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People v Del Castillo

G.R. No. 153254. September 30, 2004


Justice Austria-Martinez

RECIT-READY DIGEST: A search was conducted on the premises of Eden Del Castillo’s grandmother. The
officers entered the house and served the warrant upon Del Castillo. The police officers "pressed" the other members
of the household, the grandmother and brother, by telling them not to move and they were asked to just sit down while
the search was on-going. sachets of shabu was found by the officers. Del Castillo was found guilty of violation of the
Dangerous Drugs Act, imposeng the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, having in possession of Shabu. The SC held that
the search was invalid. While Del Castillo and the other occupants of the house were present during the search, they
were not allowed to actually witness the search of the premises. They were in the words of the policemen
"pressed," i.e., they were asked to stay put in the sala where they were seated while the simultaneous search was
on-going in the upper and lower portions of the house. They should be the ones that should have accompanied the
policemen while the search was being done and not substituted by the barangay tanods in their stead. Furthermore, in
violation of Sec 11 and 12 of Rule 126, the inventory receipt was given to the barangay tanod despite the presence
of the accused and her grandmother. The inventory receipt was not certified under oath by any of the members of
the raiding team as required by the rule but was signed only by appellant and her brother. Also, Del Castillo signed
the receipt without the assistance of counsel, even if no proof of waiver was made by Del Castillo. Prosecution
witnesses failed to establish that the house where the shabu and other shabu paraphernalias were found belongs
to appellant. On the other hand, defense evidence clearly showed that the subject house belongs to appellant's
grandmother, Elena Garcia. The prosecution likewise failed to prove appellant's possession of the shabu at the
time of her arrest. It was not shown at all in whose room it was found. Del Castillo was not the only person who had
access to the entire house. It was also shown by the prosecution that a certain Servando, appellant's brother, voluntarily
surrendered five small plastic packs of shabu.

FACTS:
1. A search warrant was issued by the RTC Cebu, authorizing the search and seizure of the shabu of Eden Del
Castillo. A team composed police went to the house to implement the warrant, and was accompanied by 3
barangay tanods. They entered the house and served the warrant upon Del Castillo. The police officers "pressed"
the other members of the household, the grandmother and brother, by telling them not to move and they were
asked to just sit down while the search was on-going.
2. The raiding team divided themselves into two searching groups. The first group composed of Bauzon, Toring
and one barangay tanod searched the upper portion of the house and found three large plastic packs of white
crystalline substance, or shabu. The second group, composed of Baclayon and Borinaga, searched the ground
floor and found eight medium heat-sealed plastic packs of white crystalline substance and fifty-three heat- sealed
plastic packets of white crystalline substance; two disposable lighters, one pair of scissors, one tooter, one puller
and an improvised hacksaw. Servando voluntarily surrendered five small packs of white crystalline substance.
3. Del Castillo was found guilty of violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, imposeng the penalty of Reclusion
Perpetua, having in possession of Shabu.

ISSUE: Whether the search was valid.


