Papa vs. Mago G.R. No. L-27360, February 28, 1968 22 SCRA 857 (1968)

Facts: Petitioner Martin Alagao, head of the counter-intelligence unit of the Manila Police Department, acting upon a reliable information received on November 3, 1966 to the effect that a certain shipment of personal effects, allegedly misdeclared and undervalued, would be released the following day from the customs zone of the port of Manila and loaded on two trucks, and upon orders of petitioner Ricardo Papa, Chief of Police of Manila and a duly deputized agent of the Bureau of Customs, conducted surveillance at gate No. 1 of the customs zone. When the trucks left gate No. 1 at about 4:30 in the afternoon of November 4, 1966, elements of the counter-intelligence unit went after the trucks and intercepted them at the Agrifina Circle, Ermita, Manila. The load of the two trucks consisting of nine bales of goods, and the two trucks, were seized on instructions of the Chief of Police. Upon investigation, a person claimed ownership of the goods and showed to the policemen a “Statement and Receipts of Duties Collected in Informal Entry No. 147-5501”, issued by the Bureau of Customs in the name of a certain Bienvenido Naguit. Claiming to have been prejudiced by the seizure and detention of the two trucks and their cargo, Private Respondents filed with the Court of First Instance of Manila a petition “for mandamus with restraining order. That the goods were seized by members of the Manila Police Department without search warrant issued by a competent court; Respondent Judge Hilarion Jarencio issued an order ex parte restraining the petitioners from opening the nine bales in question, and at the same time set the hearing of the petition for preliminary injunction on November 16, 1966. However, when the restraining order was received by herein petitioners, some bales had already been opened by the examiners of the Bureau of Customs in the presence of officials of the Manila Police Department, an assistant city fiscal and a representative of herein respondent Remedios Mago.

Issue: Whether a warrant issued by a competent court is required to search and seize a moving cargo or vehicle.

Held: No, The Tariff and Customs Code does not require said warrant in the instant case. The Code authorizes persons having police authority under Section 2203 of the Tariff and Customs Code to enter, pass through or search any land, enclosure, warehouse, store or building, not being a dwelling house; and also to inspect, search and examine any vessel or aircraft and any trunk, package, or envelope or any person on board, or to stop and search and examine any vehicle, beast or person suspected of holding or conveying any dutiable or prohibited article introduced into the Philippines contrary to law, without mentioning the need of a search warrant in said cases. But in the search of a dwelling house, the Code provides that said “dwelling house may be entered and searched only upon warrant issued by a judge or justice of the peace. The court view, therefor, that except in the case of the search of a dwelling house, persons exercising police authority under the customs law may effect search and seizure without a search warrant in the enforcement of customs laws. the court defined  the difference made as to the necessity for a search warrant between goods subject to forfeiture, when concealed in a dwelling house of similar place, and like goods in course of transportation and concealed in a movable vessel, where readily they could be put out of reach of a search warrant. In the instant case, we note that petitioner Martin Alagao and his companion policemen did not have to make any search before they seized the two trucks and their cargo. In their original petition, and amended petition, in the court below Remedios Mago and Valentin Lanopa did not even allege that there was a search. But even if there was a search, there is still authority to the effect that no search warrant would be needed under the circumstances obtaining in the instant case. he guaranty of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is construed as recognizing a necessary difference between a search of a dwelling house or other structure in respect of which a search warrant may readily be obtained and a search of a ship, motorboat, wagon, or automobile for contraband goods, where it is not practicable to secure a warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.

 

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