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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 137841 October 1, 2001
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ALBERTO CHUA alias "BERT", accused-appellant.
PUNO, J .:
This is an automatic review of the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Third Judicial Region,
Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 78
1
in Criminal Case No. 514-M-98 imposing on accused-appellant Alberto
Chua alias "Bert" the penalty of death.
In a criminal complaint dated April 13, 1998, accused-appellant was charged with the crime of rape
as follows:
"The undersigned complainant, assisted by her mother, Esterlita A. Chua, hereby accuses
Alberto Chua alias Bert of the crime of rape, penalized under the provisions of Art. 335 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659, committed as follows:
That on or about the 28th day of March 1998, in the municipality of Malolos, province of
Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, father of the offended party, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
by means of force, threats and intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge of
the said offended party, Chenny A. Chua, a minor, against her will.
Contrary to law.
Malolos, Bulacan, April 13, 1998.
(SGD.) CHENNY CHUA
Complainant.
Assisted by:
(SGD.) ESTERLITA CHUA
(Mother)
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me this 13th day of April 1998 at Malolos, Bulacan.
(SGD.) RENATO T. SANTIAGO
3rd Asst. Prov'l. Prosecutor
xxx xxx xxx
I hereby certify that I have conducted proceedings in this case pursuant to the provisions of
Sec. 7, Rule 112 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, considering that the herein
accused, who is under custody of the law without warrant of arrest has refused to sign a
written waiver of his rights under Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code, and finding a prima
facie against the accused, the undersigned is filing this information with the approval of the
Provincial Prosecutor.
(SGD.) RENATO T. SANTIAGO
3rd Asst. Prov'l. Prosecutor
xxx xxx xxx"
2

On April 20, 1998, appellant was arraigned and he pleaded "not guilty."
3
At the pretrial conference on
May 8, 1998, however, appellant, through counsel, manifested that he was withdrawing his plea and
changing it to "guilty" as charged. As prayed for by counsel for appellant, the trial court reset the
pretrial to May 13, 1998.
On May 13, 1998, the trial court propounded several questions on appellant inquiring into the
voluntariness of his change of plea and his comprehension of its consequences. Satisfied with
appellant's response, the court ordered his rearraignment. Appellant, with the assistance of counsel,
withdrew his plea of "not guilty" and entered a plea of "guilty" as charged.
4
Thereafter, the court
ordered the prosecution to present its evidence.
The prosecution presented the testimony of private complainant, Chenny Chua. It also presented
Chenny's sworn statement before the Malolos police investigators
5
and the medico-legal report of
the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory on the girl's physical condition.
6
From these
evidence, the following facts were established: On March 28, 1998, at around 2:00 in the afternoon
in Canalate, Malolos, Bulacan, Chenny Chua, thirteen (13) years of age, and her father, herein
accused-appellant, were watching television in the house of her aunt, Salvacion Ardenio Niegas. At
about 2:15, Chenny stood up and went to her family's rented room adjacent to her aunt's house.
Chenny entered the room and laid down on the floor to sleep. Beside her slept two of her younger
sisters. Some fifteen (15) minutes later, Chenny woke up and saw her father, herein appellant,
shaking her and calling her name. Then, she saw him remove her short pants. Chenny stared at
him. She knew what her father was going to do but did not resist him because he had been sexually
molesting her since July 1996. She resisted the very first time it happened, but he forced himself on
her and told her not to say anything about the incident. He said that if her mother would find out, her
mother would surely kill him, and she would be imprisoned and no one would take care of Chenny
and her seven (7) little brothers and sisters. So Chenny bore everything in silence. And that fateful
day, Chenny just closed her eyes as he peeled off her short pants. Appellant went on top of the girl
and parted her thighs. He inserted his penis into her vagina and made a push and pull movement for
some five minutes. After he was through, appellant told Chenny not to report the incident to her
mother. Appellant got up and suddenly sensed that someone was watching them. He turned around
and saw the gaping hole in the wall divider. The hole was not covered by the wall calendar as it used
to be.
Earlier, when appellant was on top of Chenny, the girl saw someone peeping through the hole in the
divider. It was her aunt, Salvacion Ardenio Niegas, and Chenny heard her exclaim "Nakita ko! Nakita
ko!" Chenny did not cry out for help because she was afraid. She then saw another person peering
through hole. It was her little cousin. When appellant realized that someone was watching them, he
got up and said "O, Gene!" and pretended to fix something at the door. Softly, appellant again
warned Chenny not to tell her mother about what he did to her.
Five days later, on April 2, 1998, Chenny's mother, Esterlita, arrived. She had just come from work in
Taytay, Rizal. Chenny's aunt lost no time in reporting to Esterlita what she witnessed. Fuming mad,
Esterlita roused her daughter from sleep and asked her about the incident. Chenny denied it. By
Esterlita's persistent questioning, however, Chenny finally admitted her father's dastardly act.
Forthwith, Esterlita brought her daughter to the police station where Chenny executed a sworn
statement and submitted herself to a physical and medical examination.
Dr. Manuel C. Aves, the medico-legal officer at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Crime
Laboratory Office found the following:
"GENERAL AND EXTRA-GENITAL
PHYSICAL BUILD: lean built
MENTAL STATUS: coherent female
BREAST: conical
ABDOMEN: flat
PHYSICAL INJURIES: No sign of physical injury
GENITAL
PUBIC HAIR: scanty
LABIA MAJORA: coaptated
LABIA MINORA: light pink
HYMEN: Multiple healed lacerations at 12, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 o'clock
EXTERNAL VAGINAL ORIFICE: With moderate resistance upon inserting examining
finger.
VAGINAL CANAL: prominent rugosities
CERVIX: smooth
PERI-URETHRAL AND VAGINAL SMEARS:
REMARKS: Multiple healed lacerations at 12, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 o'clock.
xxx xxx xxx"
7

