Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 174570 February 22, 2010
ROMER SY TAN, Petitioner,
SY TIONG GUE, FELICIDAD CHAN SY, SY CHIM, SY TIONG SAN, SY YU BUN, SY YU SHIONG, SY YU SAN and BRYAN SY LIM, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari seeking to annul and set aside the Decision1 dated December 29, 2005 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 81389 and the Resolution2 dated August 18, 2006 denying petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration.
The antecedents are as follows:
On January 11, 2006, an Information3 for the crime of Robbery was filed against respondents Sy Tiong Gue, Felicidad Chan Sy, Sy Chim, Sy Tiong Yan, Sy Yu Bun, Sy Yu Siong, Sy Yu San, Bryan Sy Lim, Sy Yu Hui-Pabilona, Police Officer 1 (PO1) Mamerto J. Madronio, and PO1 Marvin Sumang for the alleged taking of P6,500,000.00 cash, 286 postdated checks, five boxes of Hennessy Cognac, a television set, a computer set, and other documents from the Guan Yiak Hardware, committed as follows:
That on or about April 15, 2003, in the city of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring and confederating together and helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent of gain and by means of violence against or intimidation of persons and force upon things, to wit: by forcibly entering the Office of Guan Yiak Hardware located at 453-455 Tomas Pinpin Street, Binondo, Manila, while being armed with guns, and thereafter, take rob and carry away cash in the amount of P6,500,000.00 from the vault; 286 postdated checks with total face value of P4,325,642.00 issued by several customers payable to Guan Yiak Hardware, Five (5) boxes of Hennessy XO Cognac valued at P240,000.00 more or less; a television set valued at P20,000.00 more or less; Computer set valued at P50,000.00 more or less and other papers/documents or all valued at P11,135,642.00 more or less belonging to SY SIY HO AND SONS, INC. (Guan Yiak Hardware) represented by Romer S. Tan, to the damage and prejudice of the aforesaid owner in the total amount of P11,135,642.00 more or less, Philippine Currency.
Contrary to law.4
Consequently, on April 22, 2003, Police Inspector (P/Insp.) Edgar A. Reyes filed two separate applications for the issuance of a search warrant before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Manila. The applications were later docketed as Search Warrant Case Nos. 03-3611 and 03-3612 and raffled off to Branch 7, RTC, Manila.
In the said applications, P/Insp. Reyes alleged that he had personal knowledge that respondent Felicidad Chan Sy had in her possession five boxes of Hennessy XO, as well as 286 company checks taken from Guan Yiak Hardware. He prayed that the court issue a search warrant authorizing him or any other agent of the law to take possession of the subject property and bring them before the court.
In support of the applications, P/Insp. Reyes submitted the sworn statements of petitioner Romer Sy Tan5 and witnesses Maricho Sabelita6 and Anicita Almedilla.7 On April 22, 2003, presiding Judge Enrico A. Lanzanas posed searching questions to the applicant and his witnesses to determine if probable cause existed to justify the issuance of the search warrants.
Thereafter, or on April 22, 2003, Judge Lanzanas issued Search Warrant Nos. 03-36118 and 03-3612,9 directing any peace officer to make an immediate search of the 8th floor, 524 T. Pinpin, Binondo, Manila for five boxes of Hennessy XO; and the 7th floor, 524 T. Pinpin, Binondo, Manila for various checks payable to the Guan Yiak Hardware, respectively; and, if found, to take possession thereof and bring the same before the court.
The warrants were later served in the afternoon of April 22, 2003. Under Search Warrant No. 03-3611, three boxes containing twelve Hennessy XOs and one box containing seven Hennessy XOs, were seized. However, the enforcement of Search Warrant No. 03-3612 yielded negative results.
On May 21, 2003, respondents filed a Motion to Quash Search Warrants,10 which petitioner opposed.11
On September 1, 2003, the RTC issued an Order12 denying the motion. Respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration,13 but it was denied in the Order14 dated October 28, 2003.
Aggrieved, respondents filed a Petition for Certiorari15 under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court before the CA arguing that:
The respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when he refused to quash the subject search warrants, notwithstanding the manifest absence of probable cause.
There is no appeal, nor any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law from the assailed Orders.16
On December 29, 2005, the CA rendered the assailed Decision, the decretal portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed orders of the respondent court in Search Warrant Case Nos. 03-3611 and 03-3612 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the Motion to Quash Search Warrant Case Nos. 03-3611 and 03-3612 is GRANTED.
The CA opined that quashing the search warrants for lack of personal knowledge was unwarranted. It added that the description of the items to be seized complied with the requirement of particularity. Moreover, the CA found the inquiries made by the judge to be sufficiently probing. However, the CA agreed with the respondents and concluded that there was no probable cause for the issuance of the subject search warrants; thus, respondents’ motion to quash should have been granted by the RTC.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied in the assailed Resolution dated August 18, 2006.
Hence, the petition assigning the following errors:
The honorable Court of Appeals committed error of law and error of jurisdiction in setting aside the search warrants issued by honorable executive judge enrico a. lanzanas of rtc 7, manila.
The honorable court of appeals committed error of law and error of jurisdiction in granting the petition for certiorari filed with it by the respondents, despite lack of showing that honorable executive judge enrico a. lanzanas of rtc 7, manila, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing its orders (annexes "l" and "p") denying respondents’ motion to quash search warrants and motion for reconsideration.
Petitioner argues that there was substantial basis for the findings of facts and circumstances, which led the issuing court to determine and conclude that the offense of robbery had been committed by the respondents. Petitioner insists that there was probable cause, which justified the issuing judge to issue the questioned search warrants. Petitioner maintains that the RTC issued the search warrants after determining the existence of probable cause based on the Sinumpaang Salaysay of the affiants and the testimonies given by them during the hearing of the applications for search warrant.
On their part, respondents maintain that the CA’s finding that there was no probable cause for the issuance of the search warrants was in accordance with the facts and the law. Respondents contend that the CA correctly appreciated the numerous statements and admissions of petitioner and his witnesses, all of which, taken together, clearly negate any finding of probable cause for the issuance of the subject search warrants.
The sole issue to be determined in the instant action is whether or not there was probable cause warranting the issuance by RTC of the subject search warrants. We answer in the affirmative
A search warrant is an order in writing issued in the name of the People of the Philippines, signed by a judge and directed to a peace officer, commanding him to search for personal property described therein and to bring it before the court.18 The issuance of a search warrant is governed by Rule 126 of the Rules of Court, the relevant sections of which provide:
Section 4. Requisites for issuing search warrant. — A search warrant shall not issue except upon probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be determined personally 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 things to be seized which may be anywhere in the Philippines.1avvphi1
Section 5. Examination of complainant; record. — The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing and under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements together with the affidavits submitted.
Section 6. Issuance and form of search warrant. — If the judge is satisfied of the existence of facts upon which the application is based or that there is probable cause to believe that they exist, he shall issue the warrant, which must be substantially in the form prescribed by these Rules.
Therefore, the validity of the issuance of a search warrant rests upon the following factors: (1) it must be issued upon probable cause; (2) the probable cause must be determined by the judge himself and not by the applicant or any other person; (3) in the determination of probable cause, the judge must examine, under oath or affirmation, the complainant and such witnesses as the latter may produce; and (4) the warrant issued must particularly describe the place to be searched and persons or things to be seized.19
In the case at bar, the CA concluded that the RTC did not comply with any of the requisites required for the issuance of the subject search warrants. The CA ratiocinated that although the RTC judge personally determined if probable cause existed by examining the witnesses through searching questions, and although the search warrants sufficiently described the place to be searched and things to be seized, there was no probable cause warranting the issuance of the subject search warrants. We do not agree.
Jurisprudence dictates that probable cause, as a condition for the issuance of a search warrant, is such reasons supported by facts and circumstances as will warrant a cautious man to believe that his action and the means taken in prosecuting it are legally just and proper. Probable cause requires facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonably prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with that offense are in the place to be searched.20 In Microsoft Corporation v. Maxicorp, Inc.,21 this Court stressed that:
The determination of probable cause does not call for the application of rules and standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial on the merits. As implied by the words themselves, "probable cause" is concerned with probability, not absolute or even moral certainty. The prosecution need not present at this stage reasonable doubt. The standards of judgment are those of a reasonably prudent man, not the exacting calibrations of a judge after a full-blown trial.
Applying these set standards, this Court finds that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC judge in issuing the subject search warrants.
