Roldan vs. Arca G.R. No. L-25434 July 25, 1975 65 SCRA 320 (1975)

Facts:  Respondent company filed with the CFI against petitioner for the recovery of fishing vessel Tony Lex VI (one of two fishing boats in question) which had been seized and impounded by petitioner Fisheries Commissioner through the Philippine Navy. Respondent company prayed for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction with respondent court, but said prayer was, however, denied. The CFI set aside its order and granted respondent company’s motion for reconsideration praying for preliminary mandatory injunction. Thus, respondent company took Possession of the vessel Tony Lex VI from herein petitioners by virtue of the abovesaid writ. The vessel, Tony Lex VI or Srta. Winnie however, remained in the possession of respondent company. The Petitioner Fisheries Commissioner requested the Philippine Navy to apprehend vessels Tony Lex VI and Tony Lex III, also respectively called Srta. Winnie and Srta. Agnes, for alleged violations of some provisions of the Fisheries Act and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder. The two fishing boats were actually seized for illegal fishing with dynamite. Fish caught with dynamite and sticks of dynamite were then found aboard the two vessels. The Fisheries Commissioner requested the Palawan Provincial Fiscal to file criminal charges against the crew members of the fishing vessels. There were filed in the court a couple of informations, one against the crew members of Tony Lex III, and another against the crew members of Tony Lex VI for illegal fishing with the use of dynamite. On the same day, the Fiscal filed an ex parte motion to hold the boats in custody as instruments and therefore evidence of the crime, and cabled the Fisheries Commissioner to detain the vessels. Respondent company filed a complaint with application for preliminary mandatory injunction, against herein petitioners. it was alleged that at the time of the seizure of the fishing boats in issue, the same were engaged in legitimate fishing operations off the coast of Palawan; that by virtue of the offer of compromise dated September 13, 1965 by respondent company to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the numerous violations of the Fishery Laws, if any, by the crew members of the vessels were settled. October 18, 1965, the respondent Judge issued the challenged order granting the issuance of the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and issued the preliminary writ upon the filing by private respondent of a bond of P5,000.00 for the release of the two vessels. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied.

Issue: Whether the enforcement of fishing and customs law is exempted in applying for a warrant before the search and seizure.

Held: Yes, Search and seizure without search warrant of vessels and aircrafts for violations of the customs laws have been the traditional exception to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant, because the vessel can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the search warrant must be sought before such warrant could be secured; hence it is not practicable to require a search warrant before such search or seizure can be constitutionally effected. The same exception should apply to seizures of fishing vessels breaching our fishery laws. They are usually equipped with powerful motors that enable them to elude pursuing ships of the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard. Another exception to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant for a valid search and seizure, is a search or seizure as an incident to a lawful arrest, a police officer or a private individual may, without a warrant, arrest a person (a) who has committed, is actually committing or is about to commit an offense in his presence; (b) who is reasonably believed to have committed an offense which has been actually committed; or (c) who is a prisoner who has escaped from confinement while serving a final judgment or from temporary detention during the pendency of his case or while being transferred from one confinement to another. In the case at bar, the members of the crew of the two vessels were caught in flagrante illegally fishing with dynamite and without the requisite license. Thus their apprehension without a warrant of arrest while committing a crime is lawful. Consequently, the seizure of the vessel, its equipment and dynamites therein was equally valid as an incident to a lawful arrest.

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