On May 22, 1998, the trial court found appellant guilty of the offense and sentenced him to death.
The court held:
"WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, this Court hereby finds accused ALBERTO CHUA
alias Bert GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape defined and penalized
under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, and
sentences him to suffer the penalty of Death and to pay private complainant Chenny Chua
the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages and Twenty Thousand
Pesos (P20,000.00) as exemplary damages. With costs.
SO ORDERED."
8

Hence this recourse. Appellant assigns the following errors:
"I THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN METING OUT THE DEATH PENALTY ON THE
ACCUSED DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF
MINORITY WAS NOT PROPERLY ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION. THE FACT THAT
COMPLAINANT DAUGHTER WAS DESCRIBED AS A "MINOR" IN THE INFORMATION IS
A CONCLUSION OF LAW AND NOT A STATEMENT OF FACT.
"II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ACCEPTING WITH ALACRITY ACCUSED'S PLEA OF
GUILTY TO THE OFFENSE. CHARGED."
9

When the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, Rule 116, Section 3 of the Rules on Criminal
Procedure provides the following procedure:
"Sec. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence. — When the accused pleads
guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness
and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and require the prosecution to prove
his guilt and the precise degree of culpability.
The accused may also present evidence in his behalf."
10

When the accused enters a plea of guilty to a capital offense, the trial court must do the following: (1)
conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness of the plea and the accused's full comprehension
of the consequences thereof; (2) require the prosecution to present evidence to prove the guilt of the
accused and the precise degree of his culpability; and (3) ask the accused if he desires to present
evidence in his behalf and allow him to do so if he desires.
11
This procedure is mandatory and a
judge who fails to observe it commits grave abuse of discretion.
12

The essence of a plea of guilty is that the accused admits his guilt freely, voluntarily and with fill
knowledge of the consequences and meaning of his act and with a clear understanding of the
precise nature of the crime charged in the complaint or information.
13
Thus, when the accused enters
a plea of guilt, the trial court must, first of all, determine the voluntariness of the said plea and
accused's comprehension of its consequences. In making such determination, the court must
conduct a searching inquiry. The inquiry is not a simple question and answer exercise; it must be
searching. To "search" means "to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find
something."
14
This looking into carefully and thoroughly, in the matter under consideration, must be
focused on: (1) the voluntariness of the plea; and (2) the full comprehension of the consequences of
said plea.
15

There is no hard and fast rule as to the number and type of questions the judge may put to the
accused, or as to the earnestness with which he may conduct the inquiry. What is essential is that
the judge should, first of all, consider the age, personality, educational background, socio-economic
status and other personal circumstances of the accused confessing his guilt.
16
The trial judge should
determine whether the accused had been coerced or placed under a state of duress either by actual
threats of physical harm coming from malevolent or avenging quarters, or by mistaken impressions
given, wittingly or unwittingly, by authorities or parties; whether the accused had the assistance of
competent counsel during the custodial and preliminary investigations; and whether he understood
the charges against him.
17
The court should inquire if the accused knows the crime with which he is
charged and explain to him the elements of the crime and the corresponding penalty therefor. The
court may require the accused to fully narrate the incident that spawned the charges against him, or
make him reenact the manner in which he perpetrated the crime, or cause him to furnish and explain
missing details of significance
18
about his personal circumstances, about the commission of the crime
and events during the custodial and preliminary investigation. In doing so, all questions posed by the
judge to the accused should be in a language known and understood by the latter.
19
Still, the inquiry
need not stop with the accused. The court may also propound questions to accused's counsel to
determine whether or not said counsel had conferred with, and completely explained to accused the
meaning of a plea and its consequences.
20
In all cases, the bottom line is that the judge must fully
convince himself that: (1) the accused, in pleading guilty, is doing so voluntarily; and (2) he, in so
doing, is truly guilty, and that there exists a rational basis for a finding of guilt, based on his
testimony.
21

In the case at bar, appellant claims that the trial court accepted his plea of guilt without following the
procedure laid down in the Rules of Court. He alleges that the court should have placed him on the
witness stand to find out if he actually understood the effect of his action and to hear his version of
the events.
22

We agree.
The following transpired at the pretrial:
"SECOND CALL
PROS. SANTIAGO : Same appearance for the State, your honor.
ATTY. LADERAS : Same appearance for the accused. Your honor, may I request for a five-
minute recess to confer with the accused because he is intending to change his plea.
ON THE THIRD CALL
PROS. SANTIAGO : Same appearance, your honor.
ATTY. LADERAS : For the accused, your honor.
COURT : Is he willing to change his plea?
ATTY. LADERAS : Yes, your honor.
COURT : Do you understand that by withdrawing your former plea and entering a plea of
guilty, you will be sentenced by this court to the penalty of death?
ACCUSED : (After having conferred with counsel) Yes, your honor.
COURT : And despite that fact, you will still insist on withdrawing your former plea of NOT
GUILTY and change it to one GUILTY as charged?
ACCUSED : Not anymore, your honor.
ATTY. LADERAS : He will accept whatever will be the punishment of the court.
COURT : In other words, you are determined to admit that you are guilty as charged?
ACCUSED : Yes, your honor.
COURT : Despite the fact that the penalty of the charge carries with it the penalty of death?
ACCUSED : I cannot do anything, your honor. If that will be the verdict, your honor.
COURT : You are not being forced to admit the charge. But if you admit and enter the plea
of guilty to the charge, the court will impose the penalty of death.
ACCUSED : Yes, your honor.
COURT : You will not change your mind?
ACCUSED : "Mahirap kalabanin ang pamilya ko."
COURT : You are sure of your decision?
ACCUSED : Yes, your honor.
COURT : Rearraign the accused.
(After the arraignment)
COURT : When this case was called for pretrial conference, accused Alberto Chua, through
counsel, manifested that he is withdrawing his former plea of NOT GUILTY and he is
changing it to one of GUILTY as charged. Rearraigned, the accused, assisted by Atty. Ma.
Cristine Laderas of the Public Attorney's Office entered a plea of GUILTY as charged. After
conducting searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the
consequences of his plea, the accused voluntarily manifested to the Court that he
understood all the consequences of his change of plea and that he is willing to face the
verdict of death. Considering the accused's plea of guilty to a capital offense, the prosecution
was required to present evidence to prove the guilt of the accused and the precise degree of
his culpability. SO ORDERED.
xxx xxx xxx"
23

