Teofilo Evangelista vs People of the Philippines

December 19, 2017
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G.R. No. 163267 – Criminal Law – Special Criminal Laws – Illegal Possession of Firearms – Constructive Possession

In January 1996, Teofilo Evangelista while in Dubai, UAE, was accosted by the Dubai Police for possession of one pistol, one submachine gun, and 19 bullets. At that time, Evangelista was about to take his flight from Dubai to Manila and so the Dubai Police contacted Nilo Umayaw, a Philippine Airlines employee, and told him that if the PAL pilot does not take custody of the firearms and at the same if Evangelista will not be able to take his flight home, he will be detained in Dubai. The PAL pilot, Captain Edwin Nadurata, agreed to take custody of the firearms and ammunitions. The Dubai police then deposited the firearms in the plane’s cockpit and Evangelista was able to take his flight.

Apparently, the customs police at NAIA was informed that Evangelista will be arriving and he would be carrying unlicensed firearms. At NAIA, the firearms and ammunitions were turned over by Capt. Nadurata to the customs police and an investigation ensued.

The pieces of evidence gathered against Evangelista were: Evangelista’s admission that he bought the subject items in Angola but the same were confiscated by the Dubai authorities, which turned over the same to a PAL personnel in Dubai; certification from Camp Crame that Evangelista is neither a registered gun owner nor licensed holder of aforesaid firearms and ammunitions; certification from the Bureau of Customs that the firearms were legally purchased; the Arrival Endorsement Form and Customs Declaration Form signed by Evangelista where he declared said firearms as his.

Informations for illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions were filed against Evangelista. Eventually, he was convicted by the trial court. On appeal, Evangelista argued that penal laws are jurisdictional in nature; that assuming he was in possession of the firearms and ammunitions in Dubai, such possession already ended when the firearms and ammunitions were deposited with the PAL pilot hence when he arrived at NAIA, he was no longer in possession of the firearms and ammunitions.

ISSUE: Whether or not Evangelista was in possession of the firearms and ammunitions when he arrived in NAIA.

HELD: Yes. To be guilty of the crime of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, one does not have to be in actual physical possession thereof. The law does not punish physical possession alone but possession in general, which includes constructive possession or the subjection of the thing to the owner’s control. Evangelista was in constructive possession of the firearms. Proof of such constructive possession was the Customs Declaration Form he signed where declared that the firearms and ammunitions were his and that they are bringing said items with him from Dubai to the Philippines. The document states that Evangelista was the one who brought the firearms and ammunitions to Manila. Thus, it is of no moment that he was not in actual possession of the firearms when arrived in Manila. He was in fact in constructive possession and that is enough to support a conviction.

 

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