People of the Philippines vs Gregorio Villalon Jr.
G.R. No. 249412, March 15, 2021
The City Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Group conducted a buy-bust operation acting on confidential information regarding the alleged illegal drug-peddling activities of Villalon. The accused had (a) sold and handed over to the police poseur-buyer a sachet containing shabu; (b) in his possession and control 3 transparent plastic sachets of shabu and (c) unlawfully in his possession the following equipments, instruments and paraphernalia intended for use of dangerous drugs – 2 lighter and a tube tooter.
Three (3) separate Informations were filed before the RTC charging Villalon with the crimes of Illegal Sale and Possession of Dangerous Drugs, as well as Illegal Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. For his part, the accused-appellant denied the charges against him and instead, claimed that during that time, he was waiting for his turn to buy soft drinks from a store when two (2) unknown people approached him and asked him if he was Jun-Jun Villalon, which he confirmed. They then held him and instructed him to bring them to his boarding house. Upon arrival they made him sit and then asked him where his money was, which he answered by pointing at the top of the table. One of them then showed him a small wallet with shabu inside that was allegedly his, which he vehemently denied. Subsequently, they brought him to the police station and detained him.
The RTC found the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged.
The CA affirmed in toto the RTC ruling, finding that all the elements of the crimes charged had been successfully established. It ruled that lack of prior surveillance was not fatal, if not inconsequential, to accused-appellant’s conviction since the police operatives were accompanied by their informant during the entrapment
Whether Villalon is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
NO. In this case, while the prosecution successfully established the first to the third links, it however failed to show compliance with the fourth link of the chain of custody. Records show that during the trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated on the intended testimony of prosecution witness P/S Insp. Pascual, thus: (a) that he is an expert witness; (b) that pursuant to the Request for Laboratory Examination from the Escalante City Police Station, P/SInsp. Pascual conducted the qualitative examination on the specimens submitted to them; (c) that after conducting the required examination, he reduced his findings in Chemistry Report No. D-549-2015; and (d) that he can identify the specimens which he subjected to examination. However, in dispensing with his testimony, the prosecution failed to prove the manner by which the specimens were handled before P/SInsp. Pascual received them, how he examined the items, and how these were stored or kept in custody until they were brought and presented in court as evidence.
The Court clarified in People v. Ubungen that “it should be stipulated that the forensic chemist would have testified that he took the precautionary steps required in order to preserve the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item, thus: (1) the forensic chemist received the seized article as marked, properly sealed, and intact; (2) he resealed it after examination of the content; and (3) he placed his own marking on the same to ensure that it could not be tampered pending trial.”
Here, the parties’ stipulation did not mention that any one of these precautionary steps were in fact done by the forensic chemist, from the time he received the seized items for laboratory examination and before they were delivered to the trial court for identification, leaving a gap in the chain of custody of said seized item.
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