Political Law

DOJ Sec Vicente Abad Santos vs CFI Benguet Judge Pio Marcos

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A.C. No. 207-J – 76 SCRA 301 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Search and Seizure – A search warrant must cover only one offense

On March 31, 1971, Amansec passed by a crowded house along Ledesma Street, Baguio City, where he saw a golden Buddha being offered for sale by one Rogelio Roxas. Within the premises of said house were some firearms and ammunition. Somehow, this fact reached the Philippine Constabulary (not clear if Amansec reported it to the PC). Amansec was interrogated and he was made to execute an affidavit.

At about 10:30 o’clock in the evening of 3 April 1971, perhaps after establishing all the facts, Colonel Victorino Calano went to Judge Pio Marcos to apply for a search warrant to be implemented at the address of Roxas. Calano brought with him Amansec and another police officer. Judge Marcos examined the applicant and the witnesses and at 11:45 o’clock of the same evening, he issued a warrant against Roxas for alleged violation of illegal possession of firearms and violation of Central Bank rules and regulations. The firearms were not specified and the specific Central bank rules and regulations were likewise not specified. The said warrant was implemented at about 12 midnight of 4 April 1971. Calano and his men were able to seize the golden Buddha, some gold bars, and other items not specified in the warrant. The inventory of the items seized were only submitted to the court on 13 April 1971. The seized items were initially kept by the PC and were only presented to Judge Marcos on 19 April 1971. And when the items were presented, the golden Buddha was not among the items presented.

Later, an administrative complaint was filed by Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos against Judge Marcos for alleged gross inefficiency on the ground that the judge issued a defective warrant. In particular, the warrant was issued for two offenses instead of for one offense as provided for by the law; that the warrant did not specifically describe the items to be seized; and that the golden Buddha was not presented before Judge Marcos.

The administrative case was investigated by Court of Appeals Justice Magno Gatmaitan who concluded that there might be some defects in the search warrant issued but the complaint by Santos was lacking. Hence, Justice Gatmaitan did not recommend any sanction but he deffered to the better judgment of the Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not the search warrant issued by Judge Marcos is valid.

HELD: No. But the Supreme Court agreed with Justice Gatmaitan. There may be some defects in the search warrant issued by Judge Marcos but the same does not warrant a disciplinary action against the said judge. To hold a judge administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders, assuming that he has erred, would be nothing short of harassment and would make his position unbearable.

The Supreme Court also noted that Judge Marcos was already retired. An administrative proceeding is predicated on the holding of an office or position in the government, the resignation or retirement calls for its dismissal. Interestingly, the Supreme Court also noted in the same case that the cessation from office of a respondent Judge either because of resignation, retirement or some other similar cause does not per se warrant the dismissal of an administrative complaint which was filed against him while still in the service. Each case is to be resolved in the context of the circumstances present thereat.

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