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Alvarez vs. CFI of Tayabas Case Digest


● The provisions of the constitution require that there be not only probable cause before the issuance of a search warrant but that the search warrant must be based upon an application supported by oath of the applicant and the witnesses he may produce.

● It is not mandatory to present affidavits of witnesses to corroborate the applicant or a complainant in cases where the latter has personal knowledge of the facts.


● A detailed description of the person and place to be searched and the articles to be seized is necessary, but where, by the nature of the articles to be seized, their description must be rather general, it is not required that a technical description be given, as this would mean that no warrant could issue.


Facts: 

Mariano Almeda, the chief of the secret service of the Anti-Usury Board, applied for a search warrant and presented to Judge David of the Court of First Instance of Tayabas an affidavit alleging that according to reliable information, petitioner Alvarez kept in his house in Infanta, Tayabas, books, documents, receipts, lists, chits and other papers used by him in connection with his activities as a money-lender charging usurious rates of interest in violation of the law. In his oath at the end of the affidavit, Almeda stated that his answers to the questions were correct to the best of his knowledge and belief. He did not swear to the truth of his statements upon his own knowledge of the facts but upon the information received by him from a reliable person. On the basis of such affidavit, Judge David issued a warrant ordering the search of the petitioner’s house at any time of the day or night, the seizure of the books and documents above-mentioned and the immediate delivery thereof to him to be disposed of in accordance with the law.

With said warrant, several agents of the Anti-Usury Board entered the petitioner’s store and residence at 7:00 pm and seized articles such as internal revenue license, ledger, journals, cash bonds, check stubs, memorandums, blackboards, contracts, inventories, bill of lading, credit receipts, correspondence, receipt books, promissory notes and checks.

Alvarez filed a petition praying that the search warrant be declared illegal and that all the articles in question be returned to him. He claimed that the search warrant was illegal for the following reasons: (a) it was based solely upon the affidavit of the petitioner who had no personal knowledge of the facts of probable cause; (b) it was not supported by other affidavits aside from that made by the applicant; (c) it authorized its execution at night; (d) lack of an adequate description of the books and documents to be seized; and (e) it was issued for the sole purpose of seizing evidence which would later be used in the criminal proceedings that might be instituted against him for violation of the Anti-Usury Law.

The Anti-Usury Board insinuates in its answer that the petitioner cannot now question the validity of the search warrant or the proceedings had subsequent to the issuance thereof, because he has waived his constitutional rights in proposing a compromise whereby he agreed to pay a fine of P200 for the purpose of evading the criminal proceeding or proceedings.

The CFI ruled against the Alvarez and upheld the validity of the search warrant.


Issues:

1. Is the search warrant illegal when the affidavit is based on hearsay?

2. Is there a need for affidavit of another witnesses to support the application for search warrant?

3. Can the search warrant be executed at night?

4. Did the search warrant satisfy the particularity of description as required by the law?

5. Is fishing evidence is valid?

6. Did Alvarez waived his constitutional right to question the validity of the search warrant or the proceedings when he offered a compromise or settlement of the case?


Held:

1. Yes. The provisions of the constitution require that there be not only probable cause before the issuance of a search warrant but that the search warrant must be based upon an application supported by oath of the applicant and the witnesses he may produce. The oath required must refer to the truth of the facts within the personal knowledge of the petitioner or his witnesses, because the purpose thereof is to convince the committing magistrate, not the individual making the affidavit and seeking the issuance of the warrant, of the existence of probable cause. The true test of sufficiency of an affidavit to warrant issuance of a search warrant is whether it has been drawn in such a manner that perjury could be charged thereon and affiant be held liable for damages caused.

It appears that the affidavit, which served as the exclusive basis of the search warrant, is insufficient and fatally defective by reason of the manner in which the oath was made, and therefore, it is hereby held that the search warrant in question and the subsequent seizure of the books, documents and other papers are illegal and do not in any way warrant the deprivation to which the petitioner was subjected.


2. No. It is not mandatory to present affidavits of witnesses to corroborate the applicant or a complainant in cases where the latter has personal knowledge of the facts. However, when the applicant's or complainant's knowledge of the facts is merely hearsay, it is the duty of the judge to require affidavits of other witnesses so that he may determine whether probable cause exists.


3. Yes. The search be made at night when it is positively asserted in the affidavits that the property is on the person or in the place ordered to be searched. In this case, it does not appear positively in the affidavit that the articles were in the possession of the petitioner and in the place indicated; hence, the search and seizure could not be made at night.


4. Yes. A detailed description of the person and place to be searched and the articles to be seized is necessary, but where, by the nature of the articles to be seized, their description must be rather general, it is not required that a technical description be given, as this would mean that no warrant could issue. The only description of the articles given in the affidavit presented to the judge was as follows: "that there are being kept in said premises books, documents, receipts, lists, chits and other papers used by him in connection with his activities as money-lender, charging a usurious rate of interest, in violation of the law." Taking into consideration the nature of the article so described, it is clear that no other more adequate and detailed description could have been given, particularly because it is difficult to give a particular description of the contents thereof. The description so made substantially complies with the legal provisions because the officer of the law who executed the warrant was thereby placed in a position enabling him to identify the articles, which he did.


5. At the hearing of the incidents of the case raised before the court it clearly appeared that the books and documents had really been seized to enable the Anti-Usury Board to conduct an investigation and later use all or some of the articles in question as evidence against the petitioner in the criminal cases that may be filed against him. The seizure of books and documents by means of a search warrant, for the purpose of using them as evidence in a criminal case against the person in whose possession they were found, is unconstitutional because it makes the warrant unreasonable, and it is equivalent to a violation of the constitutional provision prohibiting the compulsion of an accused to testify against himself. Therefore, it appearing that at least nineteen of the documents in question were seized for the purpose of using them as evidence against the petitioner in the criminal proceeding or proceedings for violation against him, we hold that the search warrant issued is illegal and that the documents should be returned to him.


6. No. The petitioner did not waive his constitutional rights because the offer of compromise or settlement attributed to him, does not mean, if so made, that he voluntarily tolerated the search and seizure. The waiver would have been a good defense for the respondents had the petitioner voluntarily consented to the search and seizure of the articles in question, but such was not the case because the petitioner protested from the beginning and stated his protest in writing in the insufficient inventory furnished him by the agents. Alvarez vs. Court of First Instance of Tayabas, G.R. No. L-45358, January 29, 1937)

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