Case Digest: Martinez v. People

G.R. No. 198694 : February 13, 2013

Ramon Martinez y Goco/Ramon Goco y Martinez, Petitioner, v. People of the Philippines, Respondent.



On December 29, 2007, while PO2 Roberto Soque, et. al, conducting a routine foot patrol along Balingkit Street, Malate, Manila, they heard a man shouting Putanginamo! Limangdaannabaito?. For purportedly violating Section 844 of the Revised Ordinance of the City of Manila which punishes breaches of the peace, the man, later identified as Ramon, was apprehended and asked to empty his pockets. In the course thereof, the police officers were able to recover from him a small transparent plastic sachet containing white crystalline substance suspected to be shabu. Consequently, Ramon was charged with possession of dangerous drugs under Section 11(3), Article II of RA 9165.

In defense, Ramon denied the charge and contented that hile walking along Balingkit Street to borrow a welding machine, a man in civilian clothing approached and asked him if he is Ramon Goco. Upon affirming his identity, he was immediately handcuffed by the man who eventually introduced himself as a police officer. Together, they boarded a tricycle (sidecar) wherethe said officer asked him if he was carrying illegal drugs. Despite his denial, he was still brought to a precinct to be detained. Thereafter, PO2 Soque for P20, 000.00 in exchange for his release, unable to give the money asked for, Ramon was brought to the Manila City Hall for inquest proceedings.

The RTC convicted Ramon of the crime of possession of dangerous drugs; finding all its elements to have been established through the testimonies of the prosecutions disinterested witnesses. It also upheld the legality of Ramons warrantless arrest, observing that Ramon was disturbing the peace in violation of the Manila City Ordinance during the time of his apprehension.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the factual findings of RTC and likewise sustained the validity of the body search made on Ramon as an incident of a lawful warrantless arrest for breach of the peace which he committed in the presence of the police officers, notwithstanding its (the case for breach of the peace) subsequent dismissal for failure to prosecute.


Whether or not the warrantless arrest was valid?


The petition is meritorious.

POLITICAL LAW: exclusionary rule

Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution enshrines a persons right against unwarranted intrusions by the government. Accordingly, so as to ensure that the same sacrosanct right remains revered, effects secured by government authorities in contravention of the said provision rendered inadmissible in evidence for any purpose, in any proceeding in relation to Section 3(2), Article III of the Constitution.

Commonly known as the exclusionary rule, the above-cited proscription is not, however, an absolute and rigid one. As found in jurisprudence, one of the traditional exceptions, among others, is searches incidental to a lawful arrest which is of particular significance to this case and thus, necessitates further disquisition.

REMEDIAL LAW: valid warrantless arrest

A valid warrantless arrest which justifies a subsequent search is one that is carried out under the parameters of Section 5(a), Rule 113 of the Rules of Court14which requires that the apprehending officer must have been spurred by probable cause to arrest a person caught in flagrante delicto. The term probable cause, specifically with respect to arrests has been understood to mean such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed by the person sought to be arrested.

Based on the records in the case at bar, PO2 Soque arrested Ramon for allegedly violating Section 844 (breaches of peace) of the Manila City Ordinance. Evidently, the gravamen of these offenses is the disruption of communal tranquillity. Thus, to justify a warrantless arrest based on the same, it must be established that the apprehension was effected after a reasonable assessment by the police officer that a public disturbance is being committed. However, PO2 Soques testimony surrounding circumstances leading to Ramons warrantless warrant clearly negates the presence of probable cause when the police officers conducted their warrantless arrest of Ramon.

To elucidate, it cannot be said that the act of shouting in a thickly populated place, with many people conversing with each other on the street, would constitute any of the acts punishable under Section 844 of the said ordinance. The words he allegedly shouted "Putangina mo! Limang daan na ba ito?" are not slanderous, threatening or abusive, and thus, could not have tended to disturb the peace or excite a riot considering that at the time of the incident, Balingkit Street was still teeming with people and alive with activity. Further, no one present at the place of arrest ever complained that Ramons shouting disturbed the public. On the contrary, a disinterested member of the community (a certain Rosemarie Escobal) even testified that Ramon was merely standing in front of the store of a certain Mang Romy when a man in civilian clothes, later identified as PO2 Soque, approached Ramon, immediately handcuffed and took him away.

In its totality, the facts and circumstances could not have engendered a well-founded belief that any breach of the peace had been committed by Ramon at the time that his warrantless arrest was effected. Thus, no probable cause existed to justify Ramons warrantless arrest.

POLITICAL LAW: inadmissible evidence

Consequently, since it cannot be said that Ramon was validly arrested, the warrantless search that resulted from it was also illegal. Thus, the subject shabu purportedly seized from Ramon is inadmissible evidence.

The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals is reversed and set aside.