Jose Burgos vs. Chief of Staff
G.R. No L-64261
December 26, 1984
Two warrants were issued against petitioners for the search on the premises of “Metropolitan Mail” and “We Forum” newspapers and the seizure of items alleged to have been used in subversive activities. Petitioners prayed that a writ of preliminary mandatory and prohibitory injunction be issued for the return of the seized articles, and that respondents be enjoined from using the articles thus seized as evidence against petitioner.
Petitioners questioned the warrants for the lack of probable cause and that the two warrants issued indicated only one and the same address. In addition, the items seized subject to the warrant were real properties.
Whether or not the two warrants were valid to justify seizure of the items.
The defect in the indication of the same address in the two warrants was held by the court as a typographical error and immaterial in view of the correct determination of the place sought to be searched set forth in the application. The purpose and intent to search two distinct premises was evident in the issuance of the two warrant.As to the issue that the items seized were real properties, the court applied the principle in the case of Davao Sawmill Co. v. Castillo, ruling “that machinery which is movable by nature becomes immobilized when placed by the owner of the tenement, property or plant, but not so when placed by a tenant, usufructuary, or any other person having only a temporary right, unless such person acted as the agent of the owner.” In the case at bar, petitioners did not claim to be the owners of the land and/or building on which the machineries were placed. This being the case, the machineries in question, while in fact bolted to the ground remain movable property susceptible to seizure under a search warrant.
However, the Court declared the two warrants null and void.
Probable cause for a search is defined as 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 sought to be searched.
The Court ruled that the affidavits submitted for the application of the warrant did not satisfy the requirement of probable cause, the statements of the witnesses having been mere generalizations.
Furthermore, jurisprudence tells of the prohibition on the issuance of general warrants. (Stanford vs. State of Texas). The description and enumeration in the warrant of the items to be searched and seized did not indicate with specification the subversive nature of the said items.