HELD: NO.
RATIONALE:
1. The manner in which the search was conducted on the subject house failed to comply with the mandatory
provisions of Section 8 (formerly Section 7), Rule 126 of the Rules of Court.
1. SEC. 8. Search of house, room, or premises, to be made in presence of two witnesses. — No search of
a house, room, or any other premise shall be made except in the presence of the lawful occupant thereof
or any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion
residing in the same locality.
2. The search of the house must be done in the presence of the lawful occupants and it is only in the absence
of the former that two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality may be
called upon to witness the search.
3. While Del Castillo and the other occupants of the house were present during the search, they were not
allowed to actually witness the search of the premises. They were in the words of the policemen
"pressed," i.e., they were asked to stay put in the sala where they were seated while the simultaneous
search was on-going in the upper and lower portions of the house. They should be the ones that should
have accompanied the policemen while the search was being done and not substituted by the barangay
tanods in their stead.
4. Such a procedure, whereby the witnesses prescribed by law are prevented from actually observing
and monitoring the search of the premises, violates both the spirit and the letter of the law. Section 8,
Rule 126 provides that the search should be witnessed by "two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion
residing in the same locality" only in the absence of either of the lawful occupant of the premises or any
member of his family.
2. The raiding team failed to comply with the procedures on search and seizures provided under Sections 111
and 122, Rule 126 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure
1. The detailed receipt of the inventory must be given to the lawful occupant. In this case, however, PO3
Petallar admitted that the inventory receipt was given to the barangay tanod despite the presence of
the appellant and her grandmother which is a violation of the rule.
2. The police officers failed to deliver the seized items to the court which issued the search warrant.
It was commanded in the search warrant that the seized articles be brought to the court which issued it
to be dealt with as the law directs. Under the rule, the seized property must be delivered by the officer
to the judge who issued the warrant. It must be accompanied with a true inventory thereof duly verified.
The police officers all testified that the confiscated shabu was brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory for
examination. Such practice violates the mandatory requirements of the law and defeats the very purpose
for which they were enacted. Speculations as to the probability of tampering with the evidence cannot
then be avoided.
3. The inventory receipt was not certified under oath by any of the members of the raiding team as
required by the rule but was signed only by appellant and her brother. It is highly irregular that the
inventory receipt was dated July 24, 2000 when the actual raid was conducted on July 31, 2000.
4. Also, Del Castillo signed the receipt without the assistance of counsel. It was established that at the
time she signed the receipt, she was already under custodial investigation. While PO3 Petallar testified
that appellant was read her constitutional right, it was not clearly shown that she was informed of her
right not to sign the receipt and that it can be used as an evidence against her. If appellant was indeed
informed of her constitutional right, it is unusual for her to sign the receipt acknowledging ownership of
the seized items without the assistance of counsel considering that she wanted to get a lawyer.
3. Prosecution witnesses failed to establish that the house where the shabu and other shabu paraphernalias
were found belongs to appellant. On the other hand, defense evidence clearly showed that the subject house
belongs to appellant's grandmother, Elena Garcia.

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SEC. 11. Receipt for the property seized. — The officer seizing the 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.
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SEC. 12. Delivery of property and inventory thereof to the court. — 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.
1. The evidence of the prosecution failed to establish by competent evidence that appellant is the owner or
at least shared the ownership of the house where the shabu was found. Thus, there is no competent
evidence that appellant had control and dominion over the place where the shabu was found.
2. While it is not necessary that the property to be searched or seized should be owned by the person
against whom the search warrant is issued, however, there must be sufficient showing that the property
is under appellant's control or possession.
3. The essential elements of the crime of possession of regulated drugs are the following: (a) the accused
is found in possession of a regulated drug; (b) the person is not authorized by law or by duly constituted
authorities; and, (c) the accused has knowledge that the said drug is a regulated drug.
4. Since knowledge by the accused of the existence and character of the drugs in the place where he
exercises dominion and control is an internal act, the same may be presumed from the fact that the
dangerous drugs is in the house or place over which the accused has control or dominion, or within such
premises in the absence of any satisfactory explanation.
5. To insure that a waiver is voluntary and intelligent, the Constitution requires that for the right to counsel
to be waived, the waiver must be in writing and in the presence of the counsel of the accused. There is
no such written waiver in this case, much less was any waiver made in the presence of the counsel since
there was no counsel at the time appellant signed the receipt. Clearly, appellant affixed her signature in
the inventory receipt without the assistance of counsel which is a violation of her right under the
Constitution.
4. The prosecution likewise failed to prove appellant's possession of the shabu at the time of her arrest.
1. At the time the raiding team conducted the search, appellant and the other occupants were asked to stay
in the living room. PO3 Petallar did not find any drugs on appellant's body nor was there anything
unusual or suspicious noted in her person.
2. It was not shown at all in whose room it was found. In fact, the defense evidence showed that at the time
the two policemen went upstairs, Jaime Garcia, appellant's uncle, was asleep and was awakened by the
policemen who asked him to go down.
3. The shabu found at the ground floor of the house does not conclusively establish that it belongs to Del
Castillo since it was not found together with the other things of Del Castillo..
4. Del Castillo was not the only person who had access to the entire house. It was also shown by the
prosecution that a certain Servando, appellant's brother, voluntarily surrendered five small plastic packs
of white crystalline substance.