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People vs Che Chun Ting, 328 SCRA 592 (2000)
Mabel Cheung Mei Po, a suspected drug courier, was apprehended by the Special Operation Unit, Narcotics Command, after she delivered a transparent plastic bag containing a white crystalline substance to an informant, in full view of NARCOM agents. When questioned, about the source, she pinpointed Che Chun Ting as the source of the drugs.
Thus the NARCOM deployed a team of agents for the entrapment and arrest of Che Chun Ting. The team was composed of Major Marcelo Garbo, a certain Captain Campos, 5 P/Insp. Raymond Santiago, SPO3 Renato Campanilla, and a civilian interpreter. At around 7 o'clock in the morning they proceeded to the Roxas Seafront Garden in Pasay City where Che Chun Ting was and had the place under surveillance. Mabel then called Che Chun Ting through her cellular phone and spoke to him in Chinese. According to the interpreter, who translated to the NARCOM agents the conversation between Mabel and Che Chun Ting, Mabel ordered 1kg of shabu.
At around 10:30 AM, Mabel received a call from the Che Chun Ting that he was ready to deliver the stuff. She immediately relayed the message to the NARCOM agents. After receiving the go-signal from Major Garbo, P/Insp. Santiago, SPO3 Campanilla and Mabel proceeded to the Roxas Seafront Garden
Upon arriving at the Roxas Seafront Garden, Mabel went to Unit 122. While 2 NARCOM agents were waiting, Che Chun Ting opened the door to his unit and handed to Mabel a transparent plastic bag containing a white crystalline substance. The NARCOM agents immediately arrested Che Chun Ting, thereafter they radioed their superiors and coordinated with the security guard on duty to make a search of Unit 122.
During the search SPO3 Campanilla seized a black bag with several plastic bags containing a white crystalline substance in an open cabinet at the second floor. The bag was examined in the presence of Major Garbo, the accused himself, and his girlfriend Nimfa Ortiz. The accused together with the evidence was then brought to Camp Crame where Forensic Chemist P/Sr. Inspector Julita T. de Villa after conducting laboratory tests found the white crystalline substance to be positive for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
The defense rebuffed all allegations presented by the Prosecution. Nimfa Ortiz narrated that she sent her brother Noli Ortiz to meet Mabel Cheung Mei Po to help the latter find a lawyer and at the same time get the laser disc she lent to Mabel. Noli testified that when he go inside the car of Mabel a policeman sitting at the back of the car suddenly hit him on the head.
Noli Ortiz, Major Garbo, Captain Lukban and Palma went to the Roxas Seafront Garden, thereafter he rang the doorbell of the unit. When Nimfa opened the door, two (2) NARCOM officers suddenly forced their way inside and searched the premises. Noli denied having seen any black bag seized by SPO3 Campanilla; instead, what he saw was his sister's video camera being carted away by the NARCOM agents. He further testified that when his sister was made to sign a certification on the conduct of the search on Unit 122 she was frightened and crying. He claimed that accused Che Chun Ting was then asleep at the second floor of the unit.
The Pasay City RTC promulgated a decision on August 22, 1997 which found Che Chun Ting guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of delivering, distributing and dispatching in transit 999.43 grams of shabu; and, having in his custody, possession and control 5,578.68 grams of the same regulated drug. The court sentenced him to suffer the death penalty, one for violation of Sec. 15 and the other for violation of Sec. 16, both of Art. III, of RA 6425. He was likewise ordered to pay a fine of P1,000,000.00 in the first case, and P12,000,000.00 in the second.
Whether or Not the Warrantless Search conducted in Unit 122 is valid.
NO, the Warrantless Search conducted in Unit 122 is INVALID.
The right is not absolute and admits of certain well-recognized exceptions. For instance, a person lawfully arrested searched for dangerous weapons or anything which may be used as proof of the commission of the offense, without a search warrant. The search may extend beyond the person of the one arrested to include the permissible area or surroundings within his immediate control.
The accused was admittedly outside unit 22 and in the act of delivering to Mabel Cheung Mei Po a bag of shabu when he was arrested by the NARCOM operatives. Moreover, it is borne by the records that Unit 122 was not even his residence but that of his girlfriend Nimfa Ortiz, and that he was merely a sojourner therein. Hence, it can hardly be said that the inner portion of the house constituted a permissible area within his reach or immediate control to justify a warrantless search therein.
The lawful arrest being the sole justification for the validity of the warrantless search under the exception, the same must be limited to and circumscribed by the subject, time and place of the arrest. As to subject, the warrantless search is sanctioned only with respect to the person of the suspect, and things that may be seized from him are limited to "dangerous weapons" or ''anything which may be used as proof of the commission of the offense." With respect to the time and place of the warrantless search, it must be contemporaneous with the lawful arrest. Stated otherwise, to be valid, the search must have been conducted at about the time of the arrest or immediately thereafter and only at the place where the suspect was arrested, or the premises or surroundings under his immediate control.
It must be stressed that the purposes of the exception are only to protect the arresting officer against physical harm from the person being arrested who might be armed with a concealed weapon, and also to prevent the person arrested from destroying the evidence within his reach.
The search in Unit 122 and the seizure therein of some 5,578.68 grams of shabu do not fall within the exception, hence, were illegal; Consequently the things seized on the occasion thereof are inadmissible in evidence under the exclusionary rule.—We therefore hold that the search in Unit 122 and the seizure therein of some 5,578.68 grams of shabu do not fall within the exception, hence, were illegal for being violative of one’s basic constitutional right and guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. As a consequence of the illegal search, the things seized on the occasion thereof are inadmissible in evidence under the exclusionary rule. They are regarded as having been obtained from a polluted source, the “fruit of a poisonous tree.” However, objects and properties the possession of which is prohibited by law cannot be returned to their owners notwithstanding the illegality of their seizure. Thus, the shabu seized by the NARCOM operatives which cannot legally be possessed by the accused under the law, can and must be retained by the government to be disposed of in accordance with law.