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Yee Sue Kuy v. Almeda, 70 Phil 141 (1940)
In response to a sworn application of Mariano G. Almeda, chief agent of the Anti-Usury Board, dated 5 May 1938, the justice of the peace of Sagay, Occidental Negros, after taking the testimony of applicant's witness, Jose Estrada, special agent of the Anti-Usury Board, issued on the same date a search warrant commanding any peace officer to search during day time the store and premises occupied by Sam Sing & Co., situated at Sagay, Occidental Negros, as well as the person of said Sam Sing & Co., and to seize the documents, notebooks, lists, receipts and promissory notes being used by said Sam Sing & Co. in connection with their activities of lending money at usurious rates of interest in violation of law, or such as may be found, and to bring them forthwith before the aforesaid justice of the peace of Sagay. On the same date, at 10:30 a. m., search was accordingly made by Mariano G. Almeda, Jose Estrada, 2 internal revenue agents and 2 members of the Philippine Army, who seized certain receipt books, vales or promissory notes, chits, notebooks, journal book, and collection list belonging to Sam Sing & Co. and enumerated in the inventory receipt issued by Mariano G. Almeda to the owner of the documents, papers and articles seized. Immediately after the search and seizure thus effected, Mariano G. Almeda filed a return with the justice of the peace of Sagay together. With a request that the office of the Anti-Usury Board be allowed to retain possession of the articles seized for examination, pursuant to section 4 of Act 4109, which request was granted. Under the date of 11 March 1939, Godofredo P. Escalona, counsel for Sam Sing & Co. filed a motion with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Occidental Negros praying that the search warrant and the seizure effected thereunder be declared illegal and set aside and that the articles in question be ordered returned to Sam Sing & Co., which motion was denied in the order dated 24 July 1939. A similar motion was presented to the justice of the peace of Sagay on 27 October 1939 but was denied the next day. Meanwhile, an information dated 30 September 1939 had been filed in the CFI Occidental Negros, charging Yee Fock alias Yee Sue Koy, Y. Tip and A. Sing, managers of Sam Sing & Co., with a violation of Act 2655. Before the criminal case could be tried, Yee Sue Koy and Yee Tip filed the petition with the Supreme Court on 6 November 1939.
The petition is grounded on the propositions (1) that the search warrant issued on 2 May 1938, by the justice of the peace of Sagay and the seizure accomplished thereunder are illegal, because the warrant was issued three days ahead of the application therefor and of the affidavit of the Jose Estrada which is insufficient in itself to justify the issuance of a search warrant, and because the issuance of said warrant manifestly contravenes the mandatory provisions both of section 1, paragraph 3, of Article III of the Constitution and of section 97 of General Orders 58, and (2) that the seizure of the aforesaid articles by means of a search warrant for the purpose of using them as evidence in the criminal case against the accused, is unconstitutional because the warrant thereby becomes unreasonable and amounts to a violation of the constitutional prohibition against compelling the accused to testify against themselves.
Whether the application of the search warrant is supported by the personal knowledge of the witness, besides the applicant, for the judge to determine probable cause in issuing the warrant.
Strict observance of the formalities under section 1, paragraph 3, of Article III of the Constitution and of section 97 of General Orders 58 was followed. The applicant Mariano G. Almeda, in his application, swore that "he made his own personal investigation and ascertained that Sam Sing & Co. is lending money without license, charging usurious rate of interest and is keeping, utilizing and concealing in the store and premises occupied by it situated at Sagay, Occidental Negros, documents, notebooks, lists, receipts, promissory notes, and book of accounts and records, all of which are being used by it in connection with its activities of lending money at usurious rate of interest in violation of the Usury Law." In turn, the witness Jose Estrada, in his testimony before the justice of the peace of Sagay, swore that he knew that Sam Sing & Co. was lending money without license and charging usurious rate of interest, because he personally investigated the victims who had secured loans from said Sam Sing & Co. and were charged usurious rate of interest; that he knew that the said Sam Sing & Co. was keeping and using books of accounts and records containing its transactions relative its activities as money lender and the entries of the interest paid by its debtors, because he saw the said Sam Sing & d make entries and records of their debts and the interest paid thereon. As both Mariano G. Almeda and Jose Estrada swore that they had personal knowledge, their affidavits were sufficient for, thereunder, they could be held liable for perjury if the facts would turn out to be not as their were stated under oath. That the existence of probable cause had been determined by the justice of the peace of Sagay before issuing the search warrant complained of, is shown by the following statement in the warrant itself, to wit: "After examination under oath of the complainant, Mariano G. Almeda, Chief Agent of the Anti-Usury Board, Department of Justice and Special Agent of the Philippine Army, Manila, and the witness he presented, . . . and this Court, finding that there is just and probable cause to believe as it does believe, that the above described articles, relating to the activities of said Sam Sing & Co. of lending money at usurious rate of interest, are being utilized and kept and concealed at its store and premises occupied by said Sam Sing & Co., all in violation of law."