A perusal of the Sinumpaang Salaysay22 and the Transcript of Stenographic Notes23 reveals that Judge Lanzanas, through searching and probing questions, was satisfied that there were good reasons to believe that respondents, accompanied by five maids, took five boxes of Hennessy XO owned by the Guan Yiak Hardware and brought them to the 8th floor of 524 T. Pinpin St., Binondo, Manila; and that a person named "Yubol" took various checks from the company’s vault, which was later brought to the 7th floor of 524 T. Pinpin St., Binondo, Manila. When they entered the premises, Felicidad Chan Sy was accompanied by two policemen, which stunned Romer Sy Tan, so that he was not able to do anything in the face of the calculated and concerted actions of his grandmother, Felicidad Chan Sy, and her seven companions. Based on the foregoing circumstances, Romer Sy Tan believed that the crime of robbery was committed by the respondents.24
The power to issue search warrants is exclusively vested in the trial judges in the exercise of their judicial functions.25 A finding of probable cause, which would merit the issuance of a search warrant, needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed by the accused.26 The determination of whether probable cause exists as to justify the issuance of a search warrant is best left to the sound discretion of a judge.27 Apparent in the case at bar and as aptly found by the RTC judge, there was probable cause justifying the issuance of the search warrants. This was established by the Sinumpaang Salaysay and the testimonies, consisting of no less than 37 pages, given by witnesses who had personal knowledge of facts indicating that the crime of robbery had been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense were in the place sought to be searched. The facts narrated by the witnesses while under oath, when they were asked by the examining judge, were sufficient justification for the issuance of the subject search warrants.
A Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only, or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction, or to prevent it from committing such grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.28 This Court finds nothing irregular, much less, grave abuse of discretion, committed by the RTC judge in issuing the subject search warrants. The RTC judge complied with all the procedural and substantive requirements for the issuance of a search warrant. This Court is, therefore, bound by the RTC judge’s finding of probable cause for issuing Search Warrant Nos. 03-3611 and 03-3612.
It is to be noted, however, that while this Court affirms the sufficiency of probable cause in the issuance of the search warrants in connection with the crime of robbery allegedly committed by the respondents, the guilt of the accused still remains to be determined in the appropriate criminal action against them, not in the present case which is limited only to the propriety of the issuance of the subject search warrants by the RTC.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution dated December 29, 2005 and August 18, 2006, respectively, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 81389 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Orders of the RTC dated September 1, 2003 and October 28, 2003 are REINSTATED. The validity of Search Warrant Nos. 03-3611 and 03-3612 is SUSTAINED.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
RENATO C. CORONA
|PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
Third Division, Chairperson
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
1 Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino, with Associate Justices Portia Aliño Hormachuelos and Santiago Javier Ranada, concurring, rollo, pp. 35-50.
2 Id. at 81-82.
3 Id. at 73-74.
4 Id. at 75.
5 Id. at 89.
6 Id. at 90.
7 Id. at 91.
8 Id. at 95.
9 Id. at 96.
10 Id. at 97-103.
11 Id. at 114-119.
12 Id. at 129-132.
13 Id. at 133-144.
14 Id. at 158.
15 CA rollo, pp. 2-31.
16 Id. at 11-12.
17 Rollo, at 50.
18 Rules of Court, Rule 126, Section 1.
19 Hon Ne Chan v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., G.R. No. 172775, December 19, 2007, 541 SCRA 249, 258; Republic v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 112708-09, March 29, 1996, 255 SCRA 438, 481-482.
20 Coca-Cola Bottlers, Phils., Inc. (CCBPI) v. Gomez, G.R. No. 154491, November 14, 2008, 571 SCRA 18, 32; see also Santos v. Pryce Gases, Inc., G.R. No. 165122, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 474, 484; Hon Ne Chan v. Hondo Motor Co., Ltd., id. at 259-260; La Chemise Lacoste, S. A. v. Judge Fernandez, G.R. Nos. 63796-97, May 21, 1984, 129 SCRA 373.
21 G.R. No. 140946, September 13, 2004, 438 SCRA 224, 236.
22 CA rollo, p. 58-60.
23 Id. at 62-108.
24 Rollo, p. 130.
25 Skechers, U.S.A., Inc. v. Inter Pacific Industrial Trading Corp. G.R. No. 164321, November 30, 2006, 509 SCRA 395, 407, citing Manly Sportwear Manufacturing, Inc. v. Dadodette Enterprises, G.R. No. 165306, September 20, 2005, 470 SCRA 384, 389, citing Section 2, Article III, 1987 Constitution.
26 Santos v. Pryce Gases, Inc., supra note 20.
27 Busilac Builders, Inc. v. Aguilar, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1809, October 17, 2006, 504 SCRA 585, 603.
28 People v. Court of Appeals, 468 Phil. 1, 10 (2004).
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