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People v. Salanguit, GR 133254, 18 April 2001
Two criminal cases were filed against Salanguit, the first for possession/use of shabu, and the second, for possession/use of marijuana. Sr. Insp. Aguilar applied in the RTC of Cavite a warrant to search the premises of Robert Salanguit for shabu and shabu paraphernalias. He presented as a witness Edmund Badua, an undercover officer, which transacted with Salanguit for the purchase of shabu.
The application was granted and the team of Aguilar proceeded to the premises of Salanguit in QC to serve the warrant. The operatives proceeded to knock on Salanguit’s door but the same was left unanswered. The operatives heard people panicking inside the house and they began to force their way inside the house. They indicated their authority to conduct the search and began which yielded to the finding of clear plastic bags with shabu and 2 bricks of dried marijuana leaves covered in newspaper.
Salanguit refused to sign the receipt for the confiscated drugs. During his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty and in the trial court, he gave stated that he never got the chance to review the purported warrant that Aguilar and his team has. He further stated that the operatives ate their food and took his cash and valuable, as well as canned goods.
The RTC found him guilty for possession/use of shabu and marijuana. Salanguit appealed the said decision and argues that the shabu allegedly recovered from his residence is inadmissible as evidence against him on the ground that the warrant used to obtain it was invalid and that the marijuana seized from him was also inadmissible as evidence against him pursuant to the plain view doctrine, and that the operatives employed unnecessary force in executing the warrant.
1. Whether or not the warrant used to seize the shabu was valid and the said shabu was inadmissible in evidence against him.
2. Whether or not the marijuana seized was admissible in evidence against Salanguit pursuant to plain view doctrine.
1. Yes, all the requisites for the issuance of a search warrant were satisfied.
2. No, the marijuana was not one of the drugs indicated in the warrant and it was not in plain view when it was seized.
1. The warrant authorized the seizure of undetermined quantity of shabu and drug paraphernalia. Salanguit contends that it should be void as it did not indicate the existence of drug paraphernalias. The warrant was valid as to the seizure of shabu and void as to the seizure of drug paraphernalia. It is to be noted that no drug paraphernalia was seized. Salanguit further contends that the warrant was issued for more than one specific offense because possession or uses are punished under two different provisions in the Dangerous Drugs Act. This Court has decided in the case of People v Dichoso that a warrant that does not specify what provisions of the law were violated, is valid as to the authority to search and seize marijuana, shabu and drug paraphernalias. Lastly, Salanguit argues that the search warrant failed to indicate the place to be searched with sufficient particularity. The rule is that a description of the place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place to be searched. The location of Salanguit’s house being indicated by the evidence on record, there can be no doubt that the warrant described the place to be searched with sufficient particularity.
2. Because the location of the shabu was indicated in the warrant and thus known to the police operatives, it is reasonable to assume that the police found the packets and shabu first. Once the valid portion of the search warrant has been executed, the plain view doctrine can no longer provide basis for admitting the other items subsequently found. The marijuana bricks were wrapped in newsprint. There was no apparent illegality to justify their seizure. Not being in a transparent container, the contents wrapped in newsprint could not have been readily discernible as marijuana. That being said, we hold that the marijuana is inadmissible in evidence against Salanguit.