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Bache & Co. v. Ruiz, 37 SCRA 323 (1971)
Whether the corporation has the right to contest the legality of the seizure of documents from its office
The legality of a seizure can be contested only by the party whose rights have been impaired thereby, and that the objection to an unlawful search and seizure is purely personal and cannot be availed of by third parties. In Stonehill, et al. vs. Diokno, et al. (GR L-19550, 19 June 1967; 20 SCRA 383) the Supreme Court impliedly recognized the right of a corporation to object against unreasonable searches and seizures; holding that the corporations have their respective personalities, separate and distinct from the personality of the corporate officers, regardless of the amount of shares of stock or the interest of each of them in said corporations, whatever, the offices they hold therein may be; and that the corporate officers therefore may not validly object to the use in evidence against them of the documents, papers and things seized from the offices and premises of the corporations, since the right to object to the admission of said papers in evidence belongs exclusively to the corporations, to whom the seized effects belong, and may not be invoked by the corporate officers in proceedings against them in their individual capacity. The distinction between the Stonehill case and the present case is that: in the former case, only the officers of the various corporations in whose offices documents, papers and effects were searched and seized were the petitioners; while in the latter, the corporation to whom the seized documents belong, and whose rights have thereby been impaired, is itself a petitioner. On that score, the corporation herein stands on a different footing from the corporations in Stonehill. Moreover, herein, the search warrant was void inasmuch as First, there was no personal examination conducted by the Judge of the complainant (De Leon) and his witness (Logronio). The Judge did not ask either of the two any question the answer to which could possibly be the basis for determining whether or not there was probable cause against Bache & Co. and Seggerman. The participation of the Judge in the proceedings which led to the issuance of Search Warrant 2-M-70 was thus limited to listening to the stenographer's readings of her notes, to a few words of warning against the commission of perjury, and to administering the oath to the complainant and his witness. This cannot be consider a personal examination. Second, the search warrant was issued for more than one specific offense. The search warrant was issued for at least 4 distinct offenses under the Tax Code. The first is the violation of Section 46(a), Section 72 andSection 73 (the filing of income tax returns), which are interrelated. The second is the violation of Section 53 (withholding of income taxes at source). The third is the violation of Section 208 (unlawful pursuit of business or occupation); and the fourth is the violation of Section 209 (failure to make a return of receipts, sales, business or gross value of output actually removed or to pay the tax due thereon). Even in their classification the 6 provisions are embraced in 2 different titles: Sections 46(a), 53, 72 and 73 are under Title II (Income Tax); while Sections 208 and 209 are under Title V (Privilege Tax on Business and Occupation). Lastly, the search warrant does not particularly describe the things to be seized. Search Warrant No. 2-M-70 tends to defeat the major objective of the Bill of Rights, i.e., the elimination of general warrants, for the language used therein is so all-embracing as to include all conceivable records of the corporation, which, if seized, could possibly render its business inoperative. Thus, Search Warrant 2-M-70 is null and void.
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