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People v. Mamaril, GR 147607, 22 January 2004
· SPO2 Esmenda applied before the RTC for a search warrant authorizing the search for marijuana at the family residence of appellant Mamaril. During the search operation, the searching team confiscated sachets of suspected marijuana leaves. Police officers took pictures of the confiscated items and prepared a receipt of the property seized and certified that the house was properly searched, which was signed by the appellant and the barangay officials who witnessed the search.
· The PNP Crime Laboratory issued a report finding the seized specimens positive for the presence of marijuana. Moreover, the examination on the urine sample of appellant affirmed that it was positive for the same.
· Appellant denied that he was residing at his parent’s house, and that he was at his parent’s house when the search was conducted only because he visited his mother. He also said that he saw the Receipt of Property Seized for the first time during the trial, although he admitted that the signature on the certification that the house was properly search was his.
Whether or not the trial court erred in issuing a search warrant.
Yes. The issuance of a search warrant is justified only upon a finding of probable cause.
· Probable cause for a search has been defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place sought to be searched.
· In determining the existence of probable cause, it is required that:
a. The judge must examine the complaint and his witnesses personally
b. The examination must be under oath
c. The examination must be reduced in writing in the form of searching questions and answers
· The prosecution failed to prove that the judge who issued the warrant put into writing his examination of the applicant and his witnesses in the form of searching questions and answers before issuance of the search warrant.
· When the Branch Clerk of Court was required to testify on the available records kept in their office, he was only able to present before the court the application for search warrant and supporting affidavits. Neither transcript of the proceedings of a searching question and answer nor the sworn statements of the complainant and his witnesses showing that the judge examined them in the form of searching questions and answers in writing was presented. Mere affidavits of the complainant and his witnesses are not sufficient.
· Such written examination is necessary in order that the judge may be able to properly determine the existence and non-existence of probable cause. Therefore, the search warrant is tainted with illegality by failure of the judge to conform with the essential requisites of taking the examination in writing and attaching to the record, rendering the search warrant invalid.
· No matter how incriminating the articles taken from the appellant may be, their seizure cannot validate an invalid warrant. Consequently, the evidence seized pursuant to an illegal search warrant cannot be used in evidence against appellant.