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My cousin is charged with illegal possession of dangerous drugs after a search warrant was enforced in his condominium unit. The police allegedly found a sachet of shabu on top of his coffee table. Does the crime still fall under illegal possession of dangerous drugs where at the time the drugs were seized, they were not found in the person of my cousin?
Please be informed of Section 11 of Republic Act 9165 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” which states that:
“Section 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. – The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous drug x x x”
As provided under Section 11 of the aforementioned law, possession of dangerous drugs, without authority under the law, is punishable as a crime. In People v. Baer (GR 228958, Aug. 14, 2019, Ponente: Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa), the Supreme Court held that:
“Illegal possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11, Article II of RA 9165 has the following elements: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug. x x x
“Jurisprudence holds that possession, under the law, includes not only actual possession, but also constructive possession. Actual possession exists when the drug is in the immediate physical possession or control of the accused. On the other hand, constructive possession exists when the drug is under the dominion and control of the accused or when he has the right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found.”
In your cousin's case, the drugs were found on top of the coffee table in his condominium unit, a place that is readily accessible to him and under his control. Thus, he has constructive possession of the drugs. As such, your cousin may be prosecuted for the crime of illegal possession of dangerous drugs even if the drugs were not actually found in his person or immediate physical possession.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]