People v. Molina, GR 133917, 19 February 2001
On June 1996, SPO1 Marino Paguidopon received information about a marijuana pusher in Davao. Paguidopon first saw the pusher in person on July of the same year, when his informer identified Mula as the driver of a motorcycle who just passed by them. Molina, on the other hand, was never identified prior arrest.
In the morning of August 8, 1996, Paguidopon received information that the drug pushers will pass by at NHA, Ma-a, Davao City that morning, so he called for assistance from the PNP. A team composed of SPO4 Cloribel, SPO2 Paguidopon (brother of Marino), and SPO1 Pamplona were dispatched to proceed to Marino's house where they'll wait for the drug pushers will pass by. Two hours later, a "trisikad" identified by Paguidopon as carrying Molina and Mula passed by. So, the team boarded their vehicle, overtook the trisikad and accosted the two. At that point, Mula was holding a black bag. He handed the same to Molina. Pamplona, introducing himself as a police officer, asked Molina to open the bag, to which Molina replied "Boss, if possible, we will settle this."-Pamplona insisted on opening the bag, which revealed dried marijuana leaves inside. Thereafter, Mula and Molina were handcuffed. Mula and Molina filed a Demurrer to Evidence, saying that the marijuna was illegally seized from them, therefore it is inadmissible. The trial court denied this. The two waived presentation of evidence, and opted to file a joint memorandum. Later, the trial court still found them guilty, and sentenced them to suffer the death penalty. Pursuant to Art. 47 of the RPC and Rule 122, Sec. 10 of the ROC, the case is elevated to the SC on automatic review. The SolGen moved for the acquittal of the two.
1. No. The law mandates that searches be carried out with a search warrant upon the existence of probable cause. Likewise, the law protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and holds evidence taken from such incidents as inadmissible as evidence. There are exceptions to this, the first being seizure conducted incidental to a lawful arrest
For this, there should be a lawful arrest first, before a search can be made. It doesn't work the other way around. Likewise, as a rule, an arrest is legitimate if it's with a valid warrant of arrest. However, a police officer may conduct warrantless arrests:
D. In flagrante delicto - When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense
E. Arrest effected in hot pursuit - when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it.
F. Arrest of escaped prisoners - when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from penal establishment or a place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
In this case, the trial court found that the warrantless arrest and seizure were valid apparently because they were caught in flagrante delicto in possession of the prohibited drugs. In flagrante delicto arrests, it is settled that "reliable information" alone is not sufficient to constitute probable cause that would justify in flagrante delicto arrests
2. Yes. In the case at bar, accused-appellants manifested no outward indication that would justify their arrest. In holding a bag on board a trisikad, accused-appellants could not be said to be committing, attempting to commit or have committed a crime. The response of Molina that “Boss, if possible we will settle this” is an equivocal statement which standing alone will not constitute probable cause to effect an in flagrante delicto arrest. Note that were it not for SPO1 Marino Paguidopon (who did not participate in the arrest but merely pointed accused-appellants to the arresting officers), accused-appellants could not be the subject of any suspicion, reasonable or otherwise. SPO1 Paguidopon only learned Mula’s name and address after the arrest. It is doubtful if SPO1 Paguidopon indeed recognized accused-appellant Mula. It is worthy to note that, before the arrest, he was able to see Mula in person only once, pinpointed to him by his informer while they were on the side of the road. These circumstances could not have afforded SPO1 Paguidopon a closer look at accused-appellant Mula, considering that the latter was then driving a motorcycle when SPO1 Paguidopon caught a glimpse of him. With respect to accused-appellant Molina, SPO1 Paguidopon admitted that he had never seen him before the arrest. The Court holds that the arrest of accused-appellants does not fall under the exceptions allowed by the rules. Hence, the search conducted on their person was likewise illegal. Consequently, the marijuana seized by the peace officers could not be admitted as evidence.