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G.R. No. 129651 – 344 SCRA 36 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Search and Seizure – Requisites of a Valid Search Warrant
In Sept 1993, Rodrigo Abos, a former employee of UPC reported to the BIR that Uy Chin Ho aka Frank Uy, manager of UPC, was selling thousands of cartons of canned cartons without issuing a report. This is a violation of Sec 253 & 263 of the Internal Revenue Code. In Oct 1993, the BIR requested before RTC Cebu to issue a search warrant. Judge Gozo-Dadole issued a warrant on the same day. A second warrant was issued which contains the same substance but has only one page, the same was dated Oct 1st 2003. These warrants were issued for the alleged violation by Uy of Sec 253. A third warrant was issued on the same day for the alleged violation of Uy of Sec 238 in relation to sec 263. On the strength of these warrants, agents of the BIR, accompanied by members of the PNP, on 2 Oct 1993, searched the premises of the UPC. They seized, among other things, the records and documents of UPC. A return of said search was duly made by Labaria with the RTC of Cebu. UPC filed a motion to quash the warrants which was denied by the RTC. They appealed before the CA via certiorari. The CA dismissed the appeal for a certiorari is not the proper remedy.
ISSUE: Whether or not there was a valid search warrant issued.
HELD: The SC ruled in favor of UPC and Uy in a way for it ordered the return of the seized items but sustained the validity of the warrant. The SC ruled that the search warrant issued has not met some basic requisites of validity. A search warrant must conform strictly to the requirements of the foregoing constitutional and statutory provisions. These requirements, in outline form, are:
(1) the warrant must be issued upon probable cause;
(2) the probable cause must be determined by the judge himself and not by the applicant or any other person;
(3) in the determination of probable cause, the judge must examine, under oath or affirmation, the complainant and such witnesses as the latter may produce; and
(4) the warrant issued must particularly describe the place to be searched and persons or things to be seized.
The SC noted that there has been inconsistencies in the description of the place to be searched as indicated in the said warrants. Also the thing to be seized was not clearly defined by the judge. He used generic itineraries. The warrants were also inconsistent as to who should be searched. One warrant was directed only against Uy and the other was against Uy and UPC. The SC however noted that the inconsistencies were cured by the issuance of the latter warrant as it has revoked the two others.
Section 2, Article III of the Constitution guarantees the right of the people against unreasonable searches and seizures:
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.
Rule 126 of the Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 3. Requisite for issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue but upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense 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 things to be seized.
SEC. 4. Examination of complainant; record. The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing and under oath the complainant and any witnesses he may produce on facts personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements together with any affidavits submitted.