The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a Pangasinan resident for illegal sale of firearms and ammunition and possession of illegal drugs in 2017.
In a decision, the SC denied the petition filed by Benjie Dela Cruz Rodriguez who was arrested in a police buy-bust operation on June 5, 2017 in Barangay Tampac, Aguilar, Pangasinan, for selling a caliber .38 revolver (paltik) without a serial number and loaded with ammunition.
While the purpose of the buy-bust operation was only for the firearm and ammunition since Rodriquez had been reported to be a gunrunner, the police authorities also recovered in his possession two plastic sachets of shabu weighing 0.105 grams.
“After a judicious study of the case, the Court resolves to deny the instant petition and affirm the decision dated Oct. 26, 2020 and the Resolution dated March 22, 2021 of the CA [Court of Appeals]… for failure of petitioner Rodriguez to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of Illegal Sale of Firearms and Ammunitions and Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs, respectively defined and penalized under Section 32, Article V of Republic Act No. (RA) 105914 and Section 5, Article II of RA 9165,” the SC ruled.
The high court stressed that the prosecution clearly established that during a legitimate buy-bust operation conducted by law enforcement operatives, Rodriguez was caught in the act of selling a caliber .38 revolver or paltik without a serial number and loaded with ammunition, making him guilty of Illegal Sale of Firearms and Ammunitions.
It also noted that the warrantless arrest and corresponding search upon the accused yielded two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing a total of 0.105 grams of white crystalline substance or shabu.
In ruling against the petitioner, the SC held that Rodriguez failed to show any documents authorizing him to possess the same, even as it sustained that “all the links of the chain of custody were likewise established.”
The lower court sentenced Rodriguez to suffer the indeterminate sentence of ten years and one day to sixteen years and one day with all the accessory penalties provided for under the law for illegal sale of firearm and ammunition, and twelve years and one day to seventeen years, as maximum, and to pay a fine in the amount of P300,000 with all the accessory penalties for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.
“A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment, in which the violator is caught in flagrante delicto and the police officers conducting the operation are not only authorized, but duty-bound, to apprehend the violator and to search him for anything that may have been part of or used in the commission of the crime,” the SC said.
“Consequently, any evidence gathered and presented by the prosecution as a result of the valid warrantless arrest cannot be considered ‘fruit of a poisonous tree,’ but were admissible and competent to prove accused-appellant’s guilt,” it added.