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THIRD DIVISION

AAA,* Petitioner, Present: - versus Ynares-Santiago, J. (Chairperson), Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario, and Nachura, JJ. G.R. No. 171465

HON. ANTONIO A. CARBONELL, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Branch 27, Regional Trial Court, San Fernando City, La Union and ENGR. JAIME O. ARZADON, Respondents.

Promulgated:

June 8, 2007

x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for certiorari[1] assails the December 16, 2005[2] Order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, San Fernando, La Union in Criminal Case No. 6983, dismissing the rape case filed against private respondent Jaime O. Arzadon for lack of probable cause; and its February 3, 2006[3] Order denying petitioners motion for reconsideration. Petitioner worked as a secretary at the Arzadon Automotive and Car Service Center from February 28, 2001 to August 16, 2001. On May 27, 2001 at about 6:30 p.m., Arzadon asked her to deliver a book to an office located at another building but when she returned to their office, the lights had been turned off and the gate was closed. Nevertheless, she went inside to get her handbag. On her way out, she saw Arzadon standing beside a parked van holding a pipe. He told her to go near him and upon reaching his side, he threatened her with the pipe and forced her to lie on the pavement. He removed her pants and underwear, and inserted his penis into her vagina. She wept and cried out for help but to no avail because there was nobody else in the premises. Petitioner did not report the incident because Arzadon threatened to kill her and her family. But when she discovered that she was pregnant as a consequence of the rape, she narrated the incident to her parents. On July 24, 2002, petitioner filed a complaint for rape against Arzadon. On September 16, 2002, Assistant City Prosecutor Imelda Cosalan issued a Resolution[4] finding probable cause and recommending the filing of an information for rape. Arzadon moved for reconsideration and during the clarificatory hearing held on October 11, 2002, petitioner testified before the investigating prosecutor. However, she failed to attend the next hearing hence, the case was provisionally dismissed.

On March 5, 2003, petitioner filed another Affidavit-Complaint[5] with a comprehensive account of the alleged rape incident. The case was assigned to 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Georgina Hidalgo. During the preliminary investigation, petitioner appeared for clarificatory questioning. On June 11, 2003, the investigating prosecutor issued a Resolution[6] finding that a prima facie case of rape exists and recommending the filing of the information. Arzadon moved for reconsideration and requested that a panel of prosecutors be constituted to review the case. Thus, a panel of prosecutors was created and after the clarificatory questioning, the panel issued on October 13, 2003 a Resolution[7]finding probable cause and denying Arzadons motion for reconsideration. An Information[8] for rape was filed before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, San Fernando, La Union on February 6, 2004, docketed as Criminal Case No. 6415. Thereafter, Arzadon filed a Motion to Hold in Abeyance All Court Proceedings Including the Issuance of a Warrant of Arrest and to Determine Probable Cause for the Purpose of Issuing a Warrant of Arrest.[9] On March 18, 2004, respondent Judge Antonio A. Carbonell granted the motion and directed petitioner and her witnesses to take the witness stand for determination of probable cause. Arzadon also appealed the Resolution of the panel of prosecutors finding probable cause before the Department of Justice. On July 9, 2004, then Acting Secretary of Justice Merceditas Gutierrez found no probable cause and directed the withdrawal of the Information in Criminal Case No. 6415.[10] Upon motion for reconsideration by petitioner, however, Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales reversed the July 9, 2004 Resolution and issued another Resolution[11] finding that probable cause exists. Thus, a new Information[12] for rape was filed against Arzadon docketed as Criminal Case No. 6983. Consequently, Arzadon filed an Urgent Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause for the Purpose of Issuing a Warrant of Arrest.[13] In an Order dated August 11, 2005, respondent Judge Carbonell granted the motion and directed petitioner and her witnesses to take the witness stand.

Instead of taking the witness stand, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration claiming that the documentary evidence sufficiently established the existence of probable cause. Pending resolution thereof, she likewise filed a petition[14] with this Court for the transfer of venue of Criminal Case No. 6983. The case was docketed as Administrative Matter No. 05-12-756-RTC and entitled Re: Transfer of Venue of Criminal Case No. 6983, formerly Criminal Case No. 6415, from the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, San Fernando City, La Union, to any Court in Metro Manila. In a Resolution[15] dated January 18, 2006, the Court granted petitioners request for transfer of venue. The case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 25, and docketed as Criminal Case No. 06-242289. However, the proceedings have been suspended pending the resolution of this petition. Meanwhile, on December 16, 2005, respondent Judge Carbonell issued the assailed Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause. Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied hence, this petition. Petitioner raises the following issues:[16]
I RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT GRANTED THE MOTION FOR DETERMINATION OF PROBABLE CAUSE FILED BY THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT AND THE SUBSEQUENT DENIAL OF THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION II RESPONDENT JUDGE COMMITTED FURTHER ACTS CONSTITUTING GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ORDERED THE COMPLAINANT AND WITNESSES TO TAKE THE STAND FOR THE PURPOSE OF DETERMINING PROBABLE CAUSE

III RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN HE REFUSED TO INHIBIT FROM FURTHER HANDLING THE CASE DESPITE WHISPERS OF DOUBT ON HIS BIAS AND PARTIALITY IV RESPONDENT JUDGE ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT ISSUED THE ORDER OF FEBRUARY 3, 2006, DENYING THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION, DESPITE THE SUPREME COURT RESOLUTION OF JANUARY 18, 2006, GRANTING THE TRANSFER OF VENUE

Petitioner contends that the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and her witnesses in satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. She argues that respondent Judge Carbonell should have taken into consideration the documentary evidence as well as the transcript of stenographic notes which sufficiently established the existence of probable cause. Arzadon claims that the petition should be dismissed outright for being the wrong mode of appeal, it appearing that the issues raised by petitioner properly fall under an action for certiorari under Rule 65, and not Rule 45, of the Rules of Court. Respondent Judge Carbonell argues in his Comment[17] that the finding of probable cause by the investigating prosecutor is not binding or obligatory, and that he was justified in requiring petitioner and her witnesses to take the witness stand in order to determine probable cause. The issues for resolution are 1) whether the petition should be dismissed for being the wrong mode of appeal; and 2) whether respondent Judge Carbonell acted with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause.

The petition has merit. A petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 is distinct from a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 in that the former brings up for review errors of judgment while the latter concerns errors of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Grave abuse of discretion is not an allowable ground under Rule 45. However, a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 may be considered a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 where it is alleged that the respondents abused their discretion in their questioned actions, as in the instant case.[18] While petitioner claims to have brought the instant action under Rule 45, the grounds raised herein involve an alleged grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Judge Carbonell. Accordingly, the Court shall treat the same as a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. However, we must point out the procedural error committed by petitioner in directly filing the instant petition before this Court instead of the Court of Appeals, thereby violating the principle of judicial hierarchy of courts. It is well-settled that although the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence does not give the petitioner unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum.[19] In this case, however, the gravity of the offense charged and the length of time that has passed since the filing of the complaint for rape, compel us to resolve the present controversy in order to avoid further delay.[20] We thus proceed to the issue of whether respondent Judge Carbonell acted with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause. We rule in the affirmative. Respondent Judge Carbonell dismissed Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause on the ground that petitioner and her witnesses failed to comply with his orders to take the witness stand. Thus

In RESUME therefore, as indubitably borne out by the case record and considering that the Private Prosecutor, despite several admonitions contumaciously nay contemptuously refused to comply/obey this Courts Orders of March 18, 2004, August 11, 2005 and eight (8) other similar Orders issued in open Court that directed the complainant/witnesses to take the witness stand to be asked probing/clarificatory questions consonant with cited jurisprudential rulings of the Supreme Court, this Court in the exercise of its discretion and sound judgment finds and so holds that NO probable cause was established to warrant the issuance of an arrest order and the further prosecution of the instant case. Record also shows in no unclear terms that in all the scheduled hearings of the case, the accused had always been present. A contrario, the private complainant failed to appear during the last four (4) consecutive settings despite due notice without giving any explanation, which to the mind of the Court may indicate an apparent lack of interest in the further prosecution of this case. That failure may even be construed as a confirmation of the Defenses contention reflected in the case record, that the only party interested in this case is the Private prosecutor, prodded by the accuseds alleged hostile siblings to continue with the case. WHEREFORE, premises considered, for utter lack of probable cause, the instant case is hereby ordered DISMISSED.[21]

He claims that under Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, no warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce. However, in the leading case of Soliven v. Makasiar,[22] the Court explained that this constitutional provision does not mandatorily require the judge to personally examine the complainant and her witnesses. Instead, he may opt to personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the prosecutor or he may disregard the prosecutors report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses. Thus:

The addition of the word personally after the word determined and the deletion of the grant of authority by the 1973 Constitution to issue warrants to other responsible officers as may be authorized by law, has apparently convinced petitioner Beltran that the Constitution now requires the judge to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses in his determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest. This is not an accurate interpretation. What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy himself of the existence of probable cause. In satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1) personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscals report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable cause. Sound policy dictates this procedure, otherwise judges would by unduly laden with the preliminary examination and investigation of criminal complaints instead of concentrating on hearing and deciding cases filed before their courts.[23]

We reiterated the above ruling in the case of Webb v. De Leon,[24] where we held that before issuing warrants of arrest, judges merely determine the probability, not the certainty, of guilt of an accused. In doing so, judges do not conduct a de novo hearing to determine the existence of probable cause. They just personally review the initial determination of the prosecutor finding a probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial evidence.[25] It is well to remember that there is a distinction between the preliminary inquiry which determines probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and the preliminary investigation proper which ascertains whether the offender should be held for trial or be released. The determination of probable cause for purposes of issuing the warrant of arrest is made by the judge. The preliminary investigation

proper whether or not there is reasonable ground to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense charged is the function of the investigating prosecutor.[26] True, there are cases where the circumstances may call for the judges personal examination of the complainant and his witnesses. But it must be emphasized that such personal examination is not mandatory and indispensable in the determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. The necessity arises only when there is an utter failure of the evidence to show the existence of probable cause.[27] Otherwise, the judge may rely on the report of the investigating prosecutor, provided that he likewise evaluates the documentary evidence in support thereof. Indeed, what the law requires as personal determination on the part of the judge is that he should not rely solely on the report of the investigating prosecutor. In Okabe v. Gutierrez,[28] we stressed that the judge should consider not only the report of the investigating prosecutor but also the affidavit and the documentary evidence of the parties, the counter-affidavit of the accused and his witnesses, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes taken during the preliminary investigation, if any, submitted to the court by the investigating prosecutor upon the filing of the Information.[29] If the report, taken together with the supporting evidence, is sufficient to sustain a finding of probable cause, it is not compulsory that a personal examination of the complainant and his witnesses be conducted. In this case, respondent Judge Carbonell dismissed Criminal Case No. 6983 without taking into consideration the June 11, 2003 Resolution of 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Georgina Hidalgo, the October 13, 2003 Resolution of the panel of prosecutors, and the July 1, 2005 Resolution of the Department of Justice, all of which sustain a finding of probable cause against Arzadon. Moreover, he failed to evaluate the evidence in support thereof. Respondent judges finding of lack of probable cause was premised only on the complainants and her witnesses absence during the hearing scheduled by the respondent judge for the judicial determination of probable cause. Petitioner narrated in detail the alleged rape incident both in her Sinumpaang Salaysay[30] dated July 24, 2002 and Complaint-Affidavit[31] dated March 5,

2003. She attended several clarificatory hearings that were conducted in the instant case. The transcript of stenographic notes[32] of the hearing held on October 11, 2002 shows that she positively identified Arzadon as her assailant, and the specific time and place of the incident. She also claimed that she bore a child as a result of the rape and, in support of her contentions, presented the child and her birth certificate as evidence. In contrast, Arzadon merely relied on the defense of alibi which is the weakest of all defenses. After a careful examination of the records, we find that there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause. The gravamen of rape is the carnal knowledge by the accused of the private complainant under any of the circumstances provided in Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.[33] Petitioner has categorically stated that Arzadon raped her, recounting her ordeal in detail during the preliminary investigations. Taken with the other evidence presented before the investigating prosecutors, such is sufficient for purposes of establishing probable cause. It is well-settled that a finding of probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence beyond reasonable doubt. Probable cause is that which engenders a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial. It does not require that the evidence would justify conviction. [34] It is clear therefore that respondent Judge Carbonell gravely abused his discretion in dismissing Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause on the ground that petitioner and her witnesses failed to take the witness stand. Considering there is ample evidence and sufficient basis on record to support a finding of probable cause, it was unnecessary for him to take the further step of examining the petitioner and her witnesses. Moreover, he erred in holding that petitioners absences in the scheduled hearings were indicative of a lack of interest in prosecuting the case. In fact, the records show that she has relentlessly pursued the same. Needless to say, a full-blown trial is to be preferred to ferret out the truth. As it were, the incidents of this case have been pending for almost five years without having even passed the preliminary investigation stage. Suffice to say that the credibility of petitioner may be tested during the trial where the
[35]

respective allegations and defenses of the complainant and the accused are properly ventilated. It is only then that the truth as to Arzadons innocence or guilt can be determined. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Orders of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, San Fernando, La Union dated December 16, 2005, and February 3, 2006 dismissing Criminal Case No. 6983 for lack of probable cause areREVERSED and SET ASIDE, and the Information in the said case is hereby REINSTATED. The Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Manila is DIRECTED to take cognizance of the case and let the records thereof be REMANDED to the said court for further proceedings. SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 113930. March 5, 1996]

PAUL G. ROBERTS, JR., RODOLFO C. SALAZAR, LUIS LORENZO, SR., LUIS LORENZO, JR., AMAURY R. GUTIERREZ, BAYANI N. FABIC, JOSE YULO, JR., ESTEBAN B. PALANNUAYAN, and WONG FONG FUI,petitioners, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS, THE HON. MAXIMIANO ASUNCION, in his capacity as the Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Quezon City, Branch 104, HON. APOLINARIO G. EXEVEA, HON. HENRICK F. GINGOYON, and HON. PHILIP A. AGUINALDO, in their capacities as Members of the Department of Judge 349 Committee, and the CITY PROSECUTOR OF QUEZON CITY,respondents. ROBERTO DELGADO, petitioner-intervenor. DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., J.:

We are urged in this petition to set aside (a) the decision of the Court of Appeals of 28 September 1993 in CA-G.R. SP No. 31226, which dismissed the petition therein on the ground that it has been mooted with the release by the Department of Justice of its decision x x x dismissing petitioners petition for review; (b) the resolution of the said court of 9 February 1994 denying the petitioners motion to reconsider the decision; (c) the order of 17 May 1993 of respondent Judge Maximiano C. Asuncion of Branch 104 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 denying petitioners motion to suspend proceedings and to hold in abeyance the issuance of the warrants of arrest and the public prosecutors motion to defer arraignment; and (d) the resolution of 23 July 1993 and 3 February 1994 of the Department of Justice, (DOJ) dismissing petitioners petition for the review of the Joint Resolution of the Assistant City Prosecutor of Quezon City and denying the motion to reconsider the dismissal, respectively.
[1] [2] [3] [4]

The petitioners rely on the following grounds for the grant of the reliefs prayed for in this petition:
I

Respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion when he ordered the arrest of the petitioners without examining the record of the preliminary investigation and in determining for himself on the basis thereof the existence of probable cause.
II

The Department of Justice 349 Committee acted with grave abuse of discretion when it refused to review the City Prosecutors Joint Resolution and dismissed petitioners appeal therefrom.
III

The Court of Appeals acted with grave abuse of discretion when it upheld the subject order directing the issuance of the warrants of arrest without assessing for itself whether based on such records there is probable cause against petitioners.
IV

The facts on record do not establish prima facie probable cause and Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 should have been dismissed.
[5]

The antecedents of this petition are not disputed. Several thousand holders of 349 Pepsi crowns in connection with the Pepsi Cola Products Phils., Inc.s (PEPSIs) Number Fever Promotion filed
[6] [7]

with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City complaints against the petitioners in their respective capacities as Presidents or Chief Executive Officers, Chairman of the Board, Vice-Chairman of the Board, and Directors of PEPSI, and also against other officials of PEPSI. The complaints respectively accuse the petitioners and the other PEPSI officials of the following crimes: (a) estafa; (b) violation of R.A. No. 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines; (c) violation of E.O. No. 913; and (d) violation of Act No. 2333, entitled An Act Relative to Untrue, Deceptive and Misleading Advertisements, as amended by Act No. 3740.
[8] [9]

After appropriate proceedings, the investigating prosecutor, Ramon M. Gerona, released on 23 March 1993 a Joint Resolution where he recommended the filing of an information against the petitioners and others for the violation of Article 3 18 of the Revised Penal Code and the dismissal of the complaints for the violation of Article 315, 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code; R.A. No. 7394; Act No. 2333, as amended by Act No. 3740; and E.O. No. 913. The dispositive portion thereof reads as follows:
[10]

In view of all the foregoing, it is recommended that:


1. The attached information be filed against respondents Paul G. Roberts, Jr., Rodolfo C. Salazar, Rosemarie R. Vera, Luis F. Lorenzo, Sr., Luis P. Lorenzo, Jr., J. Roberto Delgado, Amaury R. Gutierrez, Bayani N. Fabic, Jose Yulo, Jr., Esteban B. Pacannuayan, Jr., Wong Fong Fui, Quintin J. Gomez, Jr. and Chito V. Gutierrez for estafa under Article 318, Revised Penal Code, while the complaint for violation of Article 315, 2(d), Revised Penal Code against same respondents Juanito R. Ignacio, R. Sobong, R.O. Sinsuan, M.P. Zarsadias, L.G. Dabao, Jr., R.L. Domingo, N.N. Bacsal, Jesus M. Manalastas, Janette P. Pio de Roda, Joaquin W. Sampaico, Winefreda 0. Madarang, Jack Gravey, Les G. Ham, Corazon Pineda, Edward S. Serapio, Alex 0. Caballes, Sandy Sytangco, Jorge W. Drysdale, Richard Blossom, Pablo de Borja, Edmundo L. Tan, Joseph T. Cohen, Delfin Dator, Zosimo B. San Juan, Joaquin Franco, Primitivo S. Javier, Jr., Luisito Guevarra, Asif H. Adil, Eugenio Muniosguren, James Ditkoff and Timothy Lane be dismissed; 2. The complaints against all respondents for violation of R.A. 7394 otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines and violation of Act 2333 as amended by Act 3740 and E 0. 913 be also dismissed for insufficiency of evidence, and 3. I.S. Nos. 92-7833; 92-8710 and 92-P-1065 involving Crowns Nos. 173; 401; and 117, 425, 703 and 373, respectively, alleged to be likewise winning ones be further investigated to afford respondents a chance to submit their counter-evidence.[11]

On 6 April 1993, City Prosecutor Candido V. Rivera approved the recommendation with the modification that Rosemarie Vera, Quintin Gomez, Jr., and Chito Gonzales be excluded from the charge on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
[12]

The information for estafa attached to the Joint Resolution was approved (on 7 April 1993) by Ismael P. Casabar, Chief of the Prosecution Division,

upon authority of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City, and was filed with the RTC of Quezon City on 12 April 1993. It was docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198. The information reads as follows:
[13]

The undersigned 1st Assistant City Prosecutor accuses PAUL G. ROBERTS, JR. RODOLFO C. SALAZAR, LUIS F. LORENZO, SR., LUIS P. LORENZO, JR., J. ROBERTO DELGADO, AMAURY R. GUTIERREZ, BAYANI N. FABIC, JOSE YULO, JR., ESTEBAN B. PACANNUAYAN, JR. and WONG FONG FUI, of the crime of ESTAFA, committed as follows: That in the month of February, 1992, in Quezon City, Philippines and for sometime prior and subsequent thereto, the above-named accused Paul G. Roberts, Jr. Rodolfo G. Salazar Luis F. Lorenzo, Sr. Board of Directors Luis P. Lorenzo, Jr. Board ) being then the Presidents and Executive Officers being then the Chairman of the being then the Vice Chairman of the being then Members of the Board

) )

J. Roberto Delgado ) Amaury R. Gutierrez ) Bayani N. Fabic ) Jose Yulo, Jr. ) Esteban B. Pacannuayan, Jr. and Wong Fong Fui )

OF THE PEPSI COLA PRODUCTS PHILIPPINES, INC., CONSPIRING with one another, with intent of gain, by means of deceit, fraudulent acts or false pretenses, executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud the private complainants whose names with their prizes claimed appear in the attached lists marked as Annexes A to A-46; B to -33; C to C-281; D to D-238; E to E-3O and F to F244 in the following manner: on the date and in the place aforementioned, said accused pursuant to their conspiracy, launched the Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Inc. Number Fever Promotion from February 17 to May 8, 1992 later extended to May 11-June 12, 1992 and announced and advertised in the media that all holders of crowns and/or caps of Pepsi, Mirinda, Mountain Dew and Seven-Up bearing the winning 3-digit number will win the full amount of the prize printed on the crowns/caps which are marked with a seven-digit security code as a measure against

tampering or faking of crowns and each and every number has its own unique matching security code, enticing the public to buy Pepsi softdrinks with aforestated alluring and attractive advertisements to become millionaires, and by virtue of such representations made by the accused, the said complainants bought Pepsi softdrinks, but, the said accused after their TV announcement on May 25, 1992 that the winning number for the next day was 349, in violation of their aforecited mechanics, refused as they still refuse to redeem/pay the said Pepsi crowns and/or caps presented to them by the complainants, who, among others, were able to buy Pepsi softdrinks with crowns/caps bearing number 349 with security codes L-2560-FQ and L-3560-FQ, despite repeated demands made by the complainants, to their damage and prejudice to the extent of the amount of the prizes respectively due them from their winning 349 crowns/caps, together with such other amounts they spent ingoing to and from the Office of Pepsi to claim their prizes and such other amounts used in buying Pepsi softdrinks which the complainants normally would not have done were it not for the false, fraudulent and deceitful posters of Pepsi Cola Products, Inc. CONTRARY TO LAW. On 14 April 1993, the petitioners filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor a motion for the reconsideration of the Joint Resolution alleging therein that (a) there was neither fraud in the Number Fever Promotion nor deviation from or modification of the promotional rules approved by the Department of Trade and industry (DTI), for from the start of the promotion, it had always been clearly explained to the public that for one to be entitled to the cash prize his crown must bear both the winning number and the correct security code as they appear in the DTI list; (b) the complainants failed to allege, much less prove with prima facie evidence, the specific overt criminal acts or ommissions purportedly committed by each of the petitioners; (c) the compromise agreement entered into by PEPSI is not an admission of guilt; and (d) the evidence establishes that the promo was carried out with utmost good faith and without malicious intent.
[14]

On 15 April 1993, the petitioners filed with the DOJ a Petition for Review wherein, for the same grounds adduced in the aforementioned motion for reconsideration, they prayed that the Joint Resolution be reversed and the complaints dismissed. They further stated that the approval of the Joint Resolution by the City prosecutor was not the result of a careful scrutiny and independent evaluation of the relevant facts and the applicable law but of the grave threats, intimidation, and actual violence which the complainants had inflicted on him and his assistant prosecutors.
[15]

On that same date, the petitioners filed in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 Motions to Suspend Proceedings and to Hold in Abeyance Issuance of

Warrants of Arrest on the ground that they had filed the aforesaid Petition for Review.
[16]

On 21 April 1993, acting on the Petition for Review, Chief State Prosecutor Zenon L. De Guia issued a 1st Indorsement, directing the City Prosecutor of Quezon City to inform the DOJ whether the petitioners have already been arraigned, and if not, to move in court for the deferment of further proceedings in the case and to elevate to the DOJ the entire records of the case, for the case is being treated as an exception pursuant to Section 4 of Department Circular No. 7 dated 25 January 1990.
[17]

On 22 April 1993, Criminal Case no. Q-93-41398 was raffled to Branch 104 of the RTC of Quezon City.
[18]

In the morning of 27 April 1993, private prosecutor Julio Contreras filed an Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of Warrants of Arrest.
[19]

In the afternoon of that same day, petitioner Paul Roberts, Jr., filed a Supplemental Urgent Motion to hold in Abeyance Issuance of Warrant of Arrest and to Suspend Proceedings. He stressed that the DOJ had taken cognizance of the Petition for Review by directing the City Prosecutor to elevate the records of I.S. No. P-4401 and its related cases and asserted that the petition for review was an essential part of the petitioners right to a preliminary investigation.
[20]

The next day, respondent Judge Asuncion, Presiding Judge of Branch 104 of the RTC of Quezon City, issued an order advising the parties that his court would be guided by the doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Crespo vs. Mogul, 151 SCRA 462 and not by the resolution of the Department of Justice on the petition for review undertaken by the accused.
[21]

On 30 April 1993, Assistant City Prosecutor Tirso M. Gavero filed with the trial court a Motion to Defer Arraignment wherein he also prayed that further proceedings be held in abeyance pending final disposition by the Department of Justice.
[22]

On 4 May 1993, Gavero filed an Amended Information, accompanied by a corresponding motion to admit it. The amendments merely consist in the statement that the complainants therein were only among others who were defrauded by the accused and that the damage or prejudice caused amounted to several billions of pesos, representing the amounts due them from their winning 349 crowns/caps. The trial court admitted the amended information on the same date.
[23] [24] [25]

Later, the attorneys for the different private complainants filed, respectively, an Opposition to Motion to Defer Arraignment, and Objection
[26]

and Opposition to Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to Hold in Abeyance the Issuance of Warrants of Arrest.
[27]

On 14 May 1993, the petitioners filed a Memorandum in support of their Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to Hold in Abeyance the Issuance of the Warrants of Arrest.
[28]

On 17 May 1993, respondent Judge Asuncion issued the challenged order (1) denying the petitioners Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to Hold In Abeyance Issuance of Warrants of Arrest and the public prosecutors Motion to Defer Arraignment and (2) directing the issuance of the warrants of arrest after 21 June 1993 and setting the arraignment on 28 June 1993. Pertinent portions of the order read as follows:
[29]

In the Motion filed by the accused, it is alleged that on April 15, 1993, they filed a petition for review seeking the reversal of the resolution of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City approving the filing of the case against the accused, claiming that:
1. The resolution constituting [sic] force and duress; 2. There was no fraud or deceit therefore there can be no estafa; 3. No criminal overt acts by respondents were proved; 4. Pepsi nor the accused herein made no admission of guilt before the Department of Trade and Industry; 5. The evidence presented clearly showed no malicious intent on the part of the accused.

Trial Prosecutor Tirso M. Gavero in his Motion to Defer Arraignment averred that there is a pending petition for review with the Department of Justice filed by the accused and the Office of the City Prosecutor was directed, among other things, to cause for the deferment of further proceedings pending final disposition of said petition by the Department of Justice. The motions filed by the accused and the Trial Prosecutor are hereby DENIED. This case is already pending in this Court for trial. To follow whatever opinion the Secretary of Justice may have on the matter would undermine the independence and integrity of this Court. This Court is still capable of administering justice. The Supreme Court in the case of Crespo vs. Mogul (SCRA 151, pp. 471472) stated as follows:

In order therefor to avoid such a situation whereby the opinion of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the action of the fiscal may be disregarded by the trial court, the Secretary of Justice should, as far as practicable, refrain from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the fiscal, when the complaint or information has already been filed in Court. The matter should be left entirely for the determination of the Court. WHEREFORE, let warrant of arrest be issued after June 21, 1993, and arraignment be set on June 28, 1993, at 9:30 in the morning. On 7 June 1993, the petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with application for a temporary restraining order, which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 31226. They contended therein that respondent Judge Asuncion had acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the aforementioned order of 17 May 1993 because
[30]

I. RESPONDENT JUDGE FAILED TO EXAMINE THE RECORD OF PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION BEFORE ORDERING THE ARREST OF PETITIONERS. II. THERE IS NO PROBABLE CAUSE TO HOLD PETITIONERS CRIMINALLY LIABLE FOR ESTAFA, OTHER DECEITS, OR ANY OTHER OFFENSE. III. THE PROCEEDINGS BELOW SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED TO AWAIT THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICES RESOLUTION OF PETITIONERS APPEAL, AND IV. THERE IS NO OTHER PLAIN, SPEEDY AND ADEQUATE REMEDY IN THE ORDINARY COURSE OF LAW.

On 15 June 1993, the Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order to maintain the status quo. In view thereof, respondent Judge Asuncion issued an order on 28 June 1993 postponing indefinitely the arraignment of the petitioners which was earlier scheduled on that date.
[31] [32]

On 28 June 1993, the Court of Appeals heard the petitioners application for a writ of preliminary injunction, granted the motion for leave to intervene filed by J. Roberto Delgado, and directed the Branch Clerk of Court of the RTC of Quezon City to elevate the original records of Criminal Case No. Q93-43198
[33]

Upon receipt of the original records of the criminal case, the Court of Appeals found that a copy of the Joint Resolution had in fact been forwarded to, and received by, the trial court on 22 April 1993, which fact belied the petitioners claim that the respondent Judge had not the slightest basis at all for determining probable cause when he ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest. It ruled that the Joint Resolution was sufficient in itself to have been

relied upon by respondent Judge in convincing himself that probable cause indeed exists for the purpose of issuing the corresponding warrants of arrest; and that the mere silence of the records or the absence of any express declaration in the questioned order as to the basis of such finding does not give rise to an adverse inference, for the respondent Judge enjoys in his favor the presumption of regularity in the performance of his official duty. The Court of Appeals then issued a resolution denying the application for a writ of preliminary injunction.
[34]

On 8 June 1993, the petitioners filed a motion to reconsider the aforesaid resolution. The Court of Appeals required the respondents therein to comment on the said motion.
[35] [36]

On 3 August 1993, the counsel for the private complainants filed in CAG.R. SP No. 31226 a Manifestation informing the court that the petitioners petition for review filed with the DOJ was dismissed in a resolution dated 23 July 1993. A copy of the resolution was attached to the Manifestation.
[37] [38]

On 21 September 1993, the public respondents filed in CA-G.R. SP No. 31226 a motion to dismiss the petition on the ground that it has become moot and academic in view of the dismissal by the DOJ of the petitioners petition to review the Joint Resolution. The dismissal by the DOJ is founded on the following exposition:
[39]

You questioned the said order of the RTC before the Court of Appeals and prayed for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the Trial Judge from issuing any warrant of arrest and from proceeding with the arraignment of the accused. The appellate court in a resolution dated July 1, 1993, denied your petition. In view of the said developments, it would be an exercise in futility to continue reviewing the instant cases for any further action on the part of the Department would depend on the sound discretion of the Trial Court. The denial by the said court of the motion to defer arraignment filed at our instance was clearly an exercise of its discretion. With the issuance of the order dated May 17, 1993, the Trial Court was in effect sending a signal to this Department that the determination of the case is within its exclusive jurisdiction and competence. The rule is that x x x once a complaint or information is filed in Court, any disposition of the case as to dismissal or the conviction or acquittal of the accused rests in the sound discretion of the Court. Although the fiscal retains the direction and control of the prosecution of criminal cases even while the case is already in Court, he cannot impose his opinion on the trial court. The court is the best and sole judge on what to do with the case before it. x x x (Crespo vs. Mogul, 151 SCRA 462).
[40]

On 28 September 1993, the Court of Appeals promulgated a decision dismissing the petition because it had been mooted with the release by the Department of Justice of its decision x x x dismissing petitioners petition for review by inerrantly upholding the criminal courts exclusive and unsupplantable authority to control the entire course of the case brought against petitioners, reiterating with approval the dictum laid down in the Crespo case.
[41]

The petitioners filed a motion to reconsider the DOJs dismissal of the petition citing therein its resolutions in other similar cases which were favorable to the petitioners and adverse to other 349 Pepsi crowns holders. In its resolution of 3 February 1994, the DOJ, through its 349 Committee, denied the motion and stated: The instant petition is different from the other petitions resolved by this Department in similar cases from the provinces. In the latter petitions, the complaints against herein respondents [sic] were dismissed inasmuch as the informations have not yet been filed or even if already filed in court, the proceedings have been suspended by the courts to await the outcome of the appeal with this Department.
[42] [43]

The petitioners likewise filed a motion to reconsider the aforesaid Court of Appeals decision, which the said court denied in its resolution of 9 February 1994. Hence, the instant petition.
[44] [45]

The First Division of this Court denied due course to this petition in its resolution of 19 September 1994.
[46]

On 7 October 1994, the petitioners filed a motion for the reconsideration of the aforesaid resolution. Acting thereon, the First Division required the respondents to comment thereon.
[47]

Later, the petitioners filed a supplemental motion for reconsideration and a motion to refer this case to the Court en banc. In its resolution of 14 November 1994, the First Division granted the latter motion and required the respondents to comment on the supplemental motion for reconsideration
[48] [49] [50]

In the resolution of 24 November 1994, the Court en banc accepted the referral. On 10 October 1995, after deliberating on the motion for reconsideration and the subsequent pleadings in relation thereto, the Court en banc granted the motion for reconsideration; reconsidered and set aside the resolution of 19 September 1994; and reinstated the petition. It then considered the case submitted for decision, since the parties have exhaustively discussed the issues in their pleadings, the original records of Criminal Case No. Q-9343198 and of CA-G.R. SP No. 31226 had been elevated to this Court, and

both the petitioners and the Office of the Solicitor General pray, in effect, that this Court resolve the issue of probable cause On the basis thereof. The pleadings of the parties suggest for this Courts resolution the following key issues:
1. Whether public respondent Judge Asuncion committed grave abuse of discretion in denying, on the basis of Crespo vs. Mogul, the motions to suspend proceedings and hold in abeyance the issuance of warrants of arrest and to defer arraignment until after the petition for review filed with the DOJ shall have been resolved. 2. Whether public respondent Judge Asuncion committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the issuance of warrants of arrest without examining the records of the preliminary investigation. 3. Whether the DOJ, through its 349 Committee, gravely abused its discretion in dismissing the petition for review on the following bases: (a) the resolution of public respondent Court of Appeals denying the application for a writ of preliminary injunction and (b) of public respondent Asuncions denial of the abovementioned motions. 4. Whether public respondent Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion (a) in denying the motion for a writ of preliminary injunction solely on the ground that public respondent Asuncion had already before him the Joint Resolution of the investigating prosecutor when he ordered the issuance of the warrants of arrest, and (b) in ultimately dismissing the petition on the ground of mootness since the DOJ has dismissed the petition for review. 5. Whether this Court may determine in this proceedings the existence of probable cause either for the issuance of warrants of arrest against the petitioners or for their prosecution for the crime of estafa.

