Search warrants should be issued in connection with one specific offense
DEAR PAO PERSIDA ACOSTA Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao‘manilatimes.net
The Manila Times
Dear PAO, Ador is my brother, and he was arrested by the police during the implementation of a search warrant in his house. One relaM TIVE WORKING WITH A LAW fiRM WAS able to read the warrant; he said the warrant was defective because it was issued in connecM tion with two separate offenses. According to him, a warrant must only be issued in connecM TION WITH ONE SPECIfiC OFFENSE. Is he correct? If so, may I also know the reason or purpose of the law on the matter? Ernie Dear Ernie, A search warrant is defined under Section Q, Rule Q6 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure as “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 bring it before the court.” Correlative thereto, Section 4 of the same rule provides the requisites of a search warrant which are: “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.” Thus, a search warrant should be issued in connection with one specific offense only and this is referred to as “ONE-SPECIfiC-OFFENSE rule.” The purpose of one-specificoffense rule was elaborated by the Supreme Court in its decision in the case entitled, Joemarie Bucad Mendoza vs. People of the Philippines, GR 248350, Dec. 5, 2022, which was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, viz.: “The one-specific-offense rule; mentioned in the foregoing, is intended to prevent the issuance of scatter-shot warrant or warrant issued for more than one offense. The purpose of the one-specificoffense rule was explained in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. v. Razon Alvarez in the following manner: “··· [T]he Rules require that a search warrant should be issued ‘in connection with one specific offense’ to prevent the issuance of a scatter-shot warrant. The one-specific-offense requirement reinforces the constitutional requirement that a search warrant should issue only on the basis of probable cause. Since the primary objective of applying for a search warrant is to obtain evidence to be used in a subsequent prosecution for an offense for which the search warrant was applied, a judge issuing a particular warrant must satisfy himself that the evidence presented by the applicant establishes the facts and circumstances relating to this specific offense for which the warrant is sought and issued. Accordingly, in a subsequent challenge against the validity of the warrant, the applicant cannot be allowed to maintain its validity based on facts and circumstances that may be related to other search warrants but are extrinsic to the warrant in question.” Thus, your relative is correct in saying that a warrant should only pertain to one specific offense. As elaborated by the Supreme Court, the purpose of one-specific-offense rule is to prevent the issuance of scatter-shot warrant or warrant issued for more than one offense and to reinforce the constitutional requirement that a search warrant should issue only on the basis of probable cause. If indeed the search warrant against your brother pertains to two separate offenses, then the same is defective. If so, his arrest is illegal and the purported evidence obtained by virtue of such an invalid search warrant could not be used against him by virtue of the fundamental right to be secure in one’s person, house, paper, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by our Constitution. We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.