From the foregoing, it is clear that the court a quo did not probe carefully and thoroughly into the
reasons for appellant's change of plea and his comprehension of the consequences of said plea.
First of all, there was no determination of appellant's age, personality, educational background and
socio-economic status. All questions the court propounded were couched in English and yet there is
nothing in the records to show that appellant had a good comprehension, or at least, a nodding
acquaintance with the English language. As to whether the judge translated and explained his
questions to appellant in a language or dialect known and understood by the latter is not likewise
borne by the records. It is not insignificant that appellant revealed to the trial judge that it was difficult
to go against his family. This statement should have led the trial judge to inquire into the family
background and the voluntariness of appellant's guilty plea. But no questions were asked. It would
have been well for the court to go over appellant's relationship with the victim and the other family
members, the specific reason why appellant decided to change his plea, the effect of his guilty plea
on his family, and the fact that despite said plea, if his family knew that he was still to be put to
death.
Further, the trial court did not bother to explain the essential elements of the crime with which
appellant was charged. Appellant was convicted by the court a quo of incestuous rape under the first
qualifying circumstance of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659. The
information charged him with "rape penalized under the provisions of Art. 335 of the Revised Penal
Code, as amended by R.A. 7659." It did not specify under what particular paragraph of Article 335
the charge was made. Nothing in the record shows that appellant was aware as to what specific
paragraph of the law he was being charged. As regards the penalty, the court may have repeatedly
informed appellant that his penalty was death, notwithstanding his guilty plea, but it did not disclose
the indemnity he was to pay the victim. The decision of the court ordered appellant to pay Chenny
the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P20,000.00 as exemplary damages. As a result of
the court's failure to fully explain the basis of appellant's indictment, appellant was not accorded his
fundamental right to be informed of the precise nature of the accusation against him, and was
therefore denied due process.
24

The trial court did not only neglect to make the searching inquiry, it also failed to inquire from
appellant whether he desired to present evidence in his behalf. This is the third requirement under
Section 3, Rule 116. The prosecution presented the victim's testimony, her sworn statement and
medico-legal report as its evidence. But when cross-examination came, appellant's counsel declined
to do so. The court merely accepted this and did not inquire into the reason why they waived cross-
examination. Given this disinterest, the court should have, at least, informed appellant that he could
present his own evidence and ask him if he desired to do so. Courts must proceed with meticulous
care wherever the punishment for the crime is in its severest form. The execution of a death
sentence is irrevocable and experience has shown that innocent persons have, at times, pleaded
guilty.
25
In capital offenses, the essence of judicial review is anchored on the principle that while
society allows violent retribution for heinous crimes committed against it, it always must make certain
that the blood of the innocent is not spilled, or that the guilty are not made to suffer more than their
just measure of punishment and retribution.
26
The prudent course to follow is to take testimony not
only to satisfy the trial judge but also to aid the Supreme Court in determining whether the accused
understood the significance and consequences of his plea.
27
This is to preclude any room for
reasonable doubt in the mind of the trial court, or this Court on review, as to the possibility that there
might have been some misunderstanding by the accused of the nature of the charge to which he
pleaded guilty, and to ascertain the circumstances attendant to the commission of the crime which
justify or require the exercise of a greater or lesser degree of severity in the imposition of the
prescribed penalties.
28

There is also another element of the crime overlooked by the trial court. Chenny testified that on that
day subject of the complaint-information, when appellant started peeling off her short pants, she did
not resist him. She just stared at her father knowing what he was going to do to her. She fought back
the very first time he molested her, but he forced himself on her. Since then, she did not resist him;
and that day was like the rest. Appellant was able to satisfy his lust on the girl without exerting force
or intimidation on her.
In incestuous rape cases, the victim's lack of resistance has been explained as a product of the
moral ascendancy parents exercise over their children, viz:
"x x x A rape victim's actions are oftentimes overwhelmed by fear rather than by reason. It is
this fear, springing from the initial rape, that the perpetrator hopes to build a climate of
extreme psychological terror, which would, he hopes, numb his victim into silence and
submissiveness. Incestuous rape magnifies this terror, because the perpetrator is a person
normally expected to give solace and protection to the victim. Furthermore, in incest, access
to the victim is guaranteed by the blood relationship, proximity magnifying the sense of
helplessness and degree of fear.
xxx xxx xxx
x x x [T]he rapist perverts whatever moral ascendancy and influence he has over his victim in
order to intimidate and force the latter to submit to repeated acts of rape over a period of
time. In many instances, he succeeds and the crime is forever kept on a lid. In a few cases,
the victim suddenly finds the will to summon unknown sources of courage to cry out for help
and bring her depraved malefactor to justice.
x x x The perpetrator takes full advantage of his blood relationship, ascendancy and
influence over his victim, both to commit the sexual assault and to intimidate the victim into
silence. Unfortunately for some perpetrators of incestuous rape, their victims manage to
break out from the cycle of fear and terror. x x x. . . ."
29

