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PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

vs.
HEDISHI SUZUKI
G.R. No. 120670. October 23, 2003
Facts:

On April 12, 1994, while P/Inspector Rea Abastillas Villavicencio, the forensic chemist of
the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, SPO1 Arturo Casugod, Sr. of the Police
Aviation Security Command (PASCOM), PO3 Rhodelin Poyugao, also of the PASCOM, and
SPO1 Gilbert Linda of the Narcotics Command (NARCOM) (all prosecution witnesses)were in
their respective stations, Suzuki (appellant) and Takeshi Koketsu, both Japanese nationals,
entered the pre-departure area of the Bacolod Airport Terminal. Suzuki was bound
for Manila and was carrying a small traveling bag and a box marked Bongbongs piaya. At
the pre-departure area, upon the advice of Corazon Sinosa, a civilian personnel of the
PASCOM, appellant proceeded to the walk-through metal detector, a machine which
produces a red light and an alarm once it detects the presence of metallic substance or
object. Thereupon, the red light switched on and the alarm sounded, signifying the
presence of metallic substance either in his person or in the box he was carrying. This
prompted PO3 Poyugao to frisk him bodily. Finding no metallic object in his body, PO3
Poyugao picked up the box of piaya and passed it through the machine. Again, the machine
was activated. PO3 Poyugao then ordered appellant to go to the hand-carried luggage
inspection
counter
where
several
PASCOM
and
NARCOM
personnel
were
present. SPO1 Casugod requested appellant to open the box. He appeared tense and
reluctant and started to leave, but SPO1 Casugod called him. Eventually he consented for
the opening of the box and found therein were eighteen (18) small packs, seventeen (17) of
wrapped in aluminum foil later confirmed as dried marijuna. Appellant ran outside but he
was captured. Takeshi and his wife, Lourdes Linsangan were brought to the office, being
suspects as conspirators with appellant in drug trafficking.
The total weight of the suspected marijuana fruiting tops was 1.9 kilograms or 1,900
grams. He then drafted a confiscation receipt which appellant, upon the advice of Atty.
Tayson (lawyer of suspects), refused to acknowledge. Appellant and his companions were
brought to the prosecutors office for inquest.
The defense presented appellant as its sole witness testifying that he only received the
box of Bongbongs piaya as pasalubong from a ceratin Pinky and he did not ascertain the
contents of the box since he trusted Pinky although he just met her the previous night.
Appellant only joined Takeshi and Lourdes at the coffee shop to apologized for his failure to
pay his debt. Upon arraignment, appellant entered a plea of not guilty.
On December 7, 1994, the trial court rendered its Decision finding the accused HEDISHI
SUZUKI guilty beyond reasonable doubt for illegal possession of marijuana, defined and
penalized under Section 8, Article II of R.A. No. 6525, as amended, and sentencing him to
suffer the penalty of death and to pay a fine of P10,000,000.00. Thus, this automatic
review.

Issues:
(1) Was the search and seizure illegal? NO
(2) Was the arrest illegal? NO
(3) Was the imposition of death penalty correct? NO
Ruling:
(1) NO
Pertinent is Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6235 which reads:
SECTION 8. Aircraft companies which operate as public utilities or operators of aircraft
which are for hire are authorized to open and investigate suspicious packages and
cargoes in the presence of the owner or shipper, or his authorized representatives if
present, in order to help the authorities in the enforcement of the provisions of this Act :
Provided, That if the owner, shipper or his representative refuses to have the same opened
and inspected, the airline or air carrier is authorized to refuse the loading thereof.
In line with the afore-cited law, the trial court correctly upheld the PASCOMs authority
to open packages and cargoes. Based upon the Memorandum of Understanding, pursuant
to President LOI 399, in relation to R.A. 6235, the PASCOM had the legal authority to be at
theBacolod Airport, Bacolod City and to inspect luggages or hand-carried bags.
This is not the first time we recognize a search conducted pursuant to routine airport
security procedure as an exception to the proscription against warrantless searches. In
People vs. Canton and People vs. Johnson, we validated the search conducted on the
departing passengers and the consequent seizure of the shabu found in their persons.
In this case, appellant voluntarily gave his consent to the search conducted by the
PASCOM agents.
(2) NO
It is axiomatic that a reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula
but is to be resolved according to the facts of each case. Given the circumstances obtaining
here, we find the search conducted by the airport authorities reasonable and, therefore, not
violative of his constitutional rights. Hence, when the search of the box of piaya revealed
several marijuana fruiting tops, appellant is deemed to have been caught in flagrante
delicto, justifying his arrest even without a warrant under Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure. The packs of marijuana obtained in the course of such valid
search are thus admissible as evidence against appellant.
Nonetheless, we find the trial courts reliance on the plain view doctrine
misplaced. Such doctrine finds application only when the incriminating nature of the object
is in the plain view of the police officer. Here, it is beyond cavil that the marijuana seized
from appellant is contained in the box of piaya, wrapped in aluminum foil and not
immediately apparent to the airport authorities.

Neither was the search incidental to a lawful arrest since appellant was not yet arrested
at the time of the search. To be considered a search incidental to a lawful arrest, the law
requires that there must be a lawful arrest before the search can be made.
At this point, it bears stressing that mere possession of the prohibited substance is a
crime per se and the burden of proof is upon appellant to show that he has a license or
permit under the law to possess the prohibited drug. Here, appellant failed to prove that he
has a license to possess the marijuana. In People vs. Bongcarawan, we held that such
possession constitutes prima facie evidence of animus possidendi sufficient to convict an
accused in the absence of any satisfactory explanation.
(3) NO
The trial court imposed the wrong penalty.
Under Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, the
penalty
of reclusion
perpetua to
death
and
a
fine
ranging
fromP500,000.00 to P10,000,000.00 shall be imposed if the quantity of marijuana or
Indian hemp shall be 750 grams or more. Section 63 of the Revised Penal Code
provides that when the law prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible
penalties, the lesser penalty shall be applied in the absence of any aggravating or
mitigating circumstance.
In the case at bar, there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance,
appellants possession of 1,547.70 grams of marijuana does not merit the supreme
penalty of death but only reclusion perpetua.
While the imposition of a fine is mandatory in cases of conviction of possession of
illegal drugs, we, however, reduce the fine imposed by the trial court
to P1,000,000.00, considering that courts may fix any amount within the limits
established by law.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 45, Bacolod City
in Criminal Case No. 94-16100 finding appellant Hedishi Suzuki guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violation of Section 8, Article II of R.A. No. 6425, as amended, is
hereby AFFIRMED with theMODIFICATION in the sense that he is sentenced
to reclusion perpetua and fined One Million (P1,000,000.00) Pesos.