G.R. No. 241610, February 01, 2021.
After the implementation of a search warrant, Tabingo was found to have in his possession, control and custody six (6) opened transparent plastic sachets containing Methamphetamine or shabu residue, a dangerous drug. He was charged with violation of Sections 11 and 12, of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Tabingo pleaded not guilty to the offenses charged. He contended that the police officers had to look for him, and later found him in his daughter’s house, where he was informed that they have a search warrant against him. Thereafter, Tabingo complied and opened the door of his house. However, when Tabingo was about to enter, he was ordered to stay at the main door of his house. During the search of the rooms, the police officers summoned Tabingo to take a look at the plastic sachets of shabu that they allegedly found. Later on, Tabingo was arrested and brought to the police station.
The trial court rendered a Decision finding Tabingo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offenses charge. The CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC.
Whether Tabingo is guilty beyond reasonable doubt
NO. First the noncompliance of Section 8, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure tainted the search from the very beginning rendering the seized items inadmissible in evidence for being the proverbial fruit of the poisonous tree. Second, the prosecution’s unjustified non-compliance with the required procedures under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 resulted in a substantial gap in the chain of custody of the seized items from Tabingo; thus, the integrity and evidentiary value of the drugs and paraphernalia seized are put in question.
- A search under the strength of a warrant is required to be witnessed by the lawful occupant of the premises sought to be searched. It must be stressed that it is only upon their absence that their presence may be replaced by two (2) persons of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.
The policemen involved in the search of Tabingo’s residence did not conduct the search in accordance with Section 8, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Although the petitioner was in his house, he did not witness the actual search because he was ordered to stay at the main door while the search in his bedroom was on-going. It is as if the search was conducted without his presence.
- The prosecution failed to establish the chain of custody of the seized shabu residue and paraphernalia from the time they were recovered from the petitioner up to the time they were presented in court. The required witnesses were not present at the time of apprehension. The physical inventory of the allegedly seized items was done only in the presence of the two (2) Barangay Kagawads. Furthermore, the physical inventory of the seized articles was not witnessed by the petitioner or his representative or counsel, by a representative from the media, and a representative from the DOJ. Hence, the mandate of Section 21(1) of R.A. 9165 was not complied.
The prosecution did not even bother to explain the non-compliance with the required number of witnesses. Verily, the prosecution bears the burden of proof to show valid cause for non-compliance with the procedure laid down in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165.
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