People vs. De Gracia G. R. Nos. 102009-10 July 6, 1994 233 SCRA 716 (1994)

Facts: The records show that in the early morning of December 1, 1989, Maj. Efren Soria of the Intelligence Division, National Capital Region Defense Command, was on board a brown Toyota car conducting a surveillance of the Eurocar Sales Office located at EDSA, together with his team and was conducted pursuant to an intelligence report received by the division that said establishment was being occupied by elements of the RAM-SFP as a communication command post.  After a while, a group of five men disengaged themselves from the crowd and walked towards the car of the surveillance team drew their guns and fired at the team, which attack resulted in the wounding of Sgt. Sagario on the right thigh. Nobody in the surveillance team was able to retaliate because they sought cover inside the car and they were afraid that civilians or bystanders might be caught in the cross-fire. As a consequence, at around 6:30 A.M. of December 5, 1989, a searching team raided the Eurocar Sales Office. They were able to find and confiscate contrabands inside one of the rooms belonging to a certain Col. Matillano which is located at the right portion of the building.  On February 22, 1991, the trial court rendered judgment found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion and sentenced him to serve the penalty of reclusion perpetua. That judgment of conviction is now challenged before us in this appeal.

Issue: Whether in a state of emergency circumstances exist, the arrest of the accused involved in rebellious act is valid without securing a arrest and search warrant.

Held: Yes, Under the foregoing circumstances, it is our considered opinion that the instant case falls under one of the exceptions to the prohibition against a warrantless search. In the first place, the military operatives, taking into account the facts obtaining in this case, had reasonable ground to believe that a crime was being committed. There was consequently more than sufficient probable cause to warrant their action. Furthermore, under the situation then prevailing, the raiding team had no opportunity to apply for and secure a search warrant from the courts. The trial judge himself manifested that on December 5, 1989 when the raid was conducted, his court was closed. Under such urgency and exigency of the moment, a search warrant could lawfully be dispensed with. While it is true that the officers were not armed with a search warrant when the search was made over the personal effects of accused, however, under the circumstances of the case, there was sufficient probable cause for said officers to believe that accused was then and there committing a crime. Probable cause has been defined as such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonable, 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. The required probable cause that will justify a warrantless search and seizure is not determined by any fixed formula but is resolved according to the facts of each case.

 

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