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Crim Law Case Digest: People of the Philippines v. Romeo Gonzales

People of the Philippines v. Romeo Gonzales

G.R. Nos. 113255-56  July 19, 2001

Lessons Applicable: Pro reo doctrine, indeterminate sentence law, buy-bust operation, buy-bust operation

Laws Applicable: indeterminate sentence law

  • Early February 1991: the police received an information that Romeo Gonzales was selling large quantities of marijuana. 
  • February 13, 1991: After 4 days of surveillance, they conducted a buy-bust entrapment operation.  Their informant introduced Sgt. Ortiz to Gonzales as a buyer (poseur-buyer) of 1 kg. marijuana for P1,200. Then, Ortiz took out his handkerchief as a pre-arranged signal so the team immediately rushed to the scene introducing themselves as Narcom agents and arrested Gonzales.  Sgt. Ortiz handed over the bag of marijuana to Pfc. Danilo Cruz.
  • The team confiscated 1 more bag containing 2 blocks of marijuana weighing about 1.5 kg and 10 medium size plastic bags containing 300 grams of marijuana. The tests yielded positive indications for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC
  • Gonzales orally admitted that he was selling marijuana to different buyers, but claimed that somebody else owned the marijuana he sold.  When asked to identify the owner, he kept silent.
  • 2 informations charging Gonzales with violation of RA 6425:
o    Crim. Case No. 91-180: possession, custody and control of 2 block size of marijuana weighing (1.5 kilos) and 10 medium size plastic bags of dry marijuana weighing (300 grams)
o    Crim. Case No. 91-181: selling more or less 1 kilo of high-grade marijuana
  • RTC: Romeo Gonzales guilty for Violation of Sections 8 and 4, Art. II., RA 6425 and imposes penalty of imprisonment of 6 years and 1 day and a fine of P6,000 for Criminal Case No. 91-180 life imprisonment and a fine of P20,000 for Criminal Case No. 91-181.
  • Gonzales: Victim of a frame-up since he was inside the comfort room of a neighbor from whom he borrowed P100 to buy medicines for his sick mother and he was just wearing underwear when he was brought out of the house.  – NOT proven
  • A buy-bust operation, normally preceded by surveillance, is an effective mode of apprehending drug pushers and, “if carried out with due regard to constitutional and legal safeguards, it deserves judicial sanction.” A warrant of arrest is not essential because the violator is caught in flagrante delicto.  Searches made incidental thereto are valid.

ISSUE: W/N the Indeterminate Sentence Law should apply to Crim. Case No. 91-180

HELD: YES. AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.  In Criminal Case No. 91-181,life imprisonment and fine of P20,000.  In Criminal Case No. 91-180, indeterminate penalty of 2 years and 4 months of prision correccional, as minimum, to 8 years and 1 day of prision mayor, as maximum, and to pay a fine of P6,000.

  • The Dangerous Drugs Act, Sec. 8 (special law) prescribes as penalty for possession of Indian hemp (marijuana), regardless of amount, an imprisonment of 6 years and 1 day to 12 years, and a fine of P6,000 to P12,000.  Applying the pro reo doctrine in criminal law (when in doubt favour the accused), we hold that the penalty prescribed in R. A. No. 6425, Section 8 while not using the nomenclature of the penalties under the RPC is actually prision mayor.  Consequently, it is the first part of Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, which shall apply in imposing the indeterminate sentence.