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Dela Cruz v. People, 730 SCRA 655 (2014)
· Petitioner Jaime D. dela Cruz was charged with violation of Section 15, Article II of Republic Act No. (R.A.) 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, by the Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer of the Office of the Ombudsman – Visayas
· That on or about the 31st day of January 2006, at Cebu City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused, JAIME D. DE LA CRUZ, a public officer, having been duly appointed and qualified to such public position as Police Officer 2 of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned in the Security Service Group of the Cebu City Police Office, after having been arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in an entrapment operation, was found positive for use of METHAMPHETAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE commonly known as "Shabu", the dangerous drug after a confirmatory test conducted on said accused after agents and special investigators of the (NBI-CEVRO), received a complaint that several unknown male persons believed to be police officers for allegedly selling drugs
· According to the prosecutor, a team was immediately formed to implement an entrapment operation, which took place inside a Jollibee branch at the corner of Gen. Maxilom and Gorordo Avenues, Cebu City
· The officers were able to nab Jaime dela Cruz by using a pre-marked 500 bill dusted with fluorescent powder, which was made part of the amount demanded by "James" and handed by Corazon
· Petitioner was later brought to the forensic laboratory of the NBI-CEVRO where forensic examination was done by forensic chemist Rommel Paglinawan
· Petitioner was required to submit his urine for drug testing. It later yielded a positive result for presence of dangerous drugs as indicated in the confirmatory test result labeled as Toxicology (Dangerous Drugs) Report No. 2006-TDD-2402 dated 16 February 2006
· The defense presented the petitioner as the lone witness. He denied the charges and testified that while eating at the said Jollibee branch, he was arrested allegedly for extortion by NBI agents
· When he was at the NBI Office, he was required to extract urine for drug examination, but he refused saying he wanted it to be done by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory and not by the NBI. His request was, however, denied. He also requested to be allowed to call his lawyer prior to the taking of his urine sample, to no avail.
· Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 58 of Cebu City, in its Decision dated 6 June 2007, found the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 15, Article II of R.A. 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of compulsory rehabilitation for a period of not less than six (6) months
· Petitioner filed an appeal assigning as error the RTC’s validation of the result of the urine test despite its dubiousness having been admitted in spite of the lack of legal basis for its admission
· First, he alleges that the forensic laboratory examination was conducted despite the fact that he was not assisted by counsel, in clear violation of his constitutional right. Secondly, he was allegedly held guilty beyond reasonable doubt notwithstanding the lack of sufficient basis to convict him.
· CA found the appeal devoid of merit and affirmed the ruling of the RTC
Whether or not the drug test conducted upon the petitioner is legal.
No. We declare that the drug test conducted upon petitioner is not grounded upon any existing law or jurisprudence.
The drug test in Section 15 does not cover persons apprehended or arrested for any unlawful act, but only for unlawful acts listed under Article II of R.A. 9165.
In the case at bench, the presence of dangerous drugs was only in the form of residue on the drug paraphernalia, and the accused were found positive for use of dangerous drugs. Granting that the arrest was legal, the evidence obtained admissible, and the chain of custody intact, the law enforcers should have filed charges under Sec. 15, R.A. No. 9165 or for use of dangerous drugs and, if there was no residue at all, they should have been charged under Sec. 14 (Possession of Equipment, Instrument, Apparatus and Other Paraphernalia for Dangerous Drugs During Parties, Social Gatherings or Meetings).
The drug test was a violation of petitioner’s right to privacy and right against self-incrimination.
It is incontrovertible that petitioner refused to have his urine extracted and tested for drugs. He also asked for a lawyer prior to his urine test. He was adamant in exercising his rights, but all of his efforts proved futile, because he was still compelled to submit his urine for drug testing under those circumstances.
The pertinent provisions in Article III of the Constitution are clear:
Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Section 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
In the face of these constitutional guarantees, we cannot condone drug testing of all arrested persons regardless of the crime or offense for which the arrest is being made.
While we express our commendation of law enforcement agents as they vigorously track down offenders in their laudable effort to curb the pervasive and deleterious effects of dangerous drugs on our society, they must, however, be constantly mindful of the reasonable limits of their authority, because it is not unlikely that in their clear intent to purge society of its lawless elements, they may be knowingly or unknowingly transgressing the protected rights of its citizens including even members of its own police force.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision dated 22 June 2011 issued by the Twentieth Division, and the Resolution dated 2 February 2012 issued by the former Twentieth Division of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. C.R. No. 00670 are SET ASIDE. Petitioner is hereby ACQUITTED.
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