Separate opinions in G.R. No. 244045

SEPARATE OPINIONS

[ G.R. No. 244045, June 16, 2020 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. JERRY SAPLA Y GUERRERO A.K.A. ERIC SALIBAD Y MALLARI, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

CONCURRING OPINION

LEONEN, J.:


I concur.

To aid courts in upholding the constitutional right against unreasonable searches, I revisit the doctrines regarding two (2) exceptions often invoked to justify warrantless searches of passengers on moving vehicles, such as the one in this case: first, stop-and-frisk searches based on probable cause, genuine reason, or reasonable suspicion; and second, the search of a moving vehicle.
I

Philippine doctrine on stop-and-frisk searches originates in the American case of Terry v. Ohio.[1] In that case, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the admissibility of evidence obtained from a warrantless search of a person whose actions suggested to a police officer that he was casing a joint for a robbery. According to it, a limited search was permissible when preceded by unusual conduct that, by virtue of a police officer's experience, led him to reasonably conclude that criminal activity was afoot, and the person to be searched may have been armed and dangerous.[2]

Terry was later cited in Posadas v. Court of Appeals.[3] There, this Court held that to deem a warrantless search justified, a court must look into its reasonableness, which was, in turn, predicated on the presence of observable suspicious acts by the person to be searched:
Thus, as between a warrantless search and seizure conducted at military or police checkpoints and the search thereat in the case at bar, there is no question that, indeed, the latter is more reasonable considering that unlike in the former, it was effected on the basis of a 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.[4]
This Court then cited Terry by way of quoting the following submission of the Solicitor General:
The assailed search and seizure may still be justified as akin to a "stop and frisk" situation whose object is either to determine the identity of a suspicious individual or to maintain the status quo momentarily while the police officer seeks to obtain more information. This is illustrated in the case of Terry vs. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).... The United States Supreme Court held that "a police officer may in appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner approach a person for the purpose of investigating possible criminal behavior even though there is no probable cause to make an arrest." In such a situation, it is reasonable for an officer rather than simply to shrug his shoulder and allow a crime to occur, to stop a suspicious individual briefly in order to determine his identity or maintain the status quo while obtaining more information[.][5]
Applying Terry to Posadas, this Court concluded that because of the petitioner's suspicious actions, it was reasonable for the police officers to believe that he was concealing something illegal in his bag, and thus, reasonable for them to search it.

In People v. Solayao,[6] this Court upheld the validity of the warrantless search based on the circumstances that reasonably aroused the officers' suspicions: the accused looked drunk, wore a "camouflage uniform," and fled upon seeing the officers. It also considered the context within which the officers observed those suspicious actions: they were then verifying reports of anned persons roaming around the barangay at night.

Similarly, in Manalili v. Court of Appeals,[7] this Court found that the police officers had sufficient reason to stop and search the petitioner after observing that he had red eyes, was wobbling like a drunk person, and was in an area that was frequented by drug addicts.

Refining the doctrine further, this Court in Malacat v. Court of Appeals[8] emphasized that for a stop-and-frisk search to be reasonable, a police officer's suspicion must be based on a "genuine reason." In that case, the officer's claim that the petitioner was part of a group that had earlier attempted to bomb Plaza Miranda was unsupported by any supporting police report, record, or testimonies from other officers who chased that group. This Court also found that the petitioner's behavior-merely standing in a corner with his eyes "moving very fast" - could not be considered genuine reason.

The ponente of Manalili, Justice Artemio Panganiban, wrote a concurring opinion, elaborating further on the concept of genuine reason. Comparing and contrasting the facts in each case, he explained why the stop-­and-frisk search in Malacat was founded on no genuine reason, yet the search in Manalili was:
Thus, when these specially trained enforcers saw Manalili with reddish eyes and walking in a wobbly manner characteristic of a person "high" on drugs per their experience, and in a known hangout of drug users, there was sufficient genuine reason to stop and frisk the suspect. It is well to emphasize that under different circumstances, such as where the policemen are not specially trained and in common places where people ordinarily converge, the same features displayed by a person will not normally justify a warrantless arrest or search on him.

