People v. Solayao G.R. No. 119220 September 20, 1996 262 SCRA 255 (1996)

Facts: SPO3 Jose Niño, narrated that at about 9:00 o’clock in the evening of July 9, 1992, with CAFGU members, they were to conduct an intelligence patrol as required of them by their intelligence officer to verify reports on the presence of armed persons roaming around the barangays. The team of Police Officer Niño proceeded to Barangay Onion where they met the group of accused-appellant Nilo Solayao numbering five. The former became suspicious when they observed that the latter were drunk and that accused-appellant himself was wearing a camouflage uniform or a jungle suit. Accused-appellant’s companions, upon seeing the government agents, fled. Police Officer Niño told accused-appellant not to run away and introduced himself as “PC,” after which he seized the dried coconut leaves which the latter was carrying and found wrapped in it a 49-inch long homemade firearm locally know as “latong.” When he asked accused-appellant who issued him a license to carry said firearm or whether he was connected with the military or any intelligence group, the latter answered that he had no permission to possess the same. Thereupon, SPO3 Niño confiscated the firearm and turned him over to the custody of the policemen of Caibiran who subsequently investigated him and charged him with illegal possession of firearm. The trial court found accused-appellant guilty of illegal possession of firearm. Hence the Appeal.

Issue: Whether the court erred in admitting the confiscated firearm as evidence against the accused with no valid search and arrest warrant

Held: The court ruled that the search and seizure brought about by the suspicious conduct of the accused himself can be likened to a “stop and frisk” situation. There was probable cause to conduct a search even before an arrest could be made. In the present case, after SPO3 Niño told accused-appellant not to run away, the former identified himself as a government agents. The peace officers did not know that he had committed, or was actually committing, the offense of illegal possession of firearm. Tasked with verifying the report that there were armed men roaming in the barangays surrounding Caibiran, their attention was understandably drawn to the group that had aroused their suspicion. They could not have known that the object wrapped in coconut leaves which accused-appellant was carrying hid a firearm. The case at bar constitutes an instance where a search and seizure may be effected without first making an arrest. There was justifiable cause to “stop and frisk” accused-appellant when his companions filed upon seeing the government agents. Under the circumstances, the government agents could not possibly have procured a search warrant first. Thus, there was no violation of the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Nor was there error on the part of the trial court when it admitted the homemade firearm as evidence.

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