On Property Regime in Common Law Relationship

FACTS:

Jerome left his wife Liza and cohabited with Luisa, a go-go dancer. During the subsistence of the cohabitation, Jerome bought an Php 80 million – house and lot and had it registered in the name of Luisa. Their 20-year relationship, however, was cut short by the death of Jerome. When Liza commenced the extrajudicial settlement of the estate of Jerome, she included in the collation of the properties of Jerome the property registered in the name of Luisa. The latter opposed the petition for reconveyance of the property registered in her name.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the property registered in the name of the common law spouse is part of the estate of the deceased partner.

SC RULING:

Jerome and Luisa’s property regime was co-ownership under Article 148 of the Family Code, which provides that only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions.

Since Luisa failed to substantiate her claim that she was financially capable to buy the subject property, said purchase was considered as solely financed by Jerome. Hence, Jerome’s registration of the subject property under Luisa’s name was tantamount to a void donation under Article 739 (1) of the Civil Code, to wit:

“Article 739. The following donations shall be void:

  • (1) Those made between persons who were guilty of adultery or concubinage at the time of the donation.”

(Source: Paghubasan v. Apostol, GR 250372, 03 February 2020)

Notes on Illegal Sale and/or Possession of Illegal Drugs

On the Identity of the Dangerous Drugs:

In cases for Illegal Sale and/or Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs under RA 9165, it is essential that the identity of the dangerous drug be established with moral certainty, considering that the dangerous drug itself forms an integral part of the corpus delicti of the crime (People v. Crispo, GR 230065, 14 March 2018). Failing to prove the integrity of the corpus delicti renders the evidence for the State insufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, and hence, warrants an acquittal (People v. Gamboa, GR 233702, 20 June 2018).

To establish the identity of the dangerous drugs with moral certainty, the prosecution must be able to account for each link of the chain of custody from the moment the drugs are seized up to their presentation in court as evidence of the crime (People v. Ano, GR 230070, 14 March 2018, 859 SCRA 380). As part of the chain of custody procedure, the law requires, inter alia, that the marking, physical inventory, and photography of the seized items be conducted immediately after seizure and confiscation of the same. In this regard, case law recognizes that “marking upon immediate confiscation contemplates even marking at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending team (People v. Mamalumpon, 767 Phil 845 [2015]). Hence, the failure to immediately mark the confiscated items at the place of arrest neither renders them inadmissible in evidence nor impairs the integrity of the seized drugs, as the conduct of marking at the nearest police station or office of the apprehending team is sufficient compliance with the rules on chain of custody (People v. Tumulak, 791 Phil 148 [2016].

Chain of Custody

As a general rule, compliance with the chain of custody procedure is strictly enjoined as the same has been regarded not merely as a procedural technicality but as a matter of substantive law. This is because “the law has been crafted by Congress as safety precautions to address potential police abuses especially considering that the penalty imposed may be life imprisonment (People v. Bangalan, GR 232249, 03 September 2018).

Nonetheless, the Court has recognized that due to varying field conditions, strict compliance with the chain of custody procedure may not always be possible (People v. Sanchez, 590 Phil 234 [2008]). As such, the failure of the apprehending team to strictly comply with it would not ipso facto render the seizure and custody over the items as void ad invalid, provided that the prosecution satisfactorily proves that:

(a) there is a justifiable ground for noncompliance; and,

(b) the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved (People v. Almorfe, 631 Phil 51 [2010]).

The foregoing is based on the saving clause found in Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165, –

Provided further, that non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.”

which was later adopted in the text of RA 10640 –

“Provided, finally, Than noncompliance of these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures and custody over said items.”

It should, however, be emphasized that for the saving clause to apply, the prosecution must duly explain the reasons behind the procedural lapses (People v. Almorfe, supra.), and that the justifiable ground for noncompliance must be proven as a fact, because the Court cannot presume what these grounds are or that they even exist (People v. De Guzman, 630 Phil 637 [2010]).

On the Witness Requirement

Anent the witness requirement, noncompliance may be permitted if the prosecution proves that the apprehending officers exerted genuine and sufficient efforts to secure the presence of such witnesses, albeit they eventually failed to appear. While the earnestness of these efforts must be examined on a case to case basis, the overarching objective is for the Court to be convinced that the failure to comply was reasonable under the given circumstances (People v. Manansala, GR 229092, 21 February 2018). Thus, mere statements of unavailability, absent actual serious attempts to contact the required witnesses, are unacceptable as justified grounds for noncompliance (People v. Gamboa, GR 233702, 20 June 2018 [867 SCRA 548]). These considerations arise from the fact that police officers are ordinarily given sufficient time beginning from the moment they have received the information about the activities of the accused until the time of his arrest to prepare for a by-bust operation and consequently, make the necessary arrangements beforehand, knowing fully well that they would have to strictly comply wit the chain of custody rule (People v. Crispo, GR 230065, 14 March 2018).

Notably, the Court, in People v. Miranda (GR 229671, 31 January 2018 [854 SCRA 42]), issued a definitive reminder to prosecutors when dealing with drugs cases. It implored that “since the procedural requirements are clearly set forth in the law, the State retains the positive duty to account for any lapses in the chain of custody of the drugs/items seized from the accused, regardless of whether or not the defense raises the same in the proceedings a quo; otherwise, it risks the possibility of having a conviction overturned on grounds that go into the evidence’s integrity and evidentiary value, albeit the same are raised only for the first time on appeal, or even not raised, become apparent upon further review.”