In Philippine society, the father is considered the head of the family, and the children are taught not
to defy the father's authority even when this is abused. They are taught to respect the sanctity of
manage and to value the family above everything else. Hence, when the abuse begins, the victim
sees no reason or need to question the righteousness of the father whom she had trusted right from
the start.
30
The value of respect and obedience to parents instilled among Filipino children is
transferred into the very same value that exposes them to risks of exploitation by their own
parents.
31
The sexual relationship could begin so subtly that the child does not realize that it is
abnormal. Physical force then becomes unnecessary. The perpetrator takes full advantage of this
blood relationship. Most daughters cooperate and this is one reason why they suffer tremendous
guilt later on. It is almost impossible for a daughter to reject her father's advances, for children
seldom question what grown-ups tell them to do.
32

But incest, no matter how despicable, hateful and revolting it is both to the victim and society, is not
a crime in our statute books. There is no law that specifically defines and penalizes incest. The case
at bar involves rape. Rape, under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, is committed
by having carnal knowledge of a woman: (1) by using force or intimidation; (2) when the woman is
deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; or (3) when the woman is under twelve years of age or
is demented.
33
In the instant case, the victim was not under twelve years of age or demented when
her father abused her. Neither was she deprived of reason or rendered unconscious. No force or
violence was used on her, she herself testified. As to whether there was intimidation, this element
must be viewed in the light of the victim's perception and judgment at the time of the commission of
the crime. It is addressed to the mind of the victim and is, therefore, subjective.
34

There is nothing in Chenny's testimony that shows how appellant intimidated her into giving him her
body. Intimidation breaks down the victim's moral resistance and makes her submit to the evil in
order to escape what she conceives to be a greater evil.
35
There is no proof of what greater evil
Chenny had to escape that made her submit to her father's carnal desires. The mere fact that
appellant is her father and therefore exercises moral ascendancy over his daughter cannot ipso
facto lead this Court to conclude that there was intimidation. There must be some evidence of the
intimidation employed on the victim as to indubitably show how vitiated the victim's consent was to
the violation of her womanhood. After all, rape is committed against or without the consent of the
victim.
36
The very first time appellant violated Chenny, he did not use any weapon to threaten her
into submission. Neither did appellant threaten her with blackmail or words of terror. He warned her
not to tell her mother because if she did, her mother will surely kill him and she will land in jail and no
one will take care of Chenny and her younger brothers and sisters. These words of doom may give
the reason why Chenny did not report the incident or incidents to her mother, her aunt or other
people; but they do not show how they brainwashed her into giving in to appellant's lustful desires.
The doomsday scenario is not per se sufficient to establish the psychological terror that made the
girl submit to her father. The court cannot rely on presumptions of moral ascendancy,
37
for in this
new century where mores change, it could well be that in certain cases, the traditional moral
ascendancy of a parent over children is a myth. Presumptions of moral ascendancy cannot and
should not prevail over the constitutional presumption of innocence. Force or intimidation is an
element of the crime of rape. There must, therefore, be proof beyond reasonable doubt that the
victim did not resist her defloration due to the moral ascendancy of the accused.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the judgment appealed from is set aside. The case is remanded to the trial
court for rearraignment and thereafter, should the accused appellant enter a plea of "guilty," for
reception of evidence for the prosecution, and should the accused-appellant so desire, for reception
likewise of evidence on his part, all in accord with the guidelines set forth in this Decision.
SO ORDERED.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. 128222 June 17, 1999
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
CHUA HO SAN @ TSAY HO SAN, accused-appellant.

