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Unilab vs. Isip
Petitioner, UNILAB hired a private investigator to investigate a place purported to be manufacturing fake UNILAB products, especially Revicon multivitamins. The agent took some photographs where the clandestine manufacturing operation was taking place. UNILAB then sought the help of the NBI, which thereafter filed an application for the issuance of search warrant in the RTC of Manila. After finding probable cause, the court issued a search warrant directing the police to seize “finished or unfinished products of UNILAB, particularly REVICON multivitamins.” No fake Revicon was however found; instead, sealed boxes where seized, which, when opened contained 60 ml bottles of Disudrin and 200mg tablets of Inoflox, both were brands used by UNILAB. NBI prayed that some of the sized items be turned over to the custody of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) for examination. The court granted the motion. The respondents then filed a motion to quash the search warrant or to suppress evidence, alleging that the seized items are considered to be fruit of a poisonous tree, and therefore inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding, which the petitioners opposed alleging that the boxes of Disudrin and Inoflox were seized under the plain view doctrine. The court, however, granted the motion of the respondents.
Whether or not the seizure of the sealed boxes which, when opened, contained Disudrin syrup and Inoflox, were valid under the plain view doctrine.
It is true that things not described in the warrant may be seized under the plain view doctrine. However, seized things not described in the warrant cannot be presumed as plain view. The State must adduce evidence to prove that the elements for the doctrine to apply are present, namely:
(a) the executing law enforcement officer has a prior justification for an initial intrusion or otherwise properly in a position from which he can view a particular order;
(b) the officer must discover incriminating evidence inadvertently; and
(c) it must be immediately apparent to the police that the items they observe may be evidence of a crime, contraband, or otherwise subject to seizure
It was thus incumbent on the NBI and the petitioner to prove that the items were seized on plain view. It is not enough that the sealed boxes were in the plain view of the NBI agents. However, the NBI failed to present any of officers who were present when the warrant was enforced to prove that the the sealed boxes was discovered inadvertently, and that such boxes and their contents were incriminating and immediately apparent. It must be stressed that only the enforcing officers had personal knowledge whether the sealed boxes and their contents thereof were incriminating and that they were immediately apparent. There is even no showing that the NBI agents knew the contents of the sealed boxes before they were opened. In sum then, the petitioner and the NBI failed to prove that the plain view doctrine applies to the seized items.
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