We resolve the first four issues in the affirmative and the fifth, in the negative. I. There is nothing in Crespo vs. Mogul which bars the DOJ from taking cognizance of an appeal, by way of a petition for review, by an accused in a criminal case from an unfavorable ruling of the investigating prosecutor. It merely advised the DOJ to, as far as practicable, refrain from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the fiscal, when the complaint or information has already been filed in Court. More specifically, it stated:
[51]

In order therefore to avoid such a situation whereby the opinion of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the action of the fiscal may be disregarded by the trial court, the Secretary of Justice should, as far as practicable, refrain from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the fiscal, when the complaint or information

has already been filed in Court. The matter should be left entirely for the determination of the Court.
[52]

In Marcelo vs. Court of Appeals, this Court explicitly declared:


[53]

Nothing in the said ruling forecloses the power or authority of the Secretary of Justice to review resolutions of his subordinates in criminal cases. The Secretary of Justice is only enjoined to refrain as far as practicable from entertaining a petition for review or appeal from the action of the prosecutor once a complaint or information is filed in court. In any case, the grant of a motion to dismiss, which the prosecution may file after the Secretary of Justice reverses an appealed resolution, is subject to the discretion of the court. Crespo could not have intended otherwise without doing violence to, or repealing, the last paragraph of Section 4, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court which recognizes the authority of the Secretary of Justice to reverse the resolution of the provincial or city prosecutor or chief state prosecutor upon petition by a proper party.
[54]

Pursuant to the said provision, the Secretary of Justice had promulgated the rules on appeals from resolutions in preliminary investigation. At the time the petitioners filed their petition for the review of the Joint Resolution of the investigating prosecutor, the governing rule was Circular No. 7, dated 25 January 1990. Section 2 thereof provided that only resolutions dismissing a criminal complaint may be appealed to the Secretary of Justice. Its Section 4, however, provided an exception, thus allowing, upon a showing of manifest error or grave abuse of discretion, appeals from resolutions finding probable cause, provided that the accused has not been arraigned.
[55]

The DOJ gave due course to the petitioners petition for review as an exception pursuant to Section 4 of Circular No. 7. Meanwhile, the DOJ promulgated on 30 June 1993 Department Order No. 223 which superseded Circular No. 7. This Order, however, retained the provisions of Section 1 of the Circular on appealable cases and Section 4 on the non-appealable cases and the exceptions thereto.
[56]

There is nothing in Department Order No. 223 which would warrant a recall of the previous action of the DOJ giving due course to the petitioners petition for review. But whether the DOJ would affirm or reverse the challenged Joint Resolution is still a matter of guesswork. Accordingly, it was premature for respondent Judge Asuncion to deny the motions to suspend proceedings and to defer arraignment on the following grounds:

This case is already pending in this Court for trial. To follow whatever opinion the Secretary of Justice may have on the matter would undermine the independence and integrity of this Court. This Court is still capable of administering justice. The real and ultimate test of the independence and integrity of this court is not the filing of the aforementioned motions at that stage of the proceedings but the filing of a motion to dismiss or to withdraw the information on the basis of a resolution of the petition for review reversing the Joint Resolution of the investigating prosecutor. Before that time, the following pronouncement in Crespo did not yet truly become relevant or applicable: The rule therefore in this jurisdiction is that once a complaint or information is filed in Court any disposition of the case as its dismissal or the conviction or acquittal of the accused rests in the sound discretion of the court. Although the fiscal retains the direction and control of the prosecution of criminal cases even while the case is already in court he cannot impose his opinion on the trial court. The court is the best and sole judge on what to do with the case before it. The determination of the case is within its exclusive jurisdiction and competence. A motion to dismiss the case filed by the fiscal should be addressed to the Court who has the option to grant or deny the same. It does not matter if this is done before or after the arraignment of the accused or that the motion was filed after a reinvestigation or upon instructions of the Secretary of Justice who reviewed the records of the investigation.
[57]

However, once a motion to dismiss or withdraw the information is filed the trial judge may grant or deny it, not out of subservience to the Secretary of Justice, but in faithful exercise of judicial prerogative. This Court pertinently stated so in Martinez vs. Court of Appeals:
[58]

Whether to approve or disapprove the stand taken by the prosecution is not the exercise of discretion required in cases like this. The trial judge must himself be convinced that there was indeed no sufficient evidence against the accused, and this conclusion can be arrived at only after an assessment of the evidence in the possession of the prosecution. What was imperatively required was the trial judges own assessment of such evidence, it not being sufficient for the valid and proper exercise of judicial discretion merely to accept the prosecutions word for its supposed insufficiency. As aptly observed the Office of the Solicitor General, in failing to make an independent finding of the merits of the case and merely anchoring the dismissal on the revised position of the prosecution, the trial judge relinquished the discretion he was duty bound to exercise. In effect, it was the prosecution, through the Department of Justice which decided what to do and

not the court which was reduced to a mere rubber stamp in violation of the ruling in Crespo vs. Mogul. II. Section 2, Article III of the present Constitution provides that no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce. Under existing laws, warrants of arrest may be issued (1) by the Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTCs) except those in the National Capital Region, Municipal Trial Courts (MTCs), and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTCs) in cases falling within their exclusive original jurisdiction; in cases covered by the rule on summary procedure where the accused fails to appear when required; and in cases filed with them which are cognizable by the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs); and (2) by the Metropolitan Trial Courts in the National Capital Region (MeTCs-NCR) and the RTCs in cases filed with them after appropriate preliminary investigations conducted by officers authorized to do so other than judges of MeTCs, MTCs and MCTCs.
[59] [60] [61] [62]

As to the first, a warrant can issue only if the judge is satisfied after an examination in writing and under oath of the complainant and the witnesses, in the form of searching questions and answers, that a probable cause exists and that there is a necessity of placing the respondent under immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. As to the second, this Court held in Soliven vs. Makasiar that the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and the witnesses, but
[63]

[f]ollowing established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1) personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscals report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable cause.
[64]

Sound policy supports this procedure, otherwise judges would be unduly laden with the preliminary examination and investigation of criminal complaints instead of concentrating on hearing and deciding cases filed before their courts. It must be emphasized that judges must not rely solely on the report or resolution of the fiscal (now prosecutor); they must evaluate the

report and the supporting documents. In this sense, the aforementioned requirement has modified paragraph 4(a) of Circular No. 12 issued by this Court on 30 June 1987 prescribing the Guidelines on Issuance of Warrants of Arrest under Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, which provided in part as follows:
4. In satisfying himself of the existence of a probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge, following established doctrine and procedure, may either: (a) Rely upon the fiscals certification of the existence of probable cause whether or not the case is cognizable only by the Regional Trial Court and on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest. x x x

This requirement of evaluation not only of the report or certification of the fiscal but also of the supporting documents was further explained in People vs. Inting, where this Court specified what the documents may consist of, viz., the affidavits, the transcripts of stenographic notes (if any), and all other supporting documents behind the Prosecutors certification which are material in assisting the Judge to make his determination of probable cause. Thus:
[65]

We emphasize the important features of the constitutional mandate that x x x no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge x x x (Article III, Section 2, Constitution). First, the determination of probable cause is a function of the Judge. It is not for the Provincial Fiscal or Prosecutor nor the Election Supervisor to ascertain. Only the Judge and the Judge alone makes this determination. Second, the preliminary inquiry made by a Prosecutor does not bind the Judge. It merely assists him to make the determination of probable cause. The Judge does not have to follow what the Prosecutor presents to him. By itself, the Prosecutors certification of probable cause is ineffectual. It is the report, the affidavits, the transcripts of stenographic notes (if any), and all other supporting documents behind the Prosecutors certification which are material in assisting the Judge to make his determination. In adverting to a statement in People vs. Delgado that the judge may rely on the resolution of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to file the information by the same token that it may rely on the certification made by the prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation in the issuance of the warrant of arrest, this Court stressed in Lim vs. Felix that
[66] [67]

Reliance on the COMELEC resolution or the Prosecutors certification presupposes that the records of either the COMELEC or the Prosecutor have been submitted to the Judge and he relies on the certification or resolution because the records of the investigation sustain the recommendation. The warrant issues not on the strength of the certification standing alone but because of the records which sustain it. And noting that judges still suffer from the inertia of decisions and practice under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, this Court found it necessary to restate the rule in greater detail and hopefully clearer terms. It then proceeded to do so, thus: We reiterate the ruling in Soliven vs. Makasiar that the Judge does not have to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses. The Prosecutor can perform the same functions as a commissioner for the taking of the evidence. However, there should be a report and necessary documents supporting the Fiscals bare certification. All of these should be before the Judge. The extent of the Judges personal examination of the report and its annexes depends on the circumstances of each case. We cannot determine beforehand how cursory or exhaustive the Judges examination should be. The Judge has to exercise sound discretion for, after all, the personal determination is vested in the Judge by the Constitution. It can be as brief as or detailed as the circumstances of each case require. To be sure, the Judge must go beyond the Prosecutors certification and investigation report whenever, necessary. He should call for the complainant and witnesses themselves to answer the courts probing questions when the circumstances of the case so require. This Court then set aside for being null and void the challenged order of respondent Judge Felix directing the issuance of the warrants of arrest against petitioners Lim, et al., solely on the basis of the prosecutors certification in the informations that there existed probable cause without having before him any other basis for his personal determination of the existence of a probable cause. In Allado vs. Diokno, this Court also ruled that before issuing a warrant of arrest, the judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted there is sufficient proof that a crime has been committed and that the person to be arrested is probably guilty thereof.
[68]

In the recent case of Webb vs. De Leon, this Court rejected the thesis of the petitioners of absence probable cause and sustained the investigating
[69]

panels and the respondent Judges findings of probable cause. After quoting extensively from Soliven vs. Makasiar, this Court explicitly pointed out:
[70]

Clearly then, the Constitution, the Rules of Court, and our case law repudiate the submission of petitioners that respondent judges should have conducted searching examination of witnesses before issuing warrants of arrest against them. They also reject petitioners contention that a judge must first issue an order of arrest before issuing a warrant of arrest. There is no law or rule requiring the issuance of an Order of Arrest prior to a warrant of arrest. In the case at bar, the DOJ Panel submitted to the trial court its 26-page report, the two (2) sworn statements of Alfaro and the sworn statements of Carlos Cristobal and Lolita Birrer as well as the counter- affidavits of the petitioners. Apparently, the painstaking recital and analysis of the parties evidence made in the DOJ Panel Report satisfied both judges that there is probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against petitioners. Again, we stress that before issuing warrants of arrest, judges merely determine personally the probability, not the certainty of the guilt of an accused. In doing so, judges do not conduct a de novo hearing to determine the existence of probable cause. They just personally review the initial determination of the prosecutor finding a probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial evidence. The sufficiency of the review process cannot be measured by merely counting minutes and hours. The fact that it took the respondent judges a few hours to review and affirm the Probable cause determination of the DOJ Panel does not mean they made no personal evaluation of the evidence attached to the records of the case. (italics supplied) The teachings then of Soliven, Inting, Lim, Allado, and Webb reject the proposition that the investigating prosecutors certification in an information or his resolution which is made the basis for the filing of the information, or both, would suffice in the judicial determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. In Webb, this Court assumed that since the respondent Judges had before them not only the 26-page resolution of the investigating panel but also the affidavits of the prosecution witnesses and even the counter-affidavitsof the respondents, they (judges) made personal evaluation of the evidence attached to the records of the case. Unfortunately, in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198, nothing accompanied the information upon its filing on 12 April 1993 with the trial court. As found by the Court of Appeals in its resolution of 1 July 1993, a copy of the Joint Resolution was forwarded to, and received by, the trial court only on 22 April 1993. And as revealed by the certification of Branch Clerk of Court Gibson Araula, Jr., no affidavits of the witnesses, transcripts of stenographic notes of the
[71]

proceedings during the preliminary investigation, or other documents submitted in the course thereof were found in the records of Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 as of 19 May 1993. Clearly, when respondent Judge Asuncion issued the assailed order of 17 May 1993 directing, among other things, the issuance of warrants of arrest, he had only the information, amended information, and Joint Resolution as bases thereof. He did not have the records or evidence supporting the prosecutors finding of probable cause. And strangely enough, he made no specific finding of probable cause; he merely directed the issuance of warrants of arrest after June 21, 1993. It may, however, be argued that the directive presupposes a finding of probable cause. But then compliance with a constitutional requirement for the protection of individual liberty cannot be left to presupposition, conjecture, or even convincing logic. III. As earlier stated, per its 1st Indorsement of 21 April 1993, the DOJ gave due course to the petitioners petition for review pursuant to the exception provided for in Section 4 of Circular No. 7, and directed the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City to forward to the Department the records of the cases and to file in court a motion for the deferment of the proceedings. At the time it issued the indorsement, the DOJ already knew that the information had been filed in court, for which reason it directed the City Prosecutor to inform the Department whether the accused have already been arraigned and if not yet arraigned, to move to defer further proceedings. It must have been fully aware that, pursuant to Crespo vs. Mogul, a motion to dismiss a case filed by the prosecution either as a consequence of a reinvestigation or upon instructions of the Secretary of Justice after a review of the records of the investigation is addressed to the trial court, which has the option to grant or to deny it. Also, it must have been still fresh in its mind that a few months back it had dismissed for lack of probable cause other similar complaints of holders of 349 Pepsi crowns. Thus, its decision to give due course to the petition must have been prompted by nothing less than an honest conviction that a review of the Joint Resolution was necessary in the highest interest of justice in the light of the special circumstances of the case. That decision was permissible within the as far as practicable criterion in Crespo.
[72]

Hence, the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion when it executed on 23 July 1993 a unilateral volte-face, which was even unprovoked by a formal pleading to accomplish the same end, by dismissing the petition for review. It dismissed the petition simply because it thought that a review of the

Joint Resolution would be an exercise in futility in that any further action on the part of the Department would depend on the sound discretion of the trial court, and that the latters denial of the motion to defer arraignment filed at the instance of the DOJ was clearly an exercise of that discretion or was, in effect, a signal to the Department that the determination of the case is within the courts exclusive jurisdiction and competence. This infirmity becomes more pronounced because the reason adduced by the respondent Judge for his denial of the motions to suspend proceedings and hold in abeyance issuance of warrants of arrest and to defer arraignment finds, as yet, no support in Crespo. IV. If the only issue before the Court of Appeals were the denial of the petitioners Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to Hold in Abeyance Issuance of Warrants of Arrest and the public prosecutors Motion to Defer Arraignment, which were both based on the pendency before the DOJ of the petition for the review of the Joint Resolution, the dismissal of CA-G.R. SP No. 31226 on the basis of the dismissal by the DOJ of the petition for review might have been correct. However, the petition likewise involved the issue of whether respondent Judge Asuncion gravely abused his discretion in ordering the issuance of warrants of arrest despite want of basis. The DOJs dismissal of the petition for review did not render moot and academic the latter issue. In denying in its resolution of 1 July 1993 the petitioners application for a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain respondent Judge Asuncion from issuing warrants of arrest, the Court of Appeals ,justified its action in this wise: The Joint Resolution was sufficient in itself to have been relied upon by respondent Judge in convincing himself that probable cause indeed exists for the purpose of issuing the corresponding warrants of arrest. The mere silence of the records or the absence of any express declaration in the questioned Order of May 17, 1993 as to where the respondent Judge based his finding of probable cause does not give rise to any adverse inference on his part. The fact remains that the Joint Resolution was at respondent Judges disposal at the time he issued the Order for the issuance of the warrants of arrest. After all, respondent Judge enjoys in his favor the presumption of regularity in the performance of official actuations. And this presumption prevails until it is overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Every reasonable intendment will be made in support of the presumption, and in case of doubt as to an officers act being lawful or unlawful it should be construed to be lawful. (31 C.J.S., 808-810. See also Mahilum, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, 17 SCRA

482; People vs. Cortez, 21 SCRA 1228; Government of the P.I. vs. Galarosa, 36 Phil. 338). We are unable to agree with this disquisition, for it merely assumes at least two things: (1) that respondent Judge Asuncion had read and relied on the Joint Resolution and (2) he was convinced that probable cause exists for the issuance of the warrants of arrest against the petitioners. Nothing in the records provides reasonable basis for these assumptions. In his assailed order, the respondent Judge made no mention of the Joint Resolution, which was attached to the records of Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 on 22 April 1993. Neither did he state that he found probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest. And, for an undivinable reason, he directed the issuance of warrants of arrest only after June 21, 1993. If he did read the Joint Resolution and, in so reading, found probable cause, there was absolutely no reason at all to delay for more than one month the issuance of warrants of arrest. The most probable explanation for such delay could be that the respondent Judge had actually wanted to wait for a little while for the DOJ to resolve the petition for review. It is, nevertheless, contended in the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno that whatever doubts may have lingered on the issue of probable cause was dissolved when no less than the Court of Appeals sustained the finding of probable cause made by the respondent Judge after an evaluation of the Joint Resolution. We are not persuaded with that opinion. It is anchored on erroneous premises. In its 1 July 1993 resolution, the Court of Appeals does not at all state that it either sustained respondent Judge Asuncions finding of probable cause, or found by itself probable cause. As discussed above, it merely presumed that Judge Asuncion might have read the Joint Resolution and found probable cause from a reading thereof. Then too, that statement in the dissenting opinion erroneously assumes that the Joint Resolution can validly serve as sufficient basis for determining probable cause. As stated above, it is not. V. In criminal prosecutions, the determination of probable cause may either be an executive or a judicial prerogative. In People vs. Inting, this Court aptly stated:
[73]

And third, Judges and Prosecutors alike should distinguish the preliminary inquiry which determines probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest from a

preliminary investigation proper which ascertains whether the offender should be held for trial or released. Even if the two inquiries are conducted in the course of one and the same proceeding, there should be no confusion about the objectives. The determination of probable cause for the warrant of arrest is made by the Judge. The preliminary investigation proper - whether or not there is reasonable ground to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense charged and, therefore, whether or not he should be subjected to the expense, rigors and embarrassment of trial- is the function of the Prosecutor. xxx xxx xxx

We reiterate that preliminary investigation should be distinguished as to whether it is an investigation for the determination of a sufficient ground for the filing of the information or it is an investigation for the determination of a probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. The first kind of preliminary investigation is executive in nature. It is part of the prosecutions job. The second kind of preliminary investigation which is more properly called preliminary examination is judicial in nature and is lodged with the judge x x x. Ordinarily, the determination of probable cause is not lodged with this Court. Its duty in an appropriate case is confined to the issue of whether the executive or judicial determination, as the case may be, of probable cause was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to want of jurisdiction. This is consistent with the general rule that criminal prosecutions may not be restrained or stayed by injunction, preliminary or final. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Among the exceptions are enumerated in Brocka vs. Enrile as follows:
[74]

a. To afford adequate protection to the constitutional rights of the accused (Hernandez vs. Albano, et al., L-19272, January 25, 1967, 19 SCRA 95); b. When necessary for the orderly administration of justice or to avoid oppression or multiplicity of actions (Dimayuga, et al. vs. Fernandez, 43 Phil. 304; Hernandez vs. Albano, supra; Fortun vs. Labang, et al., L-38383, May 27, 1981, 104 SCRA 607); c. When there is a pre-judicial question which is sub judice (De Leon vs. Mabanag, 70 Phil. 202); d. When the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority (Planas vs. Gil, 67 Phil. 62); e. Where the prosecution is under an invalid law, ordinance or regulation (Young vs. Rafferty, 33 Phil. 556; Yu Cong Eng vs. Trinidad, 47 Phil. 385, 389); f. When double jeopardy is clearly apparent (Sangalang vs. People and Avendia, 109 Phil. 1140);

g. Where the court has no jurisdiction over the offense (Lopez vs. City Judge, L25795, October 29, 1966, 18 SCRA 616); h. Where it is a case of persecution rather than prosecution (Rustia vs. Ocampo, CAG.R. No. 4760, March 25, 1960); i. Where the charges are manifestly false and motivated by the lust for vengeance (Recto vs. Castelo, 18 L.J., [1953], cited in Raoa vs. Alvendia, CA-G.R. No. 30720R, October 8, 1962; Cf. Guingona, et al. vs. City Fiscal, L-60033, April 4, 1984, 128 SCRA 577); and j. When there is clearly no prima facie case against the accused and a motion to quash on that ground has been denied (Salonga vs. Pao, et al., L-59524, February 18, 1985, 134 SCRA 438). 7. Preliminary injunction has been issued by the Supreme Court to prevent the threatened unlawful arrest of petitioners (Rodriguez vs. Castelo, L-6374, August 1, 1953). (cited in Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium, p. 188, 1988 Ed.)

In these exceptional cases, this Court may ultimately resolve the existence or non-existence of probable cause by examining the records of the preliminary investigation, as it did in Salonga vs. Pao, Allado, and Webb.
[75]

There can be no doubt that, in light of the several thousand private complainants in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 and several thousands more in different parts of the country who are similarly situated as the former for being holders of 349 Pepsi crowns, any affirmative holding of probable cause in the said case may cause or provoke, as justly feared by the petitioners, the filing of several thousand cases in various courts throughout the country. Inevitably, the petitioners would be exposed to the harassments of warrants of arrest issued by such courts and to huge expenditures for premiums on bailbonds and for travels from one court to another throughout the length and breadth of the archipelago for their arraignments and trials in such cases. Worse, the filing of these staggering number of cases would necessarily affect the trial calendar of our overburdened judges and take much of their attention, time, and energy, which they could devote to other equally, if not more, important cases. Such a frightful scenario would seriously affect the orderly administration of justice, or cause oppression or multiplicity of actions - a situation already long conceded by this Court to be an exception to the general rule that criminal prosecutions may not be restrained or stayed by injunction.
[76]

We shall not, however, reevaluate the evidence to determine if indeed there is probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43298. For, as earlier stated, the respondent Judge did not, in fact, find that probable cause exists, and if he did he did not have the basis therefor as mandated by Soliven, Inting, Lim, Allado, and even Webb. Moreover, the records of the preliminary investigation in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 are

not with this Court. They were forwarded by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City to the DOJ in compliance with the latters 1st Indorsement of 21 April 1993. The trial court and the DOJ must be required to perform their duty. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is granted and the following are hereby SET ASIDE:
(a) (b) Decision of 28 September 1993 and Resolution of 9 February 1994 of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 31226; The Resolution of the 349 Committee of the Department of Justice of 23 July 1993 dismissing the petitioners petition for review and of 3 February 1994 denying the motion to reconsider the dismissal; and The Order of respondent Judge Maximiano C. Asuncion of 17 May 1993 in Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198.

(c)

The Department of Justice is DIRECTED to resolve on the merits, within sixty (60) days from notice of this decision, the petitioners petition for the review of the Joint Resolution of Investigating Prosecutor Ramon Gerona and thereafter to file the appropriate motion or pleading in Criminal Case No. Q93-43198, which respondent Judge Asuncion shall then resolve in light of Crespo vs. Mogul, Soliven vs. Makasiar, People vs. Inting, Lim vs. Felix, Allado vs. Diokno, and Webb vs. De Leon. In the meantime, respondent Judge Asuncion is DIRECTED to cease and desist from further proceeding with Criminal Case No. Q-93-43198 and to defer the issuance of warrants of arrest against the petitioners. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

Pangandaman v. CasarFacts: The case originated in Lanao. The offended party was ambushed in Lanao, but hesurvived. Based on his description, there were around 50 persons who staged theambush from both sides of the hill. However, he could not recognize anyone of the50. But he filed a case against all 50 ambushers, all JOHN DOES. So the courtissued a warrant of arrest against the 50 John Does. Issue: W/N the warrant of arrest is valid? Can a court issue a warrant of arrestagainst an unknown accused?

Held: NO it is not valid. It is of the nature of a general warrant, one of a call of writs longprescribed as unconstitutional and once anathematized as totally subversive of the liberty of the subject. Clearly violative of the constitutional injunction thatwarrants of arrest should particularly describe the person or persons to be seized. The warrant as against unidentified subjects will be considered as null and void.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 71782 April 14, 1988 HADJI IBRAHIM SOLAY PANGANDAMAN, MAGAMBAAN PANGANDAMAN, MACARIAN PANGANDAMAN, MAMINTAL PANGANDAMAN, PACALUNDO PANGANDAMAN, MANGORAMAS PANGANDAMAN, MACADAOB P. PANGORANGAN KILATUN PANGANDAMAN, MARIO PANGANDAMAN, MACABIDAR PANGANDAMAN, PUYAT P. ROMAMPAT, SANTORANI P. DIMAPENGEN, NASSER P. DIMAPENGEN and DIAMA OPAOpetitioners, vs. DIMAPORO T. CASAR, AS MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL JUDGE OF POONABAYABAO, TAMPARAN AND MASIU, LANAO DEL SUR and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

NARVASA, J.: The petitioners ask this Court: 1) to annul the warrant for their arrest issued by respondent Judge Dimaporo T. Casar of the Municipal Circuit Court of Masiu, Lanao del Sur, in Criminal Case No. 1748 entitled People vs. Hadji Ibrahim Solay Pangandaman et al.; 2) to prohibit the Judge from taking further cognizance of said Criminal Case No. 1748; and 3) to compel the Judge to forward the entire record of Criminal Case No. 1748 to the Provincial Fiscal of Lanao del Sur for proper disposition. 1 Their plea is essentially grounded on the claim that the warrant for their arrest was issued by the respondent Judge without a proper preliminary investigation. 2 The Solicitor General agrees and recommends that their petition be granted and the warrant of arrest voided. 3 On July 27, 1985, a shooting incident occurred in Pantao, Masiu, Lanao del Sur, which left at least five persons dead and two others wounded. What in fact transpired is still unclear. According to one version, armed men had attacked a residence in Pantao, Masiu, with both attackers and defenders

suffering casualties. 4 Another version has it that a group that was on its way to another place, Lalabuan, also in Masiu, had been ambushed. 5 On the following day, Atty. Mangurun Batuampar, claiming to represent the widow of one of the victims, filed a letter-complaint with the Provincial Fiscal at Marawi City, asking for a "full blast preliminary investigation" of the incident. 6 The letter adverted to the possibility of innocent persons being implicated by the parties involved on both sides none of whom was, however, identified and promised that supporting affidavits would shortly be filed. Immediately the Provincial Fiscal addressed a "1st indorsement" to the respondent Judge, transmitting Atty. Batuampar's letter and requesting that "all cases that may be filed relative .. (to the incident) that happened in the afternoon of July 27, 1985," be forwarded to his office, which "has first taken cognizance of said cases." 7 No case relative to the incident was, however, presented to the respondent Judge until Saturday, August 10, 1985, when a criminal complaint for multiple murder was filed before him by P.C. Sgt. Jose L. Laruan, which was docketed as Case No. 1748. 8 On that same day, the respondent Judge "examined personally all (three) witnesses (brought by the sergeant) under oath thru .. (his) closed and direct supervision," reducing to writing the questions to the witnesses and the latter's answers. 9 Thereafter the Judge "approved the complaint and issued the corresponding warrant of arrest" against the fourteen (14) petitioners (who were named by the witnesses) and fifty (50) "John Does." 10 An "ex-parte" motion for reconsideration was filed on August 14, 1985 by Atty. Batuampar (joined by Atty. Pama L. Muti), seeking recall of the warrant of arrest and subsequent holding of a "thorough investigation" on the ground that the Judge's initial investigation had been "hasty and manifestly haphazard" with "no searching questions" having been propounded. 11 The respondent Judge denied the motion for "lack of basis;" 12 hence the present petition. While they concede the authority of the respondent Judge to conduct a preliminary investigation of the offenses involved, which are cognizable by Regional Trial Courts, the petitioners and the Solicitor General argue that the Judge in the case at bar failed to conduct the investigation in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Section 3, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court ; 13 and that that failure constituted a denial to petitioners of due process which nullified the proceedings leading to the issuance of the warrant for the petitioners' arrest. 14 It is further contended that August 10, 1985 was a Saturday during which "Municipal Trial Courts are open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. only, ..." and "... it would hardly have been possible for respondent Judge to determine the existence of probable cause against sixty- four (64) persons whose participations were of varying nature and degree in a matter of hours and issue the warrant of arrest in the same day;" 15 and that there was undue haste and an omission to ask searching questions by the Judge who relied "mainly on the supporting affidavits which were obviously prepared already when presented to him by an enlisted PC personnel as investigator." 16 The petitioners further assert that the respondent Judge conducted the preliminary investigation of the charges "... in total disregard of the Provincial Fiscal ..." who, as said respondent well knew, had already taken cognizance of the matter twelve (12) days earlier and was poised to conduct his own investigation of the same; 17 and that issuance of a warrant of arrest against fifty (50) "John Does" transgressed the Constitutional provision requiring that such warrants should particularly describe the persons or things to be seized. 18 There can be no debate about the proposition that in conducting a pre investigation of any crime cognizable by the Regional Trial Courts, a judge of an inferior court (other than in Metro-Manila or the chartered cities, where no authority to conduct preliminary investigation is vested in such officials) must observe the procedure prescribed in Section 3 of Rule 112, 1985 Rules on Criminal

Procedure. And although not specifically so declared, the procedure mandated by the Rule actually consists of two phases or stages. The first phase consists of an ex-parte inquiry into the sufficiency of the complaint and the affidavits and other documents offered in support thereof. And it ends with the determination by the Judge either: (1) that there is no ground to continue with the inquiry, in which case he dismisses the complaint and transmits the order of dismissal, together with the records of the case, to the provincial fiscal; or (2) that the complaint and the supporting documents show sufficient cause to continue with the inquiry and this ushers in the second phase. This second phase is designed to give the respondent notice of the complaint, access to the complainant's evidence and an opportunity to submit counter-affidavits and supporting documents. At this stage also, the Judge may conduct a hearing and propound to the parties and their witnesses questions on matters that, in his view, need to be clarified. The second phase concludes with the Judge rendering his resolution, either for dismissal of the complaint or holding the respondent for trial, which shall be transmitted, together with the record, to the provincial fiscal for appropriate action. The procedure above described must be followed before the complaint or information is filed in the Regional Trial Court. Failure to do so will result in a denial of due process. 19 Here, no information has as yet been filed with the Regional Trial Court. There is no pretense that the preliminary investigation has been completed, insofar as the respondent Judge is concerned, and that he does not intend to undertake the second phase. In this situation, it cannot be said that he has failed to observe the prescribed procedure. What has happened is simply that after receiving the complaint and examining the complainant's witnesses, and having come to believe, on the basis thereof, that the offenses charged had been committed, the respondent Judge issued the warrant now complained of against the fourteen (14) respondents (now petitioners) named and Identified by the witnesses as the perpetrators of the killings and injuries, as well as against 50 "John Does." The real question, therefore, is whether or not the respondent Judge had the power to issue the warrant of arrest without completing the entire prescribed procedure for preliminary investigation. Stated otherwise, is completion of the procedure laid down in Section 3 of Rule 112 a condition sine qua non for the issuance of a warrant of arrest? There is no requirement that the entire procedure for preliminary investigation must be completed before a warrant of arrest may be issued. What the Rule 20 provides is that no complaint or information for an offense cognizable by the Regional Trial Court may be filed without completing that procedure. But nowhere is it provided that the procedure must be completed before a warrant of arrest may issue. Indeed, it is the contrary that is true. The present Section 6 of the same Rule 112 clearly authorizes the municipal trial court to order the respondent's arrest even before opening the second phase of the investigation if said court is satisfied that a probable cause exists and there is a necessity to place the respondent under immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. Sec. 6. When warrant of arrest may issue.xxx xxx xxx
(b) By the Municipal Trial Court. If the municipal trial judge conducting the preliminary investigation is satisfied after an examination in writing and under oath of the complainant and his witnesses in the form of searching question and answers, that a probable cause

exists and that there is a necessity of placing the respondent under immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice, he shag issue a warrant of arrest. 21

This was equally true under the former rules, where the first phase of the investigation was expressly denominated "preliminary examination" to distinguish it from the second phase, or preliminary investigation proper. Thus, the former Section 6 of Rule 112 provided: SEC. 6. Warrant of arrest, when issued. If the judge be satisfied from the preliminary e petition conducted by him or by the investigating officer that the offense complained of has been committed and that there is reasonable ground to believe that the accused has committed it, he must issue a warrant or order for his arrest. In Mayuga vs. Maravilla, 22 this Court found occasion to dwell in some detail on the process of preliminary investigation and, incidentally, to affirm the power of a justice of the peace or municipal judge conducting a preliminary investigation to order the arrest of the accused after the first stage (preliminary examination), saying:
Appellant should bear in mind that a preliminary investigation such as was conducted by the Justice of the Peace has for its purpose only the determination of whether a crime has been committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the accused guilty thereof, and if so, the issuance of a warrant of arrest. And it should not be forgotten that a preliminary investigation has two stages: First, a preliminary examination of the complainant and his witnesses prior to the arrest of the accused; and, second, the reading to the accused after his arrest of the complaint or information filed against him, and his being informed of the substance of the evidence against him, after which he is allowed to present evidence in his favor, if he so desires. Probable cause, in regard to the first stage of preliminary investigation, depends on the discretion of the judge or magistrate empowered to issue the warrant of arrest. It suffices that facts are presented to him to convince him, not that a person has committed the crime, but that there is probable cause to believe that such person committed the crime charged. The proceeding is generally ex parte unless the defendant desires to be present and while under the old Rules the Justice of the Peace or investigating officer must take the testimony of the complainant and the latter's witnesses under oath, only the testimony of the complainant shall be in writing and only an abstract of the testimony of the other is required. Regarding preliminary investigation, it has thus been ruled that 'the occasion is not for the full and exhaustive display of the parties' evidence; it is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender well-grounded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. ... 23

The rule on arrest after preliminary examination has, of course, been modified somewhat since the occurrence of the facts upon which Mayuga was decided, but not to abrogate the authority of the investigating judge to order such arrest, and only to prescribe the requirement that before he may do so, he must examine the witnesses to the complaint, the examination to be under oath and reduced to writing in the form of searching questions and answers. This modification was introduced by Republic Act 3838, approved June 22, 1963, amending Section 87 of the Judiciary Act of 1948, and the "searching questions and answers" requirement is incorporated in the present Section 6 of Rule 112 already quoted. The argument, therefore, must be rejected that the respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the warrant of arrest against petitioners without first completing the preliminary investigation in accordance with the prescribed procedure. The rule is and has always been that such issuance need only await a finding of probable cause, not the completion of the entire procedure of preliminary investigation .

