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Caballes v CA | No.

136292 | January 15, 2002 | Puno, J

Petitioner: Rudy Caballes y Taiño


Respondent: Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines
Nature of the Case: Petition for review on certiorari of a decision of the CA

Summary: Sgt. Noceja and Pat. De Castro, while on a routine patrol flagged down a passenger jeep after seeing that it
was unusually covered with kakawati leaves. Court held that warrantless search for moving vehicle, plain view doctrine
and consented search could not apply. Warrantless search of a moving vehicle requires probable cause and in this
case, Court did not consider the officers being suspicious due to the jeep being covered in leaves as probable cause.
Caballes acquitted.

Topic: Sources of Law on Evidence > 1987 Constitution > Exceptions > Plain View Doctrine

FACTS:
1. Sgt. Noceja and Pat. De Castro, while on a routine patrol in Brgy Sampalucan, Pagsanjan, Laguna, spotted a
passenger jeep unusually covered with kakawati leaves.
2. Suspecting that it was loaded with smuggled goods, the police officers flagged down the jeep driven by
Caballes and with his consent, police officers checked the cargo and found bundles of 3.08 mm
aluminum/galvanized conductor wires (weighing 700 kilos and valued at P55,244.45) exclusively owned by
National Power Corporation.
3. When asked were the wires came from, Caballes answered that it came from Cavinti, a town approximately
8km away.
4. Appellants were then brought to the Pagsanjan Police Station and incarcerated for 7 days in the municipal
jail.
5. Appellant was charged with theft. Upon arraignment, he pleaded not guilty.
6. Appellant’s defense:
a. He is a driver and resident of Pagsanjan, Laguna; a NARCOM civilian agent since January, 1988
although his ID already expired.
b. While he was driving a passenger jeepney, Resty Fernandez requested him to transport conductor
wires which were in Cavinti, Laguna.
c. Before the transaction, he dropped by the NARCOM headquarters and informed his superior that
something unlawful was about to happen. His superior advised him to proceed with loading of wires
and that he would act as back up and intercept the vehicle at the Sambal Patrol Base in Pagsanjan.
d. He then returned to Resty to load the wires in his jeep. Loading done by 5 masked men.
e. Upon crossing the bridge, he was then intercepted by police officers Noceja and De Castro.
f. Despite his explanation, he was ordered to proceed to police headquarters where he was
interrogated and he was jailed for a week.
7. RTC found Caballes guilty of theft. CA affirmed the judgment of conviction.

ISSUES:
WON evidence taken from the warrantless search is admissible against appellant — NO
1. Art. III, Sec. 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.
2. Exceptions:
a. Incidental to lawful arrest
b. Plain view
c. Moving vehicles
d. Consented search
e. Stop and frisk
f. Exigent and emergency circumstances
3. What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable warrantless search or seizure is purely a judicial question,
determinable from the uniqueness of the circumstances involved, including the purpose of the search or
seizure, the presence or absence of probable cause, the manner in which the search and seizure was made,
the place or thing searched and the character of the articles procured.

I. Search of a moving vehicle


a. It Is not practicable to secure a warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality
or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought
b. Mere mobility, however, does not give police officers unlimited discretion to conduct indiscriminate
searches without warrants if made within the interior of the territory and in the absence of probable
cause
c. Probable cause: the existence of such facts and circumstances which could lead a reasonably
discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the items,
articles, or objects sought in connection with said offense or subject to seizure and destruction by
law is in the place to be searched
d. Form of search of moving vehicles: “stop and search” at military or police checkpoints
i. Valid for as long as it is warranted by the exigencies of public order and conducted in a way
least intrusive
ii. In this case, the police did an extensive search of the jeep and cannot be considered a simple
routine check
e. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, a warrantless search will only be
valid if the officers have probable cause.
i. In this case, police officers recalled that they flagged down the jeep because they became
suspicious due to the jeep being covered by kakawati leaves. To the Court, this does not
constitute “probable cause” that would justify a warrantless search.
f. Court also stated that had there been any confidential report or tipped information regarding the
jeep carrying stolen cable wires, such would sustain sufficient probable cause.

II. Plainview Doctrine


a. An object is in plain view if the object itself is plainly exposed to sight.
b. If object was inside closed package, such is not in plain view.
i. However, if the package proclaims its contents (i.e. distinctive configuration, or if contents
are obvious) then the contents are in plain view and may be seized.
c. In this case, cable wires were not in plain view since they were laced in sacks and covered with
leaves. Neither were they transparent nor immediately apparent to the police officers, since the
latter had to ask petitioner what was loaded in his vehicle.

III. Consented Search


a. Constitutional immunity against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right which may
be waived. However, it may not be lightly inferred, but must be shown by clear and convincing
evidence.
b. It is the State which has the burden of proving, by clear and positive testimony, that the necessary
consent was obtained and that it was freely and voluntarily given.
c. In case of consented searches or waiver of the constitutional guarantee against obtrusive searches,
it is fundamental that to constitute a waiver, it must first appear that (1) the right exists; (2) that the
person involved had knowledge, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such right; and (3)
the said person had an actual intention to relinquish the right.
d. In this case, evidence is lacking that petitioner actually intended to surrender his right. Basis of the
police officers for the consent was that they “told him” that they will look at the contents of the
vehicle and he answered in the positive. Court did not consider this as asking for consent but rather
informing or imposing the accused that they will search the vehicle.
e. Moreover, petitioner’s passive submission or his failure to object does not constitute consent.

DISPOSITION: Impugned decision reversed and set aside. Caballes ACQUITTED of crime charged.