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People v. Tangliben, 184 SCRA 220 (1990)
In the late evening of 2 March 1982, Patrolmen Silverio Quevedo and Romeo L. Punzalan of the San Fernando Police Station, together with Barangay Tanod Macario Sacdalan, were conducting surveillance mission at the Victory Liner Terminal compound located at Barangay San Nicolas, San Fernando, Pampanga. The surveillance mission was aimed not only against persons who may commit misdemeanors at the said place but also on persons who may be engaging in the traffic of dangerous drugs based on information supplied by informers. Around 9:30 p.m., said Patrolmen noticed a person carrying a red traveling bag who was acting suspiciously and they confronted him. The person was requested by Patrolmen Quevedo and Punzalan to open the red traveling bag but the person refused, only to accede later on when the patrolmen identified themselves. Found inside the bag where marijuana leaves wrapped in a plastic wrapper and weighing one kilo, more or less. The person was asked of his name and the reason why he was at the said place and he gave his name as Medel Tangliben and explained that he was waiting for a ride to Olongapo City to deliver the marijuana leaves. The accused was taken to the police headquarters at San Fernando, Pampanga, for further investigation; and that Pat. Silverio Quevedo submitted to his Station Commander his Investigator's Report. The Regional Trial Court, Branch 41, Third Judicial Region at San Fernando, Pampanga, found Medel Tangliben y Bernardino guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 4, Article II of Republic Act 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 as amended) and sentenced him to life imprisonment, to pay a fine of P20,000 and to pay the costs. Tangliben appealed.
Whether the warrantless search incident led to a lawful arrest, even in light of the Court’s ruling in People vs. Aminnudin.
One of the exceptions to the general rule requiring a search warrant is a search incident to a lawful arrest. Thus, Section 12 (Search incident to a lawful arrest) of Rule 126 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure provides that "A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous weapons or anything which may be used as proof of the commission of an offense, without a search warrant." Meanwhile, Rule 113, Sec. 5(a) provides that "A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: (a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense." Tangliben was caught in flagrante, since he was carrying marijuana at the time of his arrest. This case therefore falls squarely within the exception. The warrantless search was incident to a lawful arrest and is consequently valid. The Court is not unmindful of its decision in People v. Aminnudin (163 SCRA 402 ). In that case the PC officers had earlier received a tip from an informer that accused appellant was on board a vessel bound for Iloilo City and was carrying marijuana. Acting on this tip, they waited for him one evening, approached him as he descended from the gangplank, detained him and inspected the bag he was carrying. Said bag contained marijuana leaves. The Court held that the marijuana could not be admitted in evidence since it was seized illegally, as there was lack of urgency, and thus a search warrant can still be procured. However, herein, the case presented urgency. Although the trial court's decision did not mention it, the transcript of stenographic notes reveals that there was an informer who pointed to Tangliben as carrying marijuana. Faced with such on-the-spot information, the police officers had to act quickly. There was not enough time to secure a search warrant. The Court cannot therefore apply the ruling in Aminnudin herein. To require search warrants during on-the-spot apprehensions of drug pushers, illegal possessors of firearms, jueteng collectors, smugglers of contraband goods, robbers, etc. would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to contain the crimes with which these persons are associated.