The case before us presents such a situation. The policemen merely observed that Malacat's eyes were moving very fast. They did not notice any bulges or packets about the bodies of these men indicating that they might be hiding explosive paraphernalia. From their outward look, nothing suggested that they were at the time armed and dangerous. Hence, there was no justification for a stop-and-frisk.[9]
The concept of genuine reason as the basis for reasonable suspicion has been expounded upon further such that, in Philippine jurisprudence, an officer must observe more than one (1) circumstance, which when taken alone is apparently innocent, but when taken together with other circumstances, arouse suspicion.

In his dissent in Esquillo v. People,[10] Justice Lucas Bersamin (Justice Bersamin) parsed the factual circumstances in cases where the police officers' suspicions were found reasonable, so as to justify a stop-and-frisk search. He concluded that "[t]he common thread of these examples is the presence of more than one seemingly innocent activity, which, taken together, warranted a reasonable inference of criminal activity."[11] Justice Bersamin's analysis was echoed in People v. Cogaed,[12] which was in turn reiterated in a line of cases.[13] In Cogaed, this Court agreed that "reliance on only one suspicious circumstance or none at all will not result in a reasonable search."[14]

Thus, to not violate the constitutional right against unreasonable searches, a stop-and-frisk search must be based on suspicion, which, to be deemed reasonable, requires the presence of more than one (1) suspicious circumstance that aroused the officer's suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.

Considering this requirement, information provided by a confidential informant, without additional grounds for suspicion, is not enough to arouse suspicion that may be characterized as reasonable. That a person matches the informant's tip is not an additional circumstance separate from the fact that information was given. They are part and parcel of one (1) strand of information. Thus, assuming that a person arrives matching an informant's description, for an officer's suspicion of that person to be deemed reasonable, there must be another observed activity which, taken together with the tip, aroused such suspicion.

II

When warrantless searches target individuals who happen to be on motor vehicles, recognized exceptions pertaining to searches of motor vehicles are often invoked to justify them. These searches are valid only under specific circumstances, for exceptional reasons.

In Valmonte v. De Villa,[15] this Court considered the constitutionality of warrantless searches of motor vehicles at military checkpoints. In declining to hold that military checkpoints are per se unconstitutional, this Court observed that certain non-intrusive searches of motor vehicles are reasonable, and thus, need no warrant:
Where, for example, the officer merely draws aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle which is parked on the public fair grounds, or simply looks into a vehicle, or flashes a light therein, these do not constitute unreasonable search.[16] (Citations omitted)
Thus, this Court concluded that searches at military checkpoints may be valid, provided that they are conducted "within reasonable limits":
True, the manning of checkpoints by the military is susceptible of abuse by the men in uniform, in the same manner that all governmental power is susceptible of abuse. But, at the cost of occasional inconvenience, discomfort and even irritation to the citizen, the checkpoints during these abnormal times, when conducted within reasonable limits, are part of the price we pay for an orderly society and a peaceful community.[17]
Acting on a motion for reconsideration, this Court in its Resolution[18] in Valmonte clarified the limitations that must be observed:
Admittedly, the routine checkpoint stop does intrude, to a certain extent, on motorist's right to "free passage without interruption", but it cannot be denied that, as a rule, it involves only a brief detention of travellers during which the vehicle's occupants are required to answer a brief question or two. For as long as the vehicle is neither searched nor its occupants subjected to a body search, and the inspection of the vehicle is limited to a visual search, said routine checks cannot be regarded as violative of an individual's right against unreasonable search.[19] (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)
Thus, as stated in Valmonte, to be deemed reasonable, a search of a motor vehicle at a checkpoint must be limited only to a visual search, and must not be extensive. A reasonable search at a routine checkpoint excludes extensive searches, absent other recognized exceptional circumstances leading to an extensive search.

