Criminal Law

People of the Philippines vs Raul Del Rosario

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G.R. No. 235658 – 874 Phil. 881 – Criminal Law – Special Penal Laws – R.A. 9165 – Section 21 – Chain of Custody

In April 2008, Raul Del Rosario was subjected to a buy bust operation. He was subsequently charged with violations of Sections 5 and 11 of R.A. 9165 or the Anti-Dangerous Drugs Act. Del Rosario argued that he is the victim of frame-up. The trial court convicted him. His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

ISSUE: Whether or not Del Rosario is guilty.

HELD: No. Based on the record of the case, the buy-bust team did not comply with the strict requirements of Section 21 of R.A. 9165. The chain of custody rule in drugs cases is embodied in Section 21. The rule therein is substantive and not a mere procedure that may be disregarded.

There are four links in the chain of custody in drugs cases, to wit: first, the seizure and marking, if practicable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized by the apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug seized by the forensic chemist to the court.

Here, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th links were not complied with.

2nd link: Here, the name of the investigator was neither identified nor mentioned by the prosecution.

3rd link: No paper trail was presented. No description of the drugs turned over was presented in court. (It was not established that that the drugs seized were the same drugs turned over to the chemist).

4th link: There was a stipulation as to the testimony of the chemist BUT the stipulation did not include as to how the chemist kept the seized drugs, in what condition the items were in until it was presented in court. If no explanation was given regarding the chemist’s custody in the interim – from the time it was turned over to the investigator to its turnover for laboratory examination, then the testimony (even if stipulated) is insufficient. Since no precautions were taken to ensure that there was no change in the condition of the object and no opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession thereof, then accused must be acquitted.

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