Arrest; mistaken identity; good faith

In the case of Ombudsman v. Brillantes (G.R. No. 213699. September 28, 2016), the Court found no cogent reason to depart from the rulings of two Divisions of the Court of Appeals (CA) finding that respondent police officers are not guilty of grave misconduct in arresting a certain Allan Almoite (Almoite) in Quezon City.

Respondents were acting on the strength of a warrant which directs the arrest of certain personalities including one who goes by the alias of "Ali". The matter sought to be resolved here in this case is whether respondent police (arresting) officers are guilty of grave misconduct in the arrest and detention of Almoite.

The Supreme Court agreed with the CA that NO substantial evidence was adduced to show the presence of the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule on the part of respondents when they arrested and detained Almoite. Neither are respondents liable for simple misconduct as there was also no showing that they are guilty of any intentional wrongdoing or a deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior.

The settled rule is that law enforcers are presumed to have regularly performed their duties in the absence of proof to the contrary. Almoite failed to show that respondents have any reason to arrest him for no cause or that they were impelled by any unlawful motive to arrest him. As found by the CA, respondents acted in good faith and in the honest belief, as based on the information they have gathered from their surveillance and intelligence operations which points to Almoite as the same "Ali" being referred to in the warrant of arrest.

As pointed out by the CA, Almoite goes by different names or aliases. Nonetheless, he was sufficiently identified through a profile as well as a cartographic sketch provided by a detained suspected terrorist who pointed to Almoite as the same person who goes by the alias of Ali Ambing.

Petitioner contends that the cartographic sketch presented by the police "cannot be linked to [Almoite] inasmuch as no official photo of the latter was presented by respondents before the Office of the Ombudsman showing that Almoite is indeed the person depicted in the cartographic sketch." But herein respondents arc acting under and are dealing with peculiar circumstances. In fact, petitioner agrees with the CA in its statement that criminal elements use different aliases to hide their true names or identities and to avoid arrest and prosecution. In the instant case, Almoite was also known as Alih Bin Nasser Morambi, Alih Muallamin Murabbi and Abu Alih. However, whatever name Almoite may have been using, the fact remains that the cartographic sketch provided by the police informant fit his profile, which led respondents to conduct further surveillance and later conclude that he was indeed the Abu Sayyaf bomber they were looking for.In the absence of sufficient evidence to the contrary, respondents are presumed to have regularly performed their duties and that they acted in good faith and with good motives. In common usage, the term good faith is ordinarily used to describe that state of mind denoting honesty of intention, and freedom from knowledge of circumstances which ought to put the holder upon inquiry; an honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another, even through technicalities of law, together with absence of all information, notice, or benefit or belief of facts which render transaction unconscientious.

In short, good faith is actually a question of intention. Although this is something internal, a person's intention can be ascertained by relying not on his own protestations of good faith, which is self-serving, but on evidence of his conduct and outward acts. Indeed, there is no showing in the present case that, in arresting Almoite, respondents were driven by any motive other than to apprehend a suspected bomber who is linked to notoriously known terrorist groups. On the contrary, their operation leading to the arrest of Almoite was based on data gathered through intelligence which was later on confirmed when they recovered several pieces of highly explosive materials from his possession. Indeed, this is a sufficient validation of their belief in good faith that Almoite is the Ali Ambing they were looking for.

Even assuming that respondents committed a mistake in identifying Almoite as the same person referred to as Ali in the warrant of arrest, the fact remains that they have sufficient information to establish probable cause to arrest Ali as, in fact, a warrant for his arrest was issued.

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