Malacat v. Court of Appeals, 283 SCRA 159 (1997)
Four (4) police officers were conducting a patrol in Quiapo due to bomb threats that had been occurring in the area for the last seven (7) days. They found two groups of Muslim-looking men standing on opposite sides of the Quezon Boulevard corner who were acting suspiciously and their eyes were moving very fast. After thirty minutes of observing the two groups, they decided to approach one of the groups. Upon seeing the policemen, the groups fled in all directions. Fortunately, one of the men later identified as Malacat, was apprehended. Without a warrant, the police officer searched him and found a grenade tucked inside his front waist line. Malacat was arrested and charged with illegal possession of explosives.
Whether or not the search and seizure conducted by the police was valid.
The general rule as regards arrests, searches and seizures is that a warrant is needed in order to validly effect the same. The Constitutional prohibition against unreasonable arrests, searches and seizures refers to those effected without a validly issued warrant, subject to certain exceptions. As regards valid warrantless arrests, these are found in Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court.
A warrantless arrest under the circumstances contemplated under Section 5(a) has been denominated as one "in flagrante delicto," while that under Section 5(b) has been described as a "hot pursuit" arrest. Turning to valid warrantless searches, they are limited to the following:
(1) customs searches;
(2) search of moving vehicles;
(3) seizure of evidence in plain view;
(4) consent searches;
(5) a search incidental to a lawful arrest; and
(6) a "stop and frisk.
The trial court confused the concepts of a "stop-and-frisk" and of a search incidental to a lawful arrest. These two types of warrantless searches differ in terms of the requisite quantum of proof before they may be validly effected and in their allowable scope.
In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the incidental search.
Here, there could have been no valid in flagrante delicto or hot pursuit arrest preceding the search in light of the lack of personal knowledge on the part of Yu, the arresting officer, or an overt physical act, on the part of petitioner, indicating that a crime had just been committed, was being committed or was going to be committed.
Having thus shown the invalidity of the warrantless arrest in this case, plainly, the search conducted on petitioner could not have been one incidental to a lawful arrest.
Probable cause is not required to conduct a "stop and frisk," it nevertheless holds that mere suspicion or a hunch will not validate a "stop and frisk." A genuine reason must exist, in light of the police officer's experience and surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person detained has weapons concealed about him. Finally, a "stop-and-frisk" serves a two-fold interest: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer.
Here, there are at least three (3) reasons why the "stop-and-frisk" was invalid:
First, we harbor grave doubts as to Yu's claim that petitioner was a member of the group which attempted to bomb Plaza Miranda two days earlier. This claim is neither supported by any police report or record nor corroborated by any other police officer who allegedly chased that group.
Second, there was nothing in petitioner's behavior or conduct which could have reasonably elicited even mere suspicion other than that his eyes were "moving very fast" — an observation which leaves us incredulous since Yu and his teammates were nowhere near petitioner and it was already 6:30 p.m., thus presumably dusk. Petitioner and his companions were merely standing at the corner and were not creating any commotion or trouble.
Third, there was at all no ground, probable or otherwise, to believe that petitioner was armed with a deadly weapon. None was visible to Yu, for as he admitted, the alleged grenade was "discovered" "inside the front waistline" of petitioner, and from all indications as to the distance between Yu and petitioner, any telltale bulge, assuming that petitioner was indeed hiding a grenade, could not have been visible to Yu.