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Chain of Custody

The Court strongly supports the campaign of the government against drug addiction and commends the efforts of our law enforcement officers against those who would inflict this malediction upon our people, especially the susceptible youth. But as demanding as this campaign may be, it cannot be more so than the compulsions of the Bill of Rights for the protection of liberty of every individual in the realm, including the basest of criminals. The Constitution covers with the mantle of its protection the innocent and the guilty alike against any manner of high-handedness from the authorities, however praiseworthy their intentions. This was the words of the High Court when they strictly implement the Chain of Custody in Drugs Case as enunciate in PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, vs. MANUEL GAMBOA Y FRANCISCO G.R. No. 233702, June 20, 2018.

In ruling that the appeal is meritorious the Supreme Court said,”Here, Gamboa was charged with the crimes of Illegal Sale and Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs, respectively defined and penalized under Sections 5 and 11, Article II of RA 9165. Notably, in order to properly secure the conviction of an accused charged with Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, the prosecution must prove: (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and the consideration; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment.26 Meanwhile, in instances wherein an accused is charged with Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements to warrant his conviction: (a) the accused was in possession of an item or object identified as a prohibited drug; (b) such possession was not authorized by law; and (c) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug.27

It is essential that the identity of the prohibited drug be established with moral certainty, considering that the dangerous drug itself forms an integral part of the corpus delicti of the crime. Thus, in order to obviate any unnecessary doubt on the identity of the dangerous drugs, the prosecution has to show an unbroken chain of custody over the same and account for each link in the chain of custody from the moment the drugs are seized up to its presentation in court as evidence of the crime.28

In this case, the Court finds that the police officers committed unjustified deviations from the prescribed chain of custody rule, thereby putting into question the integrity and evidentiary value of the items purportedly seized from Gamboa.

The law requires the presence of an elected public official, as well as representatives from the DOJ or the media to ensure that the chain of custody rule is observed and thus, remove any suspicion of tampering, switching, planting, or contamination of evidence which could considerably affect a case.

It is well to note that the absence of these representatives does not per se render the confiscated items inadmissible.44 However, a justifiable reason for such failure or a showing of any genuine and sufficient effort to secure the required witnesses under Section 21, Article II of RA 9165 must be adduced.  

Thus, for failure of the prosecution to provide justifiable grounds or show that special circumstances exist which would excuse their transgression, the Court is constrained to conclude that the integrity and evidentiary value of the items purportedly seized from Gamboa have been compromised. It is settled that in a prosecution for the sale and possession of dangerous drugs under RA 9165, the State carries the heavy burden of proving not only the elements of the offense, but also to prove the integrity of the corpus delicti failing in which, renders the evidence for the State insufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, Gamboa’s acquittal is in order. Write us at carillogerry@