Burgos vs. Chief of Staff G.R. No. L-64261, December 26, 1984 133 SCRA 800 (1984)

Fact: Assailed in this petition for certiorari prohibition and mandamus with preliminary mandatory and prohibitory injunction is the validity of two [2] search warrants issued on December 7, 1982 by respondent Judge Ernani Cruz-Pano, Executive Judge of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal [Quezon City], under which the premises known as No. 19, Road 3, Project 6, Quezon City, and 784 Units C & D, RMS Building, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, business addresses of the “Metropolitan Mail” and “We Forum” newspapers, respectively, were searched, and office and printing machines, equipment, paraphernalia, motor vehicles and other articles used in the printing, publication and distribution of the said newspapers, as well as numerous papers, documents, books and other written literature alleged to be in the possession and control of petitioner Jose Burgos, Jr. publisher-editor of the “We Forum” newspaper, were seized. Petitioners fault respondent judge for his alleged failure to conduct an examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant and his witnesses, as mandated by the above-quoted constitutional provision as wen as Sec. 4, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court .6 This objection, however, may properly be considered moot and academic, as petitioners themselves conceded during the hearing on August 9, 1983, that an examination had indeed been conducted by respondent judge of Col. Abadilla and his witnesses. In the determination of whether a search warrant describes the premises to be searched with sufficient particularity, it has been held “that the executing officer’s prior knowledge as to the place intended in the warrant is relevant. This would seem to be especially true where the executing officer is the affiant on whose affidavit the warrant had issued, and when he knows that the judge who issued the warrant intended the building described in the affidavit, And it has also been said that the executing officer may look to the affidavit in the official court file to resolve an ambiguity in the warrant as to the place to be searched.”

 

It is contended by petitioners, however, that the abovementioned documents could not have provided sufficient basis for the finding of a probable cause upon which a warrant may validly issue in accordance with Section 3, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution.

Issue: Whether general description of the things to be seized is enough to constitute probable cause to validate the issuance of a search warrant and seizure

Held: No, Probable cause for a search is defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place sought to be searched. And when the search warrant applied for is directed against a newspaper publisher or editor in connection with the publication of subversive materials, the application and/or its supporting affidavits must contain a specification, stating with particularity the alleged subversive material he has published or is intending to publish. Mere generalization will not suffice. Thus, the broad statement in of the respondent’s application that petitioner “is in possession or has in his control printing equipment and other paraphernalia, news publications and other documents which were used and are all continuously being used as a means of committing the offense of subversion punishable under Presidential Decree 885, as amended …” is a mere conclusion of law and does not satisfy the requirements of probable cause. Bereft of such particulars as would justify a finding of the existence of probable cause, said allegation cannot serve as basis for the issuance of a search warrant and it was a grave error for respondent judge to have done so. Equally insufficient as basis for the determination of probable cause is the statement contained in the joint affidavit of Alejandro M. Gutierrez and Pedro U. Tango, “that the evidence gathered and collated by our unit clearly shows that the premises above- mentioned and the articles and things above-described were used and are continuously being used for subversive activities in conspiracy with, and to promote the objective of, illegal organizations such as the Light-a-Fire Movement, Movement for Free Philippines, and April 6 Movement.”

 

In mandating that “no warrant shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined by the judge, … after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce; the Constitution requires no less than personal knowledge by the complainant or his witnesses of the facts upon which the issuance of a search warrant may be justified. this Court ruled that “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.” As couched, the quoted averment in said joint affidavit filed before respondent judge hardly meets the test of sufficiency established by this Court.

 

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