COMERCIANTE V. PEOPLE (763 SCRA 57)
Comerciante not having been lawfully authorized to possess any dangerous drugs, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and knowingly have in his possession, custody and control a dangerous drug known as shabu.
The police spotted Comerciante and Dasill standing and showing "improper and unpleasant movements," with one of them handing plastic sachets to the other. Thinking that the sachets may contain shabu, they immediately stopped and approached them and confiscated two (2) plastic sachets which was later on confirmed contained shabu.
Dasilla filed a demurrer to evidence, which was granted by the RTC, thus his acquittal. However, due to Comerciante's failure to file his own demurrer to evidence, the RTC considered his right to do so waived and ordered him to present his evidence.
Comerciante averred that the police were looking for "Barok", who was a notorious drug pusher in the area. They were arrested and taken to a police station. There, the police officers claimed to have confiscated illegal drugs from them and were asked money in exchange for their release.
The RTC found Comerciante guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of RA 9165, The RTC opined that there was probable cause to justify the warrantless arrest. Further, the RTC found that absent any proof of intent that P03 Calag was impelled by any malicious motive, he must be presumed to have properly performed his duty when he arrested Comerciante. Comerciante appealed. The CA affirmed Comerciante's conviction.
WON the CA correctly affirmed Comerciante's conviction
No. Section 3 (2), Article III of the Constitution provides an exclusionary rule which instructs evidence obtained from unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding.
The exclusionary rule is not an absolute and rigid proscription. One of the recognized exceptions established by jurisprudence is a search incident to a lawful arrest. Section 5, Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure lays down the rules on lawful warrantless arrests, as follows:
SEC.5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. - A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:
(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;
(b) When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and
(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
the Court finds it highly implausible that the police, even assuming that he has perfect vision, would be able to identify with reasonable accuracy - especially from a distance of around 10 meters, and while aboard a motorcycle cruising at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour - miniscule amounts of white crystalline substance inside two (2) very small plastic sachets held by Comerciante. The Court also notes that no other overt act could be properly attributed to Comerciante, the acts of standing around with a companion and handing over something to the latter cannot in any way be considered criminal acts. In fact, even if Comerciante and his companion were showing "improper and unpleasant movements" as put by P03 Calag, the same would not have been sufficient in order to effect a lawful warrantless arrest under Section 5 (a), Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.Neither has the prosecution established that the rigorous conditions set forth in Section 5 (b), Rule 113, have been complied with, i.e., that an offense had in fact just been committed and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of facts indicating that the accused had committed it. Verily, it is not enough that the arresting officer had reasonable ground to believe that the accused had just committed a crime; a crime must, in fact, have been committed first, which does not obtain in this case.