The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165) Explained based on Supreme Court Decisions

The Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 also known as RA 9165 repealed RA no. 6425. It was signed onto law by then President macapagal-Arroyo on June 7, 2002 and took effect on July 4, 2002.

Below are some of the Supreme Court Decisions applying and/or interpreting the provisions of RA 9165.

Asiatico vs. People (GR 195005)

For illegal possession of regulated or prohibited drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements:

(1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug;

(2) such possession is not authorized by law; and

(3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.

All these elements were duly established by the prosecution. Rosana was found to have in her possession 0.05 gram of shabu. There was nothing in the records showing that she had authority to possess it. Jurisprudence also teaches Us that mere possession of a prohibited drug constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an accused in the absence of any satisfactory explanation. Rosana also failed to present contrary evidence to rebut her possession of the shabu.

People of the Phils. vs. Umipang (GR 190321)

Minor deviations from the procedures under R.A. 9165 would not automatically exonerate an accused from the crimes of which he or she was convicted. This is especially true when the lapses in procedure were recognized and explained in terms of [] justifiable grounds. There must also be a showing that the police officers intended to comply with the procedure but were thwarted by some justifiable consideration/reason.

However, when there is gross disregard of the procedural safeguards prescribed in the substantive law (R.A. 9165), serious uncertainty is generated about the identity of the seized items that the prosecution presented in evidence.  This uncertainty cannot be remedied by simply invoking the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties, for a gross, systematic, or deliberate disregard of the procedural safeguards effectively produces an irregularity in the performance of official duties.  As a result, the prosecution is deemed to have failed to fully establish the elements of the crimes charged, creating reasonable doubt on the criminal liability of the accused.

For the arresting officers failure to adduce justifiable grounds, we are led to conclude from the totality of the procedural lapses committed in this case that the arresting officers deliberately disregarded the legal safeguards under R.A. 9165. These lapses effectively produced serious doubts on the integrity and identity of the corpus delicti, especially in the face of allegations of frame-up. Thus, for the foregoing reasons, we must resolve the doubt in favor of accused-appellant, as every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Pimentel vs. Comelec (GR 161658)

In essence, Pimentel claims that Sec. 36(g) of RA 9165 and COMELEC Resolution No. 6486 illegally impose an additional qualification on candidates for senator. He points out that, subject to the provisions on nuisance candidates, a candidate for senator needs only to meet the qualifications laid down in Sec. 3, Art. VI of the Constitution, to wit: (1) citizenship, (2) voter registration, (3) literacy, (4) age, and (5) residency. Beyond these stated qualification requirements, candidates for senator need not possess any other qualification to run for senator and be voted upon and elected as member of the Senate. The Congress cannot validly amend or otherwise modify these qualification standards, as it cannot disregard, evade, or weaken the force of a constitutional mandate, or alter or enlarge the Constitution.

Pimentels contention is well-taken. Accordingly, Sec. 36(g) of RA 9165 should be, as it is hereby declared as, unconstitutional. It is basic that if a law or an administrative rule violates any norm of the Constitution, that issuance is null and void and has no effect. The Constitution is the basic law to which all laws must conform; no act shall be valid if it conflicts with the Constitution. In the discharge of their defined functions, the three departments of government have no choice but to yield obedience to the commands of the Constitution. Whatever limits it imposes must be observed.

SJS vs. DDB, PDEA (GR 157870)

Taking into account the foregoing factors, i.e., the reduced expectation of privacy on the part of the employees, the compelling state concern likely to be met by the search, and the well-defined limits set forth in the law to properly guide authorities in the conduct of the random testing, we hold that the challenged drug test requirement is, under the limited context of the case, reasonable and, ergo, constitutional.

Like their counterparts in the private sector, government officials and employees also labor under reasonable supervision and restrictions imposed by the Civil Service law and other laws on public officers, all enacted to promote a high standard of ethics in the public service. And if RA 9165 passes the norm of reasonableness for private employees, the more reason that it should pass the test for civil servants, who, by constitutional command, are required to be accountable at all times to the people and to serve them with utmost responsibility and efficiency.

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Laserna Petition:

We find the situation entirely different in the case of persons charged before the public prosecutors office with criminal offenses punishable with six (6) years and one (1) day imprisonment. The operative concepts in the mandatory drug testing are randomness and suspicionless. In the case of persons charged with a crime before the prosecutors office, a mandatory drug testing can never be random or suspicionless. The ideas of randomness and being suspicionless are antithetical to their being made defendants in a criminal complaint. They are not randomly picked; neither are they beyond suspicion.

When persons suspected of committing a crime are charged, they are singled out and are impleaded against their will. The persons thus charged, by the bare fact of being haled before the prosecutors office and peaceably submitting themselves to drug testing, if that be the case, do not necessarily consent to the procedure, let alone waive their right to privacy.  To impose mandatory drug testing on the accused is a blatant attempt to harness a medical test as a tool for criminal prosecution, contrary to the stated objectives of RA 9165.  Drug testing in this case would violate a persons right to privacy guaranteed under Sec. 2, Art. III of the Constitution. Worse still, the accused persons are veritably forced to incriminate themselves.

People vs. Fundales, Jr. (GR 184606)

Section 86 of RA No. 9165 deals with inter-agency relations of the PNP and other law enforcement agencies with the PDEA. It is an administrative provision designating the PDEA as the lead agency in dangerous drugs cases. We have already ruled that nothing in RA No. 9165 suggests that it is the intention of the legislature to make an arrest in drugs cases illegal if made without the participation of the PDEA. In the implementing rules and regulations of RA No. 9165, Section 86(a) clearly states:

“(a) Relationship/Coordination between the PDEA and Other Agencies. – The PDEA shall be the lead agency in the enforcement of the Act, while the PNP, the NBI and other law enforcement agencies shall continue to conduct anti-drug operations in support of the PDEA xxx Provided, finally, that nothing in this IRR shall deprive the PNP, the NBI, other law enforcement personnel and the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from effecting lawful arrests and seizures in consonance with the provisions of Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.” 

Suffice it to state that in this case, the danger of abuse that the provision seeks to prevent is not present. We therefore see no reason why the non-participation of the PDEA would render the arrest illegal and the evidence obtained therein inadmissible considering that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized prohibited substances and dangerous drugs have been properly preserved.

 

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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.