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UNILAB, INC. vs. ERNESTO ISIP or SHALIMAR PHILIPPINES [G.R. No.

163858. June 28, 2005]

Facts: UNILAB hired a private investigator to investigate a place purported
to be manufacturing fake UNILAB products, especially Revicon
multivitamins. The agent took some photographs where the clandestine
manufacturing operation was taking place. UNILAB then sought the help
of the NBI, which thereafter filed an application for the issuance of search
warrant in the RTC of Manila. After finding probable cause, the court
issued a search warrant directing the police to seize “finished or
unfinished products of UNILAB, particularly REVICON multivitamins.” No
fake Revicon was however found; instead, sealed boxes where seized,
which, when opened contained 60 ml bottles of Disudrin and 200mg
tablets of Inoflox, both were brands used by UNILAB. NBI prayed that
some of the sized items be turned over to the custody of the Bureau of
Food and Drugs (BFAD) for examination. The court granted the motion.
The respondents then filed a motion to quash the search warrant or to
suppress evidence, alleging that the seized items are considered to be
fruit of a poisonous tree, and therefore inadmissible for any purpose in any
proceeding, which the petitioners opposed alleging that the boxes of
Disudrin and Inoflox were seized under the plain view doctrine. The court,
however, granted the motion of the respondents.

Issue: Whether or not the seizure of the sealed boxes which, when
opened, contained Disudrin syrup and Inoflox, were valid under the plain
view doctrine.

Held: It is true that things not described in the warrant may be seized
under the plain view doctrine. However, seized things not described in the
warrant cannot be presumed as plain view. The State must adduce
evidence to prove that the elements for the doctrine to apply are present,
namely: (a) the executing law enforcement officer has a prior justification
for an initial intrusion or otherwise properly in a position from which he can
view a particular order; (b) the officer must discover incriminating evidence
inadvertently; and (c) it must be immediately apparent to the police that
the items they observe may be evidence of a crime, contraband, or
otherwise subject to seizure
It was thus incumbent on the NBI and the petitioner to prove that the items
were seized on plain view. It is not enough that the sealed boxes were in
the plain view of the NBI agents. However, the NBI failed to present any of
officers who were present when the warrant was enforced to prove that
the the sealed boxes was discovered inadvertently, and that such boxes
and their contents were incriminating and immediately apparent. It must
be stressed that only the enforcing officers had personal knowledge
whether the sealed boxes and their contents thereof were incriminating
and that they were immediately apparent. There is even no showing that
the NBI agents knew the contents of the sealed boxes before they were
opened. In sum then, the petitioner and the NBI failed to prove that the
plain view doctrine applies to the seized items.