Stonehill vs. Diokno
20 SCRA 383 (GR No. L-19550)
June 19, 1967
Upon application of the prosecutors (respondent) several judges (respondent) issued on different dates a total of 42 search warrants against petitioners (Stonehill et. al.) and/or corporations of which they were officers to search the persons of the petitioner and/or premises of their officers warehouses and/or residences and to seize and take possession of the personal property which is the subject of the offense, stolen, or embezzled and proceeds of fruits of the offense, or used or intended to be used or the means of committing the offense, which is described in the application as violation of Central Bank Laws, Tariff and Customs Laws, Internal Revenue Code and the Revised Penal Code.
Petitioners filed with the Supreme Court this original action for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus and injunction and prayed that, pending final disposition of the case, a writ of preliminary injunction be issued against the prosecutors, their agents and representatives from using the effect seized or any copies thereof, in the deportation case and that thereafter, a decision be rendered quashing the contested search warrants and declaring the same null and void. For being violative of the constitution and the Rules of court by: (1) not describing with particularity the documents, books and things to be seized; (2) money not mentioned in the warrants were seized; (3) the warrants were issued to fish evidence for deportation cases filed against the petitioner; (4) the searches and seizures were made in an illegal manner; and (5) the documents paper and cash money were not delivered to the issuing courts for disposal in accordance with law.
In their answer, the prosecutors (respondent) alleged; (1) search warrants are valid and issued in accordance with law; (2) defects of said warrants, were cured by petitioners consent; and (3) in any event the effects are admissible regardless of the irregularity.
The Court granted the petition and issued the writ of preliminary injunction. However by a resolution, the writ was partially lifted dissolving insofar as paper and things seized from the offices of the corporations.
1.) Whether or not the petitioners have the legal standing to assail the legality of search warrants issued against the corporation of which they were officers.
2.) Whether or not the search warrants issued partakes the nature of a general search warrants.
3.) Whether or not the seized articles were admissible as evidence regardless of the illegality of its seizure.
Officers of certain corporations, from which the documents, papers, things were seized by means of search warrants, have no cause of action to assail the legality of the contested warrants and of the seizures made in pursuance thereof, for the simple reason that said corporations have their respective personalities, separate and distinct from the personality of herein petitioners, regardless of the amount of shares of stock or of the interest of each of them in said corporations, and whatever the offices they hold therein may be. Indeed, it is well settled that the legality of a seizure can be contested only by the party whose rights have been impaired thereby, and that the objection to an unlawful search and seizure is purely personal and cannot be availed of by third parties.
Officers of certain corporations can not validly object to the use in evidence against them of the documents, papers and things seized from the offices and premises of the corporations adverted to above, since the right to object to the admission of said papers in evidence belongs exclusively to the corporations, to whom the seized effects belong, and may not be invoked by the corporate officers in proceedings against them in their individual capacity.
The Constitution provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, to be determined by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Two points must be stressed in connection with this constitutional mandate, namely: (1) that no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, to be determined by the judge in the manner set forth in said provision; and (2) that the warrant shall particularly describe the things to be seized.
Search warrants issued upon applications stating that the natural and juridical person therein named had committed a "violation of Central Ban Laws, Tariff and Customs Laws, Internal Revenue (Code) and Revised Penal Code." In other words, no specific offense had been alleged in said applications. The averments thereof with respect to the offense committed were abstract. As a consequence, it was impossible for the judges who issued the warrants to have found the existence of probable cause, for the same presupposes the introduction of competent proof that the party against whom it is sought has performed particular acts, or committed specific omissions, violating a given provision of our criminal laws.
General search warrants are outlawed because the sanctity of the domicile and the privacy of communication and correspondence at the mercy of the whims caprice or passion of peace officers.
To prevent the issuance of general warrants this Court deemed it fit to amend Section 3 of Rule 122 of the former Rules of Court by providing in its counterpart, under the Revised Rules of Court that "a search warrant shall not issue but upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense." Not satisfied with this qualification, the Court added thereto a paragraph, directing that "no search warrant shall issue for more than one specific offense."
Seizure of books and records showing all business transaction of petitioners persons, regardless of whether the transactions were legal or illegal contravened the explicit command of our Bill of Rights - that the things to be seized be particularly described - as well as tending to defeat its major objective the elimination of general warrants.
Most common law jurisdiction have already given up the Moncado ruling and eventually adopted the exclusionary rule, realizing that this is the only practical means of enforcing the constitutional injunction against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the language of Judge Learned Hand:
As we understand it, the reason for the exclusion of evidence competent as such, which has been unlawfully acquired, is that exclusion is the only practical way of enforcing the constitutional privilege. In earlier times the action of trespass against the offending official may have been protection enough; but that is true no longer. Only in case the prosecution which itself controls the seizing officials, knows that it cannot profit by their wrong will that wrong be repressed.
The non-exclusionary rule is contrary, not only to the letter, but also, to the spirit of the constitutional injunction against unreasonable searches and seizures. To be sure, if the applicant for a search warrant has competent evidence to establish probable cause of the commission of a given crime by the party against whom the warrant is intended, then there is no reason why the applicant should not comply with the requirements of the fundamental law. Upon the other hand, if he has no such competent evidence, then it is not possible for the Judge to find that there is probable cause, and, hence, no justification for the issuance of the warrant. The only possible explanation (not justification) for its issuance is the necessity of fishing evidence of the commission of a crime. But, then, this fishing expedition is indicative of the absence of evidence to establish a probable cause.
The Court held that the doctrine adopted in the Moncado case must be, as it is hereby, abandoned; that the warrants for the search of three (3) residences of herein petitioners, as specified in the Resolution of June 29, 1962, are null and void; that the searches and seizures therein made are illegal; that the writ of preliminary injunction heretofore issued, in connection with the documents, papers and other effects thus seized in said residences of herein petitioners is hereby made permanent; that the writs prayed for are granted, insofar as the documents, papers and other effects so seized in the aforementioned residences are concerned; that the aforementioned motion for Reconsideration and Amendment should be, as it is hereby, denied; and that the petition herein is dismissed and the writs prayed for denied, as regards the documents, papers and other effects seized in the twenty-nine (29) places, offices and other premises enumerated in the same Resolution, without special pronouncement as to costs.