Also without appreciable merit is petitioners' other argument that there was scarcely time to determine probable cause against sixty-four persons (the fourteen petitioners and fifty "Does") within a matter of hours on a Saturday when municipal trial courts are open only from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. That argument founders upon the respondent Judge's positive affirmations that he had personally and closely examined under oath the three witnesses to the complaint 24 and that he had issued the warrant of arrest "believing that the offense thus filed had been committed." 25 Nothing in the record before this Court belies or discredits those affirmations which have, besides, the benefit of the legal presumption that official duty has been regularly performed. 26 The contention that the witnesses to the complaint had merely sworn before the respondent Judge to statements prepared beforehand and submitted by a military investigator 27 must, in view of the foregoing considerations and for lack of any support in the record, be dismissed as mere speculation. The same argument also unwarrantedly assumes that the respondent Judge limited the proceedings on preliminary examination to the usual Saturday office hours of 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in addition to not making any persuasive showing that such proceedings could not have been completed within that time-frame. For all that appears, said respondent could have put off the 1:00 p.m. adjournment until he had finished interrogating the witnesses to his satisfaction. And there is really nothing unusual in completing within a three-hour period the questioning of three witnesses in a preliminary examination to determine the existence of probable cause. The record which, lacking proof to the contrary, must be accepted as an accurate chronicle of the questioned proceedings, shows prima facie that the respondent Judge had personally examined the witnesses to the complaint, and a consideration of the latter's sworn answers to his questions satisfies this Court that the finding of probable cause against the petitioners was neither arbitrary nor unfounded. The three witnesses to the complaint, Misandoning Monasprang, a student, Lawandato Ripors, an engineering graduate, and Sanny Monib a farmer gave mutually corroborative accounts of the incident. Under separate questioning, they declared that they were members of a party that was passing by Pantao on its way to Lalabuan from Talaguian, all in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, at about 10:00 a.m. on July 27, 1985, when they were ambushed and fired upon by an armed group which included the petitioners and about fifty other unidentified persons; that five of the party had been killed and two (the witnesses Lawandato Ripors and Sanny Monib) wounded; that even after they had killed their victims, the ambushers had continued to fire at the dead bodies; that the witnesses managed to escape their attackers and return to Talaguian, where they informed their relatives about what had happened, and thence went to the municipal hall in Masiu to report to the authorities; that the dead victims were recovered only late in the afternoon of that day because the authorities could not "penetrate" the area and the ambushers refused to release the bodies; and that the ambush was an offshoot of a grudge between the families of the ambushers and those of the victims. 28 The witnesses named and Identified the dead victims as Cadar Monasprang, Macacrao Guiling Macrang Hadji Alawi, Alicman Ripors and Malabato Diator. All of them also Identified by name each of the fourteen petitioners as members of the ambush group. The respondent Judge can hardly be faulted for finding enough cause to hold the petitioners named in the statements of three eyewitnesses to killings perpetrated in broad daylight. In Luna vs. Plaza, 29 this Court ruled that the term "searching questions and answers" means ...only, taking into consideration the purpose of the preliminary examination which is to determine "whether there is a reasonable ground to believe that an offense has been committed and the accused is probably guilty thereof so that a warrant of arrest

may be issued and the accused held for trial," such questions as have tendency to show the commission of a crime and the perpetuator thereof. What would be searching questions would depend on what is sought to be inquired into, such as: the nature of the offense, the date, time, and place of its commission, the possible motives for its commission; the subject, his age, education, status, financial and social circumstances, his attitude toward the investigation, social attitudes, opportunities to commit the offense; the victim, his age, status, family responsibilities, financial and social circumstances, characteristics, etc. The points that are the subject of inquiry may differ from case to case. The questions, therefore must to a great degree depend upon the Judge making the investigation. ... Upon this authority, and considering what has already been stated above, this Court is not prepared to question the propriety of the respondent Judge's finding of probable cause or substitute its judgment for his in the matter of what questions to put to the witnesses during the preliminary examination. Upon the facts and the law, therefore, the warrant of arrest in question validly issued against the petitioners, such issuance having been ordered after proceedings, to which no irregularity has been shown to attach, in which the respondent Judge found sufficient cause to commit the petitioners to answer for the crime complained of. Insofar, however, as said warrant is issued against fifty (50) "John Does" not one of whom the witnesses to the complaint could or would Identify, it is of the nature of a general warrant, one of a class of writs long proscribed as unconstitutional and once anathematized as "totally subversive of the liberty of the subject." 30 Clearly violative of the constitutional injunction that warrants of arrest should particularly describe the person or persons to be seized,31 the warrant must, as regards its unidentified subjects, be voided. The fact that the Provincial Fiscal may have announced his intention of investigating the incident himself did not, in the view of the Court, legally inhibit the respondent Judge from conducting his own inquiry into the matter if, as is made to appear here, it was regularly brought before him and no formal complaint was filed before the Fiscal. Courtesy may have dictated that in those circumstances he leave the investigation to the Fiscal and simply endorse to the latter the complaint filed with him; duty did not, and if he nonetheless chose to conduct his own investigation, nothing in the rules states or implies that he could not do so. Be that as it may, since the action and final resolution of the respondent Judge after completing the second stage of the preliminary investigation are subject to review by the Provincial Fiscal, practical considerations of expediency and the avoidance of duplication of work dictate that the latter official be permitted to take over the investigation even in its present stage. WHEREFORE, the warrant complained of is upheld and declared valid insofar as it orders the arrest of the petitioners. Said warrant is voided to the extent that it is issued against fifty (50) "John Does." The respondent Judge is directed to forward to the Provincial Fiscal of Lanao del Sur the record of the preliminary investigation of the complaint in Criminal Case No. 1728 of his court for further appropriate action. Without pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Teehankee, C.J., Cruz, Gancayco and Grio-Aquino, JJ., concur.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 133917. February 19, 2001]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. NASARIO MOLINA y MANAMAT @ BOBONG and GREGORIO MULA y MALAGURA @ BOBOY, accused-appellants. DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

To sanction disrespect and disregard for the Constitution in the name of protecting the society from lawbreakers is to make the government itself lawless and to subvert those values upon which our ultimate freedom and liberty depend.[1] For automatic review is the Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 17, in Criminal Case No. 37,264-96, finding accused-appellants Nasario Molina y Manamat alias Bobong and Gregorio Mula y Malagura alias Boboy, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 8,[3] of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 (Republic Act No. 6425), as amended by Republic Act No. 7659,[4] and sentencing them to suffer the supreme penalty of death. The information against accused-appellants reads:

That on or about August 8, 1996, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, in conspiracy with each other, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously was found in their possession 946.9 grams of dried marijuana which are prohibited. CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]
Upon arraignment on September 4, 1996, accused-appellants pleaded not guilty to the accusation against them.[6] Trial ensued, wherein the prosecution presented Police Superintendent Eriel Mallorca, SPO1 Leonardo Y. Pamplona, Jr., and SPO1 Marino S. Paguidopon, Jr. as witnesses. The antecedent facts are as follows: Sometime in June 1996, SPO1 Marino Paguidopon, then a member of the Philippine National Police detailed at Precinct No. 3, Matina, Davao City, received an information regarding the presence of an alleged marijuana pusher in Davao City.[7] The first time he came to see the said marijuana pusher in person was during the first week of July 1996. SPO1 Paguidopon was then with his informer when a motorcycle passed by. His informer pointed to

the motorcycle driver, accused-appellant Mula, as the pusher. As to accused-appellant Molina, SPO1 Paguidopon had no occasion to see him before the arrest. Moreover, the names and addresses of the accused-appellants came to the knowledge of SPO1 Paguidopon only after they were arrested.[8] At about 7:30 in the morning of August 8, 1996, SPO1 Paguidopon received an information that the alleged pusher will be passing at NHA, Ma-a, Davao City any time that morning.[9] Consequently, at around 8:00 A.M. of the same day, he called for assistance at the PNP, Precinct No. 3, Matina, Davao City, which immediately dispatched the team of SPO4 Dionisio Cloribel (team leader), SPO2 Paguidopon (brother of SPO1 Marino Paguidopon), and SPO1 Pamplona, to proceed to the house of SPO1 Marino Paguidopon where they would wait for the alleged pusher to pass by.[10] At around 9:30 in the morning of August 8, 1996, while the team were positioned in the house of SPO1 Paguidopon, a trisikad carrying the accused-appellants passed by. At that instance, SPO1 Paguidopon pointed to the accused-appellants as the pushers. Thereupon, the team boarded their vehicle and overtook the trisikad.[11] SPO1 Paguidopon was left in his house, thirty meters from where the accused-appellants were accosted.[12] The police officers then ordered the trisikad to stop. At that point, accused-appellant Mula who was holding a black bag handed the same to accused-appellant Molina. Subsequently, SPO1 Pamplona introduced himself as a police officer and asked accused-appellant Molina to open the bag.[13] Molina replied, Boss, if possible we will settle this.[14] SPO1 Pamplona insisted on opening the bag, which revealed dried marijuana leaves inside. Thereafter, accusedappellants Mula and Molina were handcuffed by the police officers.[15] On December 6, 1996, accused-appellants, through counsel, jointly filed a Demurrer to Evidence, contending that the marijuana allegedly seized from them is inadmissible as evidence for having been obtained in violation of their constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures.[16] The demurrer was denied by the trial court.[17] A motion for reconsideration was filed by accused-appellants, but this was likewise denied. Accused-appellants waived presentation of evidence and opted to file a joint memorandum. On April 25, 1997, the trial court rendered the assailed decision,[18] the decretal portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, finding the evidence of the prosecution alone without any evidence from both accused who waived presentation of their own evidence through their counsels, more than sufficient to prove the guilt of both accused of the offense charged beyond reasonable doubt, pursuant to Sec. 20, sub. par. 5 of Republic Act 7659, accused NASARIO MOLINA and GREGORIO MULA, are sentenced to suffer a SUPREME PENALTY OF DEATH through lethal injection under Republic Act 8176, to be effected and implemented as therein provided for by law, in relation to Sec. 24 of Rep. Act 7659. The Branch Clerk of Court of this court, is ordered to immediately elevate the entire records of this case with the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, Manila, for the

automatic review of their case by the Supreme Court and its appropriate action as the case may be. SO ORDERED.[19]
Pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code and Rule 122, Section 10 of the Rules of Court, the case was elevated to this Court on automatic review. Accused-appellants contend:
I.

THAT THE MARIJUANA IS INADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE FOR HAVING BEEN SEIZED IN VIOLATION OF APPELLANTS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES;
II.

THAT ASSUMING IT IS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE, THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT OTHERWISE PROVED THEIR GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT; AND
III.

THAT, FINALLY, ASSUMING THEIR GUILT HAS BEEN PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, THE IMPOSABLE PENALTY FOR VIOLATION OF SEC. 8 OF RA No. 7659 (sic), IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE, IS LIFE IMPRISONMENT, NOT DEATH.[20]
The Solicitor General filed a Manifestation and Motion (In Lieu of Brief), wherein he prayed for the acquittal of both accused-appellants. The fundamental law of the land mandates that searches and seizures be carried out in a reasonable fashion, that is, by virtue or on the strength of a search warrant predicated upon the existence of a probable cause. The pertinent provision of the Constitution provides:

SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.[21]

Complementary to the foregoing provision is the exclusionary rule enshrined under Article III, Section 3, paragraph 2, which bolsters and solidifies the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.[22] Thus:

Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.
Without this rule, the right to privacy would be a form of words, valueless and undeserving of mention in a perpetual charter of inestimable human liberties; so too, without this rule, the freedom from state invasions of privacy would be so ephemeral and so neatly severed from its conceptual nexus with the freedom from all brutish means of coercing evidence as not to merit this Courts high regard as a freedom implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.[23] The foregoing constitutional proscription, however, is not without exceptions. Search and seizure may be made without a warrant and the evidence obtained therefrom may be admissible in the following instances: (1) search incident to a lawful arrest; (2) search of a moving motor vehicle; (3) search in violation of customs laws; (4) seizure of evidence in plain view; (5) when the accused himself waives his right against unreasonable searches and seizures;[24] and (6) stop and frisk situations (Terry search).[25] The first exception (search incidental to a lawful arrest) includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuant to an equally valid warrantless arrest which must precede the search. In this instance, the law requires that there be first a lawful arrest before a search can be made --- the process cannot be reversed.[26] As a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a valid warrant of arrest. The Rules of Court, however, recognizes permissible warrantless arrests. Thus, a peace officer or a private person may, without warrant, arrest a person: (a) when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense (arrest in flagrante delicto); (b) when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it (arrest effected in hot pursuit); and (c) when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or a place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another (arrest of escaped prisoners).[27] In the case at bar, the court a quo anchored its judgment of conviction on a finding that the warrantless arrest of accused-appellants, and the subsequent search conducted by the peace officers, are valid because accused-appellants were caught in flagrante delicto in possession of prohibited drugs.[28] This brings us to the issue of whether or not the warrantless arrest, search and seizure in the present case fall within the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. In People v. Chua Ho San,[29] the Court held that in cases of in flagrante delicto arrests, a peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense. The arresting officer, therefore, must have personal knowledge of such fact or, as recent case law adverts to, personal knowledge of facts or circumstances convincingly indicative or constitutive of probable cause. As discussed in People v. Doria,[30] probable cause means an actual belief or reasonable grounds of suspicion. The grounds of suspicion are reasonable when, in the absence of actual belief of the arresting officers, the suspicion that the person to be

arrested is probably guilty of committing the offense, is based on actual facts, i.e., supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be arrested. A reasonable suspicion therefore must be founded on probable cause, coupled with good faith on the part of the peace officers making the arrest. As applied to in flagrante delicto arrests, it is settled that reliable information alone, absent any overt act indicative of a felonious enterprise in the presence and within the view of the arresting officers, are not sufficient to constitute probable cause that would justify an in flagrante delicto arrest. Thus, inPeople v. Aminnudin,[31] it was held that the accused-appellant was not, at the moment of his arrest, committing a crime nor was it shown that he was about to do so or that he had just done so. What he was doing was descending the gangplank of the M/V Wilcon 9 and there was no outward indication that called for his arrest. To all appearances, he was like any of the other passengers innocently disembarking from the vessel. It was only when the informer pointed to him as the carrier of the marijuana that he suddenly became suspect and so subject to apprehension. Likewise, in People v. Mengote,[32] the Court did not consider eyes... darting from side to side ... [while] holding ... [ones] abdomen, in a crowded street at 11:30 in the morning, as overt acts and circumstances sufficient to arouse suspicion and indicative of probable cause. According to the Court, [b]y no stretch of the imagination could it have been inferred from these acts that an offense had just been committed, or was actually being committed, or was at least being attempted in [the arresting officers] presence. So also, in People v. Encinada,[33] the Court ruled that no probable cause is gleanable from the act of riding a motorela while holding two plastic baby chairs. Then, too, in Malacat v. Court of Appeals,[34] the trial court concluded that petitioner was attempting to commit a crime as he was standing at the corner of Plaza Miranda and Quezon Boulevard with his eyes moving very fast and looking at every person that come (sic) nearer (sic) to them.[35] In declaring the warrantless arrest therein illegal, the Court said:

Here, there could have been no valid in flagrante delicto ... arrest preceding the search in light of the lack of personal knowledge on the part of Yu, the arresting officer, or an overt physical act, on the part of petitioner, indicating that a crime had just been committed, was being committed or was going to be committed.[36]
It went on to state that -

Second, there was nothing in petitioners behavior or conduct which could have reasonably elicited even mere suspicion other than that his eyes were moving very fast - an observation which leaves us incredulous since Yu and his teammates were nowhere near petitioner and it was already 6:30 p.m., thus presumably dusk. Petitioner and his companions were merely standing at the corner and were not creating any commotion or trouble... Third, there was at all no ground, probable or otherwise, to believe that petitioner was armed with a deadly weapon. None was visible to Yu, for as he admitted, the alleged

grenade was discovered inside the front waistline of petitioner, and from all indications as to the distance between Yu and petitioner, any telltale bulge, assuming that petitioner was indeed hiding a grenade, could not have been visible to Yu. [37]
Clearly, to constitute a valid in flagrante delicto arrest, two requisites must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer.[38] In the case at bar, accused-appellants manifested no outward indication that would justify their arrest. In holding a bag on board a trisikad, accused-appellants could not be said to be committing, attempting to commit or have committed a crime. It matters not that accusedappellant Molina responded Boss, if possible we will settle this to the request of SPO1 Pamplona to open the bag. Such response which allegedly reinforced the suspicion of the arresting officers that accused-appellants were committing a crime, is an equivocal statement which standing alone will not constitute probable cause to effect an inflagrante delicto arrest. Note that were it not for SPO1 Marino Paguidopon (who did not participate in the arrest but merely pointed accused-appellants to the arresting officers), accused-appellants could not be the subject of any suspicion, reasonable or otherwise. While SPO1 Paguidopon claimed that he and his informer conducted a surveillance of accused-appellant Mula, SPO1 Paguidopon, however, admitted that he only learned Mulas name and address after the arrest. What is more, it is doubtful if SPO1 Paguidopon indeed recognized accused-appellant Mula. It is worthy to note that, before the arrest, he was able to see Mula in person only once, pinpointed to him by his informer while they were on the side of the road. These circumstances could not have afforded SPO1 Paguidopon a closer look at accusedappellant Mula, considering that the latter was then driving a motorcycle when SPO1 Paguidopon caught a glimpse of him. With respect to accused-appellant Molina, SPO1 Paguidopon admitted that he had never seen him before the arrest. This belies the claim of SPO1 Pamplona that he knew the name of accused-appellants even before the arrest, to wit Q- When you said that certain Mula handed a black bag to another person and how did you know that it was Mula who handed the black bag to another person? ABecause I have already information from Paguidopon, regarding Mula and Molina, when they pass by through the street near the residence of Paguidopon. He told that the one who is big one that is Gregorio Mula and the thin one is Nazario Molina[39]

The aforecited testimony of SPO1 Pamplona, therefore, is entirely baseless. SPO1 Pamplona could not have learned the name of accused-appellants from SPO1 Paguipodon because Paguipodon himself, who allegedly conducted the surveillance, was not even aware of accused-appellants name and address prior to the arrest. Evidently, SPO1 Paguidopon, who acted as informer of the arresting officers, more so the arresting officers themselves, could not have been certain of accused-appellants identity, and were, from all indications, merely fishing for evidence at the time of the arrest.

Compared to People v. Encinada, the arresting officer in the said case knew appellant Encinada even before the arrest because of the latters illegal gambling activities, thus, lending at least a semblance of validity on the arrest effected by the peace officers. Nevertheless, the Court declared in said case that the warrantless arrest and the consequent search were illegal, holding that [t]he prosecutions evidence did not show any suspicious behavior when the app ellant disembarked from the ship or while he rode the motorela. No act or fact demonstrating a felonious enterprise could be ascribed to appellant under such bare circumstances.[40] Moreover, it could not be said that accused-appellants waived their right against unreasonable searches and seizure. Implied acquiescence to the search, if there was any, could not have been more than mere passive conformity given under intimidating or coercive circumstances and is thus considered no consent at all within the purview of the constitutional guarantee.[41] Withal, the Court holds that the arrest of accused-appellants does not fall under the exceptions allowed by the rules. Hence, the search conducted on their person was likewise illegal. Consequently, the marijuana seized by the peace officers could not be admitted as evidence against accused-appellants, and the Court is thus, left with no choice but to find in favor of accused-appellants. While the Court strongly supports the campaign of the government against drug addiction and commends the efforts of our law-enforcement officers towards this drive, all efforts for the achievement of a drug-free society must not encroach on the fundamental rights and liberties of individuals as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which protection extends even to the basest of criminals. WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 17, in Criminal Case No. 37, 264-96, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. For lack of evidence to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, accused-appellants Nasario Molina y Manamat alias Bobong and Gregorio Mula y Malagura alias Boboy, are ACQUITTED and ordered RELEASED from confinement unless they are validly detained for other offenses. No costs. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, De Leon, Jr., and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

People vs Molina 19 February 2001 | Ponente: Ynares-Santiago Overview: SPO1 Paguidopon received a tip about drug pushers. He previously caught a glimpse of one of them, Mula, so he was ableto point to him and his companion, Molina, to arresting officers when they were aboard a trisikad. Upon accosting them, the police wereable to find marijuana in a bag carried by Molina, leading to their arrest. The court however held that they were illegally

arrested because their case dont fall under the exception of an in flagrante delicto arrest, there being no outward indication that could justify their arrest. Statement of the Case: -This is for review of the decision of the RTC finding Nasario Molina alias "Bobong" and Gregorio Mula alias "Boboy" guilty of violation of Sec. 8 of RA 6245, or the Dangerous Drugs Act, by possessing 946.9 grants of dried marijuana.-Molina and Mula pleaded guilty upon arraingnment. Statement of Facts: -On June 1996, SPO1 Marino Paguidopon received information about a marijuana pusher in Davao. Paguidopon first saw thepusher in person on July of the same year, when his informer identified Mula as the driver of a motorcylce who just passed bythem. Molina, on the other hand, was never identified prior arrest.-In the morning of August 8, 1996, Paguidopon received information that the drug pushers will pass by at NHA, Ma-a, DavaoCity that morning, so he called for assistance from the PNP. A team composed of SPO4 Cloribel, SPO2 Paguidopon (brother of Marino), and SPO1 Pamplona were dispatched to proceed to Marino's housee where they'll wait for the drug pushers willpass by.-Two hours later, a "trisikad" identified by Paguidopon as carrying Molina and Mula passed by. So, the team boarded their vehicle, overtook the trisikad and accosted the two.-At that point, Mula was holding a black bag. He handed the same to Molina. Pamplona, introducing himself as a police officer,asked Molina to open the bag, to which Molina replied "Boss, if possible, we will settle this."-Pamplona insisted on opening the bag, which revealed dried marijuana leaves inside. Thereafter, Mula and Molina werehandcuffed.-Mula and Molina filed a Demurrer to Evidence, saying that the marijuna was illegally seized from them, therefore it isinadmissible. The trial court denied this. The two waived presentation of evidence, and opted to file a joint memorandum.Later, the trial court still found them guilty, and sentenced them to suffer the death penalty.-Pursuant to Art. 47 of the RPC and Rule 122, Sec. 10 of the ROC, the case is elevated to the SC on automatic review.The SolGen moved for the acquittal of the two. Issue and Held: -Was the arrest of Mula and Molina fall under the exception of in flagrante delicto in warrantless arrests?NO Applicable Laws: Article III, Sec. 2Article III, Sec. 3 Rationale: -The law mandates that searches be carried out with a search warrant upon the existence of probable cause. Likewise, the lawprotects against unreasonable searches and seizures and holds evidence taken from such incidents as inadmissible asevidence. -There are exceptions to this, the first being seizure conducted incidental to a lawful arrest .-For this, there should be a lawful arrest first, before a search can be made. It doesn't work the other way around.-Likewise, as a rule, an arrest is legitimate if it's with a valid warrant of arrest. However, a police officer may conductwarrantless arrests:

(a)In flagrante delicto - when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or isattempting to commit an offense (b)Arrest effected in hot pursuit - when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe basedon personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it. (c)Arrest of escaped prisoners - when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from penal establishmentor a place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped whilebeing transferred from one confinement to another. -In this case, the trial court found that the warrantless arrest and seizure were valid apparently because they were caught inflagrante delicto in possession of the prohibited drugs. But the question is: does the present case aptly fall within theexceptions to the warrant requirement? In in flagrante delicto arrests, it is settled that "reliable information" alone is notsufficient to constitute probable cause that would justify in flagrante delicto arrests .oPeople vs Chua Ho San : The arresting officer must have personal knowledge that the person he is arresting hascommitted, is committing or is about to commit the offense. oPeople vs Aminnudin : The accused was just disembarking the vessel. He only became suspect when the informer pointedhim to the officials

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila FIRST DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, - versus -

NELIDA DEQUINA Y DIMAPANAN, JOSELITO JUNDOC Y JAPITANA & NORA JINGABO Y CRUZ, Accused-Appellants.

G.R. No. 177570

Present:

CORONA, C.J., Chairperson, VELASCO, JR., LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, DEL CASTILLO, and PEREZ, JJ.

Promulgated:

January 19, 2011 x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

Accused-appellants Nelida D. Dequina (Dequina), Joselito J. Jundoc (Jundoc), and Nora C. Jingabo (Jingabo) were charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 27, with Violations of Section 4, in relation to Section 21, paragraphs (e-l), (f), (m), and (o) of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. The accusatory portion of the Amended Information reads:

That on or about September 29, 1999, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring and confed erating together and helping one another, not being authorized by law to sell, deliver, transport or give away to another any prohibited drug, did and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell, or offer for sale, deliver or transport marijuana dried flowering tops with total weight of thirty two thousand nine hundred ninety five (32,995) grams which is a prohibited drug.[1]

The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 99-177383. Upon arraignment, all accused-appellants entered a plea of not guilty.[2]

The prosecution presented four witnesses: Police Officer (PO) 3 Wilfredo Masanggue (Masanggue), Senior Police Officer (SPO) 1 Anthony Blanco (Blanco), PO3 Eduardo Pama (Pama), and Forensic Chemist George de Lara (De Lara). The RTC summarized the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses as follows:

Police Officer III Wilfredo Masanggue testified that at about 6:00 a.m., of September 29, 1999, he and SPO1 Anthony Blanco were instructed by their superior, Chief Inspector Romulo Sapitula to proceed at the corner of Juan Luna and Raxabago Sts., Tondo, Manila, where, according to the report given by the informant, three persons a male and two female[s] would be coming from Baguio City to deliver unknown quantity of marijuana. In no time, they arrived at the designated place and parked their mobile patrol car along Juan Luna Street, facing the northern direction just near the corner of Raxabago Street.

At around 9:00 a.m., they noticed a taxi cab coming from Yuseco St. heading towards the direction of the pier. At a certain point along Raxabago Street, about a hundred meters away from the position of their patrol car the taxi stopped. From it emerged three passengers a man and two women each one of them carrying a black travelling bag. As the trio fitted the descriptions given to them by Inspector Sapitula, they intently watched and monitored their movements.

About one or two minutes later, as the trio started walking towards the western portion of Raxabago St., they drove and trailed them. As the patrol car got closer behind them, [Dequina] noticed its presence. She started walking in a more hurried pace (parang walkathon) as if she wanted to run away (parang patakbo). SPO1 Blanco alighted from the car and chased [Dequina] while PO3 Masanggue, who was behind the wheels also alighted and restrained [Jundoc] and [Jingabo]. While thus trying to get away, [Dequina] dropped the bag she was carrying. As a result, the zipper of the bag gave way. Bundles of dried leaves wrapped in transparent plastic bags case into view. Suspecting the stuffs to be marijuana, they further inspected the other two bags in the possession of [Jingabo] and [Jundoc] and found out that they had the same contents. They boarded the three accused, along with their bags in their patrol car and proceeded to the hospital for physical examination before bringing them to their headquarters. While in transit, [Dequina] pleaded to them to allow her to make a call but they did not heed the request as the car was still in motion.

At the western Police District Headquarters at United Nations Avenue, they turned over the three accused together with the bags to PO3 Eduardo Pama, a police investigator of the district Anti-Narcotics Unit for investigation. During the investigation, it was discovered that each of the three black travelling bags confiscated from the three accused contained eleven bricks of marijuana. In connection with the incident, he and SPO1 Blanco executed the Joint Affidavit of Apprehension dated September 30, 1999 (Exhs, A and submarkings).

SPO1 Anthony Blanco testified that in the early morning of September 29, 1999, together with PO3 Wilfredo Masanggue, he was dispatched by their superior to the corner of Juan Luna and Raxabago Sts., Tondo, Manila, where it was reported that shipment of marijuana would take place. They were further informed that the drug couriers were composed of a man and two women and that each of them were carrying a travelling bag.

After they arrived at the designated area, they parked their vehicle along Juan Luna near Raxabago Street. Then they waited. Suddenly, they noticed the arrival of a taxicab from where three persons a man and two women alighted. Each of them was carrying a bag. The trio fitted the descriptions given to them. As the suspects walked away, they drove and trailed them. As they got close behind them, accused Nelida Dequina noticed the presence of the mobile car. She dropped the black bag she was carrying and the same was unzipped. The contents thereof consisting of dried marijuana leaves wrapped in transparent plastic bags came into view. They arrested the three suspects later identified as the accused herein and boarded them into their car. While on board the vehicle, [Dequina] and [Jundoc] confessed that the contents of the other two bags confiscated from them were also marijuana.

At the WPD Headquarters, United Nations Avenue, Manila, the three accused were turned over to the Office of the District Anti-Narcotics Unit where they were investigated by PO3 Wilfredo Pama. It was there where the other two bags confiscated from [Jingabo] and [Jundoc] were re-opened and confirmed to contain marijuana.

In the course of his cross-examination, SPO1 Blanco admitted that the three of them Inspector Sapitula, PO3 Masanggue and himself, along with the three accused, were photographed, at what appeared to be a sari-sari store as their background. The same appeared in the clipping of Tonight September 20, 1999 issue.

PO3 Eduardo Pama, an investigator from the District Anti-Narcotics Unit of the WPD was the one who investigated the case. He placed the corresponding markings on the packs of marijuana confiscated from the three accused after the same were turned over to him by SPO1 Blanco and PO3 Masanggue. He marked the bag recovered from [Dequina] NDD and the contents thereof NDD-1 to NDD-11. He marked the bag taken from [Jundoc] JJJ and the contents thereof JJJ-1 to JJJ-11. Finally, he marked the bag recovered from [Jingabo] NCJ and the contents thereof NCJ-1 to NCJ-11. In connection with his investigation, he prepared the Booking Sheet and Arrest Reports of the three accused (Exhs. F. G and H) as well as the Referral Letter to the City Prosecutors Office (Exh. I). Afterwards, he brought the three bags of suspected marijuana together with the letter-request to the National Bureau of Investigation [(NBI)] Chemistry Division, for the laboratory examinations. The same were received thereat on September 29, 1999 at 10:12 in the evening. The following day, September 30, 1999, at 10:38 p.m., certifications, corresponding to each and every set of items recovered from the three accused were released to PO3 Pama.

George De Lara, Forensic Chemist, Forensic Chemistry Division, NBI, Manila testified that he conducted the laboratory examinations of the subject specimens based on the letter-request from DANU Police Superintendent Miguel de Mayo Laurel (Exh. B and submarkings). From the black bag (Exh. K) allegedly recovered from [Dequina], he counted a total of eleven bricks of dried leaves suspected to be marijuana which had a total weight of 10,915.0 grams. The results of the chemical, microscopic and chromatographic examinations he conducted show that the said specimens were positive for the presence of chemical found only in marijuana.

With regard to the bag allegedly confiscated from [Jundoc] (Exh. O), witness counted eleven bricks of dried leaves believed to be marijuana. The specimens had a total weight of 11,010.0 grams. When subjected to be same type of laboratory examinations, the specimens yielded positive result for marijuana, a prohibited drug.

Anent the bag (Exh. R) with masking tape having the mark DDM-99-110 allegedly recovered from [Jingabo], witness also found eleven bricks of dried flowering tops suspected to be marijuana which when weighed yielded a total weight of 11,070.0 grams. The results of similar types of examinations conducted confirmed the specimens to be marijuana.

He prepared separate certifications for the results of the examinations he conducted on the specimens contained in three separate bags allegedly confiscated from accused Dequina, Jundoc and Jingabo (Exhs. C, D and E, respectively). He also prepared NBI Forensic Chemistry Division Report No. DDM-99108 dated October 1, 1999 (Exh. L and submarkings).[3]

For the defense, only the accused-appellants took the witness stand. The RTC recapitulated the testimonies of the accused-appellants, thus:

Accused Nelida Dequina testified that she became an orphan at a tender age. With the help of her aunt, she was able to pursue her studies. She was a consistent scholar from elementary until college. While in the third year of her Accountancy course, she encountered severe financial difficulties. She stopped schooling and worked instead. Soon, she had a relationship with a man with whom she begot a child. The relationship did not last. Not long after, she had a relationship with another man. This time she begot her second child named Samantha.

In May 1999, while the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) members were having a parade in Iloilo City, she met a certain Salvacion Pearedondo, a member of the group. She calls her Sally. Sally convinced her to join the movement. Since she used to watch similar group activities while in college, she manifested her desire to join the movement by nodding her head. From then on, Sally frequently visited her at home. For a living, she was engaged in selling ready-to-wear dresses, frozen meat and relief goods which Sally supplied to her.

On September 27, 1999, Sally told her that the movement had decided to send her to a mission which would determine if she was really qualified to join the group. She was advised to bring alone two friends, preferably a woman and a gay. As at time Sally saw them in her company, she chose Nora Jingabo and Joselito Jundoc to be her companions. Sally did not elaborate the real nature of such mission. She did not press to know more about the venture either. Before they parted that day, Sally

instructed her to fetch her two friends and meet her (Sally) early in the morning of the following day, September 28, 1999 near the entrance of the Gaisano Mall, the largest department store in Iloilo. She dropped by the public market and told Nora and Joselito about the plan to meet Sally the following morning.

As agreed upon, they met Sally at the designated place and time. Sally secretly told her that the three of them would be going to Manila for a still undisclosed mission. She was briefed that the three of them will temporarily stay in the house of her [Dequina] relative in Manila. She was further instructed that they will go to the Philippine Rabbit Terminal in Avenida where they will be met by members of their group who will also monitor their movements. Afterwards, they will proceed to Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga where they will pick-up some bags. Thereat, somebody will meet and give them instructions. From Dau, they will return to Manila. They will alight at the first ShoeMart Department Store which they will see along the way. A waiting tricycle would bring them to a store where they could buy carton boxes for their bags. Finally, a taxicab will fetch and bring them all the way to the pier.

[Dequina] received P3,000.00 from Sally for their expenses and plane tickets for the three of them from Sally. However, she noticed that instead of their true names, the tickets were in the names of other persons. Her plane ticket was in the name of Sarah Ganje. That of [Jundoc] and [Jingabo] were in the names of Rowenal Palma and Mary Grace Papa, respectively. Nervous, she thought of backing out at the last minute but Sally assured her that she had nothing to worry about. Sally culminated by saying that something will happen to her child if ever she backed out from the plan.

Because of the threat, [Dequina] went on with the plan. Enroute to the Iloilo airport, [Jundoc] and [Jingabo] expressed their anxieties about the venture but she calmed them down and assured them that she will take care of everything.

From the Manila Domestic Airport, they proceeded to her aunts place at Pitogo St., Guadalupe, Makati City where they rested after taking their meal. At around 2:00 p.m., her aunt woke her up and told her that the two vehicles an owner-type jepney and a passenger jepney with unfamiliar faces on board were lurking in their vicinity for quite sometime.

At around 5:00 p.m., they left the place on board a taxi to the Philippine Rabbit Terminal at Avenida, Rizal. While waiting for their schedule, two men approached and handed to her bus tickets. The same men nosed out to them the vehicle where they were supposed to board. She was further reminded by the men that members of the movement will also be on board.

They arrived in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga at about 12:30 a.m. of September 29, 1999. While they were having their snacks, a couple went near and instructed them to cross the road and take the bags from the three men whom they saw for the first time. The couple also handed over to them bus tickets. They were instructed to board vehicles bound for Pasay and alight at the first Shoemart (SM) Department Store that they will see along the way. They took the bags from the three men without even bothering to know the contents thereof. However, she noticed that the bags were very heavy.

As they boarded the Pasay bound bus, the conductor took the bags from them and loaded the same in compartment section of the vehicle. With the assistance of the bus conductor, they alighted at SM North Edsa. They transferred to a waiting tricycle, as per instruction given by Sally. The tricycle dropped them at a sari-sari store where they bought carton boxes where they placed two of the three bags. From there, the driver lead them to a waiting taxi where they loaded all their baggages. She and Nora occupied the back seat while Joselito sat beside the driver. She instructed the driver to take them to the pier for Iloilo bound ships.