Source: People of the Philippines v. Edward Colenares, GR 234650, 05 February 2020

People of the Philippines v. Joseph Enoval, GR 245973, 05 February 2020: Requirements for a Valid Buy-Bust Operations

In the conduct of buy-bust operations involving the sale of illegal drugs, Section 21 of R.A. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), provides that:

(1) the seized items must be marked, inventoried and photographed immediately after seizure or confiscation; and,

(2) the marking, physical inventory, and photographing must be done in the presence of –

(a) the accused or his/her representative or counsel;

(b) an elected public official;

(c) a representative from the media; and,

(d) a representative from the Department of Justice (DOJ),

all of whom shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

The presence of the witnesses from the DOJ, media, and from public elective office is necessary to protect against the possibility of planting, contamination, or loss of the seized drug (People v. Tumawis, GR 228890, 18 April 2018, 862 SCRA 131). Using the language of the Court in People v. Mendoza (736 Phil 759 [2014]), “without the insulating presence of the representative from the media or the DOJ and any elected public official during the seizure and marking of the drug, the evils of switching, ‘planting’ or contamination of the evidence that had tainted previous buy-bust operations would not be averted, negating the integrity and credibility of the seizure and confiscation of the subject drug specimen that was evidence of the corpus delicti, and this adversely affecting the trustworthiness of the incrimination of the accused.”

Non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.

For this provision to be effective, however the prosecution must fist –

(1) recognize any lapse on the part of the police officers; and,

(2) be able to justify the same. (People v. Alagarme, 754 Phil 449 [2015])

Breaches of the procedure outlined in Section 21 committed by the police officers, left unacknowledged and unexplained by the State, militate against a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt as the integrity and evidentiary value of the corpus delicti have been compromised. (People v. Sumili, 753 Phil 342 [2015])

(Culled from People of the Philippines v. Joseph Enoval, GR 245973, 05 February 2020)

People of the Philippines v. Mustafa Sali, GR 236596, 29 January 2020: Documentation of the Seized Evidence must be done at the scene of the crime

FACTS: On February 23, 2010, Mustafa was arrested in an alleged buy-bust operations in Campo Islam, Zamboanga City, by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Region 9, based in Upper Calarian, same city.

Mustafa was taken to the PDEA-9 headquarters where the alleged illegal drugs (methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu) were inventoried and photographed. The Certificate of Inventory was signed by a representative from the media and from the Department of Justice. In the Joint Affidavit of the apprehending officers, they maintained that after apprehending the accused, they immediately brought him to their headquarters.

ISSUE: Is there sufficient grounds for the prosecution for illegal sale of prohibited drugs?

RULING: None. From the facts of the case, the prosecution failed to prove the accused’ s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (R.A. Nr. 9165) and its implementing rules, it is mandatory that the documentation of the seized evidence must be done at the scene of the crime. It can only be excused if there is immediate danger to the arresting team at the scene of the crime.

In the case at bar, no such immediate danger can be deduced from the Joint Affidavit of Arrest executed by the arresting officers. Further, the law requires that the inventory and photographing must be in the presence of the accused or his representative or counsel, a representative from the media and from the Department of Justice (DOJ), and an elected public official, who must all sign the Certificate of Inventory. In the present case, only the representatives from the media and the DOJ, signed the Certificate.

The Court stressed in People of the Philippines v. Vicente Sipin (GR 224290, 11 June 2018):

“The prosecution bears the burden of proving a valid cause for non-compliance with the procedure laid down in Section 21 of RA No. 9165, as amended. It has the positive duty to demonstrate observance thereto in such a way that during the trial proceedings, it must initiate in acknowledging and justifying any perceived deviations from the requirements of law. Its failure to follow the mandated procedure must be adequately explained, and must be proven as a fact in accordance with the rules of evidence. It should take note that the rules require that the apprehending officers do not simply mention a justifiable ground, but also clearly state this ground in their sworn affidavit, coupled with a statement on the steps they took to preserve the integrity of the seized items. Strict adherence to Section 21 is required where the quantity of illegal drugs seized is minuscule, since it is highly susceptible to planting, tampering or alteration of evidence.”

Source: People of the Philippines v. Mustafa Sali, G.R. No. 236596; 29 January 2020

Issues in Chain of Custody in Buy-Bust Operations (Pp v. Enoval and Balagat)

“In the conduct of buy bust operations, Section 21 of RA 9165 provides that: (1) the seized items must be marked, inventoried and photographed immediately after seizure or confiscation; and, (2) the marking, physical inventory, and photographing must be done in the presence of (a) the accused or his/her representative or counsel, (b) an elected public official, (c) a representative from the media, and (d) a representative from the Department of Justice (DOJ), all of whole shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

The presence of the witnesses from the DOJ, media, and from public elective official is NECESSARY to protect against the possibility of planting, contamination, or loss of the seized drug . . . that was evidence of the corpus delicti, and thus adversely affecting the trustworthiness of the incrimination of the accused.

x x x

… there are instances wherein departure from the aforesaid mandatory procedures is permissible. Section 21 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9165 provides that ‘non-compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.

For this provision to be effective, however, the prosecution must first (1) recognize any lapse on the part of the police officers and (2) be able to justify the same.”

Source: People of the Philippines v. Joseph Enoval and Emmanuel Balagat, G.R. 245973, promulgated 05 February 2020

Appeal to the Supreme Court Connotes a Review of the Entire Records of the Case

“The appeal opens the entire records for review, thus, enabling the Court to determine whether the findings against accused-appellant should be sustained or struck down in his favor.

The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty and cite the proper provision of the penal law.”

Source: People of the Philippines v. Ramos, GR 235559, 19 February 2020

On Cooperative Success

“Cooperative success should not be gauged based on the size of its assets, but by the difference the cooperative makes on the lives of its members and its community.”