Political Law

The People of the Philippines vs Ruben Montilla

Can't share this digest on Facebook? Here's why.

image_printPrint this!

G.R. No. 123872 – 285 SCRA 703 – Political Law – Bill of Rights – Search and Seizure – Informer’s Tip – Warrantless Arrest
On 19 June 1994 at about 2pm, police officers Talingting and Clarin were informed by an asset that a drug courier would be arriving from Baguio to Dasmariñas carrying an undetermined amount of marijuana. The next day, the informant pointed at Ruben Montilla as the courier who was waiting in a waiting shed in Brgy. Salitran, Dasmariñas. Montilla was then carrying a bag and a carton. The police officers approached Montilla and then asked him what was in his luggage. Montilla replied that they contained his personal belongings. The police officers then asked Montilla to open his luggage and Montilla voluntarily complied. Upon opening, the police saw the marijuana bricks (28 kilos in total) and right then and there, they arrested Montilla.

In court, Montilla denied the allegations and he said he came to Cavite from Baguio for work and he does not have any effects with him at that time except for some pocket money. The Court did not believe him and he was sentenced to death. On appeal, Montilla averred that the search and seizure conducted was illegal for there was no warrant and, during trial, he should have been given the opportunity to cross examine the informant. He said that since the informant has given the cops the information about his arrival as early as the day before his apprehension, the cops should have ample time to secure a search warrant.

ISSUE: Whether or not the warrantless arrest conducted is legal.

HELD: Yes. The SC ruled that the warrantless arrest is legal and so was the warrantless search.

The police cannot obtain a warrant due to the exigency of the matter. In the case at bar, it should be noted that the information relayed by the informant to the cops was that there would be delivery of marijuana at Barangay Salitran by a courier coming from Baguio in the “early morning” of June 20, 1994. Even assuming that the policemen were not pressed for time, this would be beside the point for, under these circumstances, the information relayed was too sketchy and not detailed enough for the obtention of the corresponding arrest or search warrant. While there is an indication that the informant knew the courier, the records do not reveal that he knew him by name.

On such bare information, the police authorities could not have properly applied for a warrant, assuming that they could readily have access to a judge or a court that was still open by the time they could make preparations for applying therefor, and on which there is no evidence presented by the defense. In determining the opportunity for obtaining warrants, not only the intervening time is controlling but all the coincident and ambient circumstances should be considered, especially in rural areas.

The search was consented by Montilla. Montilla, when he was asked to open his luggage readily complied. As a rule, silence in warrantless searches and seizures does not necessarily mean yes nor consent for it could just be a compliance upon the part of the person being searched BUT in this case, the Supreme Court is convinced, based on evidence, that Montilla spontaneously performed affirmative acts of volition by himself opening the bag without being forced or intimidated to do so, which acts should properly be construed as a clear waiver of his right.

A legitimate warrantless arrest, as above contemplated, necessarily cloaks the arresting police officer with authority to validly search and seize from the offender

(1) dangerous weapons, and

(2) those that may be used as proof of the commission of an offense.

ISSUE 2: What is the rule on the presentation of confidential informants in court?

Informants are generally not presented in court because of the need to hide their identities and preserve their invaluable services to the police. Moreover, it is up to the prosecution whom to present in court as its witnesses, and not for the defense to dictate that course. Nevertheless, an Accused could resort to the coercive process of subpoena to compel that eyewitness to appear before the court.

Read full text here.

image_printPrint this!

Leave a Reply