DAVIDE, JR., C.J .:
Chua Ho San @ Tsay Ho San (hereafter CHUA) prays for his acquitttal and the reversal of the
judgment of 10 February 1997 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Fernando, La Union, Branch
66, finding him guilty of transporting, without appropriate legal authority, the regulated substance
methamphetamine hydrochloride, in violation of Section 15,
1
Article III of Republic Act No. 6425,
otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 as further amended by R.A. No. 7659,
2
and
sentencing him to "die by lethal injection." In view thereof, the judgement was brought to this Court for
automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 11 of R.A.
No. 7659.
In response to reports of rampant smuggling of firearms and other contraband, Jim Lagasca Cid
(hereafter CID), as Chief of Police of the Bacnotan Police Station, of La Union began patrolling the
Bacnotan coastline with his officers. While monitoring the coastal area of Barangay Bulala on 29
March 1995, he intercepted a radio call at around 12:45 p.m. from Barangay Captain Juan Almoite
(hereafter ALMOITE) of Barangay Tammocalao requesting police assistance regarding an unfamiliar
speedboat the latter had spotted. According to ALMOITE, the vessel looked different from the boats
ordinarily used by fisherfolk of the area and was poised to dock at Tammocalao shores. CID and six
of his men led by his Chief Investigator, SPO1 Reynoso Badua (hereafter BADUA), proceeded
forthwith to Tammocalao beach and there conferred with ALMOITE. CID then observed that the
speedboat ferried a lone male passenger. As it was routine for CID to deploy his men in strategic
places when dealing with similar situations, he ordered his men to take up positions thirty meters
from the coastline. When the speedboat landed, the male passenger alighted, and using both hands,
carried what appeared a multicolored strawbag. He then walked towards the road. By this time,
ALMOITE, CID and BADUA, the latter two conspicuous in their uniform and issued side-arms,
became suspicious of the man as he suddenly changed direction and broke into a run upon seeing
the approaching officers. BADUA, however, prevented the man from fleeing by holding on to his right
arm. Although CID introduced themselves as police officers, the man appeared impassive. Speaking
in English, CID then requested the man to open his bag, but he seem not to understand. CID thus
tried speaking Tagalog, then Ilocano, but still to no avail. CID then resorted to what he termed "sign
language;" he motioned with his hands for the man to open the bag. This time, the man apparently
understood and acceded to the request. A search of the bag yielded several transparent plastic
packets containing yellowish crystalline substances. CID then gestured to the man to close the bag,
which he did. As CID wished to proceed to the police station, he signaled the man to follow, but the
latter did not to comprehend. Hence, CID placed his arm around the shoulders of the man and
escorted the latter to the police headquarters.
At the police station, CID surmised, after having observed the facial features of the man, that he was
probably Taiwanese. CID then "recited and informed the man of his constitutional rights" to remain
silent, to have the assistance of a counsel, etc. Eliciting no response from the man, CID ordered his
men to find a resident of the area who spoke Chinese to act as an enterpreter. In the meantime,
BADUA opened the bag and counted twenty-nine (29) plastic packets containing yellowish
crystalline substance which he and CID suspected was shabu. The interpreter, Mr. Go Ping Guan,
finally arrived, through whom the man was "apprised of his constitutional rights." The police
authorities were satisfied that the man and the interpreter perfectly understood each other despite
their uncertainty as to what language was spoken. But when the policemen asked the man several
questions, he retreated to his obstinate reticence and merely showed his I.D. with the name Chua
Ho San printed thereon. CHUA's bag and its contents were sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory at
Camp Diego Silang, Carlatan, San Fernando, La Union for laboratory examination. In the meantime,
CHUA was detained at the Bacnotan Police Station.1âwphi1.nêt
Later that same day, Police Chief Inspector and Forensic Chemist Theresa Ann Bugayong Cid of the
Philippine National Police, Region I, received a letter request
3
from CID — incidentally her husband —
to conduct a laboratory examination of twenty-nine (29) plastic packets placed inside a multicolored
strawbag. In her Chemistry Report No. D-025-95,
4
she stated that her qualitative examination established
the contents of the plastic packets, weighing 28.7 kilos, to be positive of methamphetamine hydrochloride
or shabu, a regulated drug.
CHUA was initially charged with illegal possession of methaphetamine hydrochloride before the RTC
which docketed the case as Criminal Case No. 4037. However, pursuant to the recommendation of
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, La Union, that the facts of the case could support an
indictment for illegal transport of a regulated drug, the information was subsequently amended to
allege that CHUA "willfully, unlawfully and feloniously transpor(ted) 28.7 kilos of [m]ethamphetamine
[h]ydrochloride (shabu) without the necessary permit or authority to transport the same" in violation
of Section 15, Article III of R.A. 6425 as amended by R.A. 7659.
At his arraignment on 31 July 1995, CHUA entered a plea of not guilty. The RTC was satisfied that
CHUA understood the amended information read to him in Fukien by the Fukien-speaking
interpreter, Thelma Sales Go.
Thereafter, the RTC exerted all efforts to obtain the services of a Taiwanese Interpreter through the
auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, it was only after directing the request to the
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines that interpreters were assigned to CHUA.
Trial finally ensued. The State presented evidence tending to establish the above narration of facts
which were culled chiefly from the testimony of CID, its first witness, and whose testimony, in turn,
was substantially corroborated by witnesses BADUA and ALMOITE.
Experts witness Theresa Ann Cid, confirmed the entries of her chemistry report in that the contents
of the 29 plastic packets weighing 28.7 kilos sent to her for chemical analysis were pure,
unadulterated methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. She also explained that they were
unwashed, hence they appeared yellowish.
For the defense, CHUA testified in his own behalf through interpreter Steven Yu. He disclosed that
he hails from Taiwan and was employed in a shipbuilding and repairing company. On 21 March
1995, he was instructed by his employer Cho Chu Rong (hereafter RONG) to board the latter's 35-
tonner ship which would embark for Nan Au Port, Mainland China where they would buy fish. Upon
arrival at their destination, RONG left the ship, came back without the fish, but with two bags, the
contents of which he never divulged to CHUA. RONG then showed to CHUA a document
purportedly granting them authority to fish on Philippine waters. So they sailed towards the
Philippines and reached Dagupan, Pangasinan on 29 March 1995. At around 10:30 a.m., they
disembarked on a small speedboat with the two bags RONG brought with him from China. While,
sailing, RONG made several phone calls using his mobile phone. CHUA heard RONG asked the
person on the other side of the line if he could see the speedboat they were riding. Apparently, the
person on shore could not see them so they cruised over the waters for about five hours more when
finally, low on fuel and telephone battery, they decided to dock. CHUA anchored the boat while
RONG carried the bags to shore. The tasks completed, RONG left to look for a telephone while
CHUA rested and sat one and half (1 1/2) meters away from one bag. A child thereafter pointed out
to him that one bag was missing much to RONG's dismay when he learned of it. When a crowd
started to mill around them, the police arrived. CHUA then realized that RONG was nowhere to be
found. The police immediately approached CHUA, and with nary any spoken word, only gestures
and hand movements, they escorted him to the precinct where he was handcuffed and tied to a
chair. Later, the police, led by an officer who CHUA guessed as the Chief of Police arrived with the
motor engine of the speedboat and a bag. They presented the bag to him, opened it, inspected and
weighed the contents, then proclaimed them as methaphetamine hydrochloride.
CHUA denounced the prosecution's story as a distortion of the truth. He denied he was ever favored
with an interpreter or informed of his "constitutional rights," particularly of his right to counsel.
Consequently, his arrest was tainted with illegality and the methamphetamine hydrochloride found in
the bag should have been regarded inadmissible as evidence. He also maintained that CID never
graced the occasion of his setting foot for the first time at Tammocalao beach. BADUA certainly
never prevented him from running away, as such thought failed to make an impression in his mind.
Most significantly, he denied ownership and knowledge of the contents of the bag, emphasizing that
RONG alone exercised dominion over the same.
Elmer Parong, (hereafter PARONG) a Sangguniang Bayan member, recalled that on the date in
question, he arrived at the beach with the police. He saw CHUA standing with a bag beside him. He
also remembered hearing from the people congregating at the beach that CHUA arrived with a
companion and a certain policeman Anneb had chased the latter's car. He additionally claimed that
when the crowd became unruly, the police decided to bring CHUA to police headquarters. There, the
mayor took charge of the situation — he opened CHUA's bag with the assistance of the police, he
called for a forensic chemist surnamed CID to take a sample of the contents of the bag, and he
ordered his officials to find an interpreter. Throughout the proceedings, photographers were busy
taking pictures to document the event.
Last to testify was Arsenio CRAIG, a farmer and resident of Tammocalao who narrated that he was
standing with CHUA on the beach when two men and a lady arrived. They were about to get a bag
situated near CHUA when they detected the arrival of the local police. They quickly disappeared.
CRAIG then noticed ALMOITE and PARONG at the beach but not CID.
In a decision promulgated on 10 February 1997, the RTC found that the prosecution successfully
discharged its burden of proving that CHUA transported 28.7 kilos of methamphetamine
hydrochloride without legal authority to do so. Invoking People v. Tagliben
5
as authority, the RTC
characterized the search as incidental to a valid in flagrante delicto arrest, hence it allowed the admission
of the methamphetamine hydrochloride as corpus delicti. The RTC also noted the futility of informing
CHUA of his constitutional rights to remain silent, and to have competent and independent counsel
preferably of his own choice, considering the language barrier and the observation that such irregularity
was "rectified when accused was duly arraigned and . . . (afterwards) participated in the trial of this case."
The RTC then disregarded the inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimonies of the prosecution
witnesses as these referred to minor details which did not impair the credibility of the witnesses or tarnish
the credence conferred on the testimonies thus delivered.
The RTC also believed that CHUA conspired not only with his alleged employer RONG and the
Captain of the 35-tonner vessel in the illegal trade of prohibited drugs on Philippine shores, but with
several other members of an organized syndicate bent on perpetrating said illicit traffic. Such
predilection was plainly evident in the dispositive portion, to wit:
WHEREFORE, and in view of all the foregoing, as proven and established by
convincing and satisfactory evidence that the accused had conspired and acted in
concert with one Cho Chu Rong, not to mention Chen Ho Fa, the Skipper of the 35-
tonner ship they used in coming to the Country from China and Taiwan, this Court
finds the accused Chua Ho San @ Tsay Ho San guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the offense of Violation of Sec. 15, Art. III of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by R.A. No.
7659 as charged in the Information, and considering the provisions of Sec. 20 of R.A.
No. 7659 that the maximum penalty shall be imposed if the quantity
sold/possessed/transported is "200 grams or more" in the case of Shabu, and
considering, further that the quantity involved in this case is 28.7 kilograms which is
far beyond the weight ceiling specified in said Act, coupled with the findings of
conspiracy or that accused is a member of an organized syndicated crime group, this
Court, having no other recourse but to impose the maximum penalty to accused, this
Court hereby sentences the said accused Chua Ho San @ Tsay Ho San to die by
lethal injection; to pay a fine of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00); and to pay the
costs.
The Court hereby orders Director Ricareido [sic] Sarmiento of the Philippine National
Police to immediately form an investigating Committee to be composed by [sic] men
of unimpeachable integrity, who will conduct an exhaustive investigation regarding
this case to determine whether there was negligence or conspiracy in the escape of
Cho Chu Rong and the two (2) or three (3) persons who approached the accused in
the seashore of Tammocalao, Bacnotan, La Union, and attempted to take the
remaining bag from accused, as well as the whereabouts of the other bag; and to
furnish this Court a copy of the report/result of the said investigation in order to show
compliance herewith sixty (60) days from receipt hereof.
The confiscated 28.7 kilograms of Methaphetamine Hydrochloride or Shabu is
ordered turned over immediately to the Dangerous Drugs Board for destruction in
accordance with the law.
The fiberglass boat with its motor engine is hereby ordered confiscated in favor of the
government and to be turned over to the Philippine National Police, La Union
Command, for use in their Bantay-Dagat operations against all illegal seaborne
activities.
SO ORDERED.
6

