People vs. Gerente G.R. No. 95847-48 March 10, 1993 219 SCRA 756 (1993)

Facts: Edna Edwina Reyes testified that appellant Gabriel Gerente, together with Fredo Echigoren and Totoy Echigoren, started drinking liquor and smoking marijuana in the house of the appellant which is about six (6) meters away from the house of the prosecution witness who was in her house on that day. She overheard the three men talking about their intention to kill Clarito Blace. Appellant allegedly agreed: “Sigue, papatayin natin mamaya.” Fredo and Totoy Echigoren and Gerente carried out their plan to kill Clarito Blace at about 2:00 p.m. of the same day. The prosecution witness, Edna Edwina Reyes, testified that she witnessed the killing. Fredo Echigoren struck the first blow against Clarito Blace, followed by Totoy Echigoren and Gabriel Gerente who hit him twice with a piece of wood in the head and when he fell, Totoy Echigoren dropped a hollow block on the victim’s head. Thereafter, the three men dragged Blace to a place behind the house of Gerente. At about 4:00 p.m. of the same day, Patrolman Jaime Urrutia of the Valenzuela Police Station received a report from the Palo Police Detachment about a mauling incident. He went to the Valenzuela District Hospital where the victim was brought. He was informed by the hospital officials that the victim died on arrival. The cause of death was massive fracture of the skull caused by a hard and heavy object. Right away, Patrolman Urrutia, together with Police Corporal Romeo Lima and Patrolman Alex Umali, proceeded to Paseo de Blas where the mauling incident took place. There they found a piece of wood with blood stains, a hollow block and two roaches of marijuana. They were informed by the prosecution witness, Edna Edwina Reyes that she saw the killing and she pointed to Gabriel Gerente as one of the three men who killed Clarito. The policemen proceeded to the house of the appellant who was then sleeping. They told him to come out of the house and they introduced themselves as policemen. Patrolman Urrutia frisked appellant and found a coin purse in his pocket which contained dried leaves wrapped in cigarette foil. The dried leaves were sent to the National Bureau of Investigation for examination. The Forensic Chemist found them to be marijuana. When arraigned the appellant pleaded not guilty to both charges. A joint trial of the two cases was held. The trial court rendered a decision convicting him of Violation of Section 8 of R.A. 6425 and of Murder.

Issue: Whether the Personal Knowledge of the policeman of the crime committed by the accused is justified and valid in arresting the latter without securing an arrest and search warrant.

Held: Yes, “To hold that no criminal can, in any case, be arrested and searched for the evidence and tokens of his crime without a warrant, would be to leave society, to a large extent, at the mercy of the shrewdest, the most expert, and the most depraved of criminals, facilitating their escape in many instances.” The policemen arrested Gerente only some 3 hours after Gerente and his companions had killed Blace. They saw Blace dead in the hospital and when they inspected the scene of the crime, they found the instruments of death: a piece of wood and a concrete hollow block which the killers had used to bludgeon him to death. The eye-witness, Edna Edwina Reyes, reported the happening to the policemen and pinpointed her neighbor, Gerente, as one of the killers. Under those circumstances, since the policemen had personal knowledge of the violent death of Blace and of facts indicating that Gerente and two others had killed him, they could lawfully arrest Gerente without a warrant. If they had postponed his arrest until they could obtain a warrant, he would have fled the law as his two companions did. The search conducted on Gerente’s person was likewise lawful because it was made as an incident to a valid arrest. This is in accordance with Section 12, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Court which provides that Search incident to lawful arrest. — A person lawfully arrested may be searched for dangerous weapons or anything which may be used as proof of the commission of an offense, without a search warrant.” The frisk and search of appellant’s person upon his arrest was a permissible precautionary measure of arresting officers to protect themselves, for the person who is about to be arrested may be armed and might attack them unless he is first disarmed.

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