Political Law

Bache & Co. Inc. et al vs BIR Commissioner Vivencio Ruiz et al

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G.R. No. L-32409 – 37 SCRA 823 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Search and Seizure – Personal Examination of the Judge

On 24 Feb 1970, Commissioner Vera of Internal Revenue, wrote a letter addressed to J Ruiz requesting the issuance of a search warrant against petitioners for violation of Sec 46(a) of the NIRC, in relation to all other pertinent provisions thereof, particularly Sects 53, 72, 73, 208 and 209, and authorizing Revenue Examiner de Leon make and file the application for search warrant which was attached to the letter. The next day, de Leon and his witnesses went to CFI Rizal to obtain the search warrant. At that time J. Ruiz was hearing a certain case; so, by means of a note, he instructed his Deputy Clerk of Court to take the depositions of De Leon and Logronio. After the session had adjourned, J. Ruiz was informed that the depositions had already been taken. The stenographer read to him her stenographic notes; and thereafter, J Ruiz asked respondent Logronio to take the oath and warned him that if his deposition was found to be false and without legal basis, he could be charged for perjury. J. Ruiz signed de Leon’s application for search warrant and Logronio’s deposition. The search was subsequently conducted.

ISSUE: Whether or not there had been a valid search warrant.

HELD: The SC ruled in favor of Bache on three grounds.

1.J Ruiz failed to personally examine the complainant and his witness.

Personal examination by the judge of the complainant and his witnesses is necessary to enable him to determine the existence or non-existence of a probable cause.

2.The search warrant was issued for more than one specific offense.

The search warrant in question was issued for at least four distinct offenses under the Tax Code. As ruled in Stonehill “Such is the seriousness of the irregularities committed in connection with the disputed search warrants, that this Court deemed it fit to amend Section 3 of Rule 122 of the former Rules of Court that ‘a search warrant shall not issue but upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense.” Not satisfied with this qualification, the Court added thereto a paragraph, directing that ‘no search warrant shall issue for more than one specific offense.

3.  The search warrant does not particularly describe the things to be seized.

The documents, papers and effects sought to be seized are described in the Search Warrant

“Unregistered and private books of accounts (ledgers, journals, columnars, receipts and disbursements books, customers ledgers); receipts for payments received; certificates of stocks and securities; contracts, promissory notes and deeds of sale; telex and coded messages; business communications, accounting and business records; checks and check stubs; records of bank deposits and withdrawals; and records of foreign remittances, covering the years 1966 to 1970.”

The description does not meet the requirement in Art III, Sec. 1, of the Constitution, and of Sec. 3, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Court, that the warrant should particularly describe the things to be seized.

A search warrant may be said to particularly describe the things to be seized when the description therein is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow or when the description expresses a conclusion of fact not of law by which the warrant officer may be guided in making the search and seizure or when the things described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued.

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