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SEARCHES AND SEIZURES

GR No. L-45358
Alvarez vs. The Court of First Instance
J. Imperial
[not my digest]
IMPORTANT PEOPLE
Judge Eduardo Gutierrez David Pres. Judge, CFI Tayabas; respondent
Narciso Alvarez petitioner
FACTS
1. Jun. 3, 1936: the chief of of the secret service of the Anti-Usury Board went to
respondent Judge alleging that according to reliable information, petitioner is
keeping in his house in Infanta, Tayabas documents, receipts, lists, chits and
other papers used by him in connection with his activities as a money lender
charging usurious rates of interest in violation of the law.
2. In his oath, the chief of the secret service did not swear to the truth of his
statements upon his knowledge of the facts but the information received by him
from a reliable person. Upon this questioned affidavit, the judge issued the
search warrant, ordering the search of the petitioners house at any time of the
day or night, the seizure of the books and documents and the immediate delivery
of such to respondent Judge.
3. With said warrant, several agents of the Anti-Usury Board entered petitioner's
store and residence at 7 o'clock of the night and seized and took possession of
various articles belonging to the petitioner.
4. Petitioner asks that the warrant of issued by CFI Tayabas, ordering the search of
his house and the seizure, at anytime of the day or night, of certain accounting
books, documents, and papers belonging to him in his residence situated in
Infanta, Tayabas, as well as the order of a later date, authorizing the agents of
the Anti-Usury board to retain the articles seized, be declared illegal and set
aside, and prays that all the articles in question be returned to him.
ISSUE W/ HOLDING
1. What is the nature of searches and seizures as contemplated in the law?
A search warrant is an order in writing, issued in the name of the People of
the Philippine Islands, signed by a judge or a justice of the peace, and
directed to a peace officer, commanding him to search for personal
property and bring it before the court.
Of all the rights of a citizen, few are of greater importance or more
essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security,
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and that involves the exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers
from the inspection and scrutiny of others.
While the power to search and seize is necessary to the public welfare,
still it must be exercised and the law enforced without transgressing the
constitutional rights of citizens.
As the protection of the citizen and the maintenance of his constitutional
right is one of the highest duties and privileges of the court, these
constitutional guaranties should be given a liberal construction or a strict
construction in favor of the individual, to prevent stealthy encroachment
upon, or gradual depreciation on, the rights secured by them. Since the
proceeding is a drastic one, it is the general rule that statutes authorizing
searches and seizure or search warrants must be strictly construed.
Unreasonable searches and seizures are a menace against which the
constitutional guarantee afford full protection. The term "unreasonable
search and seizure" is not defined in the Constitution or in General Orders
No. 58, and it is said to have no fixed, absolute or unchangeable meaning,
although the term has been defined in general language.
All illegal searches and seizure are unreasonable while lawful ones are
reasonable. What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable search or
seizure in any particular case is purely a judicial question, determinable
from a consideration of the circumstances involved, including:
o the purpose of the search,
o the presence or absence or probable cause,
o the manner in which the search and seizure was made,
o the place or thing searched, and
o the character of the articles procured.

2. What is required of the oath in the issuance of search warrant?


Neither the Constitution nor General Orders. No. 58 provides that it is of
imperative necessity to take the deposition of the witnesses to be
presented by the applicant or complainant in addition to the affidavit of the
latter.
The purpose of both in requiring the presentation of depositions is nothing
more than to satisfy the committing magistrate of the existence of
probable cause. Therefore, if the affidavit of the applicant or complainant
is sufficient, the judge may dispense with that of other witnesses.
o Inasmuch as the affidavit of the agent in this case was insufficient
because his knowledge of the facts was not personal but merely
hearsay, it is the duty of the judge to require the affidavit of one or
more witnesses for the purpose of determining the existence of
probable cause to warrant the issuance of the search warrant.
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o When the affidavit of the applicant of the complaint contains


sufficient facts within his personal and direct knowledge, it is
sufficient if the judge is satisfied that there exist probable cause;
when the applicant's knowledge of the facts is mere hearsay, the
affidavit of one or more witnesses having a personal knowledge of
the fact is necessary.
o We conclude, therefore, that the warrant issued is likewise
illegal because it was based only on the affidavit of the agent
who had no personal knowledge of the facts.
3. Can the search warrant be served at night? No.
Section 101 of General Orders, No. 58 authorizes that the search be
made at night when it is positively asserted in the affidavits that the
property is on the person or in the place ordered to be searched.
As we have declared the affidavits insufficient and the warrant issued
exclusively upon it illegal, our conclusion is that the contention is equally
well founded and that the search could not legally be made at night.
4. Is the seizure of evidence to use in an investigation constitutional? No.
At the hearing of the incidents of the case raised before the court it clearly
appeared that the books and documents had really been seized to enable
the Anti-Usury Board to conduct an investigation and later use all or some
of the articles in question as evidence against the petitioner in the criminal
cases that may be filed against him.
The seizure of books and documents by means of a search warrant, for
the purpose of using them as evidence in a criminal case against the
person in whose possession they were found, is unconstitutional
because it makes the warrant unreasonable, and it is equivalent to a
violation of the constitutional provision prohibiting the compulsion of an
accused to testify against himself.
5. Was there a waiver of constitutional guarantees made by petitioner? No.
The Anti-Usury Board insinuates in its answer that the petitioner cannot
now question the validity of the search warrant or the proceedings had
subsequent to the issuance thereof, because he has waived his
constitutional rights in proposing a compromise whereby he agreed to pay
a fine of P200 for the purpose of evading the criminal proceeding or
proceedings.
We are of the opinion that there was no such waiver, first, because the
petitioner has emphatically denied the offer of compromise and, second,

because if there was a compromise it referred but to the institution of


criminal proceedings fro violation of the Anti-Usury Law.
The waiver would have been a good defense for the respondents had the
petitioner voluntarily consented to the search and seizure of the articles in
question, but such was not the case because the petitioner protested from
the beginning and stated his protest in writing in the insufficient inventory
furnished him by the agents.
Therefore, it appearing that at least nineteen of the documents in question
were seized for the purpose of using them as evidence against the
petitioner in the criminal proceeding or proceedings for violation against
him, we hold that the search warrant issued is illegal and that the
documents should be returned to him.

DISPOSITIVE PORTION
Petition granted.