This was reiterated in Aniag, Jr. v. Commission on Elections,[20] in which this Court declared a warrantless search made at a checkpoint illegal. This Court reiterated that warrantless searches of moving vehicles are reasonable when these are searches and "seizure of evidence in plain view";[21] conversely, an extensive search is not reasonable simply because it was conducted on a moving vehicle.

After observing that no genuine reason for suspicion was present in Aniag, Jr., this Court considered whether the evidence seized was nonetheless admissible because of consent from the person searched. Rejecting the claim, this Court evaluated how the checkpoint was set up, as well as the circumstances of the person searched:
It may be argued that the seeming acquiescence of Arellano to the search constitutes an implied waiver of petitioner's right to question the reasonableness of the search of the vehicle and the seizure of the firearms.

While Resolution No. 2327 authorized the setting up of checkpoints, it however stressed that "guidelines shall be made to ensure that no infringement of civil and political rights results from the implementation of this authority," and that "the places and manner of setting up of checkpoints shall be determined in consultation with the Committee on Firearms Ban and Security Personnel created under Sec. 5, Resolution No. 2323." The facts show that PNP installed the checkpoint at about five o'clock in the afternoon of 13 January 1992. The search was made soon thereafter, or thirty minutes later. It was not shown that news of impending checkpoints without necessarily giving their locations, and the reason for the same have been announced in the media to forewarn the citizens. Nor did the informal checkpoint that afternoon carry signs informing the public of the purpose of its operation. As a result, motorists passing that place did not have any inkling whatsoever about the reason behind the instant exercise. With the authorities in control to stop and search passing vehicles, the motorists did not have any choice but to submit to the PNP's scrutiny. Otherwise, any attempt to turnabout albeit innocent would raise suspicion and provide probable cause for the police to arrest the motorist and to conduct an extensive search of his vehicle.

In the case of petitioner, only his driver was at the car at that time it was stopped for inspection. As conceded by COMELEC, driver Arellano did not know the purpose of the checkpoint. In the face of fourteen (14) armed policemen conducting the operation, driver Arellano being alone and a mere employee of petitioner could not have marshalled the strength and the courage to protest against the extensive search conducted in the vehicle. In such scenario, the "implied acquiescence," if there was any, could not be more than a mere passive conformity on Arellano's part to the search, and "consent" given under intimidating or coercive circumstances is no consent within the purview of the constitutional guaranty.[22] (Citations omitted)
The concept of consent to extensive warrantless searches was elaborated in Dela Cruz v. People,[23] which involved routine security inspections conducted at a seaport terminal.

Citing People v. Suzuki,[24] which recognized the reasonableness of airport security procedures, this Court in Dela Cruz likened seaports to airports and explained that the extensive inspections regularly conducted there proceed from the port personnel's "authority and policy to ensure the safety of travelers and vehicles within the port."[25] In ports of travel, persons have a reduced expectation of privacy, due to public safety and security concerns over terrorism and hijacking. Travelers are generally notified that they and their baggage will be searched, and even subject to x-rays; as such, they are well aware ahead of time that they must submit to searches at the port. This Court pointed out that if the petitioner did not want his bag inspected, he could have opted not to travel.

The authority and policy of port personnel to ensure the safety of travelers, as with the resulting reduced expectation of privacy at a port of travel, distinguishes the search conducted in Dela Cruz from that in Aniag, Jr. In Aniag, Jr., the petitioner's driver was stopped at a checkpoint that had only been installed 30 minutes prior, and he did not even know what it was for. In Dela Cruz, a traveler voluntarily submits to being searched at a port, informed of why it was being done. It may not have involved moving vehicle searches, but it articulates that a traveler consents to extensive searches at ports as a condition of entry, pursuant to recognized reasonable safeguards for ensuring the traveling public's safety.

