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CRIMPRO RULE 126

Title GR No. 168306


Yao v. People Date: June 19, 2007
Ponente: Chico-Nazario, J.
William C. Yao, et al. , petitioners People of the Philippines , respondent
1
In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioners William C. Yao, Sr., Luisa C. Yao,
Richard C. Yao, William C. Yao, Jr., and Roger C. Yao pray for the reversal of the Decision dated 30 September 2004, 2 and
Resolution dated 1 June 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 79256, 3affirming the two Orders, both dated 5
June 2003, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 17, Cavite City, relative to Search Warrants No. 2-2003 and No. 3-
2003.4 In the said Orders, the RTC denied the petitioners Motion to Quash Search Warrant 5 and Motion for the Return of
the Motor Compressor and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) Refilling Machine.6
FACTS
1. Petitioners Yaos are the incorporators and officers of MASAGANA GAS CORPORATION, an entity engaged in
the refilling, sale, and distribution of LPG products. Private respondents are Petron and Shell, two of the largest
bulk suppliers and producers of LPG in the Philippines. Their LPG proucts are sold under the marks GASUL and
SHELLANE respectively.
2. Petron is the registered owner in the Philippines of trademarks GASUL and GASUL clyinders used for its LPG
products. It is the sole entity in the Philippines authorized to allow refillers and distributors to refill, use, sell and
distribute GASUL LPG containers, products, and its trademarks. Shell on the other hand is the authorized user in
the Philippines of tradename, trademarks, symbols, or designs of its principal Shell International including the
marks SHELLANE and SHELL device in connection with the production, sale, and distribution of SHELLANE
LPGs. It is the only corporation in the Philippines authrized to allow refillers and distributors to refill, use, sell, and
distribute SHELLANE LPG containers and products.
3. NBI Agent Ritche N. Oblanca filed two application for SEARCH WARRANT before the RTC In Cavite City
against petitioners and other occupants of the MASAGANA compoiund for the alleged violation of Sec. 155 of the
Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.
4. In Oblancas two affidavits attached for the application of the search warrant he alleged:
NBI received a letter-complainy from Atty. Bienvenido Somera on behalf o Petron and Shell requesting
the assistance in the investigation and if warranted, the apprehension and prosecution of certain persons
and/or establishment suspected of violiting the IPR of Petron and Shell.
He and Agent Angelo Zarzoso were assigned as the NBI agents of the case.
Prior to conducting the investigation on the reported illegal activities, he reviewed the certficates of
trademark registrations issued in favor of PETRON and SHELL, as well as other documents and other
evidence obtained by the investigative agency authorized by PETRON and SHELL.
He specifically mentioned the address of the MASAGANA compound.
He confirmed that MASAGANA is not authorized to use PETRON AND SHELLANE cylinders and its
trademarks and tradenames or to be refillers or distributors.
He conducted a test-buy to investigate the activities. He presented himself to be a customer. He noticed
that the area was around 7000 to 10,000 sqm. He noticed that stockpiles of multi-branded cylinders
including GASUL AND SHELLANE cylinders were stored enar the refilling station. He was issued an
order slip which he presented to the cashiers office located near the refilling station. He was then asked by
the plant attendant in choosing the empty GASUL and SHELLANE 11kg scylinders. These were
brought to the refilling station and filled in their presence. He noticed that no valve seals were placed on
the cylinders.
He conducted another test-buy accompanied by Mr. Bernabe Alajar. The latter was hired by Petron and
Shell in carrying out their Brand protection program. He also executed two separate affidavits
corroborating the statements of Oblanca.
5. Judge Sadang found probable cause and issued the two assailed search warrants and commanded any peace officer
to make an immeidate search of the MASAGANA compound and to seize a number of items which include: (1)
LGP cylinders bearing the trademarks GASUL AND SHELLANE (2) Machines and equipment used or
intended to be used in the illegal refilling of GASUL and SHELLANE cylinders. (3) Document which pertain
only to the production, sale, and distribution of GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders. (4) Delivery trucks
baring the plate nos. WTE-527, XAM-970, and WFC-603, hauling trucks, and/or other delivery trucks or
vehicles or conveyances being used or intended to be used for the purpose of selling and/or distributing
GASUL and SHELLANE LPG cylinders. *for an itemized list included in the SW
6. Upon the issuance of the said search warrants, Oblanca and several NBI operatives immediately proceeded to the
MASAGANA compound and served the searched warrants. They seized the articles described in the search
warrants. Yao then filed with the RTC a motion to quash the search warrants alleging that there is no probable
cause for the issuance of the search warrant, that Oblanca and Alajar do not have any authority to apply for a search
warrant; that the place to be searched in the search warrant has an area of 10,000 sq m and it was not specified, and
that it is a general warrrant and is violative of the Constitution.
7. MASAGANA also filed with the RTC a Motion for the Return of the Motor Compressor and LPG Refilling
Machine but the same was denied.
8. The RTC held that based on the testimonies of Oblanca and Alajar, and the documentary evidence consisting of
receipts, photographs, intellectual property and corporate registration papers, there is probable cause to believe that
petitioners are engaged in the business of refilling or using cylinders which is violative of Sec. 155 in relation to
Sec. 170 of the IPR. It also ruled that Oblanca and Alajar had personal knowledge of the acts complained since
they were the ones who monitored the activities of and conducted test-buys on MASAGANA.
9. The case was brought to the CA.
ISSUE/S
I. Whether or not there was sufficient basis in finding probable cause for the issuance of the Search Warrants
YES
II. Whether or not NBI Agent Oblanca had authority to apply for the search warrants YES
III. Whether or not the Search Warrant particuraly described the placed to be searched YES
IV. Whether or not the items to be seized were ambiguously described NO

