And even if said question would be considered, the OSG opines that it should not affect the outcome of the case, for the chain of custody was proven in that PO1 Valenzuela testified regarding the conduct of the buy-bust, his transfer of the possession of the shabu to PO1 Vergara, the latter's marking of the plastic sachets, and PO1 Alicum's preparation of the request for laboratory examination and the turnover of the illegal drug to the crime laboratory.
The OSG also insists that the prosecution had discharged its burden of proving appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt for the elements of the crime she was charged with were established during the trial.
At the outset, we address the argument raised by the OSG that it is now too late for appellant to raise the issue of chain of custody on appeal. Such stance clearly overlooks one of the distinctions between a criminal case and a civil case. To reiterate, an appeal in a criminal case opens the entire case for review. The reviewing tribunal can correct errors though unassigned in the appeal, or even reverse the trial court's decision on grounds other than those the parties raised as errors. Notwithstanding this, we still find no cogent reason warranting the acquittal of appellant in this case.
A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment whereby ways and means are employed for the purpose of trapping and capturing lawbreakers in the execution of their plan. It has become a familiar and much-resorted to procedure to apprehend lawless elements and to put a dent on the proliferation of criminal activities. In particular, its use has been proven effective in putting an end to the illicit business of drug peddlers who are susceptible to deal with anyone willing to purchase their goods even if the prospective buyer is a total stranger. Unless there is a clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies with respect to the operation deserve full faith and credit.
In this case, PO1 Valenzuela's recollection of the buy-bust operation is as follows: cAHIST
Q: You said that you planned another buy bust operation, when did you plan this buy bust operation against this Marilyn Miranda?
A: Initially we planned this buy bust operation at the Aritao Police Station, Sir.
Q: You said, initially, why initially you planned the buy bust operation at the Aritao police station?
A: Before we conducted the buy bust operation, Sir, we passed by at the area and we again rehearsed at another area, Sir, before we finally conducted the buy bust operation at the house of Marilyn Miranda, Sir.
Q: Who actually conducted the buy bust operation?
A: I, Sir, PO1 Vergara, PO3 Lape a, the chief of police of Aritao and others, Sir, whom I cannot remember their names.
Q: Around what time did you arrive at the house of Marilyn Miranda?
A: Around 7:00 o'clock P.M., Sir.
Q: So, what happened upon the arrival at the house of Marilyn Miranda?
A: Upon arrival, Reynaldo Mazo who was then my companion introduced me to the suspect, Sir.
Q: So, what happened?
A: After he introduced me to the suspect, Mr. Mazo said that I need a drug particulary shabu, Sir.
Q: Where did this introduction happened inside (sic) the house or inside the house?
A: Inside the house, Sir.
Q: So, what was the reaction, if any, of the suspect that accused Marilyn Miranda in this case when Mr. Mazo said you needed drug particularly shabu? ITAaHc
A: I talked to Mr. Caoile, Sir.
Q: Who talked to Mr. Caoile, Mr. witness?
A: Marilyn Miranda, Sir.
Q: How far were you from them when they talked?
A: About 2 to 3 meters, Sir.
Q: What did they talk about, if you know?
A: Marilyn Miranda asked permission from Mr. Caoile, Sir.
Q: What was Marilyn Miranda asking permission about?
A: He asked permission to sell shabu from Mr. Caoile, Sir.
Q: So, what was the result of that talk?
A: Mr. Caoile permitted by saying, "ikkam a nu adda."
Q: What happened next?
A: After that, Sir, Marilyn Miranda entered their room, Sir.
Q: How far was that room from the place that you were situated?
A: 3 to 4 meters, Sir.
Q: What happened next?
A: After that, Sir, Marilyn Miranda got something from her pocket and gave it to Mr. Mazo, Sir.
Q: What was that something that Marilyn Miranda took from her pocket?
A: A heat sealed plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance, Sir. IcTaAH
Q: After that what happened next?
A: Reynaldo Mazo in return gave the P500.00 which I gave him, Sir.
Q: After that what happened next?
A: Reynaldo Mazo gave the plastic heat sealed to me and when I notice that it was a suspected shabu, I gave the pre-arranged signal to my companions, Sir.
Q: Where were your companions when this transaction happened?
A: At the vicinity of the house of Marilyn Miranda, Sir.
Q: After you gave the pre-arranged signal, what happened next?
A: PO1 Vergara and the chief of police entered the house and identified themselves as police officers, Sir.
In our minds, PO1 Valenzuela's testimony was able to meet the requirement we laid down in , in that, he was able to present a complete picture detailing the buy-bust operation from the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale. His testimony revealed how their team came to know about appellant's drug trade; the manner of negotiation for the purchase of shabu among appellant, Mazo, and himself; the exchange of consideration between Mazo and appellant; and Mazo's handing over to him of the subject of the sale.
From the foregoing, it is patently clear that the prosecution succeeded in establishing, with moral certainty, all the elements of the illegal sale of shabu, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. The presence of these elements is sufficient to support appellant's finding of guilt and is not negated by the police's failure to find any other contraband in her house.
