People vs Ramos, GR 85401-02, 4 June 1990
On 29 November 1982, a civilian informer came to the Narcotics Command Office in Olongapo City and reported that a cigarette vendor by the name of "Mama Rose" (Rosalinda Ramos) was selling marijuana at the corner of 3rd Street and Rizal Avenue in Olongapo City. Tests buys were made using marked money. The Narcotics Command (NARCOM) team proceeded to the place where appellant was selling cigarettes, and arrested the latter for illegal peddling of marijuana. Ramos was requested to take out the contents of her wallet. The four marked five-peso bills used in the test buys were found among her possessions and were confiscated after the serial numbers were confirmed. Search of Ramos’ stall yielded 20 sticks of marijuana cigarettes in a trash can placed under the small table where Ramos displayed the wares she was selling.
Ramos was thereafter brought to the station. At the station, Ramos executed a statement confessing to her crimes which she swore to before Assistant City Fiscal. The marijuana sticks confiscated were sent to the Philippine Constabulary Crime Laboratory (PCCL) for analysis, and thereafter were confirmed to be marijuana. The defense contends however that she assented to the invitation of the NARCOM operatives for investigation, after search of her buri bags (which she stores the fruits that she sells) were fruitless. She claimed that she was forced to affix her signature on the four 5-peso bills by one Sgt. Sudiacal, purportedly to be the same money which was used to buy marijuana from her, but which she insists was her money being saved for the rentals. She was later brought to the Fiscal’s Office after investigation, where she signed a document. She claimed she was not assisted by any counsel during the investigation, neither during the time she signed the document at the Fiscal’s Office. Two informations were filed against Ramos, one for sale and the other for possession of marijuana. After trial, the RTC Olongapo City (Branch 73) found her guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case 5990 for violating Section 8 of RA 6425 and sentenced her to imprisonment of 6 years and 1 day and a fine of Php 6,000. She was likewise found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case 5991 for violating Section 4 of RA 6425 and was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of Php20,000. Ramos sought reversal of the decisions with the Supreme Court.
Whether or not Ramos waived her right against the warrantless search of the trash can, where illegal drugs were found, under her control.
YES. The trash can (where the contraband were found) was found under the table where her legitimate wares were being sold. Ramos he was the only person who had access to the trash can. The same was under her immediate physical control. She had complete charge of the contents of the trash can under the table to the exclusion of all other persons.
In law, actual possession exists when the thing is in the immediate occupancy and control of the party. But this is not to say that the law requires actual possession. In criminal law, possession necessary for conviction of the offense of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute may be constructive as well as actual. It is only necessary that the defendant must have dominion and control over the contraband. These requirements are present in the situation described, where the prohibited drugs were found inside the trash can placed under the stall owned by Ramos.
In fact, the NARCOM agents who conducted the search testified that they had to ask Ramos to stand so that they could look inside the trash can under Ramos' papag. The trash can was positioned in such a way that it was difficult for another person to use the trash can. The trash can was obviously not for use by her customers. Therefore, the twenty sticks of marijuana are admissible in evidence and the trial court's finding that Ramos is guilty of possession is correct.