Monday, December 05, 2011

People of the Philippines vs. Jay Lorena y Labag, G.R. No. 184954, January 10, 2011.

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. “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. In this case, there was no compliance with the inventory and photographing of the seized dangerous drug and marked money immediately after the buy-bust operation. Such non-compliance does not necessarily render void and invalid the seizure of the dangerous drugs. There must, however, be justifiable grounds to warrant exception therefrom, and provided that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/s. 

Dangerous Drugs Act; chain of custody. While a perfect chain of custody is almost always impossible to achieve, an unbroken chain becomes indispensable and essential in the prosecution of drug cases owing to its susceptibility to alteration, tampering, contamination and even substitution and exchange. Hence, every link must be accounted for. Among others, the transfer of the specimen from the provincial crime laboratory to the regional crime laboratory was unaccounted for Nobleza, who received the specimen from Bearis and conducted the initial field test on it, testified that after the examination and preparing the result, she turned over the same to the evidence custodian, SPO3 Augusto Basagre. Clemen, the chemist who conducted the confirmatory test at the regional crime laboratory, testified that she received the specimen from one P/Insp. Alfredo Lopez, Deputy Provincial Officer of the Provincial Crime Laboratory, the signatory of the memorandum for request for laboratory examination. The prosecution failed to present evidence to show how the specimen was transferred from Basagre to Lopez. Given the foregoing lapses committed by the apprehending officers, the saving clause cannot apply to the case at bar. Not only did the prosecution fail to offer any justifiable ground why the procedure required by law was not complied with, it was also unable to establish the chain of custody of the shabu allegedly taken from appellant. The obvious gaps in the chain of custody created reasonable doubt as to whether the specimen seized from appellant was the same specimen brought to the crime laboratories and eventually offered in court as evidence. Without adequate proof of thecorpus delicti, appellant’s conviction cannot stand. People of the Philippines vs. Jay Lorena y Labag, G.R. No. 184954, January 10, 2011.

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