Unilab vs. Isip G.R. No. 163858, June 28, 2005

Facts: NBI, filed an application, in the RTC for the issuance of a search warrant concerning the first and second floors of the Shalimar Building occupied and/or used by Shalimar Philippines, owned/operated by Ernesto Isip; and for the seizure of the following for violation of Section 4(a), in relation to Section 8, of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8203: a. Finished or unfinished products of UNITED LABORATORIES (UNILAB), particularly REVICON multivitamins; b. Sundry items such as tags, labels, boxes, packages, wrappers, receptacles, advertisements and other paraphernalia used in the offering for sale, sale and/or distribution of counterfeit REVICON multivitamins; c. Sales invoices, delivery receipts, official receipts, ledgers, journals, purchase orders and all other books of accounts and documents used in recording the manufacture and/or importation, distribution and/or sales of counterfeit REVICON multivitamins. The search warrant was implemented by NBI, in coordination with UNILAB employees. No fake Revicon multivitamins were found; instead, there were sealed boxes at the first and second floors of the Shalimar Building which, when opened by the NBI agents in the presence of respondent Isip, contained the following: 792 Bottles of Disudrin 60 ml. and 30 Boxes of Inoflox 200 mg. NBI submitted an inventory of the things seized in which he declared that the search of the first and second floors of the Shalimar Building at No. 1571, Aragon Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, the premises described in the warrant, was done in an orderly and peaceful manner. He also filed a Return of Search Warrant, alleging that no other articles/items other than those mentioned in the warrant and inventory sheet were seized. The agent prayed that of the items seized, ten boxes of Disudrin 60 ml., and at least one box of Inoflox be turned over to the custody of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) for examination. The court issued an order granting the motion, on the condition that the turnover be made before the court, in the presence of a representative from the respondents and the court. The respondents filed an “Urgent Motion to Quash the Search Warrant or to Suppress Evidence.” The trial court issued an Order granting the motion of the respondents, on the ground that the things seized, namely, Disudrin and Inoflox, were not those described in the search warrant. On March 16, 2004, the trial court issued an advisory that the seized articles could no longer be admitted in evidence against the respondents in any proceedings, as the search warrant had already been quashed.

Issue: Whether objects not included in the search warrant but within the place to be searched can be used as evidence to incriminate the accused.


Held: No, Disudrin and/or Inoflox were not listed in the search warrant issued by the court a quo as among the properties to be seized by the NBI agents. The warrant specifically authorized the officers only to seize “counterfeit Revicon multivitamins, finished or unfinished, and the documents used in recording, manufacture and/or importation, distribution and/or sale, or the offering for sale, sale and/or distribution of the said vitamins.” The implementing officers failed to find any counterfeit Revicon multivitamins, and instead seized sealed boxes which, when opened at the place where they were found, turned out to contain Inoflox and Disudrin. A search warrant, to be valid, must particularly describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. The officers of the law are to seize only those things particularly described in the search warrant. A search warrant is not a sweeping authority empowering a raiding party to undertake a fishing expedition to seize and confiscate any and all kinds of evidence or articles relating to a crime. The search is limited in scope so as not to be general or explanatory. Nothing is left to the discretion of the officer executing the warrant.Objects, articles or papers not described in the warrant but on plain view of the executing officer may be seized by him. However, the seizure by the officer of objects/articles/papers not described in the warrant cannot be presumed as plain view. The State must adduce evidence, testimonial or documentary, to prove the confluence of the essential requirements for the doctrine to apply, namely: (a) the executing law enforcement officer has a prior justification for an initial intrusion or otherwise properly in a position from which he can view a particular order; (b) the officer must discover incriminating evidence inadvertently; and (c) it must be immediately apparent to the police that the items they observe may be evidence of a crime, contraband, or otherwise subject to seizure.


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