In the morning of 13 December 1988, the law enforcement officers received information from an informant named “Benjie” that a certain “Aling Rosa” would be leaving for Baguio City on 14 December 1988 and would be back in the afternoon of the same day carrying with her a large volume of marijuana; at 6:30 in the evening of 14 December 1988, Aruta alighted from a Victory Liner Bus carrying a travelling bag; the informant pointed at her to the law enforcement officers; NARCOM officers approached her and introduced themselves as NARCOM agents; when asked by Lt. Abello about the contents of her travelling bag, she gave the same to him; when they opened the same, they found dried marijuana leaves; Aruta was then brought to the NARCOM office for investigation.
ISSUE: Whether or not the conducted search and seizure is valid.
HELD: No. The SC ruled in favor of Aruta and has noted that some drug traffickers are being freed due to technicalities. Aruta cannot be said to be committing a crime. Neither was she about to commit one nor had she just committed a crime. Aruta was merely crossing the street and was not acting in any manner that would engender a reasonable ground for the NARCOM agents to suspect and conclude that she was committing a crime. It was only when the informant pointed to Aruta and identified her to the agents as the carrier of the marijuana that she was singled out as the suspect. The NARCOM agents would not have apprehended Aruta were it not for the furtive finger of the informant because, as clearly illustrated by the evidence on record, there was no reason whatsoever for them to suspect that accused-appellant was committing a crime, except for the pointing finger of the informant. The SC could neither sanction nor tolerate the same as it is a clear violation of the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Neither was there any semblance of any compliance with the rigid requirements of probable cause and warrantless arrests. Consequently, there was no legal basis for the NARCOM agents to effect a warrantless search of Aruta’s bag, there being no probable cause and the accused-appellant not having been lawfully arrested. Stated otherwise, the arrest being incipiently illegal, it logically follows that the subsequent search was similarly illegal, it being not incidental to a lawful arrest. The constitutional guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure must perforce operate in favor of accused-appellant. As such, the articles seized could not be used as evidence against accused-appellant for these are “fruits of a poisoned tree” and, therefore, must be rejected, pursuant to Article III, Sec. 3(2) of the Constitution.
When is a warrantless search allowed?
1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Section 12, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court 8 and by prevailing jurisprudence;
2. Seizure of evidence in “plain view,” the elements of which are:
(a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties;
(b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are;
(c) the evidence must be immediately apparent, and
(d) “plain view” justified mere seizure of evidence without further search;
3. Search of a moving vehicle. Highly regulated by the government, the vehicle’s inherent mobility reduces expectation of privacy especially when its transit in public thoroughfares furnishes a highly reasonable suspicion amounting to probable cause that the occupant committed a criminal activity;
4. Consented warrantless search;
5. Customs search;
6. Stop and Frisk; and
7. Exigent and Emergency Circumstances.