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People of the Philippines vs Chua Ho San

FACTS:

Chua Ho San was found guilty of transporting without appropriate legal authority the
regulated substance methamphetamine hydrochloride, in violation of Section 15, [1] Article III of
Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act. The antecedent facts are
as follows:

In response to reports of rampant smuggling of firearms and other contraband, Chief of


Police Jim Lagasca Cid of Bacnotan Police Station, La Union began patrolling the Bacnotan
coastline with his officers. While monitoring the coastal area of Barangay Bulala, he intercepted a
radio call ataround 12:45 p.m. from Barangay Captain Juan Almoite of Barangay Tammocalao
requesting for police assistance regarding an unfamiliar speedboat the latter had spotted.
According to Almoite, the vessel looked different from the boats ordinarily used by fisherfolk of the
area and was about to dock at Tammocalao shores. Cid and six of his men led by SPO1Reynoso
Badua, proceeded immediately to Tammocalao beach and there conferred with Almoite. Cid then
observed that the speedboat ferried a lone male passenger, who was later identified as Chua Ho
San. When the speedboat landed, the male passenger alighted, carrying a multicolored strawbag
and then he thereafter walked towards the road. Upon seeing the police officers, the man
changed his direction. Badua held Chua’s right arm to prevent him from fleeing. They then
introduced themselves as police officers but Chua did not understand what they were saying. The
officers resorted to the use of “sign language”, Cid motioned using his hands for the man to open
his bag. The man acceded to the request. The said bag was found to contain several transparent
plastic containing yellowish crystalline substances, which was later identified as
methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. Chua was then brought to Bacnotan Police Station,
where he was provided with an interpreter to inform him of his constitutional rights.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the warrantless search and seizure conducted which produced the 29 plastic
packets of methamphetamine hydrochloride is valid

HELD:

No, the warrantless search and seizure conducted which produced the 29 plastic packets of
methamphetamine hydrochloride is not valid. The Constitution provides the inviolable right to
privacy of home and person and their right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and
effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose.
Also enshrined in the Constitution is the exclusionary principle which decrees that any evidence
obtained in violation of said right is inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding

While a search without a warrant is generally not valid, there are notable exceptions to this,
namely: (a) search of moving vehicles, (b) seizure in plain view, (c) customs searches, (d) waiver
or consent searches, (e) stop and frisk situations and (f) search incidental to a lawful arrest.

In an in flagrante delicto arrest, one instance of a valid arrest without a warrant, the arresting
officer must have personal knowledge of such facts or circumstances which is constitutive of
probable cause. Probable cause means that there is a reasonable ground of suspicion supported
by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man's belief that the
person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged. In the given facts, there does
not appear to be any indication that Chua participated in an ongoing criminal enterprise that
would justify the conduct of such an obtrusive search. In other words there is no probable cause
for an in flagrante arrest to be done and therefore no valid instance to search the accused without
a warrant.
Also, the contention of the prosecution that there was a consented search is likewise without
merit. No valid waiver could have been made by Chua in the given situation since he could not
fully understand what the police officers were saying. All that was used was sign language and as
such it cannot logically be inferred from his alleged cognizance of the “sign language” that he
deliberately, intelligently, and consciously waived his right against such an intrusive search.

Given that the arrest of Chua without a warrant does not fall within one of the valid instances
provided by the Rules of Court for a valid warrantless arrest, the arrest of the accused is therefore
not valid. Following the exclusionary principle therefore, the evidence obtained via the invalid
search is therefore fruit of the poisonous tree and is not admissible.