We are neither persuaded by appellant's contention that the buy-bust operation was directed only at Mazo. While it is true that based on the testimony of PO1 Valenzuela, the buy-bust team met at the Aritao police station to coordinate their entrapment of Mazo, this fact should not in any way affect the validity of the buy-bust operation conducted against her. To reiterate, her name and involvement in the illegal sale of shabu only became known to the police after Mazo's arrest. Thus, it was only after Mazo revealed her identity to the police that she became the target of another entrapment operation and in her case, Mazo himself was used as an intermediary by the buy-bust team.
Moreover, appellant failed to present any plausible reason or ill motive on the part of the arresting officers to falsely impute to her such a serious and unfounded charge. From her testimony, it can easily be discerned that she did not know any one of the members of the buy-bust team who arrested her. She even referred to them as Mazo's "companions." This fact supports the Court of Appeals' holding that
Then too, the rule is settled that the testimony of a law enforcer carries with it the presumption of regularity in the performance of his official functions. When a police officer has no motive for testifying falsely against the accused, courts are inclined to uphold the presumption of regularity in the performance of his duty. Here, no evidence whatsoever was presented which would suggest any improper motive on the part of PO1 Valenzuela. We must accord great respect to and treat with finality the findings of the trial court on the matter of his credibility.
We likewise find no merit in appellant's contention that the buy-bust operation was tainted with irregularity by the belated recording of the buy-bust money in the records of the police. It is settled that the recording of marked money used in a buy-bust operation is not one of the elements for the prosecution of sale of illegal drugs. The recording or non-recording thereof in an official record will not necessarily lead to an acquittal as long as the sale of the prohibited drug is adequately proven.
As to appellant's insistence that the shabu confiscated from her was not sufficiently established by the prosecution, the records will bear out that PO1 Valenzuela positively identified in court the four plastic sachets containing shabu which they bought from her. While he did not put any markings on the items, he witnessed his fellow member of the buy-bust team, PO1 Vergara, put his initials "RCV" on the sachets. Obviously, the identity of the corpus delicti has been duly preserved and established by the prosecution in this case contrary to appellant's protestation. Besides, the integrity of the evidence is presumed to be preserved unless there is a showing of bad faith, ill will, or proof that the evidence has been tampered with. The appellant in this case bears the burden to make some showing that the evidence was tampered or meddled with to overcome a presumption of regularity in the handling of exhibits by public officers and a presumption that public officers properly discharge their duties.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR H.C. No. 00395 dated 30 June 2006, finding appellant Marilyn Miranda y Rama, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 5, in toto. No costs.
Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez, Nachura and Reyes, JJ., concur.
1. Penned by Associate Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman with Associate Justices Josefina Guevara-Salonga and Normandie B. Pizarro, concurring; rollo, pp. 2-13.
2. SEC. 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.
The penalty of imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000,000.00) to Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any controlled precursor and essential chemical, or shall act as a broker in such transactions.
If the sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution or transportation of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical transpires within one hundred (100) meters from the school, the maximum penalty shall be imposed in every case.
For drug pushers who use minors or mentally incapacitated individuals as runners, couriers and messengers, or in any other capacity directly connected to the dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals trade, the maximum penalty shall be imposed in every case.
If the victim of the offense is a minor or a mentally incapacitated individual, or should a dangerous drug and/or a controlled precursor and essential chemical involved in any offense herein provided be the proximate cause of death of a victim thereof, the maximum penalty provided for under this Section shall be imposed.
The maximum penalty provided for under this Section shall be imposed upon any person who organizes, manages or acts as a "financier" of any of the illegal activities prescribed in this Section.
The penalty of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) to Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who acts as a "protector/coddler" of any violator of the provisions under this Section.
3. Sometimes spelled as "Caoili" in the records.
4. Records, p. 1.
5. Id. at 20.
6. Should be 12 January 2004.
7. PO1 Valenzuela claimed that he wrote his initials "HDV" on the hand of Benigno Aquino, Jr.
8. In the Joint Affidavit of Arrest executed by SPO1 Orero, PO3 Lape a, PO1 Valenzuela, and PO1 Vergara, they stated that in addition to Mazo, Caoile, and appellant, they also arrested Ruel Sarmiento, Nilo Valdez through a series of buy bust operations conducted on 12 January 2004; Records, p. 5.
9. Id. at 74-75.
10. Id. at 71.
11. Id. at 78.
12. Id. at 79.
13. Rollo, p. 13.
14. Id. at 11.
15. Id. at 14.
16. Id. at 18-19.
17. CA rollo, p. 37.
18. , G.R. No. 143718, 19 May 2004, 428 SCRA 478, 491.
19. , 423 Phil. 895, 911 (2001).
20. , 459 Phil. 187, 195 (2003).
21. "You give if it's available."
22. TSN, 26 April 2004, pp. 7-9.
23. G.R. No. 137348, 21 June 2004, 432 SCRA 470.
24. Id. at 485.
25. 20 at 193.
26. , 434 Phil. 148, 158-159 (2002).
27. Rollo, p. 10.
28. , G.R. No. 152848, 12 July 2006, 494 SCRA 691, 705.
29. , G.R. No. 107623, 23 February 1994, 230 SCRA 309, 318.
30. 29 Am Jur 2d, Subsection 947.