Stop and frisk; genuine reason rule

The mantle of protection upon one's person and one's effects through Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution is essential to allow citizens to evolve their autonomy and, hence, to avail themselves of their right to privacy. The alleged compromise with the battle against dangerous drugs is more apparent than real. Often, the compromise is there because law enforcers neglect to perform what could have been done to uphold the Constitution as they pursue those who traffic this scourge of society. (G.R. No. 200334. July 30, 2014)

Normally, "stop and frisk" searches do not give the law enforcer an opportunity to confer with a judge to determine probable cause.  In Posadas v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 89139, August 2, 1990), one of the earliest cases adopting the "stop and frisk" doctrine in Philippine jurisprudence, the Supreme Court approximated the suspicious circumstances as probable cause:
The probable cause is that when the petitioner acted suspiciously and attempted to flee with the buri bag there was a probable cause that he was concealing something illegal in the bag and it was the right and duty of the police officers to inspect the same.
For warrantless searches, probable cause was defined as "a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man to believe that the person accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged." (People v. Aruta, 351 Phil. 868, 880)

Malacat v. Court of Appeals clarifies the requirement further.  It does not have to be probable cause, but it cannot be mere suspicion. It has to be a "genuine reason" to serve the purposes of the "stop and frisk" exception.

Police officers cannot justify unbridled searches and be shielded by this exception, unless there is compliance with the "genuine reason" requirement and that the search serves the purpose of protecting the public. As stated in Malacat:

A "stop-and-frisk" serves a two-fold interest:

[1] The general interest of effective crime prevention and detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even without probable cause; and[2] The more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer. (G.R. No. 200334. July 30, 2014)

The "stop and frisk" searchwas originally limited to outer clothing and for the purpose of detecting dangerous weapons. As in the case of Manalili, jurisprudence also allows "stop and frisk" for cases involving dangerous drugs.

In Manalili v. Court of Appeals (345 Phil. 632), the police officers were initially informed about a place frequented by people abusing drugs.  When they arrived, one of the police officers saw a man with "reddish eyes and [who was] walking in a swaying manner." The suspicion increased when the man avoided the police officers.  These observations led the police officers to conclude that the man was high on drugs.  These were sufficient facts observed by the police officers "to stop [the] petitioner [and] investigate."

The circumstances of this case are analogous to People v. Aruta. In that case, an informant told the police that a certain "Aling Rosa" would be bringing in drugs from Baguio City by bus. At the bus terminal, the police officers prepared themselves. The informant pointed at a woman crossing the street and identified her as "Aling Rosa." The police apprehended "Aling Rosa," and they alleged that she allowed them to look inside her bag. The bag contained marijuana leaves.

In Aruta, the Court found that the search and seizure conducted was illegal. There were no suspicious circumstances that preceded Aruta’s arrest and the subsequent search and seizure. It was only the informant that prompted the police to apprehend her. The evidence obtained was not admissible because of the illegal search. Consequently, Aruta was acquitted.

Aruta is almost identical to the case of People v. Cogaed (G.R. No. 200334), except that it was the jeepney driver, not the police’s informant, who informed the police that Cogaed was "suspicious."

The facts in Aruta are also similar to the facts in People v. Aminnudin. Here, the National Bureau ofInvestigation (NBI) acted upon a tip, naming Aminnudin as somebody possessing drugs. The NBI waited for the vessel to arrive and accosted Aminnudin while he was disembarking from a boat. Like in the case at bar, the NBI inspected Aminnudin’s bag and found bundles of what turned out to be marijuana leaves. The Court declared that the search and seizure were illegal. Aminnudin was acquitted.

People v. Chua (444 Phil. 757) also presents almost the same circumstances. In this case, the police had been receiving information that the accused was distributing drugs in "different karaoke bars in Angeles City." One night, the police received information that this drug dealer would be dealing drugs at the Thunder Inn Hotel so they conducted a stakeout. A car "arrived and parked" at the hotel. The informant told the police that the man parked at the hotel was dealing drugs. The man alighted from his car. He was carrying a juice box. The police immediately apprehended him and discovered live ammunition and drugs in his person and in the juice box he was holding. Like in Aruta, the Court did not find anything unusual or suspicious about Chua’s situation when the police apprehended him and ruled that "[t]here was no valid‘stop-and-frisk’. (G.R. No. 200334. July 30, 2014)

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