Saluday v. People[26] extended this reasoning to cover warrantless searches of public buses. There, a bus was stopped at a military checkpoint and its male passengers were asked to disembark, while its female passengers were allowed to stay put. When a military task force member boarded the bus to inspect it, he noticed a small bag on the rear seat and lifted it, only to find it much heavier than it looked. Upon learning that the petitioner and his brother had been seated near the bag, he asked them to board the bus and open the bag. The petitioner obliged, revealing that the bag contained a gun, ammo, a hand grenade, and a 10-inch hunting knife.[27]

In deciding on whether the items were admissible in evidence, this Court separately evaluated the initial inspection, which consisted of merely lifting the suspicious bag; and the latter inspection, in which the officer inspected the bag after having it opened.

As to the initial inspection, this Court observed that, like in the ports of Suzuki and Dela Cruz, the traveling public's safety is a concern in buses. This moderates the expectation of privacy a person may reasonably have in that space. Given this, and considering that the act of lifting the bag was visual and minimally intrusive, this initial inspection was deemed reasonable.

As for the more extensive search of the bag's contents, this Court did not conclude that, because of security issues, it was reasonable. Its only basis for not rejecting the search as unreasonable was that, prior to the intrusive search, the officer obtained clear consent to open the bag:
When SCAA Buco asked if he could open petitioner's bag, petitioner answered "yes, just open it" based on petitioner's own testimony. This is clear consent by petitioner to the search of the contents of his bag. In its Decision dated 26 June 2014, the Court of Appeals aptly held:
A waiver was found in People v. Omaweng. There, the police officers asked the accused if they could see the contents of his bag and he answered "you can see the contents but those are only clothings." When asked if they could open and see it, he said "you can see it." In the present case, accused-appellant told the member of the task force that "it was only a cellphone" when asked who owns the bag and what are its contents. When asked by the member of the task force if he could open it, accused-­appellant told him "yes, just open it." Hence, as in Omaweng, there was a waiver of accused-appellant's right against warrantless search.[28] (Citation omitted)
Thus, although this Court in Saluday did not declare the evidence seized inadmissible, the intrusive search of the bag was not categorically found reasonable. It did not rule on the reasonableness of the intrusive search. Rather, the validity of the search was anchored on the waiver of the petitioner's right when he told the officer, "yes, just open [the bag]."[29]

III

Finally, in reference to the dissent, the guidelines laid down in Saluday would be sufficient to address those concerns. I quote:
Further, in the conduct of bus searches, the Court lays down the following guidelines. Prior to entry, passengers and their bags and luggages can be subjected to a routine inspection akin to airport and seaport security protocol. In this regard, metal detectors and x-ray scanning machines can be installed at bus terminals. Passengers can also be frisked. In lieu of electronic scanners, passengers can be required instead to open their bags and luggages for inspection, which inspection must be made in the passenger's presence. Should the passenger object, he or she can validly be refused entry into the terminal.

While in transit, a bus can still be searched by government agents or the security personnel of the bus owner in the following three instances. First, upon receipt of information that a passenger carries contraband or illegal articles, the bus where the passenger is aboard can be stopped en route to allow for an inspection of the person and his or her effects. This is no different from an airplane that is forced to land upon receipt of information about the contraband or illegal articles carried by a passenger onboard. Second, whenever a bus picks passengers en route, the prospective passenger can be frisked and his or her bag or luggage be subjected to the same routine inspection by government agents or private security personnel as though the person boarded the bus at the terminal. This is because unlike an airplane, a bus is able to stop and pick passengers along the way, making it possible for these passengers to evade the routine search at the bus terminal. Third, a bus can be flagged clown at designated military or police checkpoints where State agents can board the vehicle for a routine inspection of the passengers and their bags or luggages.

In both situations, the inspection of passengers and their effects prior to entry at the bus terminal and the search of the bus while in transit must also satisfy the following conditions to qualify as a valid reasonable search. First, as to the manner of the search, it must be the least intrusive and must uphold the dignity of the person or persons being searched, minimizing, if not altogether eradicating, any cause for public embarrassment, humiliation or ridicule. Second, neither can the search result from any discriminatory motive such as insidious profiling, stereotyping and other similar motives. In all instances, the fundamental rights of vulnerable identities, persons with disabilities, children and other similar groups should be protected. Third, as to the purpose of the search, