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Malacat vs. Court of Appeals, 283 SCRA 159, G.R. No.

123595 December 12, 1997

Facts of the case:

Petitioner Malacat was charged with violation Sec. 3 of P.D. No. 1866 for possessing and/or
acquiring a hand grenade, without first securing the necessary license and/or permit from the
proper authorities.

At pre-trial x x x the prosecution admitted that the police authorities were not armed with a
search warrant nor warrant of arrest at the time they arrested the petitioner.

Rodolfo Yu (Yu) the arresting officer, testified that in response to bomb threats reported, he was
on foot patrol with three other police officers when they chanced upon two groups of Muslim-
looking men x x x these men were acting suspiciously with their eyes . . . moving very fast.

Yu and his companions positioned themselves at strategic points and observed both groups for
about thirty minutes. The police officers then approached one group of men, who then fled in
different directions. As the policemen gave chase, Yu caught up with and apprehended
petitioner. Upon searching petitioner, Yu found a fragmentation grenade tucked inside
petitioner’s “front waist line.”

The trial court ruled that the warrantless search and seizure of petitioner was akin to a “stop and
frisk,” where a “warrant and seizure can be effected without necessarily being preceded by an
arrest” and “whose object is either to maintain the status quo momentarily while the police
officer seeks to obtain more information.” Probable cause was not required as it was not certain
that a crime had been committed, however, the situation called for an investigation, hence to
require probable cause would have been “premature. The RTC emphasized that YU and his
companions were “[c]onfronted with an emergency, in which the delay necessary to obtain a
warrant, threatens the destruction of evidence”17 and the officers “[h]ad to act in haste,” as
petitioner and his companions were acting suspiciously, considering the time, place and
“reported cases of bombing.” Further, petitioner’s group suddenly ran away in different
directions as they saw the arresting officers approach, thus “[i]t is reasonable for an officer to
conduct a limited search, the purpose of which is not necessarily to discover evidence of a crime,
but to allow the officer to pursue his investigation without fear of violence.”

The trial court then ruled that the seizure of the grenade from petitioner was incidental to a
lawful arrest, and since petitioner “[l]ater voluntarily admitted such fact to the police investigator
for the purpose of bombing the Mercury Drug Store.

The CA affirmed the lower court’s findings. (Which later was set aside for being rendered without
jurisdiction, because the appeal should have been brought directly to the SC)

ISSUE:

Whether or not respondent court erred in affirming the finding of the trial court that the
warrantless arrest of petitioner was valid and legal

HELD:

For being impressed with merit, we resolved to give due course to the petition.

xxx

Deliberating on the foregoing pleadings, we find ourselves convinced that the prosecution failed
to establish petitioner’s guilt with moral certainty.
Even granting ex gratia that petitioner was in possession of a grenade, the arrest and search of
petitioner were invalid, as will be discussed below.

xxx

A warrantless arrest under the circumstances contemplated under Section 5(a) has been
denominated as one “in flagrante delicto,” while that under Section 5(b) has been described as a
“hot pursuit” arrest.

xxx

At the outset, we note that the trial court confused the concepts of a “stop-and-frisk” and of a
search incidental to a lawful arrest. These two types of warrantless searches differ in terms of
the requisite quantum of proof before they may be validly effected and in their allowable scope.

In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the
incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large majority of these cases, e.g.,
whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for conducting a search. In this instance, the law
requires that there first be a lawful arrest before a search can be made—the process cannot be
reversed.

xxx

Here, there could have been no valid in flagrante delicto or hot pursuit arrest preceding the
search in light of the lack of personal knowledge on the part of Yu, the arresting officer, or an
overt physical act, on the part of petitioner, indicating that a crime had just been committed,
was being committed or was going to be committed.

Having thus shown the invalidity of the warrantless arrest in this case, plainly, the search
conducted on petitioner could not have been one incidental to a lawful arrest.

xxx

Here, there are at least three (3) reasons why the “stop and-frisk” was invalid:

First, we harbor grave doubts as to Yu’s claim that petitioner was a member of the group which
attempted to bomb Plaza Miranda two days earlier. This claim is neither supported by any police
report or record nor corroborated by any other police officer who allegedly chased that group.

Second, there was nothing in petitioner’s behavior or conduct which could have reasonably
elicited even mere suspicion other than that his eyes were “moving very fast”

Third, there was at all no ground, probable or otherwise, to believe that petitioner was armed
with a deadly weapon. None was visible to Yu, for as he admitted, the alleged grenade was
“discovered” “inside the front waistline” of petitioner, and from all indications as to the distance
between Yu and petitioner, any telltale bulge, assuming that petitioner was indeed hiding a
grenade, could not have been visible to Yu.

When the policemen approached the accused and his companions, they were not yet aware that
a handgrenade was tucked inside his waistline. They did not see any bulging object in [sic] his
person.

People vs. Aruta, 288 SCRA 626, G.R. No. 120915 April 3, 1998

Facts of the Case:


Accused-Appellant Aruta was arrested and charged with violating R.A. 6425 or the Dangerous
Drugs Act.

The RTC convicted accused-appellant based on the testimonies of P/Lt. Abello of Narcotics
Command (NARCOM) that he was tipped off by his informant, that a certain “Aling Rosa” would
be arriving from Baguio City with a large volume of marijuana. Acting on said tip, a team was
assembled to apprehend the said suspect.

While positioned, a Victory Liner Bus stopped in front of the PNB building where two females and
a male got off. It was at this stage that the informant pointed out to the team “Aling Rosa” who
was then carrying a travel bag.

Having ascertained that accused-appellant was “Aling Rosa,” the team approached her and
introduced themselves as NARCOM agents. When P/Lt. Abello asked “Aling Rosa” about the
contents of her bag, the latter handed it to the former.

Upon inspection, the bag was found to contain dried marijuana leaves packed in a plastic bag
marked “Cash Katutak.” The team confiscated the bag together with the Victory Liner bus ticket
to which Lt. Domingo affixed his signature. Accused-appellant was then brought to the NARCOM
office for investigation where a Receipt of Property Seized was prepared for the confiscated
marijuana leaves.

Upon examination of the seized marijuana specimen at the PC/INP Crime Laboratory, Camp
Olivas, Pampanga, P/Maj. Marlene Salangad, a Forensic Chemist, prepared a Technical Report
stating that said specimen yielded positive results for marijuana, a prohibited drug.

xxx

Instead of presenting its evidence, the defense filed a “Demurrer to Evidence” alleging the
illegality of the search and seizure of the items thereby violating accused-appellant’s
constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure as well as their inadmissibility in
evidence.

The said “Demurrer to Evidence” was, however, denied without the trial court ruling on the
alleged illegality of the search and seizure and the inadmissibility in evidence of the items seized
to avoid pre-judgment. Instead, the trial court continued to hear the case.

In view of said denial, accused-appellant testified on her behalf. As expected, her version of the
incident differed from that of the prosecution. She claimed that immediately prior to her arrest,
she had just come from Choice Theater where she watched the movie “Balweg.” While about to
cross the road, an old woman asked her help in carrying a shoulder bag. In the middle of the road,
Lt. Abello and Lt. Domingo arrested her and asked her to go with them to the NARCOM Office.

During investigation at said office, she disclaimed any knowledge as to the identity of the woman
and averred that the old woman was nowhere to be found after she was arrested. Moreover, she
added that no search warrant was shown to her by the arresting officers.

Issue:

Whether or not the search was invalid hence the evidence was inadmissible

Held:
In the instant case, the NARCOM agents were admittedly not armed with a warrant of arrest. To
legitimize the warrantless search and seizure of accused-appellant’s bag, accused-appellant must
have been validly arrested under Section 5 of Rule 113 which provides inter alia:

“Sec. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful.—A peace officer or a private person may, without
a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is
attempting to commit an offense;

xxx xxx x x x.”

Accused-appellant Aruta cannot be said to be committing a crime. Neither was she about to
commit one nor had she just committed a crime. Accused-appellant was merely crossing the
street and was not acting in any manner that would engender a reasonable ground for the
NARCOM agents to suspect and conclude that she was committing a crime. It was only when
the informant pointed to accused-appellant and identified her to the agents as the carrier of
the marijuana that she was singled out as the suspect. The NARCOM agents would not have
apprehended accused-appellant were it not for the furtive finger of the informant because, as
clearly illustrated by the evidence on record, there was no reason whatsoever for them to suspect
that accused-appellant was committing a crime, except for the pointing finger of the informant.
This the Court could neither sanction nor tolerate as it is a clear violation of the constitutional
guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Neither was there any semblance of any
compliance with the rigid requirements of probable cause and warrantless arrests.

Consequently, there was no legal basis for the NARCOM agents to effect a warrantless search of
accused-appellant’s bag, there being no probable cause and the accused-appellant not having
been lawfully arrested. Stated otherwise, the arrest being incipiently illegal, it logically follows
that the subsequent search was similarly illegal, it being not incidental to a lawful arrest. The
constitutional guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure must perforce operate in favor
of accused-appellant. As such, the articles seized could not be used as evidence against accused-
appellant for these are “fruits of a poisoned tree” and, therefore, must be rejected, pursuant to
Article III, Sec. 3(2) of the Constitution.

Asuncion vs. Court of Appeals, 302 SCRA 490, G.R. No. 125959 February 1, 1999