Illegal arrest cured by accused's silence (estoppel)

THIRD DIVISION [ G.R. No. 234333, January 08, 2018 ] MILKESEDEC SIOCO V. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES.

For review in the present Petition for Review on Certiorari filed under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court are the Decision[1] and Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals dated May 31, 2017and September 11, 2017, respectively, affirming the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 226, Quezon City, dated February 5, 2016 in Criminal Case No. Q14-11862, which convicted petitioner Milkesedec Sioco of the crime of illegal possession of firearm and ammunition punishable under Section 28 (a) and (e) of Republic Act No. 10591, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act."

Facts

At around 7:00 p.m. of November 24, 2014, the Barangay Hall of Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City received a call from a concerned citizen that there was a man along Kaibigan Street, Kalayaan B, Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City, carrying a gun. Three of the on-duty Barangay Peace and Security Officers (BPSO), Antonio B. Gutierrez (Gutierrez), Jonathan Lising (Lising), and Gil Palma(Palma), went to the area to investigate. When they arrived, a woman pointed to a man, whom she claimed had a gun tucked in his waist. When Gutierrez approached the man, who later turned out to be Milkesedec Sioco (petitioner), he noticed something protruding from the latter's waistline and when he checked, it turned out to be a .38 caliber "paltik." The three then arrested petitioner and brought him to the Barangay Hall. After which, they went to the Quezon City General Hospital for medical examination, and then brought him to the Police Station for investigation. Finally, they went to the City Prosecutor's Office for inquest proceedings.

Hence, an Information for illegal possession of firearm and ammunitions punishable under Section 28 (a) and (e) of Republic Act No. 10591, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act" against petitioner was filed, to wit:
That on or about the 24th day of November, 2014, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, without any authority of law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession and under his custody and control one (1) caliber .38 Revolver 'Paltik' loaded with five (5) ammunitions, without first having secured the necessary license/permit issued by the proper authorities.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]
During arraignment, petitioner pleaded not guilty to the offense. During trial, the prosecution presented the testimonies of Gutierrez and Palma. On the other hand, petitioner presented himself as sole defense witness.

Petitioner presented a different narrative of his arrest. He averred that on the night of the arrest, while he and other persons were playing video karera near his house, barangay officials suddenly arrested them and brought them to the Barangay Hall, where they were told that somebody called the Barangay Office and informed them that a certain male was carrying a gun. Petitioner was then brought to a small room where he was forced to point to a gun and admit that it was his. Thereafter, he was brought to the Prosecutor's Office where he was again forced to admit ownership of the gun allegedly recovered from his possession.

Ruling of the RTC

On February 5, 2016, the RTC found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of firearm and ammunitions. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision[4] reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the prosecution having proved the GUILT of the accused Milkesedec Sioco beyond reasonable doubt, this Court finds the said accused GUILTY and is hereby .CONVICTED of the offense of violation of Republic Act No. 10591, Section 28, paragraph (a) in relation to paragraph (e), thereof and is thereby condemned to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of Eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor in medium period as MINIMUM to Eleven (11) years and Four (4) months of prision mayor in its maximum period as MAXIMUM and to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Ruling of the CA

On May 31, 2017, the CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC. The CA rejected petitioner's contention that his arrest was illegal. The CA determined that petitioner has waived to question the validity of his arrest because of his failure to timely question the same. In any case, the CA resolved that the seizure was valid based on the "plain view" doctrine as the gun was readily visible because it was protruding and not totally covered by petitioner's shirt.

Contrary to petitioner's claim that the respondent failed to ascertain the identity of the gun allegedly seized because the custodial link from the time it was confiscated up to the moment it was endorsed to the investigator was not established, the CA adjudged that the identity of the gun seized was positively verified as the parties already stipulated that the custody over the confiscated items was with SPO1 Esperanza. In the words of the CA, "no one aside from SPO1 Esperanza, took hold of the seized items or had custody over the same after they were delivered to him."[6]

Hence, the present Petition, which argues that the appellate court committed a reversible error in affirming petitioner's conviction despite the patent illegality of his arrest and the respondent's failure to positively identify the firearm and ammunitions allegedly confiscated from him.

Our Ruling

After a perusal of the records, this Court resolved to deny the Petition for Review on Certiorari as the petition failed to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in the assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated May 31, 2017 and September 11, 2017, respectively, as to warrant the exercise of the Court's appellate jurisdiction.

In general, searches and seizure must be executed with a judicial warrant, and any evidence obtained there from shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. However, this rule is subject to exceptions, namely:
  1. Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest;
  2. Search of evidence in "plain view";
  3. Search of a moving vehicle;
  4. Consented warrantless search;
  5. Customs search;
  6. Stop and Frisk; and
  7. Exigent and emergency circumstances.[7]
The factual circumstances of the present case fall squarely under the plain view doctrine. Based on the plain view doctrine, warrantless search is valid if the following requisites concur: (a) the law enforcement officer in search of the evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular area; (b) the discovery of evidence in plain view is inadvertent; and (c) it is immediately apparent to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to seizure. In the case at bar, the gun was in plain view and readily visible as it was protruding and not totally covered by petitioner's shirt.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the search and arrest were illegal, petitioner has waived to question the legality of his arrest. Basic is the rule that an accused may be estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to move for the quashing of the Information against him before his arraignment. Any objection involving the arrest or the procedure in the court's acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of an accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise the objection is deemed waived.[8] Here, the petitioner never raised the illegality of his arrest before his arraignment and in fact,[9] as the records reveal, even participated in the proceedings before the trial court.

Anent petitioner's contention that the gun allegedly seized from him is inadmissible due to respondent's failure to ascertain the links in its custody, from the time it was seized up to the moment it was endorsed to the investigator, this argument deserves no merit. As correctly observed by the CA, the matter regarding the identity of the gun seized and the identity of the person who had custody of the same were stipulated upon by the parties, i.e., the parties stipulated that no one aside from SPO1 Esperanza had custody over the same after they were delivered to him.[10] Nevertheless, since petitioner's arrest is a sanctioned warrantless arrest pursuant to the plain view doctrine and since the gun seized from him was effected from a valid warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest, the objects seized from petitioner as a result of the warrantless search are admissible in evidence.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 38592 dated May 31, 2017 and September 11, 2017, respectively are AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla with Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez concurring; rollo, pp. 28-37.
[2] Rollo, pp. 39-40.
[3] Rollo, pp. 28-29.
[4] Penned by Judge Manuel B. Sta. Cruz, Jr.; rollo, pp. 53-57.
[5] Rollo, p. 31.
[6] Rollo, p. 34.
[7] Miclat, Jr., v. People, 672 Phil. 205-206, August 31, 201
[8] Miclat, Jr., v. People, 672 Phil. 203, August 31,201 ].
[9] Zalameda v. People, 614 Phil. 729, September 4, 2009.
[10] Rollo, p. 34.

Popular Posts