This is an appeal from the Decision of the RTC finding the accused- appellant Carlos Dela Cruz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11(2) of Republic Act No. (RA) 9165 or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 for having in his possession, direct custody and control one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic bag weighing 49.84 grams of white crystalline substance, which gave positive results for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.
Accused-appellant entered a not guilty plea and trial ensued.
The facts, according to the prosecution, showed that in the morning of October 20, 2002, an informant tipped off the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Marikina Police Station that wanted drug pusher Wifredo Loilo alias “Boy Bicol” was at his nipa hut hideout in San Mateo, Rizal. A team was organized to arrest Boy Bicol. Once there, they saw Boy Bicol by a table talking with accused-appellant. They shouted “Boy Bicol sumuko ka na may warrant of arrest ka.” Upon hearing this, Boy Bicol engaged them in a shootout and was fatally shot.
Accused-appellant was seen holding a shotgun through a window. He dropped his shotgun when a police officer pointed his firearm at him. The team entered the nipa hut and apprehended accused-appellant. They saw a plastic bag of suspected shabu, a digital weighing scale, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, and magazines lying on the table. PO1 Calanoga, Jr. put the markings “CVDC,” the initials of accused-appellant, on the bag containing the seized drug. Accused-appellant was subsequently arrested. The substance seized from the hideout was sent to the Philippine National Police crime laboratory for examination and tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. He was thus separately indicted for violation of RA 9165 and for illegal possession of firearm.
The RTC acquitted accused-appellant of illegal possession of firearm and ammunition but convicted him of possession of dangerous drugs.
Is accused-appellant Carlos De la Cruz guilty of violation of Sec. 11(2) of RA 9165?
The elements in illegal possession of dangerous drug are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. On the third element, we have held that the possession must be with knowledge of the accused or that animus possidendi existed with the possession or control of said articles. Considering that as to this knowledge, a person’s mental state of awareness of a fact is involved, we have ruled that:
Since courts cannot penetrate the mind of an accused and thereafter state its perceptions with certainty, resort to other evidence is necessary. Animus possidendi, as a state of mind, may be determined on a case-to-case basis by taking into consideration the prior or contemporaneous acts of the accused, as well as the surrounding circumstances. Its existence may and usually must be inferred from the attendant events in each particular case.
The prior or contemporaneous acts of accused-appellant show that: he was inside the nipa hut at the time the buy-bust operation was taking place; he was talking to Boy Bicol inside the nipa hut; he was seen holding a shotgun; when PO1 Calanoga, Jr. pointed his firearm at accused-appellant, the latter dropped his shotgun; and when apprehended, he was in a room which had the seized shabu, digital weighing scale, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, and magazines. Accused-appellant later admitted that he knew what the content of the seized plastic bag was.
Given the circumstances, we find that the prosecution failed to establish possession of the shabu, whether in its actual or constructive sense, on the part of accused-appellant.
The two buy-bust team members corroborated each other’s testimonies on how they saw Boy Bicol talking to accused-appellant by a table inside the nipa hut. That table, they testified, was the same table where they saw the shabu once inside the nipa hut. This fact was used by the prosecution to show that accused-appellant exercised dominion and control over the shabu on the table. We, however, find this too broad an application of the concept of constructive possession.
In the instant case, however, there is no question that accused-appellant was not the owner of the nipa hut that was subject of the buy-bust operation. He did not have dominion or control over the nipa hut. Neither was accused-appellant a tenant or occupant of the nipa hut, a fact not disputed by the prosecution. The target of the operation was Boy Bicol. Accused-appellant was merely a guest of Boy Bicol. But in spite of the lack of evidence pinning accused-appellant to illegal possession of drugs, the trial court declared the following:
It cannot be denied that when the accused was talking with Boy Bicol he knew that the shabu was on the table with other items that were confiscated by the police operatives. The court [surmises] that the accused and boy Bicol were members of a gang hiding in that nipa hut where they were caught red-handed with prohibited items and dangerous [drugs].
The trial court cannot assume, based on the prosecution’s evidence, that accused-appellant was part of a gang dealing in illegal activities. Apart from his presence in Boy Bicol’s nipa hut, the prosecution was not able to show his participation in any drug-dealing. He was not even in possession of drugs in his person. He was merely found inside a room with shabu, not as the room’s owner or occupant but as a guest. While he allegedly pointed a firearm at the buy-bust team, the prosecution curiously failed to produce the firearm that accused-appellant supposedly used.
The prosecution in this case clearly failed to show all the elements of the crime absent a showing of either actual or constructive possession by the accused-appellant.
Accused-appellant Carlos Dela Cruz is ACQUITTED of violation of Sec. 11(2) of RA 9165