Corpus Delicti and the Chain of Custody Rule (2)

Corpus Delicti and the Chain of Custody Rule (2)

November 23, 2022 @ 1:10 AM 4 days ago

TO ensure that the integrity and identity of the seized drugs have been preserved, the procedure for custody and disposition of the same is clearly delineated under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, as amended by R.A. No. 10640, viz:

Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs. Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. – The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, with an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures: Provided, finally, That noncompliance of these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures and custody over said items.

The chain of custody is basically the duly recorded authorized stages of transfer of custody of seized dangerous drugs, from their seizure or confiscation to receipt in the forensic laboratory for examination to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Thus, the chain of custody requirement has a two-fold purpose: (1) the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, and (2) the removal of unnecessary doubts as to the identity of the evidence. (People of the Philippines v. Morate, January 29, 2014)