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Aniag v. COMELEC, 237 SCRA 424 (1994)
In preparation for the synchronized national and local elections scheduled on 11 May 1992, COMELEC issued on 11 December 1991 Resolution No. 2323 otherwise referred to as the "Gun Ban. Subsequently, on 26 December 1991 COMELEC issued Resolution No. 2327 providing for the summary disqualification of candidates engaged in gunrunning, using and transporting of firearms, organizing special strike forces, and establishing spot checkpoints.
On 10 January 1992, pursuant to the "Gun Ban," Mr. Serapio P. Taccad, Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Representatives, wrote to Rep. Francisco Aniang (Bulacan’s 1st District) requesting the return of the 2 firearms issued to him by the House of Representatives. Upon being advised of the request by his staff on January 13, Rep. Aniang immediately instructed his driver, Ernesto Arellano, to pick up the firearms from his home at Valle Verde and return it to Congress.
At around 5pm the same day, the PNP headed by Senior Superintendent Danilo Cordero set up a checkpoint outside the Batasan Complex some 20 meters away from its entrance. About 30 minutes later, the policemen manning the outpost flagged down the car driven by Arellano as it approached the checkpoint. They searched the car and found the firearms neatly packed in their gun cases and placed in a bag in the trunk of the car. Arellano was then apprehended and detained. He explained that he was ordered by Rep. Aniang to get the firearms from the house and return them to Sergeant-at-Arms Taccad of the House of Representatives.
Thereafter, Arellano's case went to the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office for inquest. The referral did not include Rep. Aniang as among those charged with an election offense. On 15 January 1992, the QCPO ordered the release of Arellano after finding the latter's sworn explanation meritorious.
On January 18, the City Prosecutor invited Rep. Aniang to shed light on the circumstances mentioned in Arellano's sworn explanation. Rep. Aniangs appeared at the preliminary investigation and confirmed Arellano's statement but also wrote the City Prosecutor urging him to exonerate Arellano. He explained that Arellano did not violate the firearms ban as he in fact was complying with it when apprehended by returning the firearms to Congress; and that he was petitioner's driver, not a security officer nor a bodyguard. The Quezon City Prosecutor issued a resolution which, among other matters, recommended that the case against Arellano be dismissed and that the "unofficial" charge against petitioner be also dismissed.
On April 6, 1992, upon recommendation of its Law Department, COMELEC issued Resolution No. 92-0829 directing the filing of information against petitioner and Arellano for violation of Sec. 261, par. (q), of B.P. Blg. 881 otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code, in relation to Sec. 32 of R.A. No. 7166; and petitioner to show cause why he should not be disqualified from running for an elective position, pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 2327, in relation to Sec. 32, 33 and 35 of R.A. 7166, and Sec. 52, par. (c), of B.P. Blg. 881. Rep. Aniang moved for reconsideration and to hold in abeyance the administrative proceedings as well as the filing of the information in court. On 23 April 1992, the COMELEC denied Rep. Aniang’s motion for reconsideration.
Whether or not the Warrantless Search conducted by the PNP on the Car of Rep. Aniang is valid.
NO, the Warrantless Search conducted by the PNP on the car of Rep. Aniang is not valid.
The checkpoint was set up 20 meters from the entrance to the Batasan Complex to enforce Resolution No. 2327. There was no evidence to show that the policemen were impelled to do so because of a confidential report leading them to reasonably believe that certain motorists matching the description furnished by their informant were engaged in gunrunning, transporting firearms or in organizing special strike forces. Nor, as advertised to earlier, was there any indication from the package or behavior of Arellano that could have triggered the suspicion of the policemen. Absent such justifying circumstances specifically pointing to the culpability of petitioner and Arellano, the search could not be valid. The action then of the policemen unreasonably intruded into petitioner's privacy and the security of his property, in violation of Sec. 2, Art. III, of the Constitution. Consequently, the firearms obtained in violation of petitioner's right against warrantless search cannot be admitted for any purpose in any proceeding.
As a rule, a valid search must be authorized by a search warrant duly issued by an appropriate authority.
However, this is not absolute. Aside from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of moving vehicles and the seizure of evidence in plain view, as well as the search conducted at police or military checkpoints which we declared are not illegal per se, and stressed that the warrantless search is not violative of the Constitution for as long as the vehicle is neither searched nor its occupants subjected to a body search, and the inspection of the vehicle is merely limited to a visual search.
An extensive search without warrant could only be resorted to if the officers conducting the search had reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search that either the motorist was a law offender or that they would find the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to the commission of a crime in the vehicle to be searched. The existence of probable cause justifying the warrantless search is determined by the facts of each case. Thus, we upheld the validity of the warrantless search in situations where the smell of marijuana emanated from a plastic bag owned by the accused, or where the accused was acting suspiciously, and attempted to flee.