Del Rosario v. People, GR 142295, 31 May 2001
Accused-appellant Del Rosario was found guilty of violation of P. D. No. 1866 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos. Allegedly, sometime in May 1996, the police received a report that accused-appellant Vicente del Rosario was in possession of certain firearms without the necessary licenses. Acting upon the report, the PNP Criminal Investigation Group inquired from the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division whether or not the report was true. The PNP Firearms and Explosives Division issued a certification stating that per records in his office, the appellant is not a licensed/registered firearm holder of any kind and caliber. Armed with the said certificationthe police applied for a search warrant to enable them to search the house of appellant.
Upon the issuance of the warrant, a team led by P/Sr. Insp. Adique went to Norzagaray to serve the warrant. Before proceeding to the residence of the appellant, the police officers requested Barangay Chairman Rogelio de Silva and Barangay Councilman Aurelio Panteleon to accompany them in the implementation of the warrant. Upon arrival at the house of appellant, the police officers introduced themselves to the wife of appellant. When the appellant came out, P/Sr. Insp. Adique informed him that they had a search warrant and that they were authorized to search his house. After appellant gave his permission, the police officers conducted a search of the house. The search yielded the following items: (a) a caliber .45 pistol with Serial No. 703792 with five magazines of caliber .45 (Exhibits B and H) found at the master's bedroom; (b) five magazines of 5.56 M-16 rifle and two radios (Exhibits C to C-4) found in the room of appellant's daughter; and (c) a caliber .22 revolver with Serial No. 48673 (Exhibit F) containing 8 pieces of live ammunition (Exhibit M) found in the kitchen of the house. When asked about his license to possess the firearms, the appellant failed to produce any. This prompted the police officers to seize the subject firearms.
For his defense, appellant contends that he had a license for the caliber .45 pistol recovered in his bedroom and that the other items seized during the search including the caliber .22 revolver, were merely planted by the police officers. Appellant likewise assails the manner in which the search was carried out, claiming that the police officers just barged into his house without asking permission. Furthermore, he claimed that the barangay officials arrived only after the police already had finished the search. However, after trial the trial court rendered a judgment of conviction which decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Whether or not the seizure of items not mentioned in the search warrant was illegal.
The Supreme Court REVERSES the decision of the Court of Appeals and ACQUITS petitioner Vicente del Rosario y Nicolas of the charge of violation of P. D. No. 1866.
Seizure is limited to those items particularly described in a valid search warrant. Searching officers are without discretion regarding what articles they shall seize. Evidence seized on the occasion of such an unreasonable search and seizure is tainted and excluded for being the proverbial "fruit of a poisonous tree." In the language of the fundamental law, it shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding
In this case, the firearm was not found inadvertently and in plain view. It was found as a result of a meticulous search in the kitchen of petitioner's house. This firearm, to emphasize, was not mentioned in the search warrant. Thus, the seizure is illegal.
True that as an exception, the police may seize without warrant illegally possessed firearm or any contraband for that matter, inadvertently found in plain view. However, "[t]he seizure of evidence in 'plain view' applies only where the police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but inadvertently comes across an incriminating object."52 Specifically, seizure of evidence in "plain view" is justified when there is:
(a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties;
(b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are.
(c) the evidence must be immediately apparent, and
(d) "plain view" justified mere seizure of evidence without further search.