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People v Huang Zhen Hua, GR 139301, 9 September 2004
Police operatives received word from their confidential informant that Peter Chan and Henry Lao, and appellants Jogy Lee and Huang Zhen Hua were engaged in illegal drug trafficking. The policemen also learned that Lee was handling the payments and accounting of the proceeds of the illegal drug trafficking activities of Lao and Chan. Officer Anciro, Jr. and other police operatives conducted surveillance operations and were able to verify that Lao and appellant Lee were living together as husband and wife. They were able to secure search warrants, one for violation of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1866 (illegal possession of firearms and explosives) and two for violation of R.A No. 6425, as amended otherwise known as the Dangerous Drug Act.
The implementation of the first Search Warrant, no persons were found in the are, however the policemen found two kilos shabu, paraphernalia for its production, and machines and tools apparently used for the production of fake credit cards. Thereafter, the police operatives received information that Lao and Chan would be delivering shabu. The policemen rushed to the area and saw Chan and Lao on board the latter’s car. Thereafter, the shoot-out resulted to death of the two suspect during the encounter. The policemen found two plastic bags, each containing one kilo of shabu, in Lao’s car.
The policemen then proceeded to the area where to enforce the other search warrant. The policemen coordinated with Antonio Pangan, the officer in charge of security in the building. The policemen, Pangan and two security guards proceeded to the condominium unit. Anciro, Jr. knocked repeatedly on the front door, but no one responded. Pangan, likewise, knocked on the door.9 until Lee peeped through the window beside the front door. The policemen allowed Pangan to communicate with appellant Lee by sign language and pointed their uniforms to her to show that they were policemen. The Lee then opened the door and allowed the team into the condominium unit.
The policemen conducted the search in all the rooms within the unit. The team proceeded with the search and found other articles not described on the the search warrant. Huang Zhen Hua was found sleeping in one of the rooms during the search and was surprised to see police officers. Anciro, Jr. found two transparent plastic bags each containing one kilo of shabu, a feeding bottle, a plastic canister and assorted paraphernalia. Anciro, Jr. also found assorted documents, pictures, bank passbooks issued by the Allied Banking Corporation, credit cards, passports and identification cards of Lao and Lee. Anciro, Jr. told Lee to bring some of her clothes because they were bringing her to the PARAC headquarters. Lee did as she was told and took some clothes from the cabinet in the master’s bedroom where Anciro, Jr. had earlier found the shabu.
Whether or not the articles not specified in the search warrant, are inadmissible evidence.
No, Admittedly, Anciro, Jr. seized and took custody of certain articles belonging to the appellant and Lao which were not described in the search warrants. However, the seizure of articles not listed in a search warrant does not render the seizure of the articles described and listed therein illegal; nor does it render inadmissible in evidence. Such articles were in plain view of Anciro, Jr. as he implemented the search warrants and was authorized to seize the said articles because of their close connection to the crime charged. An example of the applicability of the ‘plain view’ doctrine is the situation in which the police have a warrant to search a given area for specified objects, and in the course of the search come across some other article of incriminating character. An object that comes into view during a search incident to arrest that is appropriately limited in scope under existing law may be seized without a warrant. Finally, the ‘plain view’ doctrine has been applied where a police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object.
It cannot be denied that the cards, passbook, passport and other documents and papers seen by the policemen have an intimate connection with the crime charged. The passport of the appellant would show when and how often she had been in and out of the country. Her credit cards and bank book would indicate how much money she had amassed while in the country and how she acquired or earned the same. The pictures and those of the other persons shown therein are relevant to show her relationship to Lao and Chan. The Supreme Court ruled that Huang Zhen Hua should be acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt, but that the conviction of Lee should be affirmed.