Chain of Custody Rule for Drug Related Cases

PP vs. Climaco (GR No. 199403)

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which implements the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, defines chain of custody as follows:

Chain of Custody means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition.

 

PP vs. Cardenas ( GR: 190342)

Under Section 5 of R.A. 9165, the elements that must be proven for the successful prosecution of the illegal sale of shabu are as follows: (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale, and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and its payment. The State has the burden of proving these elements and is obliged to present the corpus delicti in court to support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

In the instant case, the defense does not raise any issue with regard the sale and delivery of the illegal drugs for which the accused was arrested. The point of contention pertains to the noncompliance by the arresting officers with Section 21, Article II of the IRR implementing R.A. 9165 regarding the chain of custody of seized drugs. This is an important matter because, if proven, substantial gaps in the chain of custody of the seized drugs would cast serious doubts on the authenticity of the evidence presented in court and entitle the accused to an acquittal.

To protect the civil liberties of the innocent, the rule ensures that the prosecutions evidence meets the stringent standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. We have held, however that substantial compliance with the procedural aspect of the chain of custody rule does not necessarily render the seized drug items inadmissible. In People v. Ara, we ruled that R.A. 9165 and its IRR do not require strict compliance with the chain of custody rule:

As recently highlighted in People v. Cortez and People v. Lazaro, Jr., RA 9165 and its subsequent Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) do not require strict compliance as to the chain of custody rule. The arrest of an accused will not be invalidated and the items seized from him rendered inadmissible on the sole ground of non-compliance with Sec. 21, Article II of RA 9165. We have emphasized that what is essential is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Briefly stated, non-compliance with the procedural requirements under RA 9165 and its IRR relative to the custody, photographing, and drug-testing of the apprehended persons, is not a serious flaw that can render void the seizures and custody of drugs in a buy-bust operation. (Emphasis supplied.)

REYES VS CA (GR 180177)

Here, the Prosecution failed to demonstrate a faithful compliance by the arresting lawmen of the rule on chain of custody. To start with, the fact that the dangerous drugs were inventoried and photographed at the site of arrest upon seizure in the presence of petitioner, a representative of the media, a representative of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official, was not shown.

As such, the arresting lawmen did not at all comply with the further requirement to have the attending representative of the media, representative of the DOJ, and elected public official sign the inventory and be furnished a copy each of the inventory. Instead, the records show that PO2 Payumo placed the markings of RRS-1 on the sachet allegedly received from petitioner and RRS-2 on the two sachets allegedly seized from petitioners hand already at the police station with only petitioner present. Yet, the Prosecution did not also present any witness to establish that an inventory of the seized articles at least signed by petitioner at that point was prepared.

PP vs. Relato (GR: 173794)

A review of the records establishes that the aforestated procedure laid down by Republic Act No. 9165 and its IRR was not followed. Several lapses on the part of the buy-bust team are readily apparent. To start with, no photograph of the seized shabu was taken. Secondly, the buy-bust team did not immediately mark the seized shabu at the scene of the crime and in the presence of Relato and witnesses. Thirdly, although there was testimony about the marking of the seized items being made at the police station, the records do not show that the marking was done in the presence of Relato or his chosen representative. And, fourthly, no representative of the media and the Department of Justice, or any elected official attended the taking of the physical inventory and to sign the inventory.

Under the foregoing rules, the marking immediately after seizure is the starting point in the custodial link, because succeeding handlers of the prohibited drugs or related items will use the markings as reference. It further serves to segregate the marked evidence from the corpus of all other similar and related evidence from the time they are seized from the accused until they are disposed of at the end of the criminal proceedings, obviating switching, “planting,” or contamination of evidence.