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People vs. Judge Castillo Case Digest


A search warrant is merely a process, generally issued by a court in the exercise of its ancillary jurisdiction, and not a criminal action to be entertained by a court pursuant to its original jurisdiction. Thus, in certain cases when no criminal action has yet been filed, any court may issue a search warrant even though it has no jurisdiction over the offense allegedly committed, provided that all the requirements for the issuance of such warrant are present.


Facts: 

Judge Cabalbag of the MTC of Gattaran, Cagayan issued a search warrant against the premises of Rabino for violation of RA 9165. A search was conducted wherein the PDEA and PNP found 1 sachet of shabu inside the house of Rabino in Aparri, Cagayan. Rabino was charged with violation of Section 11 of RA 9165. The case was raffled to RTC, Branch 6, Aparri, Cagayan, presided by Judge Castillo.

Before arraignment, Rabino filed a Motion to Quash Search Warrant and for Suppression of Illegally Acquired Evidence, citing lack of probable cause among other grounds. Judge Castillo granted the motion to quash, holding that because the minimum penalty for illegal possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu is imprisonment of 12 years and 1 day to 20 years, which penalty is way beyond imprisonment of 6 years, MTC Gattaran did not have jurisdiction to entertain the application for and to issue the search warrant. As such, the search warrant is null and void and all proceedings had in virtue thereof are likewise null and void.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied.


Issue:

May a municipal trial court issue a search warrant involving an offense in which it has no jurisdiction?


Held:

The requisites for the issuance of a search warrant are: (1) probable cause is present; (2) such probable cause must be determined personally by the judge; (3) the judge must examine, in writing and under oatn or affirmation, the complainant and the witnesses he or she may produce; (4) the applicant and the witnesses testify on the facts personally known to them; and (5) the warrant specifically describes the place to be searched and the things to be seized. Necessarily, a motion to quash a search warrant may be based on grounds extrinsic of the search warrant, such as (1) the place searched or the property seized are not those specified or described in the search warrant; and (2) there is no probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant.

The respondent judge gravely abused his discretion in quashing the search warrant on a basis other than the accepted grounds. It must be remembered that a search warrant is valid for as long as it has all the requisites set forth by the Constitution and must only be quashed when any of its elements are found to be wanting.

This Court has provided rules to be followed in the application for a search warrant. Rule 126 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides

Sec. 2. Court where application for search warrant shall be filed. - An application for search warrant shall be filed with the following:

(a) Any court within whose territorial jurisdiction a crime was committed.

(b) For compelling reasons stated in the application, any court within the judicial region where the crime was committed if the place of the commission of the crime is known, or any court within the judicial region where the warrant shall be enforced.

However, if the criminal action has already been filed, the application shall only be made in the court where the criminal action is pending.

Apparently, in this case, the application for a search warrant was filed within the same judicial region where the crime was allegedly committed. For compelling reasons, the Municipal Trial Court of Gattaran, Cagayan has the authority to issue a search warrant to search and seize the dangerous drugs stated in the application thereof in Aparri, Cagayan, a place that is within the same judicial region. The fact that the search warrant was issued means that the MTC judge found probable cause to grant the said application after the latter was found by the same judge to have been filed for compelling reasons. Therefore, Sec. 2, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court was duly complied with.

It must be noted that nothing in the above-quoted rule does it say that the court issuing a search warrant must also have jurisdiction over the offense. A search warrant may be issued by any court pursuant to Section 2, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and the resultant case may be filed in another court that has jurisdiction over the offense committed. What controls here is that a search warrant is merely a process, generally issued by a court in the exercise of its ancillary jurisdiction, and not a criminal action to be entertained by a court pursuant to its original jurisdiction. Thus, in certain cases when no criminal action has yet been filed, any court may issue a search warrant even though it has no jurisdiction over the offense allegedly committed, provided that all the requirements for the issuance of such warrant are present. (People vs. Judge Castillo, G.R. No. 204419, November 07, 2016)

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