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Asuncion vs. CA, GR 125959, 1 February 1999
On 6 December 1993, in compliance with the order of the Malabon Municipal Mayor to intensify campaign against illegal drugs particularly at Barangay Tañong, the Chief of the Malabon Police AntiNarcotics Unit ordered his men to conduct patrol on the area with specific instruction to look for a certain vehicle with a certain plate number and watch out for a certain drug pusher named Vic Vargas. Pursuant thereto, SPO1 Advincula, PO3 Parcon, PO3 Pilapil and a police aide were dispatched at around 11:45 p.m.. The team proceeded to Barangay Tañong where they were joined by their confidential informant and the latter informed them that a gray Nissan car is always parked therein for the purpose of selling shabu. While patrolling along Leoño Street, the confidential informant pointed the gray Nissan car to the policemen and told them that the occupant thereof has shabu in his possession. The policemen immediately flagged down the said car along First Street and approached the driver, who turned out to be Jose Maria Asuncion y Marfori, a movie actor using the screen name Vic Vargas and who is also known as Binggoy. Advincula then asked Asuncion if they can inspect the vehicle. As Asuncion acceded thereto, Advincula conducted a search on the vehicle and he found a plastic packet containing white substance suspected to be methamphetamine hydrochloride beneath the driver's seat. Asuncion told the policemen that he just borrowed the said car and he is not the owner thereof. Asuncion was thereafter taken at the police headquarters for the purpose of taking his identification. However, when he was frisked by Advincula at the headquarters, the latter groped something protruding from his underwear, which when voluntarily taken out by the accused turned out to be a plastic packet containing white substance suspected to be methamphetamine hydrochloride. A press conference was conducted the following day presided by Northern Police District Director Pureza during which Asuncion admitted that the methamphetamine hydrochloride were for his personal use in his shooting. On the other hand, Asuncion denied the charges against him. He claimed that on that day, "between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., he was abducted at gun point in front of the house where his son lives by men who turned out to be members of the Malabon Police Anti-Narcotics Unit; that he was told to board at the back seat by the policemen who took over the wheels; that he acceded to be brought at the Pagamutang Bayan ng Malabon for drug test but only his blood pressure was checked in the said hospital; that he was thereafter brought at the Office of the Malabon Police Anti-Narcotics Unit; and that he is not aware of what happened at 11:45 p.m. as he was then sleeping at the said office." On 14 June 1994, a decision was rendered by the trial court finding Asuncion guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged, and sentenced him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of 1 year 8 months and 20 days as minimum, to 3 years 6 months and 20 days, as maximum, and to pay a fine of P3,000.00. On 29 June 1994, a Notice of Appeal was filed and the records of the case were transmitted by the trial court to the Court of Appeals. On 30 April 1996 a decision was rendered by the appellate court, modifying the penalty imposed (reducing the sentence to 6 months of arresto mayor in its maximum period as minimum to 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional in its medium period as maximum and deleting the fine of P3,000.00 imposed on Asuncion). On 6 August 1996, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Asuncion. Asuncion filed a petition for review on certiorari Supreme Court.
Whether the search upon Asuncion’s vehicle is valid.
Well-entrenched in this country is the rule that no arrest, search and seizure can be made without a valid warrant issued by competent judicial authority. So sacred is this right that no less than the fundamental law of the land ordains it. However, the rule that search and seizure must be supported by a valid warrant is not absolute. The search of a moving vehicle is one of the doctrinally accepted exceptions to the Constitutional mandate that no search or seizure shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge after personally determining the existence of probable cause. The prevalent circumstances of the case undoubtedly bear out the fact that the search in question was made as regards a moving vehicle — Asuncion's vehicle was "flagged down" by the apprehending officers upon identification. Therefore, the police authorities were justified in searching Asuncion's automobile without a warrant since the situation demanded immediate action. The apprehending officers even sought the permission of petitioner to search the car, to which the latter agreed. As such, since the shabu was discovered by virtue of a valid warrantless search and Asuncion himself freely gave his consent to said search, the prohibited drugs found as a result were admissible in evidence.