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Salvador vs. People, GR 146706, 15 July 2005
Petitioner, Tomas Salvador was an aircraft mechanic employed by Philippine Airlines. One midnight, petitioner and his two other co-workers were nabbed within the airport vicinity by intelligence operatives of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), a special mission group that conducted surveillance operation to check on reports of alleged drug trafficking and smuggling being facilitated by certain PAL personnel. They were caught for possessing assorted watches and jewelries. Petitioner contended that the warrantless search and seizure was illegal and that the items seized should not have been admitted as evidence. Office of Solicitor’s General counters there was sufficient probable cause for the PAF surveillance team to stop and search petitioner and his companions. Trial court found them guilty for violating Tariff and Customs Code, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Whether or not the warrantless search and seizure was illegal.
No. The Constitutional provisions do not prohibit searches and seizures, but only such as are unreasonable.
Bill of Rights prohibits intrusions by the law enforcers to a person’s body, personal effects or residence, unless the same are conducted pursuant to a valid search warrant issued in compliance with the procedure mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of Court.
Jurisprudence provides for privileged areas where searches and seizures may lawfully be effected sans a search warrant. These recognized exceptions include: (1) search of moving vehicles; (2) search in plain view; (3) customs searches; (4) waiver or consented searches; (5) stop-and-frisk situations; and (6) search incidental to a lawful arrest.
Here, the special mission of the PAF operatives was to conduct a surveillance operation to verify reports of drug trafficking and smuggling by certain PAL personnel in the vicinity of the airport. In other words, the search made by the PAF team on the petitioner and his co-accused was in the nature of a customs search. As such, the team properly effected the search and seizure without a search warrant since it exercised police authority under the customs law.