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In June 2015, Mario Nisperos was arrested in a buy-bust operation. During trial, the DOJ representative admitted that he was thirty minutes late and that when he was first shown the alleged drug items seized from Nisperos, they were unmarked.
ISSUE: Whether or not Nisperos should be acquitted.
Firstly, the marking, which is the first step in the chain of custody, must be done immediately after seizure. The marking must be done in the presence of the offender except if the offender eluded arrest. Here, the drug evidence was not immediately marked because, as admitted by the DOJ representative, the drug evidence was still unmarked when they were shown to him.
Secondly, the inventory must be done immediately after the seizure and marking. The inventory must be done in the presence of the insulating witnesses. Here, the DOJ representative was late. Hence, the requirement that the inventory must be made immediately after the seizure was not complied with.
In warrantless arrests on account of buy-bust operations, the required witnesses must be present “at or near” the place of apprehension, i.e., within the vicinity, in order to comply with the statutory rule that the inventory should be conducted immediately after the seizure and confiscation. Since they may be present “near” the place of apprehension, they need not witness the arrest itself or the seizure or confiscation of the drugs or drug paraphernalia. They only need to be readily available to witness the immediately ensuing inventory.
In sum, in buy-bust operations, the following must be observed:
1. The marking of the seized dangerous drugs must be done:
a. Immediately upon confiscation;
b. At the place of confiscation; and
c. In the presence of the offender (unless the offender eluded the arrest);
2. The conduct of inventory and taking of photographs of the seized dangerous drugs must be done:
a. Immediately after seizure and confiscation;
b. In the presence of the accused, or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel; and
c. Also in the presence of the insulating witnesses;
3. In case of any deviation from the foregoing, the prosecution must positively acknowledge the same and prove (1) justifiable ground/s for non-compliance and (2) the proper preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item/s.