Criminal Law

People v. Melchor Brita G.R. No. 191260 November 24, 2014 R.A. 9165, Presumption of Regularity, Defense of Frame up

 

FACTS:

A Buy-bust team went to the house of appellant who thereupon came out of his house and approached them. After having been introduced by the informant to the appellant as a potential buyer of shabu worth ₱500.00, PO2 Tejero gave appellant the marked money. In return, appellant took from his right pocket a plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance and handed the same to PO2 Tejero. PO2 Tejero then executed the pre-arranged signal by lighting a cigarette. Thereupon, PO3 Orias and the rest of the team rushed to the scene. Alarmed, appellant went inside his house but was caught by the police officers. After he was placed under arrest, PO2 Tejero recovered from appellant the buy-bust money. Anent the white crystalline substance he bought from appellant, PO2 Tejero marked the plastic sachet thereof with “MDB-1.”

Meanwhile, PO3 Orias frisked appellant and found in his possession two plastic sachets containing suspected shabu. PO3 Orias marked the recovered plastic sachets with “MDB-2” and “MDB-3.”

Two separate Informations were filed against appellant before the RTC. One was for selling 0.19 gram of shabu, in violation of Section 5 of RA 9165, and the other for illegal possession of 1.56 grams of shabu, in violation of Section 11 of the same law.

The substance tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Meanwhile, appellant, for his defense, proffered denial. He claimed that there was no buy-bust operation and that hewas – merely a victim of frame-up.

The trial court adjudged appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of ₱500,000.00.

The CA affirmed the said RTC Decision.

Hence, the present appeal.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the presumption of regularity should by itself prevail over the presumption of innocence.

 

RULING:

 

The Court agrees with the CA.

The narrations of PO2 Tejero and PO3 Orias of what really transpired in the afternoon of October 23, 2002, from the moment the confidential informant disclosed to their chief the illegal activities of appellant up to the time ofhis arrest, deserve great respect and credence as the same emanated from the direct account of law enforcement officers who enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties.

It should be noted that “[u]nless there is clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buybust team were inspired by any improper motive or [did] not properly [perform] their duty, their testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit.” Moreover, while appellant is correct that the presumption of regularity should not by itself prevail over the presumption of innocence, still, he must be able to present a viable defense.

Here, what appellant interposed is merely denial and a claim of frame-up. “[F]or the claim of frame-up to prosper, the defense must be able to present clear and convincing evidence to overcome [the] presumption of regularity, which it failed to do.

Hence, the Court finds no error on the part of the courts below in upholding the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty of the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation. Anent the alleged inconsistencies pointed out by appellant, the same were too trivial and inconsequential.

They did not deal with the central fact of the crime.

Moreover, during trial, the item object of the sale was duly marked, subjected to rigid examination, and eventually offered as evidence.

Like the courts below, the Court finds that the prosecution was able to adequately show the unbroken chain of custody/possession of the seized item from the moment the sale was consummated, until it was tested in the crime laboratory, and up to the time it was offered in evidence. Clearly, its integrity and evidentiary value have not been compromised at any stage. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DISMISSED.

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