RATIO
On Finding Probable Cause

Art. III, Sec 2 of the 1987 Constitution* provides the requirements before a search warrant may be validly issued. Section 4
of Rule 126* provides with more particularity the requisites in issuing a search warrant. According to the foregoing
provisions, a search warrant can be issued only upon a finding of probable cause. Probable Cause for search warrant
means such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has
been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place to be searched and that the
objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place to be searched. The facts and circumstances referred thereto
pertain to facts, data, or information personally known to the applicant and the witnesses he may prsent. The applicent or
his witnesses must have personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense being
complained of. Reliable information is insufficient. Mere affidavits are not enough. The judge must depose in writing
the complainant and his witnesses.

Section 155.1 of the IPC state that the mere unauthorized use of a container bearing a registered trademark in connection
with the sale, distribution or advertising of goods or services which is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception
among the buyers/consumers can be considered as trademark infringement. In his sworn affidavits, Oblanca stated that
before conducting an investigation on the alleged illegal activities of MASAGANA, he reviewed the certificates of
trademark registrations isseud by th Phil. Intellectual Property Office in favor of Petron and Shell. He confirmed from
Petron and Shell that MASAGANA is NOT AUTHORIZED to sell, use, refill, or distribute GASUL and SHELLANE LPG
in its refilling plant station.

The documentary and object evidence is that Oblanca and Alajar have PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE of the fact that
petitioners, thru MASAGANA, have been using LPG cylinders bearing the marks GASUL AND SHELLANE
without permission from Petron and Shell, a probable cause for trademark infringment. Both Oblanca and Alajar were
clear an insistent that they were the very same persons who monitored the actities, that they conducted the test-buys thereon
and in order to avoid suspicion, they used different names during the test-buys. The aforesaid facts and circumstances ARE
SUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH PROBABLE CAUSE. It should be borne in mind that the determination of probable
cause does not call for the application of the rules and standards of proof that a judgment of conviction requires after trial
on the merits. Probable cause is concerned with probability, not absolute or even moral certainty. The standards of judgment
are those of a reasonable prudent man, not the exactling calibrations of a judge after a full blown trial.

With respect to the searching questions, the SC ruled that Judge Sadang complied with the requirements under Sec. 5 of
Rule 126*. The searching questions propounded to the applicant and the witnesses depend largely on the discretion of the
judge. There is no hard and fast rule governing how a judge should conduct his investigation, it is axiomatic that the
examination must be probing and exhaustive, not merely routinary, general, peripheral, perfunctory or pro forma. The
judge must not simply rehash the contents of the affidvait but must make his own inquiry on the intent and justification of
the application. In this case, the Scfound that the questions posed by Judge Sadang to be sufficiently probing. The
testimonies of Oblanca and Alajar were consistent with each other.
Since probable cause is dependent largely on the opinion and findings of the judge who conducted the examination and who
had the opportunity to question the applicant and his witnesses, the findings of the judge deserve great weight.

