People v. Pasudag G.R. No. 128822, May 4, 2001

Facts: Around 1:30 in the afternoon, SPO2 Pepito Calip urinated at a bushy bamboo fence behind the public school. About five (5) meters away, he saw a garden of about 70 square meters. There were marijuana plants in between corn plants and camote tops. He inquired from a storekeeper nearby as to who owned the house with the garden. The storeowner told him that Alberto Pasudag owned it. He went to the Police Station and reported to Chief of Police. The latter dispatched team to conduct an investigation. At around 2:30 in that same afternoon, the team arrived and went straight to the house of accused Pasudag. SPO3 Fajarito looked for accused Pasudag and asked him to bring the team to his backyard garden which was about five 5 meters away. Upon seeing the marijuana plants, the policemen called for a photographer, who took pictures of accused Pasudag standing besides one of the marijuana plants. They uprooted 7 marijuana plants. The team brought accused Pasudag and the marijuana plants to the police station. At the police station, accused Pasudag admitted, in the presence of Chief of Police that he owned the marijuana plants.  On March 18, 1997, the trial court rendered a decision finding the accused guilty as charged and, taking into consideration his educational attainment (he reached only grade IV), Hence, this appeal. In his brief, accused-appellant contended that the trial court erred in finding that the marijuana plant submitted for laboratory examination was one of the seven (7) marijuana plants confiscated from his garden; that the trial court erred in concluding that the confiscation report was not an extrajudicial admission which required the intervention of his counsel; and in convicting him on the basis of inference that he planted, cultivated and cultured the seven (7) plants, owned the same or that he permitted others to cultivate the same. The Solicitor General contended that accused-appellant admitted before the lower court that tile specimen was one of the plants confiscated in his backyard; that appellant was not under custodial investigation when he signed the confiscation report; and that the inferences deduced by the lower court strengthened the conviction of accused-appellant.

Issue: Whether the arrest of the accused requires urgency or necessity for the warrantless search

Held: No, the Court ruled that search and seizure conducted without the requisite judicial warrant is illegal and void ab initio. The prosecution’s evidence clearly established that the police conducted a search of accused’s backyard garden without a warrant; they had sufficient time to obtain a search warrant; they failed to secure one. There was no showing of urgency or necessity for the warrantless search, or the immediate seizure of the marijuana plants. The Court is not unmindful of the difficulties of law enforcement agencies in suppressing the illegal traffic of dangerous drugs. However, quick solutions of crimes and apprehension of malefactors do not justify a callous disregard of the Bill of Rights.”We need not underscore that the protection against illegal search and seizure is constitutionally mandated and only under specific instances are searches allowed without warrants.” “The mantle of protection extended by the Bill of Rights covers both innocent and guilty alike against any form of high handedness of law enforcers, regardless of the praise worthiness of their intentions.” With the illegal seizure of the marijuana plants subject of this case, the seized plants are inadmissible in evidence against accused-appellant.

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