Before this Court, CHUA posits that the RTC erred in (1) admitting as competent evidence the 29
plastic packets of methamphetamine hydrochloride since they were indubitably "forbidden fruits;" (2)
granting weight and credence to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses despite glaring
inconsistencies on material points; and in (3) appreciating conspiracy between him and an organized
syndicate in the illicit commerce of prohibited drugs since this was not alleged in the information.
The Solicitor General traverses CHUA's contentions by asserting that: (1) the search was licitly
conducted despite the absence of search and seizure warrants as circumstances immediately
preceding to and comtemporaneous with the search necessitated and validated the police action;
and (2) that there was an effective and valid waiver of CHUA's right against unreasonable searches
and seizures since he consented to the search.
We reverse the RTC.
Enshrined in the Constitution is the inviolable right to privacy home and person. It explicitly ordains
that people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose.
7
Inseparable, and not
merely corollary or incidental to said right and equally hallowed in and by the Constitution, is the
exclusionary principle which decrees that any evidence obtained in violation of said right is inadmissible
for any purpose in any proceedings.
8

The Cosntitutional proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures does not, of course,
forestall reasonable searches and seizure. What constitutes a reasonable or even an unreasonable
search in any particular case is purely a judicial question, determinable from a consideration of the
circumstances involved.
9
Verily, the rule is, the Constitution bars State intrusions to a person's body,
personal effects or residence except if conducted by virtue of a valid of a valid search warrant issued in
compliance with the procedure outlined on the Constitution and reiterated in the Rules of Court;
"otherwise such search and seizure become "unreasonable" within the meaning of the aforementioned
constitutional provision."
10
This interdiction against warrantless searches and seizures, however, is not
absolute and such warrantless searches and seizures have long been deemed permissible by
jurisprudence
11
in instances of (1) search of moving vehicles, (2) seizure in plain view, (3) customs
searches, (4) waiver or consent searches, (5) stop and frisk situations (Terry search),
12
and (6) search
incidental to a lawful arrest. The last includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuan to an
equally valid warrantless arrest, for, while as a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with a
valid wararnt of arrest, the Rules of Court recognize permissible warrantless arrests, to wit: (1) arrests in
flagrante delicto, (2) arrests effected in hot pursuit, and (3) arrests of escaped prisoners.
13

