G.R. No. 185125 January 30, 2012
Ruben Del Castillo
People of the Philippines
Pursuant to a confidential information that petitioner Del Castillo was engaged in selling shabu, police officers headed by SPO3 Bienvenido Masnayon, after conducting surveillance and test-buy operation at the house of petitioner, secured a search warrant from the RTC. Upon arrival to the residence of Del Castillo to implement the search warrant, SPO3 Masnayon claimed that he saw petitioner run towards a small structure, a nipa hut, in front of his house. Masnayon chased him but to no avail, because he and his men were not familiar with the entrances and exits of the place. They all went back to the residence of Del Castillo and requested his men to get a barangay tanod and a few minutes thereafter, his men returned with two barangay tanods who searched the house of petitioner including the nipa hut where the petitioner allegedly ran for cover. His men who searched the residence of the petitioner found nothing, but one of the barangay tanods was able to confiscate from the nipa hut several articles, including four (4) plastic packs containing white crystalline substance.
Thus, an information was filed against Del Castillo for violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. 6425 and was found guilty by the RTC and affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Petitioner filed with the Supreme Court the petition for certiorari contending among others that CA erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of prohibited drugs, because he could not be presumed to be in possession of the same just because they were found inside the nipa hut.
Can petitioner Del Castillo be held liable for violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. 6425 by mere presumption that the petitioner has dominion and control over the place where the shabu was found?
No. While it is not necessary that the property to be searched or seized should be owned by the person against whom the search warrant is issued, there must be sufficient showing that the property is under petitioner’s control or possession. The records are void of any evidence to show that petitioner owns the nipa hut in question nor was it established that he used the said structure as a shop. The RTC, as well as the CA, merely presumed that petitioner used the said structure due to the presence of electrical materials, the petitioner being an electrician by profession.
The prosecution must prove that the petitioner had knowledge of the existence and presence of the drugs in the place under his control and dominion and the character of the drugs. With the prosecution’s failure to prove that the nipa hut was under petitioner’s control and dominion, there casts a reasonable doubt as to his guilt. In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the law’s own starting perspective on the status of the accused — in all criminal prosecutions, he is presumed innocent of the charge laid unless the contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of proof sufficient to produce a moral certainty that would convince and satisfy the conscience of those who act in judgment, is indispensable to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence.