Honesto Ogayon vs People of the Philippines

G.R. No. 188794 – 768 Phil. 272 – 788 SCRA 670 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures – Invalid Search Warrant – Proof of Personal Examination by the Judge
Remedial Law – Criminal Procedure – Rule 126 – Motion To Quash – Waiver of Grounds for Quashal

In October 2003, the Albay PNP served a search warrant against Honesto Ogayon at his house. During the search, the police found illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. Trial ensued and after the prosecution submitted its offer of evidence, Ogayon filed his objection to the formal offer on the following grounds: (1) the inventory sheet was not signed by him, (2) the chemistry report was not under oath, and (3) the paraphernalia were not illegal per se.

Ogayon’s objections were denied. He was subsequently convicted.

On appeal before the Court of Appeals, Ogayon questioned the validity of the search warrant. Ogayon argued that the search warrant was defective because the record does not show the transcript which shows that the issuing judge conducted an examination of the applicant for search warrant and his witnesses.

The CA denied Ogayon’s appeal on the ground that his objection was not raised in a timely manner hence he has waived the right to question the warrant.

ISSUE: Whether or nor Ogayon waived his right to question the warrant.

HELD: No. There was no waiver in this case.

However, the SC emphasized that the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures and the requirement that a judge shall personally examine the applicant for a search warrant and his witnesses before issuing a search warrant do not require that the judge must attach to the record the transcript taken during the examination done when the application for the search warrant was being made. The failure to attach to the records the depositions of the complainant and his witnesses and/or the transcript of the judge’s examination, though contrary to the Rules, does not by itself nullify the warrant. The requirement to attach is merely a procedural rule and not a component of the right. Rules of procedure or statutory requirements, however salutary they may be, cannot provide new constitutional requirements. What the Constitution requires is for the judge to conduct an “examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce,” after which he determines the existence of probable cause for the issuance of the warrant.

Now in the case of Ogayon, there is however no proof that the issuing judge did conduct personal examination on the applicant and his witnesses because, apart from the lack of transcript (which is forgivable), the applicant of the search warrant WAS NOT PRESENTED during the hearing of Ogayon’s case. In fact, the police officer who served the search warrant testified that he did not know who applied for the search warrant. The records, therefore, bear no evidence from which it can be inferred that the requisite examination was made, and from which the factual basis for probable cause to issue the search warrant was derived. A search warrant must conform strictly to the constitutional requirements for its issuance; otherwise, it is void.

But did Ogayon waive his right to question the search warrant considering that he did not raise it at the earliest opportunity and he was only raising the defect on appeal contrary to Section 14, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court?

No. The right against unreasonable searches and seizures is a constitutional right. It outweighs any procedural rule. Further, the Rule does not intend to preclude belated objections against a search warrant’s validity, especially if the grounds therefor are not immediately apparent. The rule is: “All grounds and objections then available, existent or known shall be raised in the original or subsequent proceedings for the quashal of the warrant, otherwise they shall be deemed waived. A motion to quash shall consequently be governed by the omnibus motion rule, provided, however, that objections not available, existent or known during the proceedings for the quashal of the warrant may be raised in the hearing of the motion to suppress.

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