Jasper Tan vs People of the Philippines

G.R. No. 232611, April 26, 2021

FACTS:

Two (2) Informations were filed against Jasper charging him with Illegal Sale and Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs under Sections 15 and 16, Article III of Republic Act (RA) No. 6425.  On arraignment, Jasper pleaded not guilty to the crimes charged.

The RTC convicted Jasper of the charges against him. The trial court ruled that denial is a weak defense, and the prosecution was able to prove Jasper’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in both cases. CA affirmed Jasper’s conviction. 

Jasper assailed the following: 

  1. the validity of the search warrant because it does not have a specific description of the house and its premises
  2. the search was invalid because he was already arrested and his movement restricted when the search was conducted, so his right to witness the search was violated
  3. the prosecution did not comply with the rule on chain of custody.

In sum, he posits the seized drugs are not admissible as evidence, and the buy-bust operation as well as his arrest were illegal.

ISSUE:

1.  Whether or not there is a valid search and seizure

HELD: 

The right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a constitutionally protected right. To overturn this presumption, the prosecution must proffer proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of proof sufficient to produce a moral certainty as to convince and satisfy the conscience of those who act in judgment. In this case the prosecution failed to prove Jasper’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, hence, he must be acquitted.

NO. The evidence points to only the barangay captain witnessing the search. Such a procedure violates Section 8 (formerly Section 7), Rule 126 of the Rules of Court which specifically provides that “no search of a house, room or any other premises shall be made except in the presence of the lawful occupant thereof or any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.” Only in the absence of either the lawful occupant of the premises or any member of his family can the search be observed by two (2) witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality. The police officers do not have the discretion to substitute their choice of witness, the barangay captain in this case, for those witnesses prescribed by the rules.

Failure to comply with the safeguards provided by law in implementing the search warrant makes the search unreasonable. Thus, the exclusionary rule applies, i.e., any evidence obtained in violation of this constitutional mandate is inadmissible in any proceeding for any purpose.

Without the confiscated shabu, no evidence is left to convict Jasper. An acquittal for both charges is warranted.

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