As they entered the pier premises, a mobile patrol car came from nowhere and blocked their path. Two police officers emerged and ordered them to alight. Then, upon the policemens order, the driver opened the taxis trunk where the three bags were loaded. The police officers forcibly opened one of the three bags where they saw something wrapped in jute bags and plastic bags. It was learned that the contents of the bags were marijuana.

They were all herded into the mobile car. While on board the mobile car, the police officers asked them if they had money. When the policemen learned that they did not have money, they were brought to a sari-sari store where a police officer named Sapitula was waiting. Sapitula asked them questions. At one point, Sapitula slapped her. They were made to line up and Sapitula summoned some press reporters who photographed them

They were brought to the Ospital ng Maynila. While being examined, she confided to a nurse that she was manhandled by Sapitula. They were brought to the office of the District Anti-Narcotics Unit where corresponding charges were filed against them.

She insisted that the incident took place near the pier and not at the corner of Raxabago and Juan Luna Sts., Tondo, Manila. Were if not for the threat that something will happen to her daughter, she could not followed (sic) the orders of Sally.

The combined testimony of accused Nora Jingabo and Joselito Jundoc established the following facts.

On September 27, 1999, while [Jundoc] and [Jingabo] were tending to their fish stall in Iloilo Public Market, [Dequina], their friend, came and invited them to meet her, for a still undisclosed reason, at the ground floor of the Gaisano Mall, early in the morning of the following day, September 28, 1999. As agreed upon, they met at the designated place and time. Not long thereafter, Sally joined them. They knew Sally to be [Dequinas] supplier of RTWs and other merchandise. For a while, [Dequina] and Sally excused themselves and proceeded to the first floor of the mall where they talked privately. Soon after Sally left, [Jingabo] and [Jundoc] asked [Dequina] what they talked about. Instead of answering, [Dequina] asked if they are willing to go with her to Manila in order to get something. While a little bit surprised, [Jingabo] and [Jundoc] readily agreed as they had never been in the city before. [Dequina] handed to them their plane tickets. They were told that the same were given by Sally. However, they noticed that the plane tickets were not in their names but in the names of other persons. When they called the attention of [Dequina] about it, the latter simply replied Anyway that is free. [Jingabo] noticed anxiety got the better of Nelida at that time. Nevertheless, the three of them enplaned for Manila at around 7:45 a.m. of September 28, 1999.

From the Ninoy Aquino Domestic Airport, they proceeded to the house of [Dequinas] aunt in Guadalupe, Makati City. In the afternoon, their host noticed the presence of unfamiliar vehicles. Some of these vehicles were even parked right in front of the house. Unmindful about it, they left Guadalupe at around 6:00 p.m. and proceeded to a Philippine Rabbit Bus Terminal. Thereat, two male persons approached [Dequina] and handed to her bus tickets. They were pointed to the particular vehicle where they were to board.

They reached Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m. of September 29, 1999. While they were having their snacks, a couple approached [Dequina] and they had a talk. Thereafter, the couple motioned them to three male persons, each carrying a bag, at the opposite side of the road. Upon [Dequinas] instruction, they took the bags from the three men. Then, they waited for their ride back to Manila.

As they boarded the bus, the conductor loaded their bags inside the compartment. They alighted at SM EDSA at around 6:00 a.m. of September 29, 1999. They boarded a waiting tricycle. When they reached a certain store, the trike driver bought carton boxes where they loaded two of the three bags. Thereafter, the tricycle driver pointed [Dequina] to a waiting taxi where they boarded along with their baggages.

As they entered the pier premises, a police officer on board a mobile patrol car ordered them to stop. They were ordered to alight and the police officers ordered the driver to open the taxis compartment. One of the police officers took a knife from his pocket and slashed one of the bags. Then, the policemen told them that what they had in their bags were marijuana. The police officers ordered them to board the mobile car while the bags were loaded inside the compartment of the same car.

They were brought to a sari-sari store where a certain Chief Sapitula, whom they later knew to be the police officers superior, was waiting. Sapitula interrogated [Dequina] and at one point, he slapped her.

Sapitula summoned press people who took their photographs. Thereafter, they were brought to the Hospital ng Bayan and finally, to the police precinct were they were charged accordingly.[4]

The parties dispensed with the testimony of Prose M. Arreola, a representative of Air Philippines, since they were willing to stipulate on the existence of the passenger manifest, on which appeared the accused-appellants assumed names, as well as the accused-appellants plane tickets for the flight from Iloilo to Manila on September 28, 1999 at 7:00 a.m.

The RTC, in a Decision dated October 30, 2000, found the accused-appellants guilty as charged. The dispositive portion of said decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the judgment is hereby rendered finding accused NELIDA DEQUINA y DIMAPANAN, JOSELITO JUNDOC y JAPITANA and NORA JINGABO y CRUZ guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Illegal transport marijuana and sentencing each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Each of them is ordered to pay a fine of P500,000.00.[5]

The accused-appellants filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the foregoing decision, but the RTC denied the same in its Order dated December 27, 2000.

Accused-appellants then filed a notice of appeal on January 25, 2001. Thus, the records of Criminal Case No. 99-177383 were forwarded to this Court. Pursuant to our decision in People v. Mateo,[6] however, we referred the case to the Court of Appeals,[7] where it was docketed as CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01431.

Accused-appellants made the following assignment of errors in their brief:

The court a quo erred in finding the accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt for illegal transport of marijuana.

II

The court a quo gravely erred in admitting in evidence the seized items from the accused-appellants despite the fact that they were seized in violation of their constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure.[8]

In its Decision[9] dated August 16, 2006, the appellate court affirmed accused-appellants conviction. It decreed:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, in Manila, in Criminal Case No. 99-177393, finding accused-appellants NELIDA DEQUINA y DIMAPANAN,

JOSELITO JUNDOC y JAPITANA and NORA JINGABO y CRUZ guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegally transporting 32[,]995 grams of marijuana is hereby AFFIRMED.[10]

Hence, accused-appellants appealed to this Court.

In our Resolution dated July 4, 2007, we required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desire, within 30 days from notice. Both parties manifested that they no longer intend to file any supplemental brief considering that they have already raised all the issues and arguments in their original briefs.

We find no merit in the present appeal.

The accused-appellants were charged with and convicted of the offense of illegal transport of marijuana, defined and penalized under Section 4 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended, which provides:

SEC. 4. Sale, Administration, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Prohibited Drugs. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million pesos shall be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, administer, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any prohibited drug, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.

Accused-appellants assail their conviction, asserting that their arrests were illegal. They were not doing anything illegal that would have justified their warrantless arrest, much less a warrantless search of their persons and belongings. A search made without a warrant cannot be justified as an incident of arrest unless the arrest itself was lawful. Accused-appellants insist that the description of the persons who were transporting marijuana relayed by the Chief of Police to the apprehending officers, PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco, was so general that it could not be sufficient ground for the apprehension of accused-appellants.

The People counters that accused-appellants arrests were lawful as they were then actually committing a crime. Since accused-appellants were lawfully arrested, the resulting warrantless search of their persons and belongings was also valid. In addition, accused-appellants did not refute that they were indeed transporting prohibited drugs when they were arrested and, instead, alleged as defenses that Dequina acted under the impulse of uncontrollable fear, and Jundoc and Jingabo were merely accommodating a trusted childhood friend.

After a thorough review of the records, we find that the judgment of the RTC, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, was supported by the evidence on record. The People was able to discharge the burden of proving the accused-appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Well-settled is the rule that the findings of the trial court on the issue of credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to great respect and accorded the highest consideration by the appellate court. Since credibility is a matter that is peculiarly within the province of the trial judge, who had the first hand opportunity to watch and observe the demeanor and behavior of witnesses both for the prosecution and the defense at the time of their testimony,[11] we have no reason to disregard the findings of the lower court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

In this case, Chief Inspector Sapitula, in the early morning of September 29, 1999, received a tip that a huge amount of marijuana would be transported from Baguio City to the Manila pier, which will then be loaded on vessels bound for Iloilo. Acting on the information he received, Chief Inspector Sapitula dispatched PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco to the corner of Raxabago and Juan Luna Streets, where they were supposed to watch out for two females and one male. PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco posted their mobile patrol car near said corner. From where they were at, PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco spotted three persons, two females and one male who turned out to be accused-appellants alighting from a taxi at the corner of Raxabago and Juan Luna Streets, each carrying a traveling bag. PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco then followed accused-appellants until one of them, Dequina, dropped her traveling bag. The traveling bag fell open and inside, PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco saw dried leaves in transparent plastic bags. It was only then that the two police officers apprehended accusedappellants and their persons and belongings searched.

As PO3 Masanggue testified:

Q Now, on September 29, 1999 at around 6:00 oclock in the morning will you please tell us where you were?

I reported to Headquarters Office for INSS briefing and information.

And while you were there can you recall if there is any unusual incident that happened?

xxxx

WITNESS:

Yes, your Honor.

PUB. PROS. TAN, JR.:

After the formation what happen?

xxxx

WITNESS

After our formation we are informed by our chief that he received a telephone call and receive an information that three persons will be arriving and will deliver marijuana.

And what else if any did your chief tell you?

A And we were dispatched by our chief to the place where the marijuana will be dropped at corner Juan Luna and Raxabago.

And did you indeed go there?

Yes, sir.

What district is that, Mr. Witness?

District II of Manila.

And, then what transpired when you went there?

We saw three persons alighting from a taxi and each of them carrying a black bag.

And what did you do?

A When we saw that the three persons who alighted from the taxi match with the description of the persons we are looking for we approach them.

And what happen when you approach them?

When we were about to approach them one of them by the name of [Dequina] tried to run away.

xxxx

And then what did you do if any when she try to run away?

We chase her and told her to stop running and she drop the bag she was carrying.

You state that we, who else are you referring to?

SPO1 Anthony Blanco.

Now, when she drop the bag from her shoulder what did you do if any?

A When the bag fell the zipper open and we saw dry leaves wrapped in a transparent plastic bag from the inside.

And then what did you do if any?

A Because I was convinced that the person is the one match the person we are looking for and as our SOP we brought them to the Ospital ng Maynila for medical examination.

You stated you brought them or she only you brought her?

No, sir. Im referring to the three accused in this case.

xxxx

Q And why did you bring the other two persons when you said that it was only [Dequina] who dropped the bag?

Because they were together who alighted from the taxi.

xxxx

And what transpired in your office?

A We brought them to our chief and also the bag which contained the dried leaves suspected to be marijuana and the bag was later turn over to the Anti Narcotic Unit.

xxxx

Q So you mean to say that there were three (3) bags that were recover by you from the three accused?

Yes, sir.

And, so in your office you stated that you turn over the said three (3) bags to whom, Mr. Witness?

To the investigator of DANU.

What is DANU?

District Anti Narcotics Unit.

And do you know what they do with the bag if you know to the bag?

A They counted the contains of all the bag sir and found out that each bag contain eleven (11) blocks of suspected marijuana.[12]

The positive and categorical testimony of PO3 Masanggue, corroborated by SPO1 Blanco, deserves weight and credence in light of the presumption of regularity accorded to the performance of their official duties as police officers, and the lack of motive on their part to falsely testify against accusedappellants.

To discredit PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco, accused-appellants claimed that they were blocked by the police officers at the pier and not at the corner of Juan Luna and Raxabago Streets; and that PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco did not mention in their testimonies passing by a sari-sari store to meet up with Chief Inspector Sapitula and presenting accused-appellants to the media. These details, however, are immaterial, not really departing significantly from the police officers version of the events surrounding accused-appellants arrest and search, which yielded the marijuana they were transporting. At any rate, certain parts of the testimonies of PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco were corroborated by the accused-appellants themselves (i.e., that the police officers, prior to bringing accused-appellants to the police headquarters, first brought accused-appellants to the Ospital ng Maynila for medical examination), PO3 Pama (i.e., that each of the three traveling bags turned over to him by PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco contained 11 bricks of marijuana), and NBI Forensic Chemist De Lara (i.e., that the dried leaves marked and turned over to him by PO3 Pama tested positive for marijuana).

There is no question that the warrantless arrest of accused-appellants and the warrantless seizure of the marijuana were valid and legal.

Settled is the rule that no arrest, search or seizure can be made without a valid warrant issued by a competent judicial authority. The Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.[13] It further decrees that any evidence obtained in violation of said right shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.[14]

Nevertheless, the constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain legal and judicial exceptions, as follows: (1) warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and by prevailing jurisprudence; (2) seizure of evidence in plain view; (3) search of a moving vehicle; (4) consented warrantless search; (5) customs search; (6) stop and frisk; and (7) exigent and emergency circumstances.[15]

On the other hand, Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court provides that a lawful arrest without a warrant may be made by a peace officer or a private person under the following circumstances:

a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.

Transport as used under the Dangerous Drugs Act is defined to mean to carry or convey from one place to another.[16] The evidence in this case shows that at the time of their arrest, accusedappellants were caught in flagrante carrying/transporting dried marijuana leaves in their traveling bags. PO3 Masanggue and SPO1 Blanco need not even open Dequinas traveling bag to determine its content because when the latter noticed the police officers presence, she walked briskly away and in her hurry, accidentally dropped her traveling bag, causing the zipper to open and exposed the dried marijuana bricks therein. Since a crime was then actually being committed by the accused-appellants, their warrantless arrest was legally justified, and the following warrantless search of their traveling bags was allowable as incidental to their lawful arrest.

Besides, accused-appellants did not raise any protest when they, together with their bags containing marijuana, were brought to the police station for investigation and subsequent prosecution. In People v. Fernandez,[17] we ruled that:

When one voluntarily submits to a search or consents to have it made of his person or premises, he is precluded from later complaining thereof. x x x. The right to be secure from unreasonable search may, like every right, be waived and such waiver may be made either expressly or impliedly.[18]

In order to exonerate herself from criminal liability, Dequina contends that she transported the marijuana under the compulsion of an irresistible fear. Jundoc and Jingabo, on the other hand, claim that they went along to accommodate Dequina, a trusted childhood friend.

We are unconvinced.

A person who acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force, like one who acts under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury, is exempt from criminal liability because he does not act with freedom. Actus me invito factus non est meus actus. An act done by me against my will is not my act. The force contemplated must be so formidable as to reduce the actor to a mere instrument who acts not only without will but against his will. The duress, force, fear or intimidation must be present, imminent and impending, and of such nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act be done. A threat of future injury is not enough. The compulsion must be of such a character as to leave no opportunity for the accused for escape or self-defense in equal combat.[19] Here, Dequinas version of events that culminated with her and Jundoc and Jingabos arrests on September 29, 1999 is implausible. Equally far-fetched is Jundoc and Jingabos assertion of blind trust in Dequina and total ignorance of the transportation of marijuana. We agree with the Court of Appeals when it observed that:

While [Dequina] wants us to believe that she acted under compulsion and that a certain Sally called all the shots, she nevertheless admitted that their accommodations when they reached Manila was with her aunt in Guadalupe. On cross examination, she said that it was she who told Sally that they were going to stay with her aunt. More importantly, the alleged threat on her daughter was unclear. At one point in her testimony, she claimed that her daughter was to be under the custody of Sally while she was away. However, during the trial her lawyer manifested that her daughter was in fact in Manila and in the court room attending the hearing. Moreover, accused-appellants themselves picture a very precise and elaborate scheme in the transport of the huge shipment of marijuana. With this, it is simply contrary to human experience that the people behind the shipment would entrust the same to an unknowing and uncertain person such as [Dequina] and her two stooges, unless they themselves were in on it. Furthermore, the scheme or transport of the marijuana shipment was so exact that [Jundoc] and [Jingabo] only had enough time to rest in the house of [Dequinas] aunt in Guadalupe from the time they arrived in Manila in the morning to the time they had to go to provincial bus station in the afternoon, negating their purported desire to see Manila. Clearly, the defense story is riddled with holes.[20]

Conspiracy can be inferred from and proven by acts of the accused themselves when said acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of interests. Although the same degree of proof required for establishing the crime is required to support a finding of the presence of conspiracy, it need not be proven by direct evidence. Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated.[21] Thus, as found by the RTC, conspiracy by and among accusedappellants was present in this case, as it may be inferred from the following acts of accused-appellants:

This was shown when by their account, the three accused left Iloilo together, stayed in Manila for a while, left for Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga and returned to Manila thereafter. They were together when the apprehending police officers pounced on them near the pier premises on their way back to Iloilo, each of them carrying a travelling bag which contained marijuana. x x x.[22]

With the enactment and effectivity of Republic Act No. 7659,[23] the penalty imposable upon violators of Section 4 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended, is reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) if the marijuana involved weighs 750 grams or more. The quantity of marijuana involved in this case weighs 32,995 grams, hence, the applicable penalty is reclusion perpetua to death. Since the imposable penalty is composed of two indivisible penalties, the rules for the application of indivisible penalties under Article 63[24] of the Revised Penal Code should be applied. As there is neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstance in the commission of the crime, the RTC correctly imposed the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua. Finally, considering that the penalty imposed is the indivisible penalty of reclusion perpetua, the Indeterminate Sentence Law could not be applied.[25]

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated August 16, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01431, which affirmed the Decision dated October 30, 2000 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 27, in Criminal Case No. 99-177383, finding accused-appellants guilty of the crime of illegal transport of marijuana and sentencing them to reclusion perpetua, and to pay a fine of P500,000.00 each, is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against accused-appellants.

SO ORDERED.

SUPREME COURT Manila

FIRST DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,

G.R. No. 180452

Present: - versus CORONA, C.J., Chairperson VELASCO, JR., LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, DEL CASTILLO, and

NG YIK BUN, KWOK WAI CHENG, CHANG CHAUN SHI,

CHUA SHILOU HWAN, KAN SHUN MIN, and RAYMOND S. TAN, Accused-Appellants.

PEREZ, JJ. Promulgated:

January 10, 2011 x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION VELASCO, JR., J.: The Case This is an appeal from the January 16, 2007 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00485 entitled People of the Philippines v. Ng Yik Bun, Kwok Wai Cheng, Chang Chaun Shi, Chua Shilou Hwan, Kan Shun Min and Raymond S. Tan, which affirmed the April 1, 2004 Decision in Criminal Case No. Q-01-99437 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 103 in Quezon City. The RTC found accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 16, Article III of Republic Act No. (RA) 6425 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. The Facts An Information indicted accused-appellants of the following:
That on or about the 24th day of August 2000, at Barangay Bignay II, Municipality of Sariaya, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there knowingly, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously transport, deliver and distribute, without authority of law, on board an L300 Mitsubishi van, bearing Plate No. UBU 827, and have in their possession, custody, and control, without the corresponding license or prescription, twenty-five (25) heat-sealed transparent plastic bags containing Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), a regulated drug, each containing: 2.954 grams, 2.901 grams, 2.926 grams, 2.820 grams,

2.977 grams, 2.568 grams, 2.870 grams, 2.941 grams, 2.903 grams, 2.991 grams, 2.924 grams, 2.872 grams, 2.958 grams, 2.972 grams, 2.837 grams, 2.908 grams, 2.929 grams, 2.932 grams, 2.899 grams, 2.933 grams, 2.938 grams, 2.943 grams, 2.955 grams, 2.938 grams and 2.918 grams, respectively, with a total weight of 72.707 kilos, and one hundred forty seven (147) self-sealing transparent plastic bags likewise containing Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (shabu), also a regulated drug, with a total weight of 291.350 kilos, or with a grand total weight of 364.057 kilos. That the above acts were committed by a syndicate with the use of two (2) motor vehicles, namely: L-300 Mitsubishi Van bearing Plate No. UBU 827 and a Nissan Sentra Exalta car without Plate Number. Contrary to law.[1]

As summarized in the appealed CA decision, the facts are as follows: On August 24, 2000, at around 9:00 p.m., Capt. Danilo Ibon of Task Force Aduana received information from an operative that there was an ongoing shipment of contraband in Barangay Bignay II, Sariaya, Quezon Province. Upon instructions from his superior, Major Carlo Magno Tabo, Capt. Ibon formed a team in coordination with a Philippine National Police detachment, and, along with the operative, the team then proceeded to Villa Vicenta Resort in Barangay Bignay II, Sariaya.

The members of the team were able to observe the goings-on at the resort from a distance of around 50 meters. They spotted six Chinese-looking men loading bags containing a white substance into a white van. Having been noticed, Capt. Ibon identified his team and asked accused-appellant Chua Shilou Hwan (Hwan) what they were loading on the van. Hwan replied that it was shabu and pointed, when probed further, to accused-appellant Raymond Tan as the leader. A total of 172 bags of suspected shabu were then confiscated. Bundles of noodles (bihon) were also found on the premises.

A laboratory report prepared later by Police Inspector Mary Jean Geronimo on samples of the 172 confiscated bags showed the white substance to be shabu. On January 10, 2001, an Amended Information for violation of Sec. 16, Article III of RA 6425 was filed against accused-appellants, who entered a plea of not guilty upon re-arraignment. Accused-appellants all maintained their innocence and presented the following defenses: (1) Accused-appellant Hwan testified that he was planning to buy cheap goods at Villa Vicenta Resort on August 24, 2000, when he saw a van full of bihon at the resort and inquired if it was for sale. He went to relieve himself 15 meters away from the van. A group of police officers arrested him upon his return. (2) Accused-appellant Tan testified that he was a businessman collecting a debt in Lucena City on August 24, 2000. He was at a restaurant with his driver when three persons identified themselves as police officers and forcibly brought him inside a car. He was handcuffed, blindfolded, and badly beaten. He was later brought to a beach and was ordered to hold some bags while being photographed with five Chinese-looking men he saw for the first time. A tricycle driver, Ricky Pineda, corroborated his story by testifying that he saw Tan being forced into a white Nissan car on August 24, 2000. (3) Accused-appellant Ng Yik Bun (Bun) testified that he arrived in the Philippines as a tourist on August 22, 2000. On August 24, 2000, he was at a beach with some companions when four armed men arrested them. He was made to pose next to some plastic bags along with other accused-appellants, whom he did not personally know. He was then charged with illegal possession of drugs at the police station. A friend of his, accused-appellant Kwok Wai Cheng (Cheng), corroborated his story. (4) Accused-appellant Kan Shun Min (Min) testified that he arrived in the Philippines on July 1, 2000 for business and pleasure. On August 24, 2000, he checked into a beach resort. While walking there, he was suddenly accosted by four or five men who poked guns at him. He was brought to a cottage where he

saw some unfamiliar Chinese-looking individuals. He likewise testified that he was made to take out white packages from a van while being photographed. His friend, accused-appellant Chang Chaun Shi (Shi), corroborated his story. The RTC convicted accused-appellants of the crime charged. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:

ACCORDINGLY, the Court hereby renders judgment finding the six (6) accused namely Ng Yik Bun, Kwok Wai Cheng, Chang Chaun Shi, Chua Shilou Hwan, Kan Shun Min and Raymond S. Tan (some also known by other names), GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 16 of RA 6425, as amended and each is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay a fine of Five Million Pesos (P5,000,000.00) each.

The shabu involved in this case and their accompanying paraphernalia are ordered disposed of in accordance with law, now RA 9165. The two (2) vehicles are forfeited in favor of the government. SO ORDERED.[2]

In questioning the RTC Decision before the CA, accused-appellants Bun, Cheng, Shi, Min, and Tan raised the lone issue of: whether the trial court erred in ruling that there was a valid search and arrest despite the absence of a warrant. On the other hand, accused-appellant Hwan sought an acquittal on the basis of the following submissions:
I The trial court erred when it held as valid the warrantless search, seizure and subsequent arrest of the accused-appellants despite the non-

concurrence of the requisite circumstances that justify a warrantless arrest as held in the case of People vs. [Cuizon]. II The trial court violated Article III, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution as well as Rule 115 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure when it heard the case at bench on June 26, 2001 at the chemistry division of the PNP Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame, Quezon City without the presence of both the herein accused-appellant and his counsel de parte. III The trial court erred when it issued and dictated in open hearing a verbal order denying accuseds formal Motion to Suppress Illegally Procured Evidence upon a [ratiocination] that is manifestly contrary to law [and] jurisprudence set in the Cuizon case, supra. IV The trial court erred when with lack of the desired circumspection, it sweepingly ruled the admission in evidence the 731 exhibits listed in the prosecutions 43-page formal offer of evidence over the itemized written objections of the defense in a terse verbal order (bereft of reason for the denial of the raised objections) dictated in open hearing which reads: All the exhibits of the prosecution are hereby admitted. The court believes that as far as the evidence submitted goes, these exhibits of the prosecution consisting of several plastic bags of shabu were not yet shown to be the fruit of a poisonous plant. x x x V The trial court also erred in admitting the prosecutions photographs (Exhibit K and M, inclusive of their sub-markings), the photographer who took the shots not having taken the witness stand to declare, as required by the rules, the circumstances under which the photographs were taken. VI

The trial court erred when it tried and applied the provisions of R.A. 9165, the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, in the instant case even though [the] crime charged took place on 24 August 2000. VII The trial court erred in finding conspiracy among the accused.[3]

The appellate court found accused-appellants contentions unmeritorious as it consequently affirmed in toto the RTC Decision. The CA ruled that, contrary to accused-appellants assertion, they were first arrested before the seizure of the contraband was made. The CA held that accusedappellants were caught in flagrante delicto loading transparent plastic bags containing white crystalline substance into an L-300 van which, thus, justified their arrests and the seizure of the contraband. The CA agreed with the prosecution that the urgency of the situation meant that the buy-bust team had no time to secure a search warrant. Moreover, the CA also found that the warrantless seizure of the transparent plastic bags can likewise be sustained under the plain view doctrine. The CA debunked accused-appellant Hwans arguments in seriatim. First, the CA ruled that People v. Cuizon[4] was not applicable to the instant case, as, unlike in Cuizon, the apprehending officers immediately acted on the information they had received about an ongoing shipment of drugs. Second, the CA also noted that accused-appellant Hwan effectively waived his right to be present during the inspection of exhibits and hearing, for the manifestation made by the prosecution that accused-appellant Hwan waived his right to be present was never raised in issue before the trial court. And third, the CA found accused-appellant Hwans other arguments untenable. It held that the trial court correctly admitted Exhibits K and M even if the photographer was not presented as a witness. The CA based its ruling on Sison v. People,[5] which held that photographs can be identified either by the photographer or by any other competent witness who can testify to its exactness and accuracy. It agreed with the Solicitor General that accused-appellants were

correctly tried and convicted by the trial court under RA 6425 and not RA 9165, as can be gleaned from the fallo of the RTC Decision. The CA likewise dismissed the argument that conspiracy was not proved by the prosecution, noting that the evidence presented established that accused-appellants were performing their respective task[s] with the objective of loading the plastic bags of shabu into an L300 van.[6] The CA disposed of the appeal as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated April 1, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, in Criminal Case No. Q-01-99437, is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED.[7]

On February 18, 2008, the Court, acting on the appeal of accusedappellants, required the parties to submit supplemental briefs if they so desired. On March 27, 2008, accused-appellants Bun, Cheng, Shi, Min, and Tan filed their Supplemental Brief on the sole issue that:
THERE WAS NO VALID SEARCH AND ARREST DUE TO ABSENCE OF A WARRANT

On June 4, 2008, accused-appellant Hwan filed his Supplemental Brief, raising the following errors, allegedly committed by the trial court:
I THE TRIAL COURT VIOLATED ARTICLE III, SECTION 14 OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION AS WELL AS RULE 115 OF THE REVISED RULES ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE WHEN IT CONDUCTED A HEARING ON JUNE 26, 2001 AT THE CHEMISTRY DIVISION OF THE PNP CRIME LABORATORY IN CAMP CRAME, QUEZON CITY WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF

BOTH THE HEREIN ACCUSED-APPELLANT AND HIS COUNSEL IN SUCH VITAL [PROCEEDINGS]. II THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT HELD AS VALID THE WARRANTLESS SEARCH, SEIZURE AND SUBSEQUENT ARREST OF THE HEREIN APPELLANT DESPITE THE NONCONCURRENCE OF THE REQUISITE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT JUSTIFY A WARRANTLESS ARREST.

Essentially, accused-appellants claim that no valid in flagrante delicto arrest was made prior to the seizure and that the police officers placed accused-appellants under arrest even when there was no evidence that an offense was being committed. Since there was no warrant of arrest, they argue that the search sans a search warrant subsequently made on them was illegal. They contend that a seizure of any evidence as a result of an illegal search is inadmissible in any proceeding for any purpose. Accused-appellant Hwan additionally claims that he was deliberately excluded when the trial court conducted a hearing on June 26, 2001 to identify 172 bags of shabu for trial purposes. He asserts that no formal notice of the hearing was sent to him or his counsel, to his prejudice.

The Courts Ruling On the issue of warrantless arrest, it is apropos to mention what the Bill of Rights under the present Constitution provides in part:
SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and

particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

A settled exception to the right guaranteed in the aforequoted provision is that of an arrest made during the commission of a crime, which does not require a warrant. Such warrantless arrest is considered reasonable and valid under Rule 113, Sec. 5(a) of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, which states:
Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: (a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (Emphasis supplied.)

The foregoing proviso refers to arrest in flagrante delicto.[8] In the instant case, contrary to accused-appellants contention, there was indeed a valid warrantless arrest in flagrante delicto. Consider the circumstances immediately prior to and surrounding the arrest of accused-appellants: (1) the police officers received information from an operative about an ongoing shipment of contraband; (2) the police officers, with the operative, proceeded to Villa Vicenta Resort in Barangay Bignay II, Sariaya, Quezon; (3) they observed the goings-on at the resort from a distance of around 50 meters; and (4) they spotted the six accusedappellants loading transparent bags containing a white substance into a white L300 van. The following exchange between Capt. Ibon and the prosecutor sheds light on the participation of all six accused-appellants:
Q: Upon arriving at Villa Vicenta Resort in Brgy. Bignay II, [in] what specific area [did] you position yourselves? A: Initially we [were] about three hundred meters away from Villa Vicenta Resort, then we walked [stealthily] so as not to [be] [spotted] until we were about fifty meters sir. Q: So you [positioned] yourself about fifty meters away from the point of Villa Vicenta Resort?

A: From the actual location we saw about six personnel walking together loading contraband. Q: You said you [were] about fifty meters away from these six persons who were loading contraband, is that what you mean? A: Yes sir.

Q: In that place where you [positioned] yourself, could you tell us, what was the lighting condition in the place where you positioned yourselves? A: It was totally dark in our place sir.

Q: How about the position of the six persons who were loading contraband? A: Q: A: Q: They were well-lighted sir. Why do you say that they are well-lighted? There were several [fluorescent] lamps sir. Where?

A: One search light placed near where they were loading the shipment sir. Q: How about the other?

A: About two fluorescent lamps at the house near the six persons your honor. COURT: A: Q: Are these portable lamps:

Fixed lamps your honor. Where else?

A: Another at the right corner[.] There was also somewhat a multipurpose house and it [was] well-lighted your honor.

Q: This is a resort and that multi-purpose house that you are referring to are the cottages of the resort? A: Yes your honor.

FISCAL: You said you saw six persons who were loading goods[.] In what vehicle [were they] transferring those things? A: Q: A: Q: Into [an] L-300 van sir. What is the color of the van? White sir. What did you see that these six persons [were] loading?

A: We saw [them] holding white plastic with white substance your honor. Q: What container [were they] loading?

A: Actually there were several checkered bags and other plastic [bags] sir. Q: A: How [were] they loading these bags? [Manually] your honor.

Q: Will you please describe how they [were] loading it, Mr. Witness? A: Actually the plastic bags [some were] repacked [into] checkered [bags] while others [were] loading inside the checkered bag sir. Q: A: Q: Did they put that on their shoulder or what? Holding and holding [sic] sir. Nobody carrying [it] on their back?

A: xxxx

Nobody sir.

Q: You said you saw these six persons, will you please look around this courtroom and tell us if these six persons that you are referring to are present? COURT: Considering that there are many persons inside this courtroom, will you please stand up and please [tap] the shoulder of these six persons? xxxx INTERPRETER: Witness tapped the [shoulders] of six male persons inside the courtroom. xxxx FISCAL: May we manifest your honor that when these six persons stood up when their names [were] called on the basis [of] what [was] written [on] the information [were] once tapped on their shoulder by this witness. The last question I have [is] how long you stayed in this position watching these six persons loading those [products] in the L-300 van? A: Q: Ten to fifteen minutes sir. Within that period could you tell us what transpired?

A: I called Major Tabo to inform [him of] what I saw, I called Major Tabo through the hand-held radio sir. Q: What was the reply of major Tabo with respect to your information? A: He directed me to get closer to these six persons and find out if really the contraband is shabu that was first reported sir. Q: So did you in fact go closer?

A: Q:

Yes sir. How [close] were you [to] the six persons at the time?

A: When we were closing [in] somebody noticed us and they were surprised, I immediately shouted Freeze, dont move, we are Filipino soldiers, we further identified [ourselves] sir. Q: What was the reaction of the six persons when you shouted those words? A: They [froze] sir. xxxx Q: A: Q: A: Q: A: When you went closer and they [froze], what happened? I asked them who among them are English-speaking? What was the reply given to you? Somebody replied tagalog lang. Who was that person who replied tagalog lang? Chua Shilou Hwan sir.

Q: Will you please [identify] for us who answered that in [T]agalog? COURT: Please [tap] his shoulder. A: This man sir.

COURT: Witness tapped the shoulder of a man who identified himself as Chua Shilou Hwan. CHUA SHILOU HWAN: FISCAL: happened? Opo.

After answering you [with] tagalog lang, what

A: Q: A: Q: A: Q: A: Q: A:

I further asked them Ano ang dala ninyo? What was the reply? Chua Shilou Hwan said shabu. So [what] did you do next? I asked them who is their leader, sir. What was the reply? He told me it was Raymond Tan, sir. Is he inside this courtroom now? Yes sir. Please tap [his] shoulder. This man sir. Ikaw ba Raymond Tan?

COURT: WITNESS: COURT:

INTERPRETER: A man stood and [nodded] his head. xxxx FISCAL:

Now after they [froze], what did you do?

A: I inspected the contraband and I found these bags and I immediately called Major Tabo and informed [him of] the matter sir. Q: A: How many bags were you able to confiscate in the scene? All in all 172 your honor.

Q: That 172, one of them is the bag in front of you [which] you identified earlier? A: Yes sir.

