Constitutional Law, Remedial Law

People v. Gesmundo G.R. No. 89373. March 9, 1993 Rights of the Accused, Search Warrant

FACTS:

On November 17, 1986, police officer Jose Luciano gave money and instructed his civilian informer to buy marijuana from the accused Yolanda Gesmundo. Luciano saw the accused selling marijuana to his civilian informer by the door outside the house of the accused. Immediately thereafter, that same day Luciano applied for a search warrant.

Later that day, a raiding police team armed with a Search Warrant went to the residence of the Brgy. Capt. Angel Capuno for them to be accompanied by him in serving the said warrant at the residence of the accused.

Upon reaching the residence of the accused, the accused led the team into her kitchen and she pointed to a metal basin on top of a table as the hiding place of the dried marijuana flowering tops contained in a plastic bag marked ISETANN. The police also recovered from a native “uway” cabinet dried marijuana flowering tops wrapped separately in three (3) pieces of Komiks paper. After the discovery, the accused was photographed together with the confiscated items. Thereafter, accused was made to acknowledge in writing that the dried marijuana flowering tops were taken from her possession and control inside her residence. Brgy. Capt. Capuno also affixed his countersignature thereto.

On the other hand, the accused-appellant alleged that on said date, while she was in the terrace of their house, a jeep with policemen on board arrived. She identified Sgt. Yte and Luciano to be among the group. She invited Sgt. Yte  to enter the house. While seated at the sala, Sgt. Yte was showing to accused-appellant something which he claimed to be a search warrant when someone uttered the following words “ito na” coming from the direction where the kitchen of the house is. She, together with Sgt. Yte proceeded to the kitchen and saw PFC Luciano holding a plastic bag with four other companions who entered the house through the back door which was opened at that time. Luciano handed the bag to Sgt. Yte who, after examining the contents, confronted the accused-appellant and insisted that the plastic bag came from her. She vehemently denied the accusation said that she does not know anything about it. Then she was made to sign a prepared document with her name already printed on it. Under extreme pressure and promised that they will just talk with her at the City Hall, accused-appellant was constrained to sign said document. Afterwards, she was brought to the police station and detained.

The trial court rendered judgment finding the accused Yolanda Gesmundo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation of Section 4, Article II, R.A. 6425, and imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua on the accused-appellant.

Hence, this appeal.

ISSUE:

Whether or not accused-appellant is guilty of the crime charged.

RULING:

We must be absolutely convinced that marijuana was actually surrendered by the accused-appellant and not planted as claimed by her. As held in People of the Philippines vs. Romeo F. Remorosa: 

“Irreconcilable and unexplained contradictions in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses cast doubt on the guilt of appellant and his culpability to the crime charged.”

Furthermore, the claim of the accused-appellant that the marijuana was planted is strengthened by the manner in which the search was conducted by the police authorities. The accused-appellant was seated at the sala together with Sgt. Yte when they heard someone in the kitchen uttered “ito na”. Apparently, the search of the accused-appellant’s house was conducted in violation of Section 7, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court which specifically provides that no search of a house, room or any other premise 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, in the presence of two (2) witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality. This requirement is mandatory to ensure regularity in the execution of the search warrant. Violation of said rule is in fact punishable under Article 130 of the Revised Penal Code. 

As we have ruled in Eduardo Quintero vs. The National Bureau of Investigation, et al.  a procedure, wherein members of a raiding party can roam around the raided premises unaccompanied by any witness, as the only witnesses available as prescribed by law are made to witness a search conducted by the other members of the raiding party in another part of the house, is violative of both the spirit and the letter of the law.

It is true that the police were able to get an admission from the accused-appellant that marijuana was found in her possession but said admission embodied in a document entitled “PAGPAPATUNAY” previously prepared by the police, is inadmissible in evidence against the accused-appellant for having been obtained in violation of her rights as a person under custodial investigation for the commission of an offense.  The records show that the accused-appellant was not informed of her right not to sign the document; neither was she informed of her right to the assistance of counsel and the fact that the document may be used as evidence against her.

Not only does the law require the presence of witnesses when the search is conducted. but it also imposes upon the person making the search the duty to issue a detailed receipt for the property seized.  He is likewise required to deliver the property seized to the judge who issued the warrant, together with a true and accurate inventory thereof duly verified under oath.  Again, these duties are mandatory and are required to preclude substitution of the items seized by interested parties.

The police authorities in the case at bar testified that they submitted an inventory to the court without the marijuana, the latter having been turned over to the NBI. Whether an inventory was actually made by the police was not clearly established in the trial court.

Having made no return or inventory to the warrant-issuing court, there is no proof that the police really found marijuana in the house of the accused. Besides, Salud Manguba, the Forensic Chemist who examined the marijuana allegedly confiscated by the police from the appellant, asserted that when the police officer turned over said items to the NBI, there were no identifying marks on the plastic bag.

If the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two (2) or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to support a conviction. (People v. Parayno, 24 SCRA 3; U.S. v. Maano, 2 Phil. 718; People v. Pacana, 47 Phil. 48). 

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is REVERSED, and on reasonable doubt, the appellant is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged.

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