Criminal Law,  Legally Yours

People v. Cunanan

People v. Cunanan

People of the Philippines v. Rafael Cunanan y David “alias” Paeng Putol”
G.R. No. 198024, March 16, 2015

FACTS:

Accused-appellant Cunanan was charged with violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 for selling methamphetamine hydrochloride. The RTC and the CA found her guilty beyond reasonable of the crime charged.

Acting on a tip from a confidential informant that a certain “Paeng Putol”, later identified as the appellant, was engaging in selling illegal drugs, PSI Abalos organized a buy-bust team. PO1 Gunda was designated as the poseur-buyer and was thus given two 100-peso bills as marked money while the rest of the team would act as back-ups. Thereafter, the team proceeded to and arrived at the target area.

PO1 Gunda and the informant walked towards a store along an alley while the others strategically positioned themselves some five to seven meters away. PO1 Gunda was introduced to appellant as a drug user who wanted to buy shabu worth P200.00. After receiving the marked money from PO1 Gunda, appellant entered a narrow alley and came back with a small plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance which he handed to PO1 Gunda. Thereupon, PO1 Gunda gave the pre-arranged signal to inform the buy-bust team of the consummated transaction and arrested appellant.

Appellant denies the charge and interposes the defenses of denial and frame-up or extortion. He further avers that (1) there was no inflagrante delicto arrest as he was not committing any crime at the time he was apprehended; (2) it was inconceivable for him to openly sell illegal drugs as PO1 Gunda himself testified that at the time of the alleged sale transaction there were many people around the target area; and (3) the apprehending officers failed to comply with the guidelines on the proper custody of the seized dangerous drug, specifically with respect to its inventory and taking of photograph.

ISSUE:

Is the guilt of accused-appellant proven beyond reasonable doubt?

HELD:

YES. Appellant was lawfully arrested after he was caught in flagrante delicto selling an illegal drug in a buy-bust operation, and contrary to his contention, it was not inconceivable that he would openly sell an illegal drug in public. The transaction made in the buy-bust operation involved the illegal sale of dangerous drug. This was sufficiently shown by the prosecution through its establishment of the following elements of the offense: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, object and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.” Undoubtedly, appellant was lawfully arrested after he was caught in flagrante delicto selling shabu in a buy-bust operation.

Anent the contention of the officers’ non-compliance with the guidelines on the proper custody of the seized item, particularly with respect to the inventory and taking of its photograph, appellant’s contention is untenable. Non-compliance with the requirements of Section 21 of RA 9165 will not necessarily render the item seized or confiscated in a buy-bust operation inadmissible. Strict compliance with the letter of Section 21 is not required if there is a clear showing that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item have been preserved.

Here, records reveal that after the consummation of the sale and the consequent arrest of appellant, the plastic sachet sold by appellant was marked at the place where it was confiscated. Thereafter, appellant and the seized drug were brought to the police station. And as stipulated by the parties, a request for laboratory examination of a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance with the marking. During the trial, the marked plastic sachet was presented and identified by PO1 Gunda as the same item sold to him by appellant.
From this sequence of events, the prosecution was able to show an unbroken link in the chain of custody of the subject item which is the proof of the corpus delicti. Its integrity and evidentiary value were shown not to have been compromised notwithstanding the fact that the inventory and photograph thereof which PO1 Gunda claimed to have been made were not offered in evidence.

Ultimately, appellant’s defense of denial and frame-up or extortion fails to convince. Appellant’s violation of Section 5 Article II of RA 9165 was duly established beyond reasonable doubt, hence, his conviction is affirmed.

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