Q: When you saw that bag could you tell us what particular [contents] attracted you upon seeing these bags? A: Q: A: Q: A: It was marked by the members (interrupted). No what attracted you? Something crystalline white sir. Are you referring to all the bags? All the bags sir.[9] x x x

Evidently, the arresting police officers had probable cause to suspect that accused-appellants were loading and transporting contraband, more so when Hwan, upon being accosted, readily mentioned that they were loading shabu and pointed to Tan as their leader. Thus, the arrest of accused-appellantswho were caught in flagrante delicto of possessing, and in the act of loading into a white L300 van, shabu, a prohibited drug under RA 6425, as amendedis valid. In People v. Alunday, we held that when a police officer sees the offense, although at a distance, or hears the disturbances created thereby, and proceeds at once to the scene, he may effect an arrest without a warrant on the basis of Sec. 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, as the offense is deemed committed in his presence or within his view.[10] In the instant case, it can plausibly be argued that accused-appellants were committing the offense of possessing shabu and were in the act of loading them in a white van when the police officers arrested them. As aptly noted by the appellate court, the crime was committed in the presence of the police officers with the contraband, inside transparent plastic containers, in plain view and duly observed by the arresting officers. And to write finis to the issue of any irregularity in their warrantless arrest, the Court notes, as it has consistently held, that accused-appellants are deemed to have waived their objections to their arrest for not raising the issue before entering their plea.[11] Moreover, present in the instant case are all the elements of illegal possession of drugs: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possesses the said drug.[12] Accused-

appellants were positively identified in court as the individuals caught loading and possessing illegal drugs. They were found to be in possession of prohibited drugs without proof that they were duly authorized by law to possess them. Having been caught in flagrante delicto, there is, therefore, a prima facie evidence of animus possidendi on the part of accused-appellants.[13] There is, thus, no merit to the argument of the defense that a warrant was needed to arrest accused-appellants. Accused-appellants were not able to show that there was any truth to their allegation of a frame-up in rebutting the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. They relied on mere denials, in contrast with the testimony of Capt. Ibon, who testified that he and his team saw accused-appellants loading plastic bags with a white crystalline substance into an L-300 van at the Villa Vicenta Resort. Accused-appellants, except for Tan, claimed that they were ordered by the police officers to act like they were loading bags onto the van. Accused-appellant Tan told a different tale and claims he was arrested inside a restaurant. But as the trial court found, the persons who could have corroborated their version of events were not presented in court. The only witness presented by Tan, a tricycle driver whose testimony corroborated Tans alone, was not found by the trial court to be credible. As no ill motive can be imputed to the prosecutions witnesses, we uphold the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties and affirm the trial courts finding that the police officers testimonies are deserving of full faith and credit. Appellate courts generally will not disturb the trial courts assessment of a witness credibility unless certain material facts and circumstances have been overlooked or arbitrarily disregarded.[14] We find no reason to deviate from this rule in the instant case. On the alleged lack of notice of hearing, it is now too late for accusedappellant Hwan to claim a violation of his right to examine the witnesses against him. The records show the following exchange on June 26, 2001:
FISCAL LUGTO: I would like to manifes[t] that Atty. Agoot, counsel of accused Chua Shilou Hwan, waived his right to be present for todays trial for purposes of identification of the alleged shabu.

ATTY SAVELLANO: [Are] we made to understand that this hearing is for identification of shabu only? FISCAL LUGTO: Yes despite the testimony of the Forensic Chemist, this is for continuation with the direct testimony for purposes of identification which was confiscated or seized by the joint operation of the Military and the PNP at Sariaya, Quezon. For the record, this [is] for the continuation of the direct testimony of Forensic Chemist Mary Jean Geronimo.[15]

As the records confirm, accused-appellant Hwan and his counsel were not present when the forensic chemist testified. The prosecution made a manifestation to the effect that accused-appellant Hwan waived his right to be present at that hearing. Yet Hwan did not question this before the trial court. No evidence of deliberate exclusion was shown. If no notice of hearing were made upon him and his counsel, they should have brought this in issue at the trial, not at the late stage on appeal. All told, we hold that the findings of both the RTC and the CA must be affirmed. The trial courts determination as to the credibility of witnesses and its findings of fact should be accorded great weight and respect more so when affirmed by the appellate court. To reiterate, a look at the records shows no facts of substance and value that have been overlooked, which, if considered, might affect the outcome of the instant appeal. Deference to the trial courts findings must be made as it was in the position to easily detect whether a witness is telling the truth or not.[16] Penalty Imposed Accused-appellants were each sentenced by the lower court to reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of PhP 5,000,000. This is within the range provided by

RA 6425, as amended.[17] We, therefore, affirm the penalty imposed on accusedappellants. WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. CRH.C. No. 00485, finding accused-appellants Ng Yik Bun, Kwok Wai Cheng, Chang Chaun Shi, Chua Shilou Hwan, Kan Shun Min, and Raymond S. Tan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Sec. 16, Art. III of RA 6425, as amended, is AFFIRMED IN TOTO. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila THIRD DIVISION ABRAHAM CERBO, MICLAT, JR. y G.R. No. 176077 Present: VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson, PERALTA, ABAD, MENDOZA, and SERENO,* JJ. Promulgated: PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. August 31, 2011 x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

Petitioner,

versus -

DECISION

PERALTA, J.: This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision[1] dated October 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 28846, which in turn affirmed in toto the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 120, Caloocan City, in Criminal Case No. C-66765 convicting petitioner of Violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The factual and procedural antecedents are as follows: In an Information[2] dated November 11, 2002, petitioner Abraham C. Miclat, Jr. was charged for Violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 9165, the accusatory portion of which reads:
That on or about the 08th day of November 2002, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without the authority of law, did then and there willfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control [METHAMPHETAMINE] HYDROCHLORIDE (SHABU) weighing 0.24 gram, knowing the same to be a dangerous drug under the provisions of the above-cited law. CONTRARY TO LAW. (Emphasis supplied.)
[3]

Upon arraignment, petitioner, with the assistance of counsel pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. Consequently, trial on the merits ensued. To establish its case, the prosecution presented Police Inspector Jessie Abadilla Dela Rosa (P/Insp Dela Rosa), Forensic Chemical Officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, NPD-CLO, Caloocan City

Police Station and Police Officer 3 Rodrigo Antonio (PO3 Antonio) of the Caloocan Police Station Drug Enforcement Unit. The testimony of the police investigator, PO3 Fernando Moran (PO3 Moran), was dispensed with after petitioners counsel admitted the facts offered for stipulation by the prosecution. On the other hand, the defense presented the petitioner as its sole witness. The testimonies of Abraham Miclat, Sr. and Ma. Concepcion Miclat, the father and sister, respectively, of the petitioner was dispensed with after the prosecution agreed that their testimonies were corroborative in nature. Evidence for the Prosecution
First to testify for the prosecution was P/Insp. Jessie Abadilla Dela Rosa, Forensic Chemical Officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory, NPD-CLO, Caloocan City Police Station who, on the witness stand, affirmed his own findings in Physical Science Report No. D-1222-02 (Exhs. D, D-1, and D-2) that per qualitative examination conducted on the specimen submitted, the white crystalline substance weighing 0.05 gram, 0.06 gram, 0.07 gram, and 0.06 gram then contained inside four (4) separate pieces of small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets (Exhs. D-4 to D-7) gave positive result to the test for Methylamphetamine (sic) Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. Also, thru the testimony of PO3 Rodrigo Antonio of the Caloocan Police Station-Drug Enforcement Unit, Samson Road, Caloocan City, the prosecution further endeavored to establish the following: At about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon of November 8, 2002, P/Insp. Jose Valencia of the Caloocan City Police Station-SDEU called upon his subordinates after the (sic) receiving an INFOREP Memo from Camp Crame relative to the illicit and down-right drug-trading activities being undertaken along Palmera Spring II, Bagumbong, Caloocan City involving Abe Miclat, Wily alias Bokbok and one Mic or Jojo (Exhs. E, E-1, and (sic) E-3, and E-4). Immediately, P/Insp. Valencia formed a surveillance team headed by SPO4 Ernesto Palting and is composed of five (5) more operatives from the Drug Enforcement Unit, namely: PO3 Pagsolingan, PO2 Modina, PO2 De Ocampo, and herein witness PO3 Antonio. After a short briefing at their station, the team boarded a rented passenger jeepney and proceeded to the target area to verify the said informant and/or memorandum. When the group of SPO4 Palting arrived at Palmera Spring II, Caloocan City at around 3:50 oclock that same afternoon, they were [at] once led by their informant to the house of one Alias Abe. PO3 Antonio then

positioned himself at the perimeter of the house, while the rest of the members of the group deployed themselves nearby. Thru a small opening in the curtaincovered window, PO3 Antonio peeped inside and there at a distance of 1 meters, he saw Abe arranging several pieces of small plastic sachets which he believed to be containing shabu. Slowly, said operative inched his way in by gently pushing the door as well as the plywood covering the same. Upon gaining entrance, PO3 Antonio forthwith introduced himself as a police officer while Abe, on the other hand, after being informed of such authority, voluntarily handed over to the former the four (4) pieces of small plastic sachets the latter was earlier sorting out. PO3 Antonio immediately placed the suspect under arrest and brought him and the four (4) pieces of plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance to their headquarters and turned them over to PO3 Fernando Moran for proper disposition. The suspect was identified as Abraham Miclat y Cerbo a.k.a ABE, 19 years old, single, jobless and a resident of Maginhawa Village, Palmera Spring II, Bagumbong, Caloocan City.[4]

Evidence for the Defense


On the other hand, the [petitioner] has a different version of the incident completely opposed to the theory of the prosecution. On the witness stand, he alleged that at about 4:00 oclock in the afternoon of November 8, 2002, while he, together with his sister and father, were at the upper level of their house watching the television soap Cindy, they suddenly heard a commotion downstairs prompting the three (3) of them to go down. There already inside were several male individuals in civilian clothes who introduced themselves as raiding police operatives from the SDEU out to effect his (Abe) arrest for alleged drug pushing. [Petitioner] and his father tried to plead his case to these officers, but to no avail. Instead, one of the operatives even kicked [petitioner] at the back when he tried to resist the arrest. Immediately, [petitioner] was handcuffed and together with his father, they were boarded inside the police vehicle. That on their way to the Bagong Silang Police Station, PO3 Pagsolingan showed to [petitioner] a small piece of plastic sachet containing white crystalline substances allegedly recovered by the raiding police team from their house. At around 9:00 oclock in the evening, [petitioner] was transferred to the Sangandaan Headquarters where he was finally detained. That upon [petitioners] transfer and detention at the said headquarters, his father was ordered to go home.[5]

On July 28, 2004, the RTC, after finding that the prosecution has established all the elements of the offense charged, rendered a Decision [6] convicting petitioner of Violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 9165, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, from the facts established, the Court finds the accused ABRAHAM MICLAT Y CERBO GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of possession of a dangerous drugs (sic) defined and penalized under the provision of Section 11, sub-paragraph No. (3), Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 and hereby imposes upon him an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years of imprisonment, in view of the absence of aggravating circumstances. The Court likewise orders the accused to pay the amount of Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php300,000.00) as fine. Let the 0.24 gram of shabu subject matter of this case be confiscated and forfeited in favor of the Government and to be turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for proper disposition. SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied.)[7]

Aggrieved, petitioner sought recourse before the CA, which appeal was later docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 28846. On October 13, 2006, the CA rendered a Decision[8] affirming in toto the decision of the RTC, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against the accused-appellant. SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied.)[9]

In affirming the RTC, the CA ratiocinated that contrary to the contention of the petitioner, the evidence presented by the prosecution were all admissible against him. Moreover, it was established that he was informed of his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest. Hence, the CA opined that the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt all of the elements necessary for the conviction of the petitioner for the offense of illegal possession of dangerous drugs. Hence, the petition raising the following errors:

1. WHETHER OR NOT A POLICE SURVEILLANCE TEAM SENT TO DETERMINE THE VERACITY OF A CAMP CRAME MEMORANDUM OF SHABU TRADING ACTIVITY AT CALOOCAN CITY, WHICH CONVERTED THEIR MISSION FROM SURVEILLANCE TO A RAIDING TEAM, CAN VALIDLY MAKE AN ARREST AND SEARCH WITHOUT A VALID WARRANT HAVING BEEN FIRST OBTAINED FROM A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION. 2. WHETHER OR NOT PEEPING THROUGH A CURTAIN-COVERED WINDOW IS WITHIN THE MEANING OF PLAIN VIEW DOCTRINE FOR A WARRANTLESS SEIZURE TO BE LAWFUL. 3. WHETHER OR NOT THE BELIEF OF PO3 ANTONIO THAT THE FOUR (4) PIECES OF PLASTIC SACHETS ALLEGEDLY BEING ARRANGED BY PETITIONER CONTAINED SHABU JUSTIFIED HIS ENTRY INTO THE HOUSE AND ARREST PETITIONER WITHOUT ANY WARRANT. 4. WHETHER OR NOT ARRANGING FOUR (4) PIECES OF PLASTIC SACHETS CONSTITUTE AS A CRIME WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 5 (3), RULE 113 OF THE RULES OF COURT. 5. WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER WAS PROPERLY APPRAISED (SIC) OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS TO BE INFORMED OF THE CAUSE AND NATURE OF HIS ARREST AND RIGHT TO BE ASSISTED BY COUNSEL DURING THE PERIOD OF HIS ARREST AND CONTINUED DETENTION. 6. WHETHER OR NOT THE CONVICTION BY THE LOWER COURT OF THE PETITIONER, AS AFFIRMED BY THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, ON THE BASIS OF AN ILLEGAL SEARCH AND ARREST, IS CORRECT.[10]

Simply stated, petitioner is assailing the legality of his arrest and the subsequent seizure of the arresting officer of the suspected sachets of dangerous drugs from him. Petitioner insists that he was just watching television with his father and sister when police operatives suddenly barged into their home and arrested him for illegal possession of shabu. Petitioner also posits that being seen in the act of arranging several plastic sachets inside their house by one of the arresting officers who was peeping through a window is not sufficient reason for the police authorities to enter his house

without a valid search warrant and/or warrant of arrest. Arguing that the act of arranging several plastic sachets by and in itself is not a crime per se, petitioner maintains that the entry of the police surveillance team into his house was illegal, and no amount of incriminating evidence will take the place of a validly issued search warrant. Moreover, peeping through a curtain-covered window cannot be contemplated as within the meaning of the plain view doctrine, rendering the warrantless arrest unlawful. Petitioner also contends that the chain of custody of the alleged illegal drugs was highly questionable, considering that the plastic sachets were not marked at the place of the arrest and no acknowledgment receipt was issued for the said evidence. Finally, petitioner claims that the arresting officer did not inform him of his constitutional rights at any time during or after his arrest and even during his detention. Hence, for this infraction, the arresting officer should be punished accordingly. The petition is bereft of merit. At the outset, it is apparent that petitioner raised no objection to the irregularity of his arrest before his arraignment. Considering this and his active participation in the trial of the case, jurisprudence dictates that petitioner is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the trial court, thereby curing any defect in his arrest.[11] An accused is estopped from assailing any irregularity of his arrest if he fails to raise this issue or to move for the quashal of the information against him on this ground before arraignment. Any objection involving a warrant of arrest or the procedure by which the court acquired jurisdiction over the person of the accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise, the objection is deemed waived.[12]

In the present case, at the time of petitioners arraignment, there was no objection raised as to the irregularity of his arrest. Thereafter, he actively participated in the proceedings before the trial court. In effect, he is deemed to have waived any perceived defect in his arrest and effectively submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court trying his case. At any rate, the illegal arrest of an accused is not sufficient cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. It will not even negate the validity of the conviction of the accused.[13] True, the Bill of Rights under the present Constitution provides in part:
SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

However, a settled exception to the right guaranteed by the above-stated provision is that of an arrest made during the commission of a crime, which does not require a previously issued warrant. Such warrantless arrest is considered reasonable and valid under Section 5 (a), Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, to wit:
Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: a peace office of a private

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;[14]

For the exception in Section 5 (a), Rule 113 to operate, this Court has ruled that two (2) elements must be present: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer.[15] In the instant case, contrary to petitioners contention, he was caught in flagrante delicto and the police authorities effectively made a valid warrantless arrest. The established facts reveal that on the date of the arrest, agents of the Station Drug Enforcement Unit (SDEU) of the Caloocan City Police Station were conducting a surveillance operation in the area of Palmera Spring II to verify the reported drug-related activities of several individuals, which included the petitioner. During the operation, PO3 Antonio, through petitioners window, saw petitioner arranging several plastic sachets containing what appears to be shabu in the living room of their home. The plastic sachets and its suspicious contents were plainly exposed to the view of PO3 Antonio, who was only about one and one-half meters from where petitioner was seated. PO3 Antonio then inched his way in the house by gently pushing the door. Upon gaining entrance, the operative introduced himself as a police officer. After which, petitioner voluntarily handed over to PO3 Antonio the small plastic sachets. PO3 Antonio then placed petitioner under arrest and, contrary to petitioners contention, PO3 Antonio informed him of his constitutional rights.[16] PO3 Antonio then took the petitioner and the four (4) pieces of plastic sachets to their headquarters and turned them over to PO3 Moran. Thereafter, the evidence were marked AMC 1-4, the initials of the name of the petitioner. The heat-sealed transparent sachets containing white crystalline substance were submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory for drug examination, which later yielded positive results for the presence of methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug under RA No. 9165.

Considering the circumstances immediately prior to and surrounding the arrest of the petitioner, petitioner was clearly arrested in flagrante delicto as he was then committing a crime, violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, within the view of the arresting officer. As to the admissibility of the seized drugs in evidence, it too falls within the established exceptions. Verily, no less than the 1987 Constitution mandates that a search and consequent seizure must be carried out with a judicial warrant; otherwise, it becomes unreasonable, and any evidence obtained therefrom shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.[17] The right against warrantless searches and seizure, however, is subject to legal and judicial exceptions, namely:
1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest; 2. Search of evidence in "plain view"; 3. Search of a moving vehicle; 4. Consented warrantless search; 5. Customs search; 6. Stop and Frisk; and 7. Exigent and emergency circumstances.[18]

What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable warrantless search or seizure is purely a judicial question, determinable from the uniqueness of the circumstances involved, including the purpose of the search or seizure, the presence or absence of probable cause, the manner in which the search and seizure was made, the place or thing searched, and the character of the articles procured.[19] It is to be noted that petitioner was caught in the act of arranging the heatsealed plastic sachets in plain sight of PO3 Antonio and he voluntarily surrendered them to him upon learning that he is a police officer. The seizure made by PO3

Antonio of the four plastic sachets from the petitioner was not only incidental to a lawful arrest, but it also falls within the purview of the plain view doctrine.
Objects falling in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in a position to have that view are subject to seizure even without a search warrant and may be introduced in evidence. The plain view doctrine applies when the following requisites concur: (a) the law enforcement officer in search of the evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular area; (b) the discovery of evidence in plain view is inadvertent; (c) it is immediately apparent to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to seizure. The law enforcement officer must lawfully make an initial intrusion or properly be in a position from which he can particularly view the area. In the course of such lawful intrusion, he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The object must be open to eye and hand and its discovery inadvertent. (Emphasis supplied.)[20]

It is clear, therefore, that an object is in plain view if the object itself is plainly exposed to sight. Since petitioners arrest is among the exceptions to the rule requiring a warrant before effecting an arrest and the evidence seized from the petitioner was the result of a warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest, which incidentally was in plain view of the arresting officer, the results of the ensuing search and seizure were admissible in evidence to prove petitioners guilt of the offense charged. As to petitioners contention that the police failed to comply with the proper procedure in the transfer of custody of the seized evidence thereby casting serious doubt on its seizure, this too deserves scant consideration. Section 21, paragraphs 1 and 2, Article II of RA No. 9165 provides:
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 drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory 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, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; (2) Within twenty-four (24) hours upon confiscation/seizure of dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment, the same shall be submitted to the PDEA Forensic Laboratory for a qualitative and quantitative examination; x x x x.

Corolarilly, the implementing provision of Section 21 (a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA No. 9165, provides:
(a) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory 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, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof: Provided, further, that non-compliance with 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 of and custody over said items. x x x x.[21]

From the foregoing, it is clear that the failure of the law enforcers to comply strictly with the rule is not fatal. It does not render petitioners arrest illegal nor the

evidence adduced against him inadmissible.[22] What is essential is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.[23] Here, the requirements of the law were substantially complied with and the integrity of the drugs seized from the petitioner was preserved. More importantly, an unbroken chain of custody of the prohibited drugs taken from the petitioner was sufficiently established. The factual antecedents of the case reveal that the petitioner voluntarily surrendered the plastic sachets to PO3 Antonio when he was arrested. Together with petitioner, the evidence seized from him were immediately brought to the police station and upon arriving thereat, were turned over to PO3 Moran, the investigating officer. There the evidence was marked. The turn-over of the subject sachets and the person of the petitioner were then entered in the official blotter. Thereafter, the Chief of the SDEU, Police Senior Inspector Jose Ramirez Valencia, endorsed the evidence for laboratory examination to the National Police District PNP Crime Laboratory. The evidence was delivered by PO3 Moran and received by Police Inspector Jessie Dela Rosa.[24] After a qualitative examination of the contents of the four (4) plastic sachets by the latter, the same tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.[25] An unbroken chain of custody of the seized drugs had, therefore, been established by the prosecution from the arresting officer, to the investigating officer, and finally to the forensic chemist. There is no doubt that the items seized from the petitioner at his residence were also the same items marked by the investigating officer, sent to the Crime Laboratory, and later on tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. For conviction of illegal possession of a prohibited drug to lie, the following elements must be established: (1) the accused was in possession of an item or an

object identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused was freely and consciously aware of being in possession of the drug.[26] Based on the evidence submitted by the prosecution, the above elements were duly established in the present case. Mere possession of a regulated drug per se constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an accused absent a satisfactory explanation of such possession the onus probandi is shifted to the accused, to explain the absence of knowledge or animus possidendi.[27] It is a settled rule that in cases involving violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, credence is given to prosecution witnesses who are police officers for they are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner.[28] Although not constrained to blindly accept the findings of fact of trial courts, appellate courts can rest assured that such facts were gathered from witnesses who presented their statements live and in person in open court. In cases where conflicting sets of facts are presented, the trial courts are in the best position to recognize and distinguish spontaneous declaration from rehearsed spiel, straightforward assertion from a stuttering claim, definite statement from tentative disclosure, and to a certain degree, truth from untruth.[29] In the present case, there is no compelling reason to reverse the findings of fact of the trial court. No evidence exist that shows any apparent inconsistencies in the narration of the prosecution witnesses of the events which transpired and led to the arrest of petitioner. After a careful evaluation of the records, We find no error was committed by the RTC and the CA to disregard their factual findings that petitioner committed the crime charged against him. Against the overwhelming evidence of the prosecution, petitioner merely denied the accusations against him and raised the defense of frame-up. The defense of denial and frame-up has been invariably viewed by this Court with

disfavor, for it can easily be concocted and is a common and standard defense ploy in prosecutions for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. In order to prosper, the defense of denial and frame-up must be proved with strong and convincing evidence.[30] As to the penalty, while We sustain the amount of fine, the indeterminate sentence imposed should, however, be modified. Section 11, Article II, RA No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, provides:
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 in the following quantities, regardless of the degree of purity thereof: x x x x. Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be graduated as follows: x x x x. (3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) gramsof opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil, methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu", or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, MDMA or "ecstasy," PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newlyintroduced drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far beyond therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana.[31]

From the foregoing, illegal possession of less than five (5) grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is penalized with imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00) to Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (P400,000.00). The evidence adduced by the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner had in his possession 0.24 gram of shabu, or less than five (5) grams of the dangerous drug, without any legal authority. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum period of the imposable penalty shall not fall below the minimum period set by the law; the maximum period shall not exceed the maximum period allowed under the law; hence, the imposable penalty should be within the range of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated October 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 28846 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate sentence of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila


FIRST DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,

G.R. No. 174774 Present: CORONA, C.J., Chairperson, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, BERSAMIN, DEL CASTILLO, and VILLARAMA, JR., JJ. Promulgated: August 31, 2011

- versus -

ROLANDO S. DELOS REYES, alias Botong, and RAYMUNDO G. REYES, alias Mac-Mac, Accused-Appellants.

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.: On appeal is the Decision[1] dated July 12, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01733, which affirmed with modification the Decision[2] dated September 23, 2003 of Branch 214 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Mandaluyong City in Criminal Case No. MC-00-2375-D. The Court of Appeals found accused-appellants Rolando S. delos Reyes and Raymundo G. Reyes (Reyes) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 21 of Article IV, in relation to Section 16 of Article III, of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise

known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, and imposing upon them the penalty of reclusion perpetua. The following antecedent facts are culled from the records: On February 17, 2000, accused-appellants Rolando S. delos Reyes and Raymundo G. Reyes, Emmanuel de Claro, and Mary Jane Lantion-Tom (LantionTom) were all arrested for illegal possession, sale, delivery, distribution, and/or transportation of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a regulated drug commonly known as shabu. The Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City, in its Resolution dated March 3, 2000, found probable cause to indict accusedappellants, together with Emmanuel de Claro, for violation of Republic Act No. 6425, and resolved to continue the preliminary investigation in so far as LantionTom was concerned. The criminal information against accused-appellants and Emmanuel de Claro, filed with the RTC, reads:
The undersigned 2nd Asst. City Prosecutor accuses ROLANDO DELOS REYES y SANTOS @ BOTONG, RAYMUNDO REYES y GUINZON @ MAC-MAC and EMMANUEL DE CLARO y ENRIQUEZ @ COCOY of the crime of VIOLATION OF SEC. 21 ART. IV IN REL. TO SEC. 16 ART. III OF R.A. 6425 AS AMENDED, committed in the manner herein narrated as follows: That on or about the 17th day of February, 2000, in the City of Mandaluyong, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being lawfully authorized to possess any regulated drug, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping and aiding one another, commit to sell, deliver, distribute and/or transport a carton of ten (10) heatsealed transparent plastic bags containing white crystalline substance with the following grams, to wit: 99.2, 94.9, 99.6, 93.5, 98.3, 99.5, 99.6, 99.5, 98.4 and 98.4 grams or a total of 980.9 grams, which substance when submitted for drug examination, were found positive to the test for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, commonly known as shabu, a regulated drug, without the corresponding license and prescription.[3]

On March 7, 2000, accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes, Emmanuel de Claro, and Lantion-Tom, insisting on their innocence, moved for a reinvestigation of their case before the RTC, which said trial court granted in an Order [4] dated March 15, 2000. After the reinvestigation, the Office of the City Prosecutor issued a Resolution dated April 3, 2000, recommending that the RTC proceed with the indictment of accused-appellant Reyes and Emmanuel de Claro, and dismiss the charges against accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes and Lantion-Tom. The Office of the City Prosecutor considered the different versions of events presented by the parties during the preliminary investigation and reinvestigation (except accused-appellant Reyes who did not participate in the proceedings), which it summarized as follows:
In their Joint Affidavit of Arrest, the arresting officers, members of the Intelligence and Investigation of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) claims that on 17 February 2000 a confidential informant called up relative to a narcotics drug deal to commence at the vicinity of the parking area of Shangrila Plaza Hotel, Mandaluyong City; that they were dispatched to verify the reports and conduct police operations; that about 2:00 p.m. after meeting with the confidential agent, they strategically positioned themselves at the vicinity parking area of said hotel; that about 10:00 p.m., accused/respondent Reyes a.k.a. Mac-Mac, on board a white Toyota Corolla, and accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes, a.k.a. Botong, on board a red Toyota Corolla, arrived with accused/respondent Reyes subsequently proceeding inside Whistletop Bar and Restaurant, and accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes calling accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claro through his cellular phone; that accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes and [Emmanuel] de Claro then proceeded to the latters parked Mazda car where respondent Lantion-Tom was waiting; from the parked car, a box in transparent plastic bag was taken, which accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claro handed-over to accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes; accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes in turn handed the box in a plastic bag to accused/respondent Reyes; that the arresting officers accosted the accused/respondents who according to the arresting officers admitted having in their possession illegal drugs; that the

recovered items containing ten (10) pcs. of heat sealed transparent plastic bags of white crystalline substance with a total weight of 980.9 grams turned positive to the test for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a regulated drug. In his Sinumpaang Kontra-Salaysay, accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes claims that on 17 February 2000, he went to Buenas Market, Manggahan, Pasig City, together with a neighbor, one Marlon David, to talk to Raymundo Reyes who was to pay his indebtedness; that while looking for a parking space, several men with firearms suddenly appeared, with one shouting, buksan mo ang pintuan ng sasakyan at kung hindi babasagin ko ito; that he and Marlon David were forced out of their vehicle with one of the armed men bringing out a plastic shopping bag of Shoe Mart, asking where the said bag allegedly containing shabu came from; that accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes answered hindi ko alam, that he and Marlon David were blindfolded when forcibly taken to the groups vehicle and continuously asked who the source of the shabu was, with respondent/accused [Rolando] delos Reyes replying, hindi ko alam at wala akong kinalaman diyan; that Marlon David was separated from accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes and later released on 18 February 2000; that when accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes blindfold was removed, he found himself at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila. xxxx To confirm respondent/accused [Rolando] delos Reyes claim, that he was arrested in Brgy. Manggahan, Pasig City, and not in the vicinity of Whistletop Bar and Restaurant in Mandaluyong City, respondent/accused [Emmanuel] de Claros spouse submitted a certified true xerox copy of barangay blotter of Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City, reflecting the entry on 19 February 2000 made by Mrs. Delos Reyes, on the incident reported to by Marlon David thus: BLOTTER Dumulog po rito sa himpilan ng Punong Barangay si Gng. Virginia Delos Reyes, upang ipagbigay alam ang pagkawala ng kanyang asawa na si Mr. Rolando delos Reyes, nuong petsa 17 ng Pebrero taong dalawang libo

(2000) na ayon sa batang pamangkin na si Marlon David, ay hinuli ng mga hindi kilalang lalaki sa Buenas Market, Manggahan, Pasig City nais niyang alamin kung ang nasabing insidente ay coordinated dito sa himpilan o tanggapan ng Barangay. (Sgd) Virginia delos Reyes Nagpapahayag The blotter was apparently made after Marlon David informed Mrs. [Virginia] Delos Reyes of the incident upon his release on 18 February 2000. Another witness, one Joel Navarro, claims having seen the actual incident confirming the events as narrated to by accused/respondent [Rolando] delos Reyes and Marlon David. Accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claro and his common law wife, respondent Lantion-Tom, submitted their separate CounterAffidavits jointly denying the charges and claiming that they were at the Whistlestop Bar and Restaurant to talk to respondent Lantion-Toms accountant Ms. Daisy Milan regarding the Mayors Permit, Business Location Clearance issued by the Office of the Barangay Captain, insurance documents, BIR Certificate of Registration of her business; that they were with accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claros brother, Roberto and a friend, James, with the two remaining outside the restaurant; that respondent Lantion-Tom went to accompany Ms. Milan, while accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claro was left inside; that after Ms. Milan left, respondent Lantion-Tom was suddenly surrounded by men who introduced themselves as police officers and were arresting them for being the source of shabu in a drug deal; that all of them, accused/respondent [Emmanuel] de Claro, Roberto and James were likewise arrested and continuously questioned on their complicity in the drug deal; that they were taken to Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, Metro Manila and subjected to further investigation; that Roberto and James were released the following day. Both respondents maintain that the allegations of the arresting officers as to the circumstances on the alleged drug deal leading to their arrest are unfounded and purely fabricated. During the preliminary investigation proceedings on 21 March 2000, the arresting officers manifested that they are going to submit reply-affidavit on 29 March 2000. However, no such reply-affidavit was submitted.[5]

The Office of the City Prosecutor pointed out that the arresting police officers failed to refute accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes counter-allegation that he was not arrested at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City, but he was illegally arrested without warrant at Buenas Market in Cainta, Rizal, as corroborated by Marlon David and Joel Navarro (Navarro) in their respective sworn statements (Sinumpaang Salaysay) dated March 14, 2000. The Office of the City Prosecutor also observed that Lantion-Tom was merely in the company of the other respondents without performing any overt act showing her to be part of the illicit transaction and her drug test revealed negative results. On the other hand, it considered the conflicting claims of Emmanuel de Claro (i.e., that he was illegally arrested and that the drug deal was a mere fabrication) and the arresting officers (i.e., that Emmanuel de Claro was the seller/pusher in the drug deal and the shabu was seized from his vehicle) would be best ventilated during the trial on the merits. In accordance with the foregoing resolution, the prosecution filed with the RTC a motion with leave of court to admit amended information. In its Order[6] dated April 4, 2000, the RTC denied the prosecutions motion. Contrary to the finding of the Office of the City Prosecutor, the RTC adjudged that probable cause exists not only against accused-appellant Reyes and Emmanuel de Claro, but accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes as well. Accused-appellants were arraigned on May 23, 2000,[7] while Emmanuel de Claro was arraigned on July 12, 2000.[8] All three pleaded not guilty. After the pre-trial conference, trial ensued. The prosecution presented in evidence the testimonies of Police Officer (PO) 3 Virgilio Santiago,[9] Senior Police Officer (SPO) 1 Eraldo Lectura,[10] PO3 Angel Yumul,[11] and SPO1 Benjamin David,[12] members of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) who apprehended and/or investigated the case against accused-appellants, Emmanuel de Claro, and Lantion-