On Authority of NBI Agent Oblanca

Oblanca had authority to apply for the search warrants. As elucidated in his affidvait, I was aasigned by the NBI to be the
agent on the case together with Agent Zarzoso. The fact that Oblanca is a member of the Anti-Organized Crime Division
and not that of the Intellectual Property Division does not abrogate his authority to apply for a search warratne. There
is nothing in the provisions of Rule 126 that specifically commands that the applicant law enforcer must be a member of the
division that is assigned or related to the subject crime or offense before the application for search warrant may be acted
upon.

On the Particular Description of the Place to be Searched

A description of the place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can, with reasonable effort,
ascertain and identify the place intended and distinguish it from other places in the community. Any designation or
description known to the locality that points out the place to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry leads the officers
unerringly to it, satisfies this constitutional requirement. Moreover, the executing officers prior knowledge as to the place
intended in the warrant is releveant. It appears that the raiding team had ascertained and reached MASAGANA compount
without difficulty since MASAGANA does not have any other offices/plants in Cavite City. Oblanca who was with the
raiding team was already familiar with the MASAGANA compound as he and Alajar had monitored and conducted the
test-buys thereat.

On the Description of the Items to be Seized

A search warrant may be said to particularly describe the things to be seized when the description therein is as specific as
the circumstances will ordinarily allow; or when the description expresses a conclusion of fact, not of law by which the
warrant officer may be guided in makign the seizurel or when the things described are limited to those which bear direct
relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued. The law does not require that the things to be seized must be
described in precise and minute details so as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the searching authorities. In this case,
the SC finds that the items to be seized under search warrant in question were sufficiently described with particularity.
RULING
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79256,
dated 30 September 2004 and 1 June 2005, respectively, are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
Notes
SW (Shell):
a. Empty/filled LPG cylinder tanks/containers, bearing the tradename "SHELLANE", "SHELL" (Device) of Pilipinas Shell
Petroleum Corporation and the trademarks and other devices owned by Shell International Petroleum Company, Ltd.;
b. Machinery and/or equipment being used or intended to be used for the purpose of illegally refilling LPG cylinders
belonging to Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation bearing the latters tradename as well as the marks belonging to Shell
International Petroleum Company, Ltd., enumerated hereunder:
1. Bulk/Bullet LPG storage tanks;
2. Compressor/s (for pneumatic refilling system);
3. LPG hydraulic pump/s;
4. LPG refilling heads/hoses and appurtenances or LPG filling assembly;
5. LPG pipeline gate valve or ball valve and handles and levers;
6. LPG weighing scales; and
7. Seals simulating the shell trademark.
c. Sales invoices, ledgers, journals, official receipts, purchase orders, and all other books of accounts, inventories and
documents pertaining to the production, sale and/or distribution of the aforesaid goods/products.
d. Delivery truck bearing Plate Nos. WTE-527, XAM-970 and WFC-603, hauling trucks, and/or other delivery trucks or
vehicles or conveyances being used or intended to be used for the purpose of selling and/or distributing the above-
mentioned counterfeit products.
SW (Petron):
a. Empty/filled LPG cylinder tanks/containers, bearing Petron Corporations (Petron) tradename and its tradename
"GASUL" and other devices owned and/or used exclusively by Petron;
b. Machinery and/or equipment being used or intended to be used for the purpose of illegally refilling LPG cylinders
belonging to Petron enumerated hereunder;
1. Bulk/Bullet LPG storage tanks;
2. Compressor/s (for pneumatic filling system);
3. LPG hydraulic pump/s;
4. LPG filling heads/hoses and appurtenances or LPG filling assembly;
5. LPG pipeline gate valve or ball valve and handles levers;
6. LPG weighing scales; and
7. Seals bearing the Petron mark;
c. Sales invoices, ledgers, journals, official receipts, purchase orders, and all other books of accounts, inventories and
documents pertaining to the production, sale and/or distribution of the aforesaid goods/products; and
d. Delivery trucks bearing Plate Nos. UMN-971, PEZ-612 and WFC-603, hauling trucks, and/or other delivery trucks or
vehicles or conveyances being used for the purpose of selling and/or distributing the above-mentioned counterfeit products.

Art. III, Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest
shall issue except upon probable cause 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 persons
or things to be seized.
Rule 126, SEC. 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.
Rule 126, SEC. 5. Examination of complainant; record.- The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally examine in
the form of searching questions and answers, in writing 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.

2-S 2016-17 (SALVACION)

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