SC affirms conviction of policeman in sale, possession of illegal drugs

Published August 29, 2021, 11:11 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the life imprisonment and fine of P10 million imposed by the trial court in 2015 in each of the two illegal drugs cases filed against a policeman for selling and possessing cocaine in 2010.

Upheld was the conviction of Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) Alexander P. Estabillo who was then assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The verdict handed down by the Pasig City regional trial court (RTC) on Dec. 7, 2015 was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in a decision dated April 16, 2019.

The SC decision, written by Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro Javier, was promulgated last June 16 and posted on the SC’s website last Aug. 25. It denied Estabillo’s appeal.

Estabillo was arrested by his fellow policemen during a buy-bust operation on June 14, 2010 at Barangay Ugong in Pasig City.

Records showed that the operation was conducted after P/SSupt. Eduardo P. Acierto received from an informant of the illegal drugs activities of a certain “Alex” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at NAIA.

A “test buy” was conducted for the purchase of one gram of cocaine for P1,500. After laboratory test, the purchased drug tested positive for cocaine, “a powerfully addictive stimulant drug.”

A buy-bust operation was hatched for the purchase of four kilos of cocaine for P6 million. In the evening of June 14, 2010, Estabillo was arrested after turning over two bricks which were sealed with packaging tape and each containing about 1,046.22 grams and 1,065.75 grams of cocaine.

When Estabillo’s vehicle was search, it yielded two more bricks of cocaine, each weighing 1,078.89 grams and 1041.57 grams.

The marking of the seized drugs was made right where Estabillo was arrested. It was done in the presence of Estabillo, a barangay kagawad (village councilman), two members of the media. There was no representative from the Department of Justice (DOJ) as there was no prosecutor available that evening of June 14, 2010.

Thereafter, Estabillo was charged with violation of Section 5 (selling) and Section 11 (possession) of Republic Act No. 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002. After trial, he was convicted. His appeal to the CA was denied. He elevated the case to the SC.

The trial court held that the elements of illegal sale of dangerous drugs were all present considering that Estabillo was arrested following a buy- bust and the arresting law enforcers recovered two more bricks of cocaine at the back of the vehicle’s driver seat.

The CA affirmed the conviction as it ruled that Estabillo was validly arrested without an arrest order as he was caught in flagrante delicto (in the act) of selling two bricks of cocaine.

It also ruled that the prosecution was able to prove the illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs through an unbroken chain of custody over the seized items.

Affirming both the trial court and the CA’s rulings, the SC said:

“Here, the arresting officers were not impelled by any improper motive to perform the buy-bust and arrest appellant (Estabillo) other than their genuine desire to properly perform their functions.

“In fact, they did not hastily act on the report from their confidential informant and conducted a test buy to verify the information they received. When it yielded positive results, they immediately hatched the buy-bust operation.

“There were no serious lapses during its conduct. At most, no DOJ representative was present during the inventory but even this was justified. The presumption of regularity, should therefore be upheld to fill the supposed gap in the chain of custody.

“All told, the prosecution has successfully established the chain of custody of the seized items. Consequently, the integrity and evidentiary value of these seized items are deemed preserved. The corpus delicti of the crimes charged against appellant were therefore established. As such, there is no reason to depart from the assailed verdicts of conviction.”