Political Law

People of the Philippines vs Court of Appeals & Bulacan RTC Judge Caesar Casanova et al

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G.R. No. 126379 – 353 Phil. 604 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Search Warrant – Place to be Searched is Controlling

In December 1995, Quezon City PNP applied for a search warrant before the QC RTC against  Azfar Hussain  who had allegedly in his possession firearms and explosives at Abigail Variety Store, Apt. 1207 Area F, Bagong Buhay Avenue, Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. A warrant was issued the next day by J Bacalla not at AVS but at AVS, Apt. 1 Area F, Bagong Buhay Avenue, Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan – Apt 1 is immediately adjacent to AVS. The PNP then proceeded to search the said apartment where they seized money, some clothings, 4 Pakistani nationals including Hussain and some explosives. The Pakistanis petitioned before J Casanova that the search warrant is invalid for there is a discrepancy in the place described and place indicated in the warrant. AVS is not in any way the same as Apt 1 for Apt 1 is totally separate. J Casanova quashed the search warrant and ordered the return of the things seized and at the same time ordered the seized things to be inadmissible as evidence. Prosecutor Chiong moved that the decision be reversed. The CA affirmed the decision of J Casanova. Chiong averred that the policemen who did the search has acted on their knowledge. The PNP actually knew that the Pakistanis are indeed residing in Apt 1 and not in the AVS.

ISSUE: Whether or not there was a valid search warrant issued.

HELD: The SC affirmed the decision of the CA. The place to be searched, as set out in the warrant, cannot be amplified or modified by the officers’ own personal knowledge of the premises, or the evidence they adduced in support of their application for the warrant. Such a change is proscribed by the Constitution which requires inter alia the search warrant to particularly describe the place to be searched as well as the persons or things to be seized. It would concede to police officers the power of choosing the place to be searched, even if it not be that delineated in the warrant. It would open wide the door to abuse of the search process, and grant to officers executing a search warrant that discretion which the Constitution has precisely removed from them. The particularization of the description of the place to be searched may properly be done only by the Judge, and only in the warrant itself; it cannot be left to the discretion of the police officers conducting the search.

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