This Court is therefore tasked to determine whether the warrantless arrest, search and seizure
conducted under the facts of the case at bar constitute a valid exemption from the warrant
requirement. Expectedly and quite understandably, the prosecution and the defense painted
extremely divergent versions of the incident. But this Court is certain that CHUA was arrested and
his bag searched without the benefit of a warrant.
In cases of in fragrante 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 facts
14
or as recent case law
15
adverts to, personal knowledge of facts or
circumstances convincingly indicative or constitutive of probable cause. The term probable cause had
been understood to mean a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently
strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man's belief that the person accused is guilty of the offense
with which he is charged.
16
Specifically with respect to arrests, it is such facts and circumstances which
would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed by the
person sought to be
arrested.
17
In People v. Montilla,
18
the Court acknowledged that "the evidentiary measure for the
propriety of filing criminal charges, and correlatively, for effecting warrantless arrest, has been reduced
and liberalized." Noting that the previous statutory and jurisprudential evidentiary standard was "prima
facie evidence" and that it had been dubiously equated with probable cause, the Court explained:
[F]elicitously, those problems and confusing concepts (referring to prima
facie evidence and probable cause) were clarified and set aright, at least on the
issue under discussion, by the 1985 amendment of the Rules of Court which
provides in Rule 112 thereof that the quantum of evidence required in preliminary
investigation is such evidence as suffices to "engender as well founded belief" as to
the fact of the commission of the crime and the respondent's probable guilt thereof. It
has the same meaning as the related phraseology used in other parts of the same
Rule, that is, that the investigating fiscal "finds cause to hold the respondent for trial,"
or where "a probable cause exists." It should, therefore, be in that sense, wherein the
right to effect a warrantless arrest should be considered as legally authorized."
(emphasis supplied)
19

Guided by these principles, this Court finds that there are no facts on record reasonably suggestive
or demonstrative of CHUA's participation in on going criminal enterprise that could have spurred
police officers from conducting the obtrusive search. The RTC never took the pains of pointing to
such facts, but predicated mainly its decision on the finding that was "accused was caught red-
handed carrying the bagful of [s]habu when apprehended." In short, there is no probable cause. At
least in People v. Tangliben, the Court agreed with the lower court's finding that compelling reasons
(e.g., accused was acting suspiciously, on the spot identification by an informant that accused was
transporting prohibitive drug, and the urgency of the situation) constitutive of probable cause
impelled police officers from effecting an in flagrante delicto arrest. In the case at bar, the Solicitor
General proposes that the following details are suggestive of probable cause — persistent reports of
rampant smuggling of firearm and other contraband articles, CHUA's watercraft differing in
appearance from the usual fishing boats that commonly cruise over the Bacnotan seas, CHUA's
illegal entry into the Philippines (he lacked the necessary travel documents or visa), CHUA's
suspicious behavior, i.e. he attempted to flee when he saw the police authorities, and the apparent
ease by which CHUA can return to and navigate his speedboat with immediate dispatch towards the
high seas, beyond the reach of Philippine laws.
This Court, however, finds that these do not constitute "probable cause." None of the telltale
clues, e.g., bag or package emanating the pungent odor of marijuana or other prohibited
drug,
20
confidential report and/or positive identification by informers of courier(s) of prohibited drug and/or
the time and place where they will transport/deliver the same,
21
suspicious demeanor or behavior
22
and
suspicious bulge in the waist
23
— accepted by this Court as sufficient to justify a warrantless arrest exists
in this case. There was no classified information that a foreigner would disembark at Tammocalao beach
bearing prohibited drug on the date in question. CHUA was not identified as a drug courier by a police
informer or agent. The fact that the vessel that ferried him to shore bore no resemblance to the fishing
boats of the area did not automatically mark him as in the process of perpetrating an offense. And despite
claims by CID and BADUA that CHUA attempted to flee, ALMOITE testified that the latter was merely
walking and oblivious to any attempt at conversation when the officers approached him. This cast serious
doubt on the truthfulness of the claim, thus:
Q: How far were you when the accused put the bag on his sholder?
A: We were then very near him about three meters away from the
male person carrying the bag.
Q: To what direction was he facing when he put the bag on his
shoulder?
A: To the east direction.
Q: In relation to you, where were you.
A: With the company of Sgt. Reynoso and Maj. Cid we approached
the accused and when Maj. Cid went near him, he spoke in
Tagalong, English and Ilocano which accused did not understand
because he did not respond.
Q: When Maj. Cid was talking, what was the accused doing at that
time?
A: He was walking.
Q: To what direction he was walking?
A: He was walking to the east direction. (sic)
Q: He was walking away from you or going near you?
A: He was going away from us. That is why Sgt. Reynoso held the
right arm of the accused.
Q: Was Sgt. Badua able to hold the right arm of the accused?
A: Yes sir and he stopped.
24

True, CHUA entered Philippine territory without a visa. This was not obvious to the police. But
gossamer to the officers' sense perception and view were CHUA disembarking from a speedboat,
CHUA walking casually towards the road, and CHUA carrying a multicolored strawbag. These acts
did not convey any impression that he illegally entered Philippine shores. Neither were these overt
manifestations of an ongoing felonious activity nor of CHUA's criminal behevior as clearly
established in CID's testimony, thus:
Q Was the accused committing a crime when you introduced
yourselves:
A No, sir.
Q No, so there was no reason for you to approach the accused
because he was not doing anything wrong?
A No, sir, that is our objective, to approach the person and if ever or
whatever assistance that we can give we will give.
25

