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Al-Ghoul vs. CA Case Digest (Search and Seizure)


● The place to be searched cannot be changed, enlarged nor amplified by the police. 

● The law does not require that the things to be seized must be described in precise and minute details as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the searching authorities, otherwise, it would be virtually impossible for the applicants to obtain a search warrant as they would not know exactly what kind of things they are looking for.

●The two-witness rule applies only in the absence of the lawful occupants of the premises searched.

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Facts: 

Judge Mangay issued search warrants 54-953 and 55-954 for the search and seizure of certain items in Apartment No. 2, 154 Obiniana Compound, Deparo Road, Kalookan City.

The police searched Apartment No. 8, in the same compound and found one (1) .45 caliber pistol. Found in Apartment No. 2 were firearms, ammunitions and explosives.

Petitioners were charged before the RTC of Kalookan City with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1866. Thereafter, petitioners were arrested and detained.

When their motion for bail was denied, they appealed to the CA where they also raised the issue of the validity of the search and seizure orders.

Petitioners contend that the search and seizure orders violated Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill of Rights as well as Section 3 of Rule 126 of the Rules of Court on Criminal Procedure because the place searched and articles seized were not described with particularity. They argue that the two-witness requirement under Section 10 of Rule 126 was ignored when only one witness signed the receipt for the properties seized during the search, and said witness was not presented at the trial


Issues:

1. Was the search made at Apartment No. 8 legal?
2. Was the search made at Apartment No. 2 legal?
3. Whether the two-witness requirement under Section 10 of Rule 126 was violated


Held:

1. No. The place to be searched cannot be changed, enlarged nor amplified by the police. Policemen may not be restrained from pursuing their task with vigor, but in doing so, care must be taken that constitutional and legal safeguards are not disregarded. Exclusion of unlawfully seized evidence is the only practical means of enforcing the constitutional injunction against unreasonable searches and seizures. Hence, the search made at Apartment No. 8 is illegal and the .45 caliber pistol taken thereat is inadmissible in evidence against petitioners.


2. Yes. The search warrants in question specifically mentioned Apartment No. 2. The search was done in the presence of its occupants, herein petitioners, in accordance with Section 7 of Rule 126, Revised Rules of Court. The articles seized during the search of Apartment No. 2 are of the same kind and nature as those items enumerated in the search warrant. The items seized from Apartment No. 2 were described with specificity in the warrants in question.

The nature of the items ordered to be seized did not require a technical description. Moreover, the law does not require that the things to be seized must be described in precise and minute details as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the searching authorities, otherwise, it would be virtually impossible for the applicants to obtain a search warrant as they would not know exactly what kind of things they are looking for. Once described, however, the articles subject of the search and seizure need not be so invariant as to require absolute concordance, in our view, between those seized and those described in the warrant. Substantial similarity of those articles described as a class or species would suffice.

One of the tests to determine the particularity in the description of objects to be seized under a search warrant is when the things described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued. A careful examination of Search Warrant Nos. 54-95 and 55-95 shows that they were worded in such a manner that the enumerated items to be seized could bear a direct relation to the offense of violation of Section 1 and 3 of Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended, penalizing illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives. What the warrants authorized was the seizure of articles proscribed by that decree, and no other.


2.  Section 10 of Rule 126 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 10. Receipt for the property seized. The officer seizing property under the warrant must give a detailed receipt for the same to the lawful occupant of the premises in whose presence the search and seizure were made, or in the absence of such occupant, must, in the presence of at least two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality, leave a receipt in the place in which he found the seized property.

Clearly, the two-witness rule applies only in the absence of the lawful occupants of the premises searched. In the case at bar, petitioners were present when the search and seizure operation was conducted by the police at Apartment No. 2. More importantly, petitioner Nasser admitted being an actual occupant/resident of Apartment No. 2. Hence, there no violation of Section 10, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Court. (Al-Ghoul vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126859, September 4, 2001)

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