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Delivery and Inventory of Property Seized to the Court


Section 12. Delivery of property and inventory thereof to court; return and proceedings thereon. — (a) The officer must forthwith deliver the property seized to the judge who issued the warrant, together with a true inventory thereof duly verified under oath.

(b) Ten (10) days after issuance of the search warrant, the issuing judge shall ascertain if the return has been made, and if none, shall summon the person to whom the warrant was issued and require him to explain why no return was made. If the return has been made, the judge shall ascertain whether section 11 of this Rule has been complained with and shall require that the property seized be delivered to him. The judge shall see to it that subsection (a) hereof has been complied with.

(c) The return on the search warrant shall be filed and kept by the custodian of the log book on search warrants who shall enter therein the date of the return, the result, and other actions of the judge.

A violation of this section shall constitute contempt of court. (Rule 126, Rules of Court)


What is the duty of the searching officer on the items that he has seized?

The officer must forthwith deliver the property seized to the judge who issued the warrant, together with a true inventory thereof duly verified under oath.


Cases:

● Moreover, an examination of Exhibit Z, the Return of Search Warrant No. 99-0038 submitted by SPO1 Fernandez to Br. 109 of the RTC of Pasay City was not verified under oath.

The delivery of the items seized to the court which issued the warrant together with a true and accurate inventory thereof, duly verified under oath, is mandatory in order to preclude the substitution of said items by interested parties. Under Section 12 of Rule 126, the judge which issued the search warrant is mandated to ensure compliance with the requirements for (1) the issuance of a detailed receipt for the property received, (2) delivery of the seized property to the court, together with (3) a verified true inventory of the items seized. Any violation of the foregoing constitutes contempt of court.

Given the foregoing deviations from the normal and prescribed manner of conducting a search, as disclosed by the members of the raiding team themselves, the reliance by the trial court on the disputable presumption that the police officers regularly performed their official duty was evidently misplaced.

The Affidavit of Orderly Search is not of any help in indicating the regularity of the search. Not having been executed under oath, it is not actually an affidavit, but a pre-prepared form which the raiding team brought with them. It was filled up after the search by team leader SPO1 Fernandez who then instructed appellant to sign it as he did instruct Jack Go, Kagawad Manalo and Kagawad Lazaro to sign as witnesses. (People vs Benny Go, G.R. No. 144639. September 12, 2003)


● The duty of petitioner Tambungan to deliver the items seized by him to the court which issued the search warrant is mandatory in character. This is evident by the use in the rule of the word must. The rule is not merely a piddling procedural rule. The requirement is to preclude substitution of the items seized by interested parties or the tampering thereof, or the loss of such goods due to the negligence of the officers effecting the seizure or their deliberate acts. On the face of the search warrant issued by the court, petitioners Tambungan and Cruz were commanded to bring the goods described therein to the court to be dealt with as the law requires. The officers enforcing the search warrant were acting on orders of the court; hence, were under its supervision and control. The Court has inherent disciplinary power over such officers and can thus enforce its powers against them. Such officers may not retain possession and custody of the items seized unless with the approval of the court that issued the warrant. Absent such approval, the said officers had no authority to deliver the items seized to another person or agency of the government. If the items seized are delivered to others or another government agency without the approval of the court that issued the search warrant, goods are not considered in the custody of the court. If the officers enforcing the warrant refuse to turn over the goods, as ordered by the court, they may be cited for indirect contempt under Rule 71, Section 3(b) of the Rules of Court which reads:

(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;

Case law has it that the court which issued the search warrant acquires jurisdiction over the items seized under the said warrant. Goods seized lawfully on the basis of the said warrant or its accepted exceptions are in custodia legis. Only that court which issued the warrant may order the release or disposition thereof. The jurisdiction, custody and control of the court over the items seized cannot be interfered with even by the BOC via a warrant of seizure and detention issued by the COC over the said goods.

In this case, petitioner Tambungan and Cruz of the CAPCOM turned over the seized goods to Senior Inspector Alex Bautista of the BOC, who, in turn, delivered the goods to the Legal and Investigation and Security Service of the BOC without any authority from the court. Although petitioner Tambungan filed an ex parte motion for Bautista to retain possession and custody of the goods, the court denied the said motion and ordered him and Bautista to turn over the goods to the court as mandated by the Rules of Court and as stated in the warrant. Not only did the petitioner deprive the court of its custody of the goods; the petitioner simply refused to comply with the courts orders.

Petitioners Tambungan and Cruz secured the search warrant from the court with full awareness of their concomitant duty under the Rules of Criminal Procedure to turn over the goods described in the said warrant to the court. By their acts, the petitioners defied the Rules of Court, repudiated their mandate, and abused and demeaned court processes. As aptly ruled by the CA:

Invoking the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Court and inducing the latter to issue a search warrant on the ground that an offense has been committed, only to later on repudiate the authority of the judge thereunder after a search and seizure pursuant thereto has been made is reprehensible and constitutes an unlawful interference with the Courts lawful custody of what has been lawfully seized as objects of a crime. This should not receive the sanction of this Court.

The refusal of petitioners to comply with the lawful and mandatory obligation imposed by the search warrant which they themselves obtained from the Court, to deliver the property seized to the judge who issued the warrant after denial of their motion to retain custody, and order for them to deliver the property to the judge who issued the warrant as mandated by the rules constitutes not only a gross abuse of the process of the Court but a defiance of the authority, justice and dignity of the court which both respondent judge properly found as contempt of court.

A search warrant may issue to respond to an incident in the main case if one has already been instituted, or in anticipation thereof. In this case, petitioner Tambungan secured the search warrant in anticipation of the private respondents prosecution for violation of the TCC (smuggling of goods) and not for the purpose of enforcing the administrative authority of the BOC for the seizure and confiscation of the goods in favor of the government. The release and disposition of the goods seized were for the court in the criminal case to delve into and resolve. Until the institution of the appropriate criminal action with the proper court, the court which issued the search warrant retained custody and control of the goods seized. The issuing court had exclusive jurisdiction to delve into and resolve issues thereon, such as the legality of the seizure of the goods and the release and disposition of the goods seized.The court may even receive evidence in connection with the motion filed by the aggrieved party for the return of the goods seized.

The petitioners aver that this Court has held that, conformably with the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, the question of seizure and detention as well as the forfeiture of imported goods is for the COC to determine at the first instance, and may later be appealed to the Commissioner of Customs and thereafter to the Court of Tax Appeals. The petitioners also assert that the Court has also ruled that the COC has exclusive jurisdiction over seizure and detention as well as forfeiture cases, the determination of the ownership of the goods and/or the legality of their acquisition, and the legality or illegality of the warrant of seizure and detention issued by the Collector. Thus, even the ordinary courts may not deprive the COC of his jurisdiction therefor.

The contention of the petitioners is based on a wrong premise and does not hold water. Indisputably, the Collector of Customs has exclusive original jurisdiction over seizure and detention proceedings and that the regular courts cannot interfere with nor deprive him of such jurisdiction. However, as correctly held by the CA, the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Collector on the said goods pertains only to the goods seized pursuant to the authority under the TCC. Goods seized on the basis of a search warrant issued by the court under Rule 126 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure are in custodia legis, subject to the control and disposition of the court that issued the search warrant. The court may not be divested of its jurisdiction over the goods by a warrant of seizure and detention issued by the Collector of Customs; and of its jurisdiction to dispose and release the goods as the Constitution, the law and the Rules of Criminal Procedure so mandate. (Tenorio vs CA, G.R. No. 110604. October 10, 2003)

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