The search cannot therefore be denominated as incidental to an arrest. While a contemporaneous
search of a person arrested may be effected to deliver dangerous weapons or proofs or implements
used in the commission of the crime and which search may extend to the area within his immediate
control where he might gain possession of a weapon or evidence he can destroy,
26
a valid arrest
must precede the search. The process cannot be reversed.
In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the
validity of the incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large
majority of these cases, e.g., whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for
conducting a 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.
27

To reiterate, the search was not incidental to an arrest. There was no warrant of arrest and
the warrantless arrest did not fall under the exemptions allowed by the Rules of Court
28
as
already shown. Fom all indications, the search was nothing but a fishing expedition. It is worth
mentioning here that after introducing themselves, the police officcers immediately inquired about
the contents of the bag. What else could have impelled the officers from displaying such
inordinate interest in the bag but to ferret out evidence and discover if a felony had indeed been
committed by CHUA — in effect to "retroactively establish probable cause and validate an illegal
search and seizure."
The State then attempted to persuade this Court that there was a consented search, a legitimate
waiver of the constitutional guarantee against obtrusive searches. It is fundamental, however, that to
constitute a waiver, it must first appear that the right exists; secondly, that the person involved had
knowledge, actual or constructive, of the existence of such a right; and lastly, that said person had
an actual intention to relinquish the right.
29
CHUA never exhibited that he knew, actually or
constructively of his right against unreasonable searches or that he intentionally conceded the same. This
can be inferred from the manner by which the search performed, thus:
Q Together with your Chief Investigator, what was the first thing that
you did when you approached him (CHUA)?
A We introduced ourselves as police officers, sir.
Q Okey, in the first place why did you introduce yourselves?
A That is normal practice in our part, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
Q If it is possible. Okey (sic) now, after introducing yourselves what
did you do?
A He did not answer me and he did not utter any word,
Q When he did not utter any word. What else did he do?
A I asked again a question that if he can open his bag sir.
Q And did he understand your question when you requested him to
open his bag?
A No, sir, there is no answer.
Q No answer?
A Yes, sir, no answer.
Q And when there was no answer what did you do next?
A I used sign language sir.
Q Will you demonstrate to this Honorable Court how you
demonstrated that sign language of opening the bag mr. (sic)
witness?
A I pointed to the zipper of the bag and then made an action like this
sir.
xxx xxx xxx
SHERIFF:
The witness demonstrating (sic) by pointing to the straw bag and then
manifesting a sign to open the zipper of the straw bag moving his
right hand from left to right or from the opening to the end of the
zipper.
COURT: From the start of the zipper where you open it up to the end
of the zipper.
Witness: Yes, sir, and then I made a motion like this.
(The witness repeating the motion described on record.)
COURT: Did you open that personally?
WITNESS:
A No, your honor.
Q Now, mr. (sic) witness, why did you request the accused to open
the bag?
A Because it is our duty also to inspect his belongings sir.
Q Why, why was it — no, I reform my question your honor. Is it
normal procedure for you to examine anybody or to request anybody
to open his bag?
A The fact that he was a foreigner, sir, it is also our duty to inspect
the baggage, it is our routine duty of a police (sic), sir.
Q Is that the normal duty of a police officer to request a person to
open his bag?
A yes, sir.
Q Okey, (sic) you did not ask the accused, mr. (sic) witness, to open
his bag?
A No, sir.
Q But you simply requested him to open the nag?
A Yes, sir.
30

CHUA obviously failed to understand the events that overran and overwhelmed him. The police
officers already introduced themselves to CHUA in three languages, but he remained completely
deadpan. The police hence concluded that CHUA failed to comprehend the three languages. When
CHUA failed to respond again to the police's request to open the bag, they resorted to what they
called "sign language." They claimed that CHUA finally understood their hand motions and gestures.
This Court disagrees. If CHUA could not understand what was orally articulated to him, how could he
understand the police's "sign language." More importantly, it cannot logically be inferred from his
alleged cognizance of the "sign language" that he deliberately, intelligently, and consciously waived
his right against such an intrusive search. This Court is not unmindful of cases upholding the validity
of consented warrantless searches and seizure. But in these cases, the police officers' request to
search personnel effects was orally articulated to the accused and in such language that left no
room for doubt that the latter fully understood what was requested. In some instances, the accused
even verbally replied to the request demonstrating that he also understood the nature and
consequences of such request.
31

It was eventually discovered that the bag contained the regulated subtance. But this is a trifling
matter. If evidence obtained during an illegal search even if tending to confirm or actually confirming
initial information or suspicion of felonious activity is absolutely considered inadmissible for any
purpose in any proceeding, the same being the fruit of a poisonous trees
32
how much more of
"forbidden fruits" which did not confirm any initial suspicion of criminal enterprise as in this case —
because the police admitted that they never harbored any initial suspicion. Casting aside the regulated
substance as evidence, the remaining evidence on record are insufficient, feeble and ineffectual to
sustain CHUA's conviction.
Indeed, the likelihood of CHUA having actually transported methamphetamine hydrochloride cannot
be quickly dispelled. But the constitutional guarantee against 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. "There are those who
say that . . . 'the criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered.'. . . In some cases this
will undoubtedly be the result. But . . . 'there is another consideration — the imperative of judicial
integrity . . . 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."
33

As to the averred glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies of the posecution witnesses, this Court
considers them trivial as they refer to insignificant details which will not affect the outcome of the
case. On a passing note, this Court calls the attention of the trial court regarding its erroneous
appreciation of conspiracy. This aggravating circumstance is without question unsupported by the
records. Conspiracy was not included in the indictment nor raised in the pleadings or proceedings of
the trial court. It is also fundamental that conspiracy must be proven just like any other criminal
accusation, that is, independently and beyond reasonable doubt.
34

WHEREFORE, for all the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 66, San
Fernando, La Union in Criminal Case No. 4037 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and
accused-appellant CHUA HO SAN @ TSAY HO SAN is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged,
the evidence not being sufficient to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.