Tom; and P/Insp. Benjamin Cruto, Jr.[13] (Cruto), the forensic chemist of the PNP Crime Laboratory. PO3 Santiago was one of the police officers who arrested Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom on February 17. 2000. He testified that at around 10:30 a.m., their operation chief, Major Arnold Aguilar, received information from a confidential informant regarding an illegal drug deal that would take place between Botong and Mac-Mac at the parking lot of Shangri-La Plaza in Madaluyong City. Botong and Mac-Mac were identified during the investigation as accused-appellants Rolando delos Reyes and Reyes, respectively. As narrated by PO3 Santiago, a team to bust the illegal drug deal was organized by Major Aguilar, composed of PO3 Santiago himself, SPO1 Lectura, and PO3 Yumul, along with PO3 Elmer Corbe, PO3 Marcelo Arcancia, Jr., PO3 Randy Fuentes, PO3 Dennis Padpad, and PO3 Edwin dela Cruz. At around 1:00 p.m. of the same day, the police team was dispatched, using four vehicles, to the location of the drug deal and upon arrival, they waited for the confidential informant to arrive. When the confidential informant arrived at around 3:30 p.m., he told the police team that the drug deal would possibly take place between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., and that the suspects would utilize a red Toyota Corolla with plate number TRP-868 and a white Toyota Corolla with plate number ULF706. The police team then positioned their cars strategically in such a way that they could see the vehicles coming from St. Francis Street and EDSA. PO3 Santiago further recounted that at around 10:00 p.m., the suspected vehicles arrived, both stopping along the driveway of Shangri-La Plaza. The drivers of the vehicles alighted and talked to each other. The confidential informant recognized the driver of the white Toyota car as Mac-Mac and the driver of the red Toyota car as Botong. After a few minutes, Botong made a call on his cellular phone and then proceeded inside Whistle Stop Restaurant, leaving MacMac behind. Inside the restaurant, Botong talked to another person, who was identified during the investigation as Emmanuel de Claro alias Cocoy. PO3 Santiago was about three to five meters away. Thereafter, Botong and Cocoy went out of the restaurant and approached a car parked right outside. The person at the back seat of the car, later on identified as Lantion-Tom, handed to Cocoy a white plastic bag containing a box. Cocoy gave the bag to Botong, who, in turn, handed

the same bag to Mac-Mac. In the meantime,Cocoy went back inside the restaurant. PO3 Santiago related that their team leader sensed that the drug deal had already been consummated, so the police team immediately effected the arrest of the suspected drug dealers. PO3 Santiago and PO3 Yumul arrested Cocoy and Lantion-Tom, while SPO1 Lectura and the remaining police team members arrested Botong and Mac-Mac. The plastic bag containing the box was seized from Mac-Mac. The arrested suspects were brought to the police office for investigation. The plastic bag, the box, and the 10 heat-sealed sachets of white crystalline substance inside the box, were marked for identification and physical examination at the police office. According to PO3 Santiago, the physical examination of the contents of each of the 10 heat-sealed sachets yielded positive test results for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. PO3 Santiago then signed a Joint Affidavit of Arrest dated February 18, 2000 together with the other arresting police officers, namely, SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Corbe, PO3 Arcancia, PO3 Fuentes, and PO3 Nelson Gene Javier. On cross-examination, PO3 Santiago admitted that he did not actually see what was inside the plastic bag and that he did not even see Botong hand over such plastic bag to Mac-Mac. From PO3 Santiagos position, he could not conclude that the suspects were committing an illegal drug deal as he had no prior knowledge of the contents of the plastic bag, and that he and the other arresting officers just relied on the information relayed by the confidential informant. Also, the police team did not recover any money from the arrested suspects. The confidential informant merely informed the police the following morning that the money for the illegal drugs was already deposited in the bank. The police, however, failed to make further queries from the confidential informant about the bank. SPO1 Lectura related that their office received a telephone call from a confidential informant about an illegal drug deal involving Cocoy, Botong, and Mac-Mac in the vicinity of Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City on February 17, 2000. SPO1 Lectura was designated as the leader of the team that

will bust said illegal drug deal. After the briefing, SPO1 Lecturas team proceeded to the subject location. The confidential informant arrived and met SPO1 Lecturas team at around 3:30 p.m. SPO1 Lectura conducted a short briefing then positioned his team strategically within the vicinity. The confidential informant told the police team that the drug deal would take place between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. At around 10:00 p.m., the confidential informant identified the suspected drug dealers Botong and Mac-Mac, who were arriving in two cars. After conversing for a moment with Mac-Mac, Botongwent inside Whistle Stop Restaurant to talk to Cocoy. Botong and Cocoy then went outside the restaurant and approached another car. Cocoy took a white plastic bag from the car, which he handed to Botong. Thereafter, Cocoy went back inside the restaurant, while [Botong] proceeded to his car near [Mac-Mac]. SPO1 Lectura was positioned at the other lane of the road, approximately 10 to 15 meters away from the suspects. At that moment, SPO1 Lectura sensed that the drug deal had been consummated, so he decided to already arrest the suspects. SPO1 Lectura arrested Mac-Mac, from whom he seized the white plastic bag. PO3 Yumul and PO3 Padpad arrested Botong; and PO3 Santiago apprehended Cocoy. The police team brought the arrested suspects to the police office for investigation. SPO1 Lectura submitted to SPO1 David the white plastic bag containing a box with 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets inside. In front of SPO1 Lectura, SPO1 David marked the said articles with his initials. After physical and chemical examinations revealed that the contents of the sachets were shabu, SPO1 Lectura signed the Joint Affidavit of Arrest dated February 18, 2000. During cross-examination, SPO1 Lectura initially denied that Marlon David was with Botong when the latter was arrested, but he later admitted that the police also arrested Marlon David. Marlon David was brought to Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, together with the other arrested suspects, for verification, and was released the following day. SPO1 Lectura also admitted that during the preliminary investigation, he and PO3 Corbe, PO3 Arcancia, and PO3 Javier, answered that it was PO3 Santiago who seized the shabu from Mac-Mac; but SPO1 Lectura explained that what the investigating prosecutor actually asked during preliminary investigation was who saw where the shabu came from and that

he signed the minutes of the preliminary investigation without reading the same. SPO1 Lectura maintained that it was he who recovered the shabu from Mac-Mac. Lastly, SPO1 Lectura acknowledged that his team heavily relied on the information given by the confidential informant in identifying the suspects in the illegal drug deal, who were eventually arrested. PO3 Yumul substantially narrated the same version of events as that of PO3 Santiago and SPO1 Lectura. On February 17, 2000, he was assigned at the Intelligence Investigation Division of the RMG based in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig. He was with SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, PO3 Fuentes, PO3 Padpad, and several other police officers at the vicinity of Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City, conducting surveillance operation regarding the tipped-off illegal drug deal. He was with SPO1 Lectura and PO3 Padpad in the car parked in front of Shangri-La Plaza, while PO3 Fuentes, PO3 Dela Cruz, and their confidential informant were in another car also parked along the driveway of Shangri-La Plaza. PO3 Santiago, PO3 Arcancia, and PO3 Corbe were in the car stationed in front of Whistle Stop Restaurant. PO3 Yumul could not recall where the other members of the team were located. At around 10:00 p.m., the suspects Botong and Mac-Mac arrived in separate cars, stopping in front of Shangri-La Plaza. Botong and Mac-Mac alighted from their cars and talked to each other. At that time, PO3 Yumul was about five meters away from the two suspects. Moments later, Botong called someone on his cellular phone, and then went inside Whistle Stop Restaurant, leaving MacMac behind. PO3 Yumul followed Botong inside the restaurant and saw the latter talking to Cocoy. PO3 Yumul though did not hear the conversation between Botong and Cocoy. Afterwards, Botong and Cocoy went out of the restaurant and approached a parked car. From his position about three meters away, PO3 Yumul saw the passenger at the back seat of the car, Lantion-Tom, opening the window and handing over a white plastic bag with carton inside to Cocoy, who, in turn, gave the plastic bag to Botong. Cocoy then returned inside the restaurant and [Botong] went back to [Mac-Mac]. PO3 Yumul followed Cocoy inside the restaurant. A few minutes later, PO3 Santiago also went inside the restaurant informing PO3 Yumul that they would be arresting Cocoy, and that Botong and Mac-Mac were already arrested outside the restaurant. PO3 Santiago, assisted by PO3 Yumul, approached Cocoy and arrested him. The police

team proceeded to the police office with all the arrested suspects for further investigation. PO3 Yumul, however, failed to join the other arresting officers in signing the Joint Affidavit of Arrest dated February 18, 2000. SPO1 David was an investigator at the Intelligence and Investigation Section of the RMG at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig, assigned to the instant case following the arrests of accused-appellants, Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom. He also referred the case for inquest to the Office of the City Prosecutor. SPO1 David testified that on February 17, 2000, he received from SPO1 Lectura a plastic bag containing a box with 10 heat-sealed sachets of suspected shabu inside. SPO1 Lectura told SPO1 David that the articles were seized from the suspected drug dealers. SPO1 David marked his initials BSD on the confiscated articles, then prepared a request to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination of the specimens. SPO1 David disclosed that he prepared the Affidavit of Arrest of the arresting officers. The last witness for the prosecution was P/Insp. Cruto of the PNP Crime Laboratory. P/Insp. Cruto was the forensic chemist who conducted the physical, chemical, and confirmatory examinations of the contents of the 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets submitted by the RMG-NCRPO on February 18, 2000. P/Insp. Cruto conducted the physical examination by weighing the contents of each sachet, revealing that two sachets weighed 99.6 grams each; two sachets, 99.5 grams each; one sachet, 99.2 grams; two sachets, 98.4 grams each; one sachet, 98.3 grams; one sachet, 94.9 grams; and one sachet, 93.5 grams. P/Insp. Cruto then took a representative sample from each plastic sachet and proceeded with his chemical and confirmatory examinations. The contents of the 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets all tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as shabu. P/Insp. Cruto recorded the result of the examinations in his Physical Sciences Report No. D-097-2000.[14] The prosecution submitted the following object and documentary evidence: the Joint Affidavit of Arrest[15] dated February 18, 2000 signed by SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, PO3 Corbe, PO3 Arcancia, PO3 Dela Cruz and PO3 Javier; the

Sketch prepared in open court by SPO1 Lectura;[16] the 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets recovered from the possession of accused-appellants;[17] the PNP-RMG Request for Laboratory Examination of the contents of the 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets;[18] the PNP Crime Laboratory Physical Sciences Report No. D-097-2000 dated February 18, 2000 which revealed that the contents of the 10 heat-sealed plastic sachets positively tested for methamphetamine hydrochloride; [19] and the Letter (Referral of the case to the Office of the City Prosecutor)[20] dated February 18, 2000. The RTC admitted all the aforementioned evidence for the prosecution in its Order[21] dated March 1, 2001. The defense, on the other hand, presented the testimonies of Marlon David,[22] accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes,[23] Emmanuel de [24] [25] [26] Claro, Roberto de Claro, and Mary Jane Lantion-Tom. Accusedappellant Reyes did not testify. Marlon David was 17 years old and a fourth year high school student of Rizal High School in Pasig City. He recalled that on February 17, 2000, at about 1:00 p.m., he accompanied accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes, whom he referred to as Kuya Botong, to the Buenas Market in Cainta, Rizal, to collect some money. While accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes and Marlon David were inside their car at the parking area of said market, another car suddenly arrived, from which an armed male passenger alighted and approached them. Four other armed men followed and poked their guns at accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes and Marlon David. The armed men, in civilian attire, were carrying an SM plastic shopping bag and questioned accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes if he knew the owner of said plastic bag. Accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes denied any knowledge about the plastic bag. Marlon David was also asked and he answered that he knew nothing about the plastic bag. Thereafter, the armed men, who later introduced themselves as police officers, pulled accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes from the driver seat of the latters car, transferred him and Marlon David to the back seat of said car, and blindfolded both of them. Two of the armed men sat in the front seats of the car, while one of them sat at the back, beside accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes

and Marlon David. The armed men drove the car around (paikot-ikot). The armed men then separated accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes from Marlon David. They ordered Marlon David to alight from the car and transfer to another vehicle. While in the other car, the armed men boxed and mauled Marlon David to force him to admit to be the source of the plastic bag. Each question was accompanied with one punch. Marlon David remained blindfolded until they arrived at the police camp in Bicutan, Taguig, where he again saw accusedappellant Rolando delos Reyes. Marlon David was released the following morning, leaving accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes behind at the police camp. Marlon David went home and told Virginia delos Reyes, the wife of accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes, about the incident. Marlon David, during his cross examination, denied knowing any person with the name Mac-Mac. Marlon David additionally relayed that he was told by accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes that the latter was likewise mauled by the armed men. Accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes or Botong gave a similar account of the incident that took place at 1:00 p.m. on February 17, 2000, while he and Marlon David were at the Buenas Market in Cainta, Rizal. Their car was surrounded by four armed men. The armed men poked their guns at him and Marlon David, shouting at them to open the car doors. He lowered the car window and the armed men opened the car door. The armed men forced him and Marlon David to get down from the front seats of the car and to transfer to the back seat, blindfolded them, and asked them who were the owners of the SM plastic bag. After they left Buenas Market, he noticed that they were just driving around. The car stopped only when Marlon David was taken out and transferred to another car. It was already late in the evening when the car finally stopped. He then realized, after his blindfold had been removed, that he was at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig. Accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes denied the accusation of the police that he was selling or delivering shabu to anyone. He asserted that he was not arrested at Whistle Stop restaurant in Mandaluyong City, rather, he was illegally arrested at Buenas Market in Cainta, Rizal. Accused-appellant Reyes or MacMac was his friend who owed him money. He and accused-appellant Reyes

agreed to meet at Buenas Market for the settlement of the latters loan, but the meeting did not take place because the armed men arrived. He further claimed that he only met Emmanuel de Claro at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig. He never knew Emmanuel de Claro before that time, and he found out the latters name only when they were already detained at the Mandaluyong City Jail. Emmanuel de Claro or Cocoy testified that on February 17, 2000 at around 10:00 a.m., he was at the Department of Trade and Industry in Buendia, Makati City, with his common-law wife Mary Jane Lantion-Tom to follow up their application for business permit. At around 1:00 p.m., they had lunch at Glorietta. Emmanuel de Claro was no longer feeling well so he and Lantion-Tom passed by the house of his brother Roberto de Claro to request the latter to drive for them. James, Roberto de Claros friend, also went with them. The vehicle driven by Emmanuel de Claro was a rented car because his own car was in the auto shop. Emmanuel de Claro, Lantion-Tom, Roberto de Claro, and James first went to Las Pias City to check on Emmanuel de Claros car at the auto shop. From there, they proceeded to Libertad in Pasay City and ate dinner at the Duty Free Philippines. Afterwards, the group made their way to Mandaluyong City where Lantion-Tom had a scheduled appointment with Daisy Milan (Milan), her accountant. Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom met Milan at Whistle Stop Restaurant located at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City. Milan and LantionTom discussed matters pertaining to the business permit. Emmanuel de Claro stepped outside the restaurant for a moment to smoke a cigarette, then, returned inside to wait for the meeting between Lantion-Tom and Milan to finish. After their meeting, Lantion-Tom walked Milan outside the restaurant, while Emmanuel de Claro waited for Lantion-Tom inside. Three male persons suddenly approached Emmanuel de Claro and introduced themselves as police officers. They warned Emmanuel de Claro not to make a scene and just go with them peacefully. Emmanuel de Claro obeyed. He was brought outside the restaurant and was forced to get into a waiting car. For about three hours inside the car, he was punched, handcuffed, blindfolded, and told to bow down his head. He was likewise being forced to admit something about the shabu, but he denied knowing anything about it. He heard from the radio inside the car that the police officers were waiting for another car. After three

hours of traveling, the car finally stopped and when his blindfold was removed, he learned that they were already at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig. Emmanuel de Claro was placed in one room where he stayed for almost an hour, until he was called into another room where he met his co-accused for the first time. He later saw Lantion-Tom at the office of one of the police officers. They were interrogated by the police and being forced to admit that the drugs being shown to them belonged to them. They asked for a lawyer but their plea was ignored. The police told Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom that somebody should be held responsible for the shabu so they were made to choose whether both of them or only one of them would be charged. Emmanuel de Claro was compelled to choose the latter option. Roberto de Claro corroborated Emmanuel de Claros testimony. On February 17, 2000, Roberto de Claro was at home playing video games when his brother Emmanuel de Claro and the latters wife, Lantion-Tom, arrived and requested him to drive their car because Emmanuel was not feeling well. James, Roberto de Claros friend, rode with them. They first went to Las Pias City to check on Emmanuel de Claros car at the auto shop, then they proceeded to Libertad, Pasay City, where they had dinner at Duty Free Philippines. They next drove to Whistle Stop Restaurant at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City to meet Ms. Milan. Only Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom went inside the restaurant. Roberto de Claro and James stayed in the car. Two hours later, Roberto de Claro saw Lantion-Tom and Ms. Milan walking towards them. As the two women were approaching, armed men suddenly appeared, surrounded their car, and pointed guns at them. Roberto de Claro got terrified. It was as if an armed robbery (hold-up) was taking place. The armed men knocked at the car window. Out of fear, Roberto de Claro opened the window, then the door of the car. Roberto de Claro, James, and Lantion-Tom were made to sit at the back seat of the car. Two of the armed men sat on the front seats of the car, while one sat at the back with Roberto de Claro, James, and LantionTom. The armed men introduced themselves as police officers. Inside the car, the police officers mauled (siniko, sinuntok sa ulo) Roberto de Claro, James, and Lantion-Tom, all the while ordering them to keep their heads

bowed down. The police officers drove the car for two hours, stopping at a gas station for about five minutes. At this moment, Roberto de Claro was able to raise his head but was immediately told to bow down his head again. Roberto de Claro also heard from the police officers radio that they were still waiting for somebody. They travelled again for quite a long time and stopped in a dark place. The police officers took Roberto de Claros wallet containing P7,000.00 cash. Early in the following morning, they arrived at the police station where Roberto de Claro saw his brother Emmanuel de Claro once more. They stayed in one room until Roberto de Claro and James were released by the police the next day. When Lantion-Tom was called to testify, the prosecution and the defense agreed to consider her Counter Affidavit dated March 23, 2000 and Supplemental Affidavit dated March 29, 2000 as her direct examination. On cross-examination, Lantion-Tom confirmed that she was among those arrested on February 17, 2000 at the vicinity of Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City for her alleged involvement in an illegal drug deal. At the time of the arrest, she was with Emmanuel de Claro, Roberto de Claro, and James. She was also brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig where she was interrogated without a lawyer. She was shown a box containing shabu which she had never seen before. Lantion-Tom insisted that she was in Mandaluyong City to meet her accountant, Milan, regarding her application for a business permit. Lantion-Tom pointed out that the charge against her was eventually dismissed. The documentary evidence for the defense consisted of Emmanuel de Claros Counter Affidavit dated March 23, 2000,[27] Lantion-Toms Counter Affidavit dated March 23, 2000,[28] Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Toms Supplemental Affidavit dated March 29, 2000,[29] Roberto de Claros Witness Affidavit dated March 29, 2000,[30] Marlon Davids Sinumpaang Salaysay dated March 14, 2000,[31] Virginia delos Reyes Sinumpaang Salaysay dated March 14, 2000,[32] NavarrosSinumpaang Salaysay dated March 14, 2000,[33] accusedappellant Rolando delos Reyes Sinumpaang Kontra Salaysay dated March 14, 2000,[34] and a Barangay Blotter dated February 19, 2000 by Virginia delos Reyes.[35] The RTC admitted all these documentary evidence for the defense in its Order[36] dated September 13, 2002.

In its Decision dated September 23, 2003, the RTC found accused-appellants and Emmanuel de Claro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, and decreed:
WHEREFORE, the prosecution having successfully proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt for unlawfully possessing/selling, delivering, transporting and distributing methamphetamine hydrochloride otherwise known as shabu, a regulated drug, without lawful authority in violation of Sections 15 and 16 of Article III in relation to Section 21 of Article IV of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, they are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay a fine of P20,000.00 each and the costs of suit. Further, all the methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) taken and seized from the accused during the aforesaid operation are forfeited and confiscated in favor of the government shall be turned over to the PDEA pursuant to law for proper disposal without delay.[37]

Emmanuel de Claro filed his notice of appeal[38] on October 23, 2003. Accused-appellants Roberto delos Reyes and Reyes each filed his notice of appeal[39] on October 29, 2003 and December 30, 2003, respectively. Emmanuel de Claro, however, subsequently moved to withdraw his notice of appeal,[40] instead, filing before the RTC an Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and to Re-Open Proceedings Pursuant [to] Section 24, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court[41] on October 30, 2003, and a Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration[42] on November 3, 2003. Emmanuel de Claro asked the RTC to review its judgment of conviction based on the following grounds:
I. THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE ACCUSED DEFENSE OF FRAME-UP IS A MERE ALIBI AND HAS THUS ERRED IN ADOPTING THE THEORY OF THE PROSECUTION THAT ALL THE THREE (3) ACCUSED WERE PICKED-UP AT THE VICINITY OF EDSA SHANGRI-LA PLAZA HOTEL. THAT THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE WARRANTLESS ARREST WAS LAWFUL SINCE THE ACCUSED WERE CAUGHT IN FLAGRANTE DELICTO. THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE WAS CONSPIRACY AMONG THE THREE (3) ACCUSED IN THE ALLEGED COMMISSION OF THE CRIME OF UNLAWFUL

II.

III.

SALE, DELIVERY AND TRANSPORTATION OF THE PROHIBITED DRUG. IV. THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING BOTH ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION ON THE BASIS MAINLY OF A DISPUTABLE PRESUMPTION OF LACK OF IMPROPER MOTIVE ON THE PART OF THE POLICE OFFICERS. THAT THE HONORABLE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ITS FAILURE TO CONSIDER THE FACT THAT ACCUSED EMMANUEL DE CLARO WAS NOT AFFORDED HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS DURING CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION.[43]

V.

Emmanuel de Claro principally contended that the accusation that he was engaging in an illegal drug deal, levied against him by prosecution witnesses SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul was suspicious, if not incredible. Emmanuel de Claro pointed out that although these police officers testified that Lantion-Tom, from the car, handed to him the plastic bag containing the box with sachets of shabu, the prosecution still dropped the criminal charges against Lantion-Tom. Emmanuel de Claro also strongly argued that the prosecution failed to contradict his well-supported alibi that he, his wife, and his brother went to Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City to meet his wifes accountant, so they could attend to several documents pertaining to a business permit. Emmanuel de Claro further insisted that the RTC should have highly regarded accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes testimony which directly contradicted the police officers statements. In its Order[44] dated November 11, 2003, the RTC granted Emmanuel de Claros motion to withdraw his notice of appeal and required the prosecution to comment to his motions for reconsideration. The prosecution filed its Comment/Opposition[45] on December 19, 2003, objecting to Emmanuel de Claros motions for reconsideration and maintaining that its police-witnesses categorical, consistent, and straight-forward testimonies were sufficient to convict Emmanuel de Claro. In a complete turnabout from its previous findings and conclusion, the RTC, in its Order[46] dated January 12, 2004, acquitted Emmanuel de Claro of the crime charged. The RTC explicitly admitted that it erred in giving full faith and credit to

the testimonies of prosecution witnesses SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul, and in entirely rejecting the alibi of the defense. Thus, the RTC disposed:
WHEREFORE, the motion of accused-movant Emmanuel De Claro is hereby GRANTED and a new one entered, ACQUITTING him of the crime charged. Consequently, his immediate release from detention is hereby ordered unless he is detained for other cause or causes.[47]

Nevertheless, in view of the pending notices of appeal of accused-appellants, the RTC forwarded the complete records of the case to us on March 29, 2004, and we gave due course to the said appeals in our Resolution[48] dated June 21, 2004. Accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes filed his Appellants Brief[49] on September 15, 2004, while accused-appellant Reyes filed his Appellants Brief[50] on November 26, 2004. Pursuant to our pronouncement in People v. Mateo,[51] we transferred the case to the Court of Appeals for appropriate action and disposition.[52] Accordingly, the plaintiff-appellee, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed before the appellate court its Consolidated Brief[53] on January 21, 2005. The Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated July 12, 2006, sustained the conviction of accused-appellants, and merely modified the penalty imposed upon them, from life imprisonment to reclusion perpetua. According to the appellate court, the police officers testimonies deserve credence than accused -appellants defenses of denial and alibi, there being no evidence to rebut the presumption that the police officers regularly performed their official duties. The case was then elevated to us for final review. In our Resolution[54] dated January 31, 2007, we required the parties to submit their supplemental briefs. Plaintiff-appellee and accused-appellants Rolando delos Reyes and Reyes filed their manifestations[55] on March 14, 2007, April 10, 2007, and April 13, 2007, respectively, opting to stand by the briefs they had already filed before the Court of Appeals. In his Appellants Brief, accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes assigned the following errors of the RTC:
I. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FAILING TO RESOLVE THE CONTRADICTORY TESTIMONY AS TO THE PLACE OF THE ARREST IN FAVOR OF THE ACCUSED.

II.

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING [THE] TESTIMONIES OF PO3 VIRGILIO SANTIAGO CREDIBLE. THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE PROSECUTIONS EVIDENCE WHICH WAS PREVIOUSLY CATEGORIZE[D] AS WEAK WHEN THE COURT A QUO GRANTED [56] BAIL TO THE ACCUSED.

III.

Accused-appellant Reyes cited these errors in his Appellants Brief:


I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THE WARRANTLESS ARREST OF ACCUSED-APPELLANT RAYMUNDO REYES AS UNLAWFUL. ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE WARRANTLESS ARREST WAS VALID, ACCUSED-APPELLANT RAYMUNDO REYES CANNOT BE CONVICTED FOR VIOLATION OF R.A. 6425.[57]

II.

Accused-appellants essentially assert that the charge of illegal drug deal lodged against them by the police is a complete fabrication and frameup. Accused-appellants called attention to the material inconsistencies in the prosecutions evidence. PO3 Santiago testified during direct examination that accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes handed the plastic bag with box inside to accused-appellant Reyes, but he admitted during cross-examination that he did not see such transfer. The prosecution was unable to present any evidence to prove the source of the plastic bag containing the box with sachets of shabu, and the money paid as consideration for the illegal drugs. The prosecution likewise failed to rebut accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes straightforward, coherent, and truthful narration, corroborated by Marlon David, that he was illegally arrested at Buenas Market in Cainta, Rizal, and not at Shangri-la Plaza in Mandaluyong City. Accused-appellants additionally argued that even the prosecutions version of the arrests of the suspects and seizure of the shabu shows that the same were effected in violation of accused-appellants fundamental rights. The arrests were executed without any warrant or any of the exceptional circumstances to justify a

warrantless arrest. The suspects, including accused-appellants, were arrested without warrants based on a mere tip from a confidential informant and not because of any apparent criminal activity. A tip does not constitute probable cause for a warrantless arrest or search and seizure incidental thereto. Thus, the shabu allegedly seized from accused-appellants is inadmissible in evidence. Plaintiff-appellee, on the other hand, stand by the convictions of accusedappellants, maintaining that:
I. THE POSITIVE AND CREDIBLE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES HAVE ESTABLISHED THE GUILT OF APPELLANTS BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. THE WARRANTLESS ARREST CONDUCTED BY THE POLICE IS VALID SINCE IT FALLS SQUARELY UNDER RULE 113, SECTION 5(A) OF THE REVISED RULES ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE. THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION MORE THAN SUFFICE TO CONVICT APPELLANTS OF THE CRIME CHARGED. CONSPIRACY ATTENDED THE COMMISSION OF THE OFFENSE. MERE DENIAL AND HULIDAP, WITHOUT MORE, CANNOT EXCULPATE APPELLANTS FROM CRIMINAL LIABILITY. THE PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL DUTY UNDER SECTION 3(M) OF RULE 131 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT HAD NOT BEEN OVERCOME BY DEFENSE EVIDENCE. CONCLUSION OF THE TRIAL JUDGE REGARDING THE CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES COMMANDS GREAT RESPECT AND CONSIDERATION.[58]

II.

III.

IV. V.

VI.

VII.

Plaintiff-appellee avers that the inconsistencies in the police officers statements, as pointed out by accused-appellants, are trivial and do not affect the weight of their testimonies; while accused-appellants defenses of denial and frame-up could be easily concocted and, thus, should be looked upon with disfavor. Moreover, there is no need for proof of consideration for the illegal drug deal, since consideration is not an element of the crime charged.

Plaintiff-appellee avows that accused-appellants were caught while in the commission of a crime or in flagrante delicto, which justifies their warrantless arrests under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Court. Accused-appellants were arrested while in possession and in the act of distributing, without legal authority, a total of 980.9 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, on the night of February 17, 2000 at the parking area of Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City. In addition, in the absence of satisfactory proof to the contrary, the warrantless arrests executed by the police officers enjoy the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed. We grant the appeal and reverse the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals. At the outset, we observe that the prosecutors and the RTC both displayed uncertainty as to the facts surrounding accused-appellants arrest on the night of February 17, 2000. The Office of the City Prosecutor of Mandaluyong City, after preliminary investigation and reinvestigation, recommended that the RTC drop accusedappellant Rolando delos Reyes and Lantion-Tom from the criminal charge. The RTC only partially adopted the recommendations of the Office of the City Prosecutor: dropping the criminal charge against Lantion-Tom, but still finding probable cause against accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes.[59] Even after trial, the RTC wavered in its findings and conclusion. In its Decision[60] dated September 23, 2003, the RTC initially convicted accusedappellants and Emmanuel de Claro, but acting on Emmanuel de Claros motions for reconsideration, said trial court, in its Order[61] dated January 12, 2004, totally reversed itself and acquitted Emmanuel de Claro. This time, the RTC gave more weight to the evidence presented by the defense. The Court of Appeals, on appeal, refused to consider the subsequent acquittal of Emmanuel de Claro by the RTC. Instead, the appellate court upheld the earlier ruling of the RTC giving absolute credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and convicted accused-appellants of the crime charged. Despite the varying judgments of the RTC, the Court of Appeals

speciously ratiocinated in its assailed decision that when the issue involves the credibility of a witness, the trial courts assessment is entitled to great weight.[62] Guided by the settled rule that where the inculpatory facts admit of several interpretations, one consistent with accused's innocence and another with his guilt, the evidence thus adduced fail[ed] to meet the test of moral cert ainty,[63] we find that the findings and conclusion of the RTC in its subsequent Order [64] dated January 12, 2004 (in which it acquitted Emmanuel de Claro) is more in keeping with the evidence on record in this case. It bears to stress that the very same evidence were presented against Emmanuel de Claro and accused-appellants; if the evidence is insufficient to convict the former, then it is also insufficient to convict the latter. Indeed, the testimonies of prosecution witnesses SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul are unreliable and suspiciously fabricated. In its Order dated January 12, 2004, the RTC correctly observed that:
Viewed vis--vis the peculiar factual milieu of this case, not to say the insistence by the accused-movant [Emmanuel de Claro] that a reevaluation or reassessment of the evidence by the prosecution be considered, this court has decided to revisit the evidence put forward by the prosecution through the crucible of a severe testing by taking a more than casual consideration of every circumstance of the case. It is noted that the testimony given by the witnesses for the prosecution and that of the defense are diametrically opposed to each other. While this court had already made its conclusion that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses PO3 Santiago, SPO1 Lectura and PO3 Yumul are given full faith and credit and reject the frame-up and alibi story of the accused-movant [Emmanuel de Claro], nonetheless, upon reassessment of the same it appears that the court erred. In sum, the conveniently dovetailing accounts of the prosecution eyewitnesses, all of them police officers, with regard to the material facts of how the crime was allegedly committed engenders doubt as to their credibility. Firstly, the court noted that these police officers gave identical testimonies of the events that happened from the moment they arrived at 2 oclock in the afternoon until the arrest of the accused at 10:30 oclock in the evening at the EDSA Shangri-La premises. This uniform account given by these witnesses cannot but generate the suspicion that the material circumstances testified to by them were integral parts of a well thought-out and prefabricated story. Because of the close camaraderie of these witnesses who belong to the same police force it is not difficult for them to make the same story. Furthermore, their testimonies are so general which shows only too clearly that they testified uniformly only as to material facts but have not

given the particulars and the details having relation with the principal facts. While they testified that they were at Shangri-La from 2 in the afternoon to 10 in the evening, they were not able to tell the court how their group positioned strategically at the premises without being noticed by their target. They could not also gave (sic) an explanation how their confidential informant was able to obtain information regarding the drug deal that was supposed to take place on that date involving several personalities. Except for their bare allegation that they have that information regarding the drug deal they were not able to present any proof of such report, say, entry in their logbook of such confidential report and a spot report. Even their operation is not recorded as no documentary evidence was presented. Worth remembering in this regard is People v. Alviar, 59 SCRA 136, where it is said that: . . . [i]t often happens with fabricated stories that minute particulars have not been thought of. It has also been said that an honest witness, who has sufficient memory to state one fact, and that fact a material one, cannot be safely relied upon as such weakness of memory not only leaves the case incomplete, but throws doubt upon the accuracy of the statements made. Such a witness may be honest, but his testimony is not reliable.[65] (Emphasis supplied.)

There are also material inconsistencies between the police-witnesses sworn statements following accused-appellants arrest and their testimonies before the RTC. The police officers attested in their Joint Affidavit of Arrest dated February 18, 2000 that upon sensing suspicious transactions being undertaken thereat, team leader thru hand signaled immediately accosted the suspects and introduced themselves as Police Officers and after that, subject persons deliberately admitted that they have in their possession illegal drugs and thereafter showed the same to the herein undersigned arresting officers thus they were placed under arrest.[66] Yet, during trial before the RTC, the police officers uniformly testified that they brought accused-appellants, Emmanuel de Claro and Lantion-Tom to the police office after arresting the four suspects in flagrante delicto, without mention at all of the suspects purported admission. We also consider the fact that Lantion-Tom was never charged with any criminal involvement even when, according to the prosecutions version of events, she was the first person to deliver the shabu. This seriously dents the prosecutions sequence of events on the night of February 17, 2000. In contrast, accused-appellants presented clear and convincing evidence in support of their defenses, which the prosecution failed to rebut. Specifically, accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes testified that he was illegally arrested

without warrant at Buenas Market, Cainta, Rizal, not at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City; and that he and Marlon David were coerced to incriminate themselves for possession of shabu. His claims were corroborated by Marlon Davids testimony and NavarrosSinumpaang Salaysay dated March 14, 2000. Also, Emmanuel de Claro, Lantion-Tom, and Roberto de Claro consistently testified that they were at Shangri-La Plaza to meet Milan, Lantion-Toms accountant, regarding documents for a business permit (photocopies of the said documents were presented during trial); and that they were illegally arrested without warrant and forced to admit criminal liability for possession of shabu. These pieces of evidence are overwhelmingly adequate to overthrow the presumption of regularity in the performance by the arresting police officers of their official duties and raise reasonable doubt in accused-appellants favor. Furthermore, even assuming that the prosecutions version of the events that took place on the night of February 17, 2000 were true, it still failed to establish probable cause to justify the in flagrante delicto arrests of accused-appellants and search of accused-appellants persons, incidental to their arrests, resulting in the seizure of the shabu in accused-appellants possession. Section 2, Article III of the Constitution provides:
Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Complementary to the above provision is the exclusionary rule enshrined in Section 3, paragraph 2 of Article III of the Constitution, which solidifies the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, thus:

Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law. (2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. (Emphases supplied.)

The foregoing constitutional proscription is not without exceptions. Search and seizure may be made without a warrant and the evidence obtained therefrom may be admissible in the following instances: (1) search incident to a lawful arrest; (2) search of a moving motor vehicle; (3) search in violation of customs laws; (4) seizure of evidence in plain view; (5) when the accused himself waives his right against unreasonable searches and seizures; and (6) stop and frisk situations.[67] The first exception (search incidental to a lawful arrest) includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuant to an equally valid warrantless arrest which must precede the search. In this instance, the law requires that there be first a lawful arrest before a search can be made the process cannot be reversed. As a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a valid warrant of arrest. The Rules of Court, however, recognizes permissible warrantless arrests. Thus, a peace officer or a private person may, without warrant, arrest a person: (a) when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense (arrest in flagrante delicto); (b) when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it (arrest effected in hot pursuit); and (c) when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or a place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another (arrest of escaped prisoners).[68] In People v. Molina,[69] we cited several cases involving in flagrante delicto arrests preceding the search and seizure that were held illegal, to wit:

In People v. Chua Ho San, the Court held that in cases of in flagrante delicto arrests, a peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense. The arresting officer, therefore, must have personal knowledge of such fact or, as recent case law adverts to, personal knowledge of facts or circumstances convincingly indicative or constitutive of probable cause. As discussed in People v. Doria, probable cause means an actual belief or reasonable grounds of suspicion. The grounds of suspicion are reasonable when, in the absence of actual belief of the arresting officers, the suspicion that the person to be arrested is probably guilty of committing the offense, is based on actual facts, i.e., supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be arrested. A reasonable suspicion therefore must be founded on probable cause, coupled with good faith on the part of the peace officers making the arrest. As applied to in flagrante delicto arrests, it is settled that "reliable information" alone, absent any overt act indicative of a felonious enterprise in the presence and within the view of the arresting officers, are not sufficient to constitute probable cause that would justify an in flagrante delicto arrest. Thus, in People v. Aminnudin, it was held that "the accused-appellant was not, at the moment of his arrest, committing a crime nor was it shown that he was about to do so or that he had just done so. What he was doing was descending the gangplank of the M/V Wilcon 9 and there was no outward indication that called for his arrest. To all appearances, he was like any of the other passengers innocently disembarking from the vessel. It was only when the informer pointed to him as the carrier of the marijuana that he suddenly became suspect and so subject to apprehension." Likewise, in People v. Mengote, the Court did not consider "eyes . . . darting from side to side . . . [while] holding . . . [one's] abdomen," in a crowded street at 11:30 in the morning, as overt acts and circumstances sufficient to arouse suspicion and indicative of probable cause. According to the Court, "[b]y no stretch of the imagination could it have been inferred from these acts that an offense had just been committed, or was actually being committed, or was at least being attempted in [the arresting officers'] presence." So also, in People v.

Encinada, the Court ruled that no probable cause is gleanable from the act of riding a motorela while holding two plastic baby chairs. Then, too, in Malacat v. Court of Appeals, the trial court concluded that petitioner was attempting to commit a crime as he was "'standing at the corner of Plaza Miranda and Quezon Boulevard' with his eyes 'moving very fast' and 'looking at every person that come (sic) nearer (sic) to them."' In declaring the warrantless arrest therein illegal, the Court said: Here, there could have been no valid in flagrante delicto ... arrest preceding the search in light of the lack of personal knowledge on the part of Yu, the arresting officer, or an overt physical act, on the part of petitioner, indicating that a crime had just been committed, was being committed or was going to be committed. It went on to state that Second, there was nothing in petitioner's behavior or conduct which could have reasonably elicited even mere suspicion other than that his eyes were "moving very fast" an observation which leaves us incredulous since Yu and his teammates were nowhere near petitioner and it was already 6:30 p.m., thus presumably dusk. Petitioner and his companions were merely standing at the corner and were not creating any commotion or trouble . . . Third, there was at all no ground, probable or otherwise, to believe that petitioner was armed with a deadly weapon. None was visible to Yu, for as he admitted, the alleged grenade was "discovered" "inside the front waistline" of petitioner, and from all indications as to the distance between Yu and petitioner, any telltale bulge, assuming that petitioner was indeed hiding a grenade, could not have been visible to Yu. Clearly, to constitute a valid in flagrante delicto arrest, two requisites must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt

act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer.[70] (Emphases supplied.)

Similar to the above-cited cases in Molina, there is a dearth of evidence in this case to justify the in flagrante delicto arrests of accused-appellants and search of their persons incidental to the arrests. A close examination of the testimonies of SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul reveal that they simply relied on the information provided by their confidential informant that an illegal drug deal was to take place on the night of February 17, 2000 at Shangri-la Plaza in Mandaluyong City. Without any other independent information, and by simply seeing the suspects pass from one to another a white plastic bag with a box or carton inside, the police team was already able to conclude that the box contained shabu and sensed that an illegal drug deal took place.

SPO1 Lectura testified on direct examination as follows:


Q: A: What was the information gathered by your informant? That there will be a drug deal between 6 to 11 in the evening, sir. You were there as early as 2:00 p.m.? Yes, sir. What did you do after briefing? We positioned ourselves strategically, we waited for the arrival of the subject, sir.

Q: A: Q: A:

xxxx Q: A: When you are already positioned in your respective area at the vicinity of Shangri-La Plaza, what happened next, if any? At around 10:00 p.m. two (2) cars arrived and they were identified by the informant that they were the personalities involved.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A: Q: A: Do you know this Botong prior this incident? No, sir. How did you come to know that he is Botong? Through our informant, sir. When Botong went to the Whistle Stop, what happened next? According to my other companion he talked to another person then after that they went out, sir. When this two (2) cars arrive what happened next? They talked for a while after few minutes Botong entered, sir.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: What happened next after they went out to the car? They went to another car and Cocoy got something from his car and handed to Botong, sir. When you say they who is the companion? Cocoy, sir. How long did Botong stay in Whistle Stop Restaurant? One (1) minute, sir.

xxxx Q: A: Q: A: Did you see that something that was taken inside that car? White plastic bag, sir. What happened after that? Cocoy went inside the Whistle Stop, sir.

Q: A: Q: A: Q: A:

With the bag? No, it was left with Botong, sir. What happened next after that? Botong proceeded to his car near Mac-Mac, sir. What happened next after that? We already sensed that drug deal has transpired, sir. We accosted him.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Then what did you do after apprehending these people? We brought them to our office for investigation, sir.[71] (Emphases supplied.) Who of your companion apprehended Botong or Rolando delos Reyes? Botong was arrested by Yumul and Padpad, sir. How about De Claro? Arrested by Santiago, sir. What did you do? I arrested Mac-Mac, sir.

PO3 Santiagos testimony also did not offer much justification for the warrantless arrest of accused-appellants and search of their persons:
Q: When these two (2) persons went out of the restaurant and went to the place where blue Mazda car was parked, what happened next? The person inside the Mazda car, from the backseat, handed a white plastic bag with a box inside to Emmanuel de Claro [Cocoy], sir. Then, Emmanuel de Claro [Cocoy] gave it to Rolando Delos Reyes [Botong], sir.

A:

Q: A: Q: A:

You mentioned about somebody handling box to De Claro [Cocoy] from inside that Mazda car? Yes, sir. Who was this somebody handling that box? It was Mary Jane Lantion, sir.

xxxx Q: A: When you see De Claro [Cocoy] handling the box to Botong, what happened after that? Botong proceeded to the place of Mac-Mac and Emmanuel De Claro [Cocoy] returned back inside the said restaurant, sir. Where was Mac-Mac then at that time? Near their car, sir. He was waiting for Botong. After that what happened next? When Botong returned to Mac-Mac, he gave white plastic bag with box inside to Mac-Mac, sir. What happened after that? Our team leader, sensing that the drug deal have been consummated, we apprehended them, sir. How did you come to know that there was a drug deal at that particular place and time? Because of the information given to us by the informant, sir. Are you aware of the contents of that box at that time? No, sir. How did you come to know that there was a consummation of a drug deal? Because of the information given to us by the informant that there will be a drug-deal, sir.

Q: A: Q: A:

Q: A:

Q: A: Q: A: Q: A:

xxxx Q: Then what did you do?

A: Q: A:

We brought them to our office for proper investigation, sir. At your office, what else did you do? We confiscated the evidence, marked them and a request for laboratory examination was made and other pertaining papers regarding the arrest of the accused. You mentioned about the confiscated evidence. What is that confiscated evidence that you are saying? Ten (10) pieces of white plastic transparent plastic bag with white crystalline substance suspected to be methamphetamine hydrochloride, sir. How were these evidences confiscated by your group? They were confiscated from Mac-Mac, sir. In what condition were they at that time that they were confiscated from Mac-Mac? They were placed inside the box, sir.[72] (Emphases supplied.)

Q: A:

Q: A: Q: A:

PO3 Yumuls narration of events was not any different from tho se of SPO1 Lectura and PO3 Santiago:
Q: A: Q: A: Q: When did you meet the confidential informant? At the vicinity of EDSA Shangri-La Plaza, sir. And what was the information that was relayed to you by the confidential informant? The identities of the persons, sir. What did he particularly tells you in that particular time you meet the confidential informant at the vicinity of EDSA Shangri-La Plaza? That there will be a drug-deal and the people involved will arrived together with their car, sir.

A:

xxxx Q: And what happened after the confidential informant relayed to you the information?

A:

After we were brief by the confidential informant, we strategically positioned ourselves in the place where the drug-deal will occur, sir.

xxxx Q: So what did you do after positioning yourselves in that place of EDSA Shangri-La Plaza and Whistle Stop restaurant, what happened next after that? At around 10:00, one car arrived, a white Toyota corolla . . . 10:00 what? In the morning or in the evening? In the evening, sir, of February 17, 2000, sir. And you stated that two vehicles arrived? Yes, sir.

A: Q: A: Q: A:

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A: xxxx Then, what happened next, if any? They talked after they alighted from their car, sir. When you say nag-usap sila to whom are you referring? To Mac-Mac and Botong, sir. What happened next, if any, were they alighted from the car? Yes, sir. Then what happened? What did you do, if any? Our confidential informant told us that, that is our subject, sir. So what happened when this vehicle arrived? The red Toyota corolla follows, sir.

Q: A: Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A:

What happened next after you see them talking to each other? When they talk Mac-Mac called through cellphone, sir. By the way, did you hear the conversation of this two? No, sir.

How about the one calling over the cellphone, did you hear also what was the subject of their conversation? No, sir. So what happened next after seeing them having a conversation with each other? Botong immediately walked and proceeding to the Whistle Stop, sir.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A: And did you hear what was the subject of their conversation? No, sir. Then what happened next when Botong talked to somebody inside the Whistle Stop? The companion stood up and they went outside and both of them went to the side of Whistle Stop in front of the blue car, sir. Then what happened when Botong went to Whistle Stop? He talked to somebody inside, sir.

xxxx Q: A: Q: A: What did you do then? Somebody opened the window in back of the blue car, sir. And then what happened next, if any? A white plastic bag was handed to him with carton inside, sir.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: Q: A: xxxx Q: A: And when this white plastic bag with carton placed inside handed to Cocoy, what did you do? It was first handed by Cocoy to Botong, the plastic bag and then they walked in different direction, Cocoy went back inside the Whistle Stop and then Botong went back to Mac-Mac, sir. Were you able to know the person inside that car and who handed to Cocoy the white plastic bag? Yes, sir. Who was that person? Mary Jane Lantion, sir. And who received that item or article from the car? Cocoy, sir.

xxxx Q: A: xxxx Q: A: So what did you do then? I observed him inside but after a few minutes PO3 Virgilio Santiago went inside and told me that we will going to get them, sir. Why are you going to get them? Because the two were already arrested outside the Whistle Stop, Mac-Mac and Botong, sir. And then what happened next after that? I followed Cocoy inside the Whistle Stop, sir.

Q: A:

xxxx Q: So what did you do when PO3 Santiago told you that?

A:

PO3 Santiago approached Cocoy and I am just assisting him, PO3 Santiago to avoid commotion, sir. Then what did you do next after that? We were able to get Cocoy and we went outside, sir. And then what did you do, if any? After arresting them we boarded to the car and we went to the office, sir.[73] (Emphases supplied.)

Q: A: Q: A:

Evident from the foregoing excerpts that the police officers arrested accused-appellants and searched the latters persons without a warrant after seeing Rolando delos Reyes and Emmanuel de Claro momentarily conversing in the restaurant, and witnessing the white plastic bag with a box or carton inside being passed from Lantion-Tom to Emmanuel de Claro, to accused-appellant Rolando delos Reyes, and finally, to accused-appellant Reyes. These circumstances, however, hardly constitute overt acts indicative of a felonious enterprise. SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul had no prior knowledge of the suspects identities, and they completely relied on their confidential informant to actually identify the suspects. None of the police officers actually saw what was inside that box. There is also no evidence that the confidential informant himself knew that the box contained shabu. No effort at all was taken to confirm that the arrested suspects actually knew that the box or carton inside the white plastic bag, seized from their possession, contained shabu. The police officers were unable to establish a cogent fact or circumstance that would have reasonably invited their attention, as officers of the law, to suspect that accused-appellants, Emmanuel de Claro, and Lantion-Tom has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime, particularly, an illegal drug deal. Finally, from their own account of the events, the police officers had compromised the integrity of the shabu purportedly seized from accusedappellants. In People v. Sy Chua,[74] we questioned whether the shabu seized from the accused was the same one presented at the trial because of the failure of the police to mark the drugs at the place where it was taken, to wit:

Furthermore, we entertain doubts whether the items allegedly seized from accused-appellant were the very same items presented at the trial of this case. The record shows that the initial field test where the items seized were identified as shabu, was only conducted at the PNP headquarters of Angeles City. The items were therefore not marked at the place where they were taken. In People v. Casimiro, we struck down with disbelief the reliability of the identity of the confiscated items since they were not marked at the place where they were seized, thus: The narcotics field test, which initially identified the seized item as marijuana, was likewise not conducted at the scene of the crime, but only at the narcotics office. There is thus reasonable doubt as to whether the item allegedly seized from accused-appellant is the same brick of marijuana marked by the policemen in their headquarters and given by them to the crime laboratory.[75] (Emphases supplied.)

In the instant case, SPO1 Lectura, PO3 Santiago, and PO3 Yumul uniformly testified before the RTC that they brought the arrested suspects to the police office for investigation. SPO1 Lectura and PO3 Santiago were vague as to how they ascertained as shabu the contents of the box inside the white plastic bag, immediately after seizing the same from accused-appellant Reyes and before proceeding to the police office; while PO3 Yumul explicitly testified on crossexamination[76] that he saw the shabu for the first time at the police office. At any rate, all three police officers recounted that the shabu was marked by SPO1 Benjamin David only at the police office. Without valid justification for the in flagrante delicto arrests of accusedappellants, the search of accused-appellants persons incidental to said arrests, and the eventual seizure of the shabu from accused-appellants possession, are also considered unlawful and, thus, the seized shabu is excluded in evidence as fruit of a poisonous tree. Without the corpus delicti for the crime charged, then the acquittal of accused-appellants is inevitable.

As we aptly held in People v. Sy Chua[77]:


All told, the absence of ill-motive on the part of the arresting team cannot simply validate, much more cure, the illegality of the arrest and consequent warrantless search of accused-appellant. Neither can the presumption of regularity of performance of function be invoked by an officer in aid of the process when he undertakes to justify an encroachment of rights secured by the Constitution. In People v. Nubla, we clearly stated that: The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot be used as basis for affirming accusedappellant's conviction because, first, the presumption is precisely just that a mere presumption. Once challenged by evidence, as in this case, . . . [it] cannot be regarded as binding truth. Second, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot preponderate over the presumption of innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt. xxxx The government's drive against illegal drugs needs the support of every citizen. But it should not undermine the fundamental rights of every citizen as enshrined in the Constitution. The constitutional guarantee against warrantless arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be so carelessly disregarded as overzealous police officers are sometimes wont to do. Fealty to the constitution and the rights it guarantees should be paramount in their minds, otherwise their good intentions will remain as such simply because they have blundered. The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.[78]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated July 12, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 01733 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellants Rolando delos Reyes and Raymundo Reyes are ACQUITTED on the ground of reasonable doubt and they

are ORDERED forthwith released from custody, unless they are being lawfully held for another crime. SO ORDERED.

Briccio Ricky A. Pollo v. Karina Constantino-David, G.R. No. 181881, October 18, 2011

DECISION
(En Banc) VILLARAMA, JR., J.: I. THE FACTS [This case involves a search of office computer assigned to a government employee who was then charged administratively and was eventually dismissed from the service. The employees personal files stored in the computer were used by the government employer as evidence of his misconduct.] On January 3, 2007, an anonymous letter-complaint was received by the respondent Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairperson alleging that the chief of the Mamamayan muna hindi mamaya na division of Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. IV (CSC -ROIV) has been lawyering for public officials with pending cases in the CSC. Chairperson David immediately formed a team with background in information technology and issued a memorandum directing them to back up all the files in the computers found in the [CSC-ROIV] Mamamayan Muna (PALD) and Legal divisions. The team proceeded at once to the CSC-ROIV office and backed up all files in the hard disk of computers at the Public Assistance and Liaison Division (PALD) and the Legal Services Division. This was witnessed by several employees. At around 10:00 p.m. of the same day, the investigating team finished their task. The next day, all the computers in the PALD were sealed and secured. The diskettes containing the back-up files sourced from the hard disk of PALD and LSD computers were then turned over to Chairperson David. It was found that most of the files in the 17 diskettes containing files copied from the computer assigned to and being used by the petitioner, numbering about 40 to 42 documents, were draft pleadings or letters in connection with administrative cases in the CSC and other tribunals. Chairperson David thus issued a Show-Cause Order requiring the petitioner to submit his explanation or counter-affidavit within five days from notice. Petitioner filed his Comment, denying that he is the person referred to in the anonymous letter-complaint. He asserted that he had protested the unlawful taking of his computer done while he was on leave, citing the letter dated January 8, 2007 in which he informed Director Castillo of CSC-ROIV that the files in his computer were his personal files and those of his sister, relatives, friends and some associates and that he is not authorizing their sealing, copying, duplicating and printing as these would violate his constitutional right to privacy and protection against self-

incrimination and warrantless search and seizure. He pointed out that though government property, the temporary use and ownership of the computer issued under a Memorandum of Receipt is ceded to the employee who may exercise all attributes of ownership, including its use for personal purposes. In view of the illegal search, the files/documents copied from his computer without his consent [are] thus inadmissible as evidence, being fruits of a poisonous tree. The CSC found prima facie case against the petitioner and charged him withDishonesty, Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Violation of R.A. No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). Petitioner then filed an Omnibus Motion (For Reconsideration, to Dismiss and/or to Defer) assailing the formal charge as without basis having proceeded from an illegal search, which is beyond the authority of the CSC Chairman, such power pertaining solely to the court. The CSC denied this omnibus motion. On March 14, 2007, petitioner filed an Urgent Petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) assailing both the January 11, 2007 Show-Cause Order and February 26, 2007 Resolution as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or total absence of jurisdiction. On July 24, 2007, the CSC issued a Resolution finding petitioner GUILTY of Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and Violation of Republic Act 6713. He is meted the penalty of DISMISSAL FROM THE SERVICE with all its accessory penalties. This Resolution was also brought to the CA by herein petitioner. By a Decision dated October 11, 2007, the CA dismissed the petitioners petition for certiorari after finding no grave abuse of discretion committed by respondents CSC officials. His motion for reconsideration having been denied by the CA, petitioner brought this appeal before the Supreme Court. II. THE ISSUE Was the search conducted on petitioners office computer and the copying of his personal files without his knowledge and consent alleged as a transgression on his constitutional right to privacy lawful? III. THE RULING [The Supreme Court DENIED the petition and AFFIRMED the CA, which in turn upheld the CSC resolution dismissing the petitioner from service. The High Tribunal held that the search on petitioners office computer and the copying of his personal files were both LAWFUL and DID NOT VIOLATE his constitutional right to privacy.] The right to privacy has been accorded recognition in this jurisdiction as a facet of the right protected by the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure under Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. The constitutional guarantee is not a prohibition of all searches and seizures but only of unreasonable searches and seizures. [The Supreme Court then discussed the American cases that served as jurisprudential bases for its ruling: That the Fourth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] equally applies to a government workplace was addressed in the 1987 case of OConnor v. Ortega.In OConnor the [U.S. Supreme] Court recognized that special needs authorize warrantless searches involving public employees for work-related reasons. The [U.S. Supreme] Court thus laid down a balancing test under which

government interests are weighed against the employees reasonable expectation of privacy. This reasonableness test implicates neither probable cause nor the warrant requirement, which are related to law enforcement. OConnor was applied in subsequent cases raising issues on employees privacy rights in the workplace. One of these cases involved a government employers search of an office computer, United States v. Mark L. Simons where the defendant Simons, an employee of a division of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was convicted of receiving and possessing materials containing child pornography. In this case, the US Supreme Court held that the search remains valid under the OConnor exception to the warrant requirement because evidence of the crime was discovered in the course of an otherwise proper administrative inspection. Simons violation of the agencys Internet policy happened also to be a violation of criminal law; this does not mean that said employer lost the capacity and interests of an employer. The warrantless entry into Simons office was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment standard announced in OConnor because at the inception of the search, the employer had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the hard drive would yield evidence of misconduct, as the employer was already aware that Simons had misused his Internet access to download over a thousand pornographic images. The retrieval of the hard drive was reasonably related to the objective of the search, and the search was not excessively intrusive. Thus, while Simons had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office, he did not have such legitimate expectation of privacy with regard to the files in his computer.] Applying the analysis and principles announced in OConnor and Simons to the case at bar, we now address the following questions: (1) Did petitioner have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his office and computer files?; and (2) Was the search authorized by the CSC Chair, [which involved] the copying of the contents of the hard drive on petitioners computer, reasonable in its inception and scope? (1) NO, the petitioner had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his office and computer files. Petitioner failed to prove that he had an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy either in his office or government-issued computer which contained his personal files. Petitioner did not allege that he had a separate enclosed office which he did not share with anyone, or that his office was always locked and not open to other employees or visitors. Neither did he allege that he used passwords or adopted any means to prevent other employees from accessing his computer files. On the contrary, he submits that being in the public assistance office of the CSC-ROIV, he normally would have visitors in his office like friends, associates and even unknown people, whom he even allowed to use his computer which to him seemed a trivial request. He described his office as full of people, his friends, unknown people and that in the past 22 years he had been discharging his functions at the PALD, he is personally assisting incoming clients, receiving documents, drafting cases on appeals, in charge of accomplishment report, Mamamayan Muna Program, Public Sector Unionism, Correction of name, accreditation of service, and hardly had any time for himself alone, that in fact he stays in the office as a paying customer. Under this scenario, it can hardly be deduced that petitioner had such expectation of privacy that society would recognize as reasonable. Moreover, even assuming arguendo, in the absence of allegation or proof of the aforementioned factual circumstances, that petitioner had at least a subjective expectation of privacy in his computer as he claims, such is negated by the presence of policy regulating the use of office computers [CSC Office Memorandum No. 10, S. 2002 Computer Use Policy (CUP)], as in Simons. The CSC in this case had implemented a policy that put its employees on notice that they have no expectation of privacy in anything they create, store, send or receive on the office

computers, and that the CSC may monitor the use of the computer resources using both automated or human means. This implies that on-the-spot inspections may be done to ensure that the computer resources were used only for such legitimate business purposes. (2) YES, the search authorized by the respondent CSC Chair, which involved the copying of the contents of the hard drive on petitioners computer, was reasonable in its inception and scope. The search of petitioners computer files was conducted in connection with investigation of work-related misconduct prompted by an anonymous letter-complaint addressed to Chairperson David regarding anomalies in the CSC-ROIV where the head of the Mamamayan Muna Hindi Mamaya Na division is supposedly lawyering for individuals with pending cases in the CSC. A search by a government employer of an employees office is justified at inception when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it will turn up evidence that the employee is guilty of workrelated misconduct. Under the facts obtaining, the search conducted on petitioners computer was justified at its inception and scope. We quote with approval the CSCs discussion on the reasonableness of its actions, consistent as it were with the guidelines established by OConnor:
Even conceding for a moment that there is no such administrative policy, there is no doubt in the mind of the Commission that the search of Pollos computer has successfully passed the test of reasonableness for warrantless searches in the workplace as enunciated in the above-discussed American authorities. It bears emphasis that the Commission pursued the search in its capacity as a government employer and that it was undertaken in connection with an investigation involving a work-related misconduct, one of the circumstances exempted from the warrant requirement. At the inception of the search, a complaint was received recounting that a certain division chief in the CSCRO No. IV was lawyering for parties having pending cases with the said regional office or in the Commission. The nature of the imputation was serious, as it was grievously disturbing. If, indeed, a CSC employee was found to be furtively engaged in the practice of lawyering for parties with pending cases before the Commission would be a highly repugnant scenario, then such a case would have shattering repercussions. It would undeniably cast clouds of doubt upon the institutional integrity of the Commission as a quasi-judicial agency, and in the process, render it less effective in fulfilling its mandate as an impartial and objective dispenser of administrative justice. It is settled that a court or an administrative tribunal must not only be actually impartial but must be seen to be so, otherwise the general public would not have any trust and confidence in it. Considering the damaging nature of the accusation, the Commission had to act fast, if only to arrest or limit any possible adverse consequence or fall-out. Thus, on the same date that the complaint was received, a search was forthwith conducted involving the computer resources in the concerned regional office. That it was the computers that were subjected to the search was justified since these furnished the easiest means for an employee to encode and store documents. Indeed, the computers would be a likely starting point in ferreting out incriminating evidence. Concomitantly, the ephemeral nature of computer files, that is, they could easily be destroyed at a click of a button, necessitated drastic and immediate action. Pointedly, to impose the need to comply with the probable cause requirement would invariably defeat the purpose of the wok-related investigation.

Thus, petitioners claim of violation of his constitutional right to privacy must necessarily fail. His other argument invoking the privacy of communication and correspondence under Section 3(1), Article III of the 1987 Constitution is also untenable considering the recognition accorded to certain legitimate intrusions into the privacy of employees in the government workplace under the aforecited authorities. We likewise find no merit in his contention that OConnor and Simons are not relevant because the present case does not involve a criminal offense like child pornography. As already mentioned, the search of petitioners computer was

justified there being reasonable ground for suspecting that the files stored therein would yield incriminating evidence relevant to the investigation being conducted by CSC as government employer of such misconduct subject of the anonymous complaint. This situation clearly falls under the exception to the warrantless requirement in administrative searches defined in OConnor.

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila SECOND DIVISION PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, G.R. No. 186529 Present: CARPIO, J., Chairperson, NACHURA, PERALTA, ABAD, and MENDOZA, JJ. Promulgated: JACK RACHO y RAQUERO, Appellant. August 3, 2010

- versus -

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION NACHURA, J.:

On appeal is the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[1] dated May 22, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00425 affirming the Regional Trial Court[2] (RTC) Joint Decision[3] dated July 8, 2004 finding appellant Jack Racho y Raquero guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.

The case stemmed from the following facts: On May 19, 2003, a confidential agent of the police transacted through cellular phone with appellant for the purchase of shabu. The agent later reported the transaction to the police authorities who immediately formed a team composed of member of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Intelligence group of the Philippine Army and the local police force to apprehend the appellant.[4] The agent gave the police appellants name, together with his physical description. He also assured them that appellant would arrive in Baler, Aurora the following day. On May 20, 2003, at 11:00 a.m., appellant called up the agent and informed him that he was on board a Genesis bus and would arrive in Baler, Aurora, anytime of the day wearing a red and white striped T-shirt. The team members then posted themselves along the national highway in Baler, Aurora. At around 3:00 p.m. of the same day, a Genesis bus arrived in Baler. When appellant alighted from the bus, the confidential agent pointed to him as the person he transacted with earlier. Having alighted from the bus, appellant stood near the highway and waited for a tricycle that would bring him to his final destination. As appellant was about to board a tricycle, the team approached him and invited him to the police station on suspicion of carrying shabu. Appellant immediately denied the accusation, but as he pulled out his hands from his pants pocket, a white envelope slipped therefrom which, when opened, yielded a small sachet containing the suspected drug.[5] The team then brought appellant to the police station for investigation. The confiscated specimen was turned over to Police Inspector Rogelio Sarenas De Vera who marked it with his initials and with appellants name. The field test and

laboratory examinations on the contents of the confiscated sachet yielded positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride.[6] Appellant was charged in two separate Informations, one for violation of Section 5 of R.A. 9165, for transporting or delivering; and the second, of Section 11 of the same law for possessing, dangerous drugs, the accusatory portions of which read:
That at about 3:00 oclock (sic) in the afternoon on May 20, 2003 in Baler, Aurora and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there, unlawfully, feloniously and willfully have in his possession five point zero one (5.01) [or 4.54] grams of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride commonly known as Shabu, a regulated drug without any permit or license from the proper authorities to possess the same.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[7] That at about 3:00 oclock (sic) in the afternoon on May 20, 2003 in Baler, Aurora, the said accused did then and there, unlawfully, feloniously and willfully transporting or delivering dangerous drug of 5.01 [or 4.54] grams of shabu without any permit or license from the proper authorities to transport the same. CONTRARY TO LAW.[8]

During the arraignment, appellant pleaded Not Guilty to both charges. At the trial, appellant denied liability and claimed that he went to Baler, Aurora to visit his brother to inform him about their ailing father. He maintained that the charges against him were false and that no shabu was taken from him. As to the circumstances of his arrest, he explained that the police officers, through their van, blocked the tricycle he was riding in; forced him to alight; brought him to Sea Breeze Lodge; stripped his clothes and underwear; then brought him to the police station for investigation.[9] On July 8, 2004, the RTC rendered a Joint Judgment[10] convicting appellant of Violation of Section 5, Article II, R.A. 9165 and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00; but acquitted him of

the charge of Violation of Section 11, Article II, R.A. 9165. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC decision.[11] Hence, the present appeal. In his brief,[12] appellant attacks the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution. He likewise avers that the prosecution failed to establish the identity of the confiscated drug because of the teams failure to mark the specimen immediately after seizure. In his supplemental brief, appellant assails, for the first time, the legality of his arrest and the validity of the subsequent warrantless search. He questions the admissibility of the confiscated sachet on the ground that it was the fruit of the poisonous tree. The appeal is meritorious. We have repeatedly held that the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is entitled to great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. We have reviewed such factual findings when there is a showing that the trial judge overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the case.[13] Appellant focuses his appeal on the validity of his arrest and the search and seizure of the sachet of shabu and, consequently, the admissibility of the sachet. It is noteworthy that although the circumstances of his arrest were briefly discussed by the RTC, the validity of the arrest and search and the admissibility of the evidence against appellant were not squarely raised by the latter and thus, were not ruled upon by the trial and appellate courts. It is well-settled that an appeal in a criminal case opens the whole case for review. This Court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even those not raised on appeal, if we find them necessary in arriving at a just disposition of the case. Every circumstance in favor of the accused shall be considered. This is in keeping with the constitutional mandate that every accused shall be presumed innocent unless his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt.[14]

After a thorough review of the records of the case and for reasons that will be discussed below, we find that appellant can no longer question the validity of his arrest, but the sachet of shabu seized from him during the warrantless search is inadmissible in evidence against him. The records show that appellant never objected to the irregularity of his arrest before his arraignment. In fact, this is the first time that he raises the issue. Considering this lapse, coupled with his active participation in the trial of the case, we must abide with jurisprudence which dictates that appellant, having voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the trial court, is deemed to have waived his right to question the validity of his arrest, thus curing whatever defect may have attended his arrest. The legality of the arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over his person. Appellants warrantless arrest therefore cannot, in itself, be the basis of his acquittal. [15] As to the admissibility of the seized drug in evidence, it is necessary for us to ascertain whether or not the search which yielded the alleged contraband was lawful.[16] The 1987 Constitution states that a search and consequent seizure must be carried out with a judicial warrant; otherwise, it becomes unreasonable and any evidence obtained therefrom shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.[17]Said proscription, however, admits of exceptions, namely:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest; Search of evidence in plain view; Search of a moving vehicle; Consented warrantless search; Customs search; Stop and Frisk; and Exigent and emergency circumstances.[18]

What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable warrantless search or seizure is purely a judicial question, determinable from the uniqueness of the circumstances involved, including the purpose of the search or seizure, the

presence or absence of probable cause, the manner in which the search and seizure was made, the place or thing searched, and the character of the articles procured.[19] The RTC concluded that appellant was caught in flagrante delicto, declaring that he was caught in the act of actually committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime in the presence of the apprehending officers as he arrived in Baler, Aurora bringing with him a sachet of shabu.[20] Consequently, the warrantless search was considered valid as it was deemed an incident to the lawful arrest. Recent jurisprudence holds that in searches incident to a lawful arrest, the arrest must precede the search; generally, the process cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, a search substantially contemporaneous with an arrest can precede the arrest if the police have probable cause to make the arrest at the outset of the search.[21] Thus, given the factual milieu of the case, we have to determine whether the police officers had probable cause to arrest appellant. Although probable cause eludes exact and concrete definition, it ordinarily signifies a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.[22] The determination of the existence or absence of probable cause necessitates a reexamination of the established facts. On May 19, 2003, a confidential agent of the police transacted through cellular phone with appellant for the purchase of shabu.The agent reported the transaction to the police authorities who immediately formed a team to apprehend the appellant. On May 20, 2003, at 11:00 a.m., appellant called up the agent with the information that he was on board a Genesis bus and would arrive in Baler, Aurora anytime of the day wearing a red and white striped T-shirt. The team members posted themselves along the national highway in Baler, Aurora, and at around 3:00 p.m. of the same day, a Genesis bus arrived in Baler. When appellant alighted from the bus, the confidential agent pointed to him as the person he transacted with, and when the latter was about to board a tricycle, the team approached him and invited him to the police station as he was suspected of carrying shabu. When he pulled out his hands from his pants pocket, a white envelope slipped therefrom which, when opened, yielded a small sachet containing the suspected drug.[23] The team then brought appellant to the police station for investigation and the confiscated specimen was marked in the

presence of appellant. The field test and laboratory examinations on the contents of the confiscated sachet yielded positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride. Clearly, what prompted the police to apprehend appellant, even without a warrant, was the tip given by the informant that appellant would arrive in Baler, Aurora carrying shabu. This circumstance gives rise to another question: whether that information, by itself, is sufficient probable cause to effect a valid warrantless arrest. The long standing rule in this jurisdiction is that reliable information alone is not sufficient to justify a warrantless arrest. The rule requires, in addition, that the accused perform some overt act that would indicate that he has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense.[24] We find no cogent reason to depart from this well-established doctrine. The instant case is similar Tudtud,[26] and People v. Nuevas.[27] to People v. Aruta,[25] People v.

In People v. Aruta, a police officer was tipped off by his informant that a certain Aling Rosa would be arriving from Baguio City the following day with a large volume of marijuana. Acting on said tip, the police assembled a team and deployed themselves near the Philippine National Bank (PNB) in Olongapo City. While thus positioned, a Victory Liner Bus stopped in front of the PNB building where two females and a man got off. The informant then pointed to the team members the woman, Aling Rosa, who was then carrying a traveling bag. Thereafter, the team approached her and introduced themselves. When asked about the contents of her bag, she handed it to the apprehending officers. Upon inspection, the bag was found to contain dried marijuana leaves.[28] The facts in People v. Tudtud show that in July and August, 1999, the Toril Police Station, Davao City, received a report from a civilian asset that the neighbors of a certain Noel Tudtud (Tudtud) were complaining that the latter was responsible for the proliferation of marijuana in the area. Reacting to the report, the Intelligence Section conducted surveillance. For five days, they gathered information and learned that Tudtud was involved in illegal drugs. On August 1, 1999, the civilian asset informed the police that Tudtud had headed to Cotabato

and would be back later that day with a new stock of marijuana. At around 4:00 p.m. that same day, a team of police officers posted themselves to await Tudtuds arrival. At 8:00 p.m., two men disembarked from a bus and helped each other carry a carton. The police officers approached the suspects and asked if they could see the contents of the box which yielded marijuana leaves.[29] In People v. Nuevas, the police officers received information that a certain male person, more or less 54 in height, 25 to 30 years old, with a tattoo mark on the upper right hand, and usually wearing a sando and maong pants, would make a delivery of marijuana leaves. While conducting stationary surveillance and monitoring of illegal drug trafficking, they saw the accused who fit the description, carrying a plastic bag. The police accosted the accused and informed him that they were police officers. Upon inspection of the plastic bag carried by the accused, the bag contained marijuana dried leaves and bricks wrapped in a blue cloth. In his bid to escape charges, the accused disclosed where two other male persons would make a delivery of marijuana leaves. Upon seeing the two male persons, later identified as Reynaldo Din and Fernando Inocencio, the police approached them, introduced themselves as police officers, then inspected the bag they were carrying. Upon inspection, the contents of the bag turned out to be marijuana leaves.[30] In all of these cases, we refused to validate the warrantless search precisely because there was no adequate probable cause. We required the showing of some overt act indicative of the criminal design. As in the above cases, appellant herein was not committing a crime in the presence of the police officers. Neither did the arresting officers have personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested had committed, was committing, or about to commit an offense. At the time of the arrest, appellant had just alighted from the Gemini bus and was waiting for a tricycle. Appellant was not acting in any suspicious manner that would engender a reasonable ground for the police officers to suspect and conclude that he was committing or intending to commit a crime. Were it not for the information given by the informant, appellant would not have been apprehended and no search would have been made, and consequently, the sachet ofshabu would not have been confiscated.

We are not unaware of another set of jurisprudence that deems reliable information sufficient to justify a search incident to a lawful warrantless arrest. As cited in People v. Tudtud, these include People v. Maspil, Jr.,[31] People v. Bagista,[32] People v. Balingan,[33] People v. Lising,[34] People v. Montilla,[35] People v. Valdez,[36] and People v. Gonzales.[37] In these cases, the Court sustained the validity of the warrantless searches notwithstanding the absence of overt acts or suspicious circumstances that would indicate that the accused had committed, was actually committing, or attempting to commit a crime. But as aptly observed by the Court, except in Valdez and Gonzales, they were covered by the other exceptions to the rule against warrantless searches.[38] Neither were the arresting officers impelled by any urgency that would allow them to do away with the requisite warrant. As testified to by Police Officer 1 Aurelio Iniwan, a member of the arresting team, their office received the tipped information on May 19, 2003. They likewise learned from the informant not only the appellants physical description but also his name. Although it was not certain that appellant would arrive on the same day (May 19), there was an assurance that he would be there the following day (May 20). Clearly, the police had ample opportunity to apply for a warrant.[39] Obviously, this is an instance of seizure of the fruit of the poisonous tree, hence, the confiscated item is inadmissible in evidence consonant with Article III, Section 3(2) of the 1987 Constitution, any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. Without the confiscated shabu, appellants conviction cannot be sustained based on the remaining evidence. Thus, an acquittal is warranted, despite the waiver of appellant of his right to question the illegality of his arrest by entering a plea and his active participation in the trial of the case. As earlier mentioned, the legality of an arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the accused. A waiver of an illegal, warrantless arrest does not carry with it a waiver of the inadmissibility of evidence seized during an illegal warrantless arrest.[40] One final note. As clearly stated in People v. Nuevas,[41]

x x x In the final analysis, we in the administration of justice would have no right to expect ordinary people to be law-abiding if we do not insist on the full protection of their rights. Some lawmen, prosecutors and judges may still tend to gloss over an illegal search and seizure as long as the law enforcers show the alleged evidence of the crime regardless of the methods by which they were obtained. This kind of attitude condones law-breaking in the name of law enforcement. Ironically, it only fosters the more rapid breakdown of our system of justice, and the eventual denigration of society. While this Court appreciates and encourages the efforts of law enforcers to uphold the law and to preserve the peace and security of society, we nevertheless admonish them to act with deliberate care and within the parameters set by the Constitution and the law. Truly, the end never justifies the means.[42]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court of Appeals Decision dated May 22, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00425 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant Jack Raquero Racho is ACQUITTED for insufficiency of evidence. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is directed to cause the immediate release of appellant, unless the latter is being lawfully held for another cause; and to inform the Court of the date of his release, or the reasons for his confinement, within ten (10) days from notice. No costs. SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 120915. April 3, 1998]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ROSA ARUTA y MENGUIN, accused-appellant. DECISION
ROMERO, J.:

With the pervasive proliferation of illegal drugs and its pernicious effects on our society, our law enforcers tend at times to overreach themselves in apprehending drug offenders to the extent of failing to observe well-entrenched constitutional guarantees against illegal searches and arrests. Consequently, drug offenders manage to evade the clutches of the law on mere technicalities. Accused-appellant Rosa Aruta y Menguin was arrested and charged with violating Section 4, Article II of Republic Act No. 6425 or the Dangerous Drugs Act. The information reads:

That on or about the fourteenth (14th) day of December, 1988, in the City of Olongapo, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, without being lawfully authorized, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and knowingly engage in transporting approximately eight (8) kilos and five hundred (500) grams of dried marijuana packed in plastic bag marked Cash Katutak placed in a travelling bag, which are prohibited drugs.
Upon arraignment, she pleaded not guilty. After trial on the merits, the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City convicted and sentenced her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of twenty thousand (P20,000.00) pesos.[1] The prosecution substantially relied on the testimonies of P/Lt. Ernesto Abello, Officer-in-Charge of the Narcotics Command (NARCOM) of Olongapo City and P/Lt. Jose Domingo. Based on their testimonies, the court a quo found the following:

On December 13, 1988, P/Lt. Abello was tipped off by his informant, known only as Benjie, that a certain Aling Rosa would be arriving from Baguio City the following day, December 14, 1988, with a large volume of marijuana. Acting on said tip, P/Lt. Abello assembled a team composed of P/Lt. Jose Domingo, Sgt. Angel Sudiacal, Sgt. Oscar Imperial, Sgt. Danilo Santiago and Sgt. Efren Quirubin. Said team proceeded to West Bajac-Bajac, Olongapo City at around 4:00 in the afternoon of December 14, 1988 and deployed themselves near the Philippine National Bank (PNB) building along Rizal Avenue and the Caltex gasoline station. Dividing themselves into two groups, one group, made up of P/Lt. Abello, P/Lt. Domingo and the informant posted themselves near the PNB building while the other group waited near the Caltex gasoline station.

While thus positioned, a Victory Liner Bus with body number 474 and the letters BGO printed on its front and back bumpers stopped in front of the PNB building at around 6:30 in the evening of the same day from where two females and a male got off. It was at this stage that the informant pointed out to the team Aling Rosa who was then carrying a travelling bag. Having ascertained that accused-appellant was Aling Rosa, the team approached her and introduced themselves as NARCOM agents. When P/Lt. Abello asked Aling Rosa about the contents of her bag, the latter handed it to the former. Upon inspection, the bag was found to contain dried marijuana leaves packed in a plastic bag marked Cash Katutak. The team confiscated the bag together with the Victory Liner bus ticket to which Lt. Domingo affixed his signature. Accusedappellant was then brought to the NARCOM office for investigation where a Receipt of Property Seized was prepared for the confiscated marijuana leaves. Upon examination of the seized marijuana specimen at the PC/INP Crime Laboratory, Camp Olivas, Pampanga, P/Maj. Marlene Salangad, a Forensic Chemist, prepared a Technical Report stating that said specimen yielded positive results for marijuana, a prohibited drug. After the presentation of the testimonies of the arresting officers and of the above technical report, the prosecution rested its case. Instead of presenting its evidence, the defense filed a Demurrer to Evidence alleging the illegality of the search and seizure of the items thereby violating accusedappellants constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure as well as their inadmissibility in evidence.
The said Demurrer to Evidence was, however, denied without the trial court ruling on the alleged illegality of the search and seizure and the inadmissibility in evidence of the items seized to avoid pre-judgment. Instead, the trial court continued to hear the case. In view of said denial, accused-appellant testified on her behalf. As expected, her version of the incident differed from that of the prosecution. She claimed that immediately prior to her arrest, she had just come from Choice Theater where she watched the movie Balweg. While about to cross the road, an old woman asked her help in carrying a shoulder bag. In the middle of the road, Lt. Abello and Lt. Domingo arrested her and asked her to go with them to the NARCOM Office. During investigation at said office, she disclaimed any knowledge as to the identity of the woman and averred that the old woman was nowhere to be found after she was

arrested. Moreover, she added that no search warrant was shown to her by the arresting officers. After the prosecution made a formal offer of evidence, the defense filed a Comment and/or Objection to Prosecutions Formal Offer of Evidence contesting the admissibility of the items seized as they were allegedly a product of an unreasonable search and seizure. Not convinced with her version of the incident, the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City convicted accused-appellant of transporting eight (8) kilos and five hundred (500) grams of marijuana from Baguio City to Olongapo City in violation of Section 4, Article 11 of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 and sentenced her to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of twenty thousand (P20,000.00) pesos without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. [2] In this appeal, accused-appellant submits the following:

1. The trial court erred in holding that the NARCOM agents could not apply for a warrant for the search of a bus or a passenger who boarded a bus because one of the requirements for applying a search warrant is that the place to be searched must be specifically designated and described. 2. The trial court erred in holding or assuming that if a search warrant was applied for by the NARCOM agents, still no court would issue a search warrant for the reason that the same would be considered a general search warrant which may be quashed. 3. The trial court erred in not finding that the warrantless search resulting to the arrest of accused-appellant violated the latters constitutional rights. 4. The trial court erred in not holding that although the defense of denial is weak yet the evidence of the prosecution is even weaker.
These submissions are impressed with merit. In People v. Ramos,[3] this Court held that a search may be conducted by law enforcers only on the strength of a search warrant validly issued by a judge as provided in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution which provides:

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

This constitutional guarantee is not a blanket prohibition against all searches and seizures as it operates only against unreasonable searches and seizures. The plain import of the language of the Constitution, which in one sentence prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and at the same time prescribes the requisites for a valid warrant, is that searches and seizures are normally unreasonable unless authorized by a validly issued search warrant or warrant of arrest. Thus, the fundamental protection accorded by the search and seizure clause is that between person and police must stand the protective authority of a magistrate clothed with power to issue or refuse to issue search warrants or warrants of arrest.[4] Further, articles which are the product of unreasonable searches and seizures are inadmissible as evidence pursuant to the doctrine pronounced in Stonehill v. Diokno.[5] This exclusionary rule was later enshrined in Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution, thus:

Section 3(2). Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding.
From the foregoing, it can be said that the State cannot simply intrude indiscriminately into the houses, papers, effects, and most importantly, on the person of an individual. The constitutional provision guaranteed an impenetrable shield against unreasonable searches and seizures. As such, it protects the privacy and sanctity of the person himself against unlawful arrests and other forms of restraint. [6] Therewithal, the right of a person to be secured against any unreasonable seizure of his body and any deprivation of his liberty is a most basic and fundamental one. A statute, rule or situation which allows exceptions to the requirement of a warrant of arrest or search warrant must perforce be strictly construed and their application limited only to cases specifically provided or allowed by law. To do otherwise is an infringement upon personal liberty and would set back a right so basic and deserving of full protection and vindication yet often violated.[7] The following cases are specifically provided or allowed by law: 1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court[8] and by prevailing jurisprudence;

2.

Seizure of evidence in plain view, the elements of which are:

(a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties; (b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are; (c) the evidence must be immediately apparent, and

(d) plain view justified mere seizure of evidence without further search; 3. Search of a moving vehicle. Highly regulated by the government, the vehicles inherent mobility reduces expectation of privacy especially when its transit in public thoroughfares furnishes a highly reasonable suspicion amounting to probable cause that the occupant committed a criminal activity; 4.
5. 6. 7.

Consented warrantless search;


Customs search;[9] Stop and Frisk;[10] and Exigent and Emergency Circumstances.[11]

The above exceptions, however, should not become unbridled licenses for law enforcement officers to trample upon the constitutionally guaranteed and more fundamental right of persons against unreasonable search and seizures. The essential requisite of probable cause must still be satisfied before a warrantless search and seizure can be lawfully conducted. Although probable cause eludes exact and concrete definition, it generally signifies a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged. It likewise refers to the existence of such facts and circumstances which could lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the item(s), article(s) or object(s) sought in connection with said offense or subject to seizure and destruction by law is in the place to be searched.[12] It ought to be emphasized that in determining probable cause, the average man weighs facts and circumstances without resorting to the calibrations of our rules of evidence of which his knowledge is technically nil. Rather, he relies on the calculus of common sense which all reasonable men have in abundance. The same quantum of evidence is required in determining probable cause relative to search. Before a search warrant can be issued, it must be shown by substantial evidence that the items sought are in fact seizable by virtue of being connected with criminal activity, and that the items will be found in the place to be searched.[13] In searches and seizures effected without a warrant, it is necessary for probable cause to be present. Absent any probable cause, the article(s) seized could not be admitted and used as evidence against the person arrested. Probable cause, in these cases, must only be based on reasonable ground of suspicion or belief that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. In our jurisprudence, there are instances where information has become a sufficient probable cause to effect a warrantless search and seizure.

In People v. Tangliben,[14] acting on information supplied by informers, police officers conducted a surveillance at the Victory Liner Terminal compound in San Fernando, Pampanga against persons who may commit misdemeanors and also on those who may be engaging in the traffic of dangerous drugs. At 9:30 in the evening, the policemen noticed a person carrying a red travelling bag who was acting suspiciously. They confronted him and requested him to open his bag but he refused. He acceded later on when the policemen identified themselves. Inside the bag were marijuana leaves wrapped in a plastic wrapper. The police officers only knew of the activities of Tangliben on the night of his arrest. In instant case, the apprehending officers already had prior knowledge from their informant regarding Arutas alleged activities. In Tangliben policemen were confronted with an on-the-spot tip. Moreover, the policemen knew that the Victory Liner compound is being used by drug traffickers as their business address. More significantly, Tangliben was acting suspiciously. His actuations and surrounding circumstances led the policemen to reasonably suspect that Tangliben is committing a crime. In instant case, there is no single indication that Aruta was acting suspiciously. In People v. Malmstedt,[15] the Narcom agents received reports that vehicles coming from Sagada were transporting marijuana. They likewise received information that a Caucasian coming from Sagada had prohibited drugs on his person. There was no reasonable time to obtain a search warrant, especially since the identity of the suspect could not be readily ascertained. His actuations also aroused the suspicion of the officers conducting the operation. The Court held that in light of such circumstances, to deprive the agents of the ability and facility to act promptly, including a search without a warrant, would be to sanction impotence and ineffectiveness in law enforcement, to the detriment of society. Note, however, the glaring differences of Malmstedt to the instant case. In present case, the police officers had reasonable time within which to secure a search warrant. Second, Arutas identity was priorly ascertained. Third, Aruta was not acting suspiciously. Fourth, Malmstedt was searched aboard a moving vehicle, a legally accepted exception to the warrant requirement. Aruta, on the other hand, was searched while about to cross a street. In People v. Bagista,[16] the NARCOM officers had probable cause to stop and search all vehicles coming from the north to Acop, Tublay, Benguet in view of the confidential information they received from their regular informant that a woman having the same appearance as that of accused-appellant would be bringing marijuana from up north. They likewise had probable cause to search accused-appellants belongings since she fitted the description given by the NARCOM informant. Since there was a valid warrantless search by the NARCOM agents, any evidence obtained in the course of said search is admissible against accused-appellant. Again, this case differs from Aruta as this involves a search of a moving vehicle plus the fact that the police officers erected a checkpoint. Both are exceptions to the requirements of a search warrant. In Manalili v. Court of Appeals and People,[17] the policemen conducted a surveillance in an area of the Kalookan Cemetery based on information that drug addicts were roaming therein. Upon reaching the place, they chanced upon a man in

front of the cemetery who appeared to be high on drugs. He was observed to have reddish eyes and to be walking in a swaying manner. Moreover, he appeared to be trying to avoid the policemen. When approached and asked what he was holding in his hands, he tried to resist. When he showed his wallet, it contained marijuana. The Court held that the policemen had sufficient reason to accost accused-appellant to determine if he was actually high on drugs due to his suspicious actuations, coupled with the fact that based on information, this area was a haven for drug addicts. In all the abovecited cases, there was information received which became the bases for conducting the warrantless search. Furthermore, additional factors and circumstances were present which, when taken together with the information, constituted probable causes which justified the warrantless searches and seizures in each of the cases. In the instant case, the determination of the absence or existence of probable cause necessitates a reexamination of the facts. The following have been established: (1) In the morning of December 13, 1988, the law enforcement officers received information from an informant named Benjie that a certain Aling Rosa would be leaving for Baguio City on December 14, 1988 and would be back in the afternoon of the same day carrying with her a large volume of marijuana; (2) At 6:30 in the evening of December 14, 1988, accused-appellant alighted from a Victory Liner Bus carrying a travelling bag even as the informant pointed her out to the law enforcement officers; (3) The law enforcement officers approached her and introduced themselves as NARCOM agents; (4) When asked by Lt. Abello about the contents of her travelling bag, she gave the same to him; (5) When they opened the same, they found dried marijuana leaves; (6) Accused-appellant was then brought to the NARCOM office for investigation. This case is similar to People v. Aminnudin where the police received information two days before the arrival of Aminnudin that the latter would be arriving from Iloilo on board the M/V Wilcon 9. His name was known, the vehicle was identified and the date of arrival was certain. From the information they had received, the police could have persuaded a judge that there was probable cause, indeed, to justify the issuance of a warrant. Instead of securing a warrant first, they proceeded to apprehend Aminnudin. When the case was brought before this Court, the arrest was held to be illegal; hence any item seized from Aminnudin could not be used against him. Another recent case is People v. Encinada where the police likewise received confidential information the day before at 4:00 in the afternoon from their informant that Encinada would be bringing in marijuana from Cebu City on board M/V Sweet Pearl at 7:00 in the morning of the following day. This intelligence information regarding the culprits identity, the particular crime he allegedly committed and his exact whereabouts could have been a basis of probable cause for the lawmen to secure a warrant. This Court held that in accordance with Administrative Circular No. 13 and Circular No. 19, series of 1987, the lawmen could have applied for a warrant even after court hours. The failure or neglect to secure one cannot serve as an excuse for violating Encinadas constitutional right. In the instant case, the NARCOM agents were admittedly not armed with a warrant of arrest. To legitimize the warrantless search and seizure of accused-appellants bag,

accused-appellant must have been validly arrested under Section 5 of Rule 113 which provides inter alia:

Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. - A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: (a) When in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; xxx xxx xxx.

Accused-appellant Aruta cannot be said to be committing a crime. Neither was she about to commit one nor had she just committed a crime. Accused-appellant was merely crossing the street and was not acting in any manner that would engender a reasonable ground for the NARCOM agents to suspect and conclude that she was committing a crime. It was only when the informant pointed to accused-appellant and identified her to the agents as the carrier of the marijuana that she was singled out as the suspect. The NARCOM agents would not have apprehended accused-appellant were it not for the furtive finger of the informant because, as clearly illustrated by the evidence on record, there was no reason whatsoever for them to suspect that accusedappellant was committing a crime, except for the pointing finger of the informant. This the Court could neither sanction nor tolerate as it is a clear violation of the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Neither was there any semblance of any compliance with the rigid requirements of probable cause and warrantless arrests. Consequently, there was no legal basis for the NARCOM agents to effect a warrantless search of accused-appellants bag, there being no probable cause and the accused-appellant not having been lawfully arrested. Stated otherwise, the arrest being incipiently illegal, it logically follows that the subsequent search was similarly illegal, it being not incidental to a lawful arrest. The constitutional guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure must perforce operate in favor of accusedappellant. As such, the articles seized could not be used as evidence against accusedappellant for these are fruits of a poisoned tree and, therefore, must be rejected, pursuant to Article III, Sec. 3(2) of the Constitution. Emphasis is to be laid on the fact that the law requires that the search be incidental to a lawful arrest, in order that the search itself may likewise be considered legal. Therefore, it is beyond cavil that a lawful arrest must precede the search of a person and his belongings. Where a search is first undertaken, and an arrest effected based on evidence produced by the search, both such search and arrest would be unlawful, for being contrary to law.[18] As previously discussed, the case in point is People v. Aminnudin[19] where, this Court observed that:

x x x accused-appellant was not, at the moment of his arrest, committing a crime nor was it shown that he was about to do so or that he had just done so. What he was doing was descending the gangplank of the M/V Wilcon 9 and there was no outward indication that called for his arrest. To all appearances, he was like any of the other passengers innocently disembarking from the vessel. It was only when the informer pointed to him as the carrier of the marijuana that he suddenly became suspect and so subject to apprehension. It was the furtive finger that triggered his arrest. The identification by the informer was the probable cause as determined by the officers (and not a judge) that authorized them to pounce upon Aminnudin and immediately arrest him.
In the absence of probable cause to effect a valid and legal warrantless arrest, the search and seizure of accused-appellants bag would also not be justified as seizure of evidence in plain view under the second exception. The marijuana was obviously not immediately apparent as shown by the fact that the NARCOM agents still had to request accused-appellant to open the bag to ascertain its contents. Neither would the search and seizure of accused-appellants bag be justified as a search of a moving vehicle. There was no moving vehicle to speak of in the instant case as accused-appellant was apprehended several minutes after alighting from the Victory Liner bus. In fact, she was accosted in the middle of the street and not while inside the vehicle. People v. Solayao,[20] applied the stop and frisk principle which has been adopted in Posadas v. Court of Appeals.[21] In said case, Solayao attempted to flee when he and his companions were accosted by government agents. In the instant case, there was no observable manifestation that could have aroused the suspicion of the NARCOM agents as to cause them to stop and frisk accused-appellant. To reiterate, accusedappellant was merely crossing the street when apprehended. Unlike in the abovementioned cases, accused-appellant never attempted to flee from the NARCOM agents when the latter identified themselves as such. Clearly, this is another indication of the paucity of probable cause that would sufficiently provoke a suspicion that accused-appellant was committing a crime. The warrantless search and seizure could not likewise be categorized under exigent and emergency circumstances, as applied in People v. De Gracia.[22] In said case, there were intelligence reports that the building was being used as headquarters by the RAM during a coup detat. A surveillance team was fired at by a group of armed men coming out of the building and the occupants of said building refused to open the door despite repeated requests. There were large quantities of explosives and ammunitions inside the building. Nearby courts were closed and general chaos and disorder prevailed. The existing circumstances sufficiently showed that a crime was being committed. In short, there was probable cause to effect a warrantless search of the building. The same could not be said in the instant case. The only other exception that could possibly legitimize the warrantless search and seizure would be consent given by the accused-appellant to the warrantless search as

to amount to a waiver of her constitutional right. The Solicitor General argues that accused-appellant voluntarily submitted herself to search and inspection citing People v. Malasugui[23] where this Court ruled:

When one voluntarily submits to a search or consents to have it made on his person or premises, he is precluded from complaining later thereof. (Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., [V]ol. I, p. 631.) The right to be secure from unreasonable search may, like every right, be waived and such waiver may be made either expressly or impliedly.
In support of said argument, the Solicitor General cited the testimony of Lt. Abello, thus:
Q A When this informant by the name of alias Benjie pointed to Aling Rosa, what happened after that? We followed her and introduced ourselves as NARCOM agents and confronted her with our informant and asked her what she was carrying and if we can see the bag she was carrying. What was her reaction? She gave her bag to me. So what happened after she gave the bag to you?

Q A Q

I opened it and found out plastic bags of marijuana inside.[24]

This Court cannot agree with the Solicitor Generals contention for the Malasugui case is inapplicable to the instant case. In said case, there was probable cause for the warrantless arrest thereby making the warrantless search effected immediately thereafter equally lawful.[25] On the contrary, the most essential element of probable cause, as expounded above in detail, is wanting in the instant case making the warrantless arrest unjustified and illegal. Accordingly, the search which accompanied the warrantless arrest was likewise unjustified and illegal. Thus, all the articles seized from the accused-appellant could not be used as evidence against her. Aside from the inapplicability of the abovecited case, the act of herein accusedappellant in handing over her bag to the NARCOM agents could not be construed as voluntary submission or an implied acquiescence to the unreasonable search. The instant case is similar to People v. Encinada,[26] where this Court held:

[T]he Republics counsel avers that appellant voluntarily handed the chairs containing the package of marijuana to the arresting officer and thus effectively waived his right against the warrantless search. This he gleaned from Bolonias testimony.
Q: A: After Roel Encinada alighted from the motor tricycle, what happened next? I requested to him to see his chairs that he carried.

Q: A: Q: A:

Are you referring to the two plastic chairs? Yes, sir. By the way, when Roel Encinada agreed to allow you to examine the two chairs that he carried, what did you do next? I examined the chairs and I noticed that something inside in between the two chairs.

We are not convinced. While in principle we agree that consent will validate an otherwise illegal search, we believe that appellant -- based on the transcript quoted above -- did not voluntarily consent to Bolonias search of his belongings. Appellants silence should not be lightly taken as consent to such search. The implied acquiscence to the search, if there was any, could not have been more than mere passive conformity given under intimidating or coercive circumstances and is thus considered no consent at all within the purview of the constitutional guarantee. Furthermore, considering that the search was conducted irregularly, i.e., without a warrant, we cannot appreciate consent based merely on the presumption of regularity of the performance of duty.(Emphasis supplied) Thus, accused-appellants lack of objection to the search is not tantamount to a waiver of her constitutional rights or a voluntary submission to the warrantless search. As this Court held in People v. Barros:[27]

x x x [T]he accused is not to be presumed to have waived the unlawful search conducted on the occasion of his warrantless arrest simply because he failed to objectx x x. To constitute a waiver, it must appear first that the right exists; secondly, that the person involved had knowledge, actual or constructive, of the existence of such right; and lastly, that said person had an actual intention to relinquish the right (Pasion Vda. de Garcia v. Locsin, 65 Phil. 698). The fact that the accused failed to object to the entry into his house does not amount to a permission to make a search therein (Magoncia v. Palacio, 80 Phil. 770). As pointed out by Justice Laurel in the case of Pasion Vda. de Garcia v. Locsin (supra): xxx xxx xxx x x x As the constitutional guaranty is not dependent upon any affirmative act of the citizen, the courts do not place the citizen in the position of either contesting an officers authority by force, or waiving his constitutional rights; but instead they hold that a peaceful submission to a search or seizure is not a consent or an invitation thereto, but is merely a demonstration of regard for the supremacy of the law. (Citation omitted).

We apply the rule that: courts indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver of fundamental constitutional rights and that we do not presume acquiescence in the loss of fundamental rights.[28] (Emphasis supplied) To repeat, to constitute a waiver, there should be an actual intention to relinquish the right. As clearly illustrated in People v. Omaweng,[29] where prosecution witness Joseph Layong testified thus:
PROSECUTOR AYOCHOK: QAQAQAQAQAQAWhen you and David Fomocod saw the travelling bag, what did you do? When we saw that travelling bag, we asked the driver if we could see the contents. And what did or what was the reply of the driver, if there was any? He said you can see the contents but those are only clothings (sic). When he said that, what did you do? We asked him if we could open and see it. When you said that, what did he tell you? He said you can see it. And when he said you can see and open it, what did you do? When I went inside and opened the bag, I saw that it was not clothings (sic) that was contained in the bag. And when you saw that it was not clothings (sic), what did you do? When I saw that the contents were not clothes, I took some of the contents and showed it to my companion Fomocod and when Fomocod smelled it, he said it was marijuana.(Emphasis supplied)

In the above-mentioned case, accused was not subjected to any search which may be stigmatized as a violation of his Constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. If one had been made, this Court would be the first to condemn it as the protection of the citizen and the maintenance of his constitutional rights is one of the highest duties and privileges of the Court. He willingly gave prior consent to the search and voluntarily agreed to have it conducted on his vehicle and traveling bag, which is not the case with Aruta. In an attempt to further justify the warrantless search, the Solicitor General next argues that the police officers would have encountered difficulty in securing a search warrant as it could be secured only if accused-appellants name was known, the vehicle identified and the date of its arrival certain, as in the Aminnudin case where the arresting officers had forty-eight hours within which to act. This argument is untenable. Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution provides:

x x x [N]o search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined by the judge, or such other responsible officer as may be authorized by law, after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. (Italics supplied)
Search warrants to be valid must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. The purpose of this rule is to limit the things to be seized to those and only those, particularly described in the warrant so as to leave the officers of the law with no discretion regarding what articles they shall seize to the end that unreasonable searches and seizures may not be made.[30] Had the NARCOM agents only applied for a search warrant, they could have secured one without too much difficulty, contrary to the assertions of the Solicitor General. The person intended to be searched has been particularized and the thing to be seized specified. The time was also sufficiently ascertained to be in the afternoon of December 14, 1988. Aling Rosa turned out to be accused-appellant and the thing to be seized was marijuana. The vehicle was identified to be a Victory Liner bus. In fact, the NARCOM agents purposely positioned themselves near the spot where Victory Liner buses normally unload their passengers. Assuming that the NARCOM agents failed to particularize the vehicle, this would not in any way hinder them from securing a search warrant. The above particulars would have already sufficed. In any case, this Court has held that the police should particularly describe the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized, wherever and whenever it is feasible.[31] (Emphasis supplied) While it may be argued that by entering a plea during arraignment and by actively participating in the trial, accused-appellant may be deemed to have waived objections to the illegality of the warrantless search and to the inadmissibility of the evidence obtained thereby, the same may not apply in the instant case for the following reasons: 1. The waiver would only apply to objections pertaining to the illegality of the arrest as her plea of not guilty and participation in the trial are indications of her voluntary submission to the courts jurisdiction.[32] The plea and active participation in the trial would not cure the illegality of the search and transform the inadmissible evidence into objects of proof. The waiver simply does not extend this far.

2. Granting that evidence obtained through a warrantless search becomes admissible upon failure to object thereto during the trial of the case, records show that accused-appellant filed a Demurrer to Evidence and objected and opposed the prosecutions Formal Offer of Evidence.
It is apropos to quote the case of People v. Barros,[33] which stated:

It might be supposed that the non-admissibility of evidence secured through an invalid warrantless arrest or a warrantless search and seizure may be waived by an

accused person. The a priori argument is that the invalidity of an unjustified warrantless arrest, or an arrest effected with a defective warrant of arrest may be waived by applying for and posting of bail for provisional liberty, so as to estop an accused from questioning the legality or constitutionality of his detention or the failure to accord him a preliminary investigation. We do not believe, however, that waiver of the latter necessarily constitutes, or carries with it, waiver of the former--an argument that the Solicitor General appears to be making impliedly. Waiver of the non-admissibility of the fruits of an invalid warrantless arrest and of a warrantless search and seizure is not casually to be presumed, if the constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures is to retain its vitality for the protection of our people. In the case at bar, defense counsel had expressly objected on constitutional grounds to the admission of the carton box and the four (4) kilos of marijuana when these were formally offered in evidence by the prosecution. We consider that appellants objection to the admission of such evidence was made clearly and seasonably and that, under the circumstances, no intent to waive his rights under the premises can be reasonably inferred from his conduct before or during the trial.(Emphasis supplied)
In fine, there was really no excuse for the NARCOM agents not to procure a search warrant considering that they had more than twenty-four hours to do so. Obviously, this is again an instance of seizure of the fruit of the poisonous tree, hence illegal and inadmissible subsequently in evidence. The exclusion of such evidence is the only practical means of enforcing the constitutional injunction against unreasonable searches and seizure. The nonexclusionary rule is contrary to the letter and spirit of the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.[34] While conceding that the officer making the unlawful search and seizure may be held criminally and civilly liable, the Stonehill case observed that most jurisdictions have realized that the exclusionary rule is the only practical means of enforcing the constitutional injunction against abuse. This approach is based on the justification made by Judge Learned Hand that only in case the prosecution which itself controls the seizing officials, knows that it cannot profit by their wrong, will the wrong be repressed.[35] Unreasonable searches and seizures are the menace against which the constitutional guarantees afford full protection. While the power to search and seize may at times be necessary to the public welfare, still it may be exercised and the law enforced without transgressing the constitutional rights of the citizens, for the enforcement of no statute is of sufficient importance to justify indifference to the basic principles of government.[36] Those who are supposed to enforce the law are not justified in disregarding the rights of the individual in the name of order. Order is too high a price to pay for the loss of liberty. As Justice Holmes declared: I think it is less evil that some criminals escape

than that the government should play an ignoble part. It is simply not allowed in free society to violate a law to enforce another, especially if the law violated is the Constitution itself.[37] WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 73, Olongapo City, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. For lack of evidence to establish her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, accused-appellant ROSA ARUTA Y MENGUIN is hereby ACQUITTED and ordered RELEASED from confinement unless she is being held for some other legal grounds. No costs. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Purisima, JJ., concur.

People vs. Aruta Case Digest


People vs. Aruta 288 SCRA 626 G.R. No. 120515 April 13, 1998 Facts: On Dec. 13, 1988, P/Lt. Abello was tipped off by his informant that a certain Aling Rosa w ill be arriving from Baguio City with a large volume of marijuana and assembled a team. The next day, at the Victory Liner Bus terminal they waited for the bus coming from Baguio, when the informer pointed out who Aling Rosa was, the team approached her and introduced themselves as NARCOM agents. When Abello asked aling Rosa about the contents of her bag, the latter handed it out to the police. They found dried marijuana leaves packed in a plastic bag marked cash katutak. Instead of presenting its evidence, the defense filed a demurrer to evidence alleging the illegality of the search and seizure of the items. In her testimony, the accused claimed that she had just come from Choice theatre where she watched a movie Balweg. While about to cross the road an old woman asked her for help in carrying a shoulder bag, when she was later on arrested by the police. She has no knowledge of the identity of the old woman and the woman was nowhere to be found. Also, no search warrant was presented. The trial court convicted the accused in violation of the dangerous drugs of 1972 Issue: Whether or Not the police correctly searched and seized the drugs from the accused. Held: The following cases are specifically provided or allowed by law: 1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court 8 and by prevailing jurisprudence 2. Seizure of evidence in "plain view," the elements of which are: (a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties; (b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are; (c) the evidence must be immediately apparent, and (d) "plain view" justified mere seizure of evidence without further search;

3. Search of a moving vehicle. Highly regulated by the government, the vehicle's inherent mobility reduces expectation of privacy especially when its transit in public thoroughfares furnishes a highly reasonable suspicion amounting to probable cause that the occupant committed a criminal activity; 4. Consented warrantless search; 5. Customs search; 6. Stop and Frisk; 7. Exigent and Emergency Circumstances. The essential requisite of probable cause must still be satisfied before a warrantless search and seizure can be lawfully conducted. The accused cannot be said to be committing a crime, she was merely crossing the street and was not acting suspiciously for the Narcom agents to conclude that she was committing a crime. There was no legal basis to effect a warrantless arrest of the accuseds bag, there was no probable cause and the accused was not lawfully arrested. The police had more than 24 hours to procure a search warrant and they did not do so. The seized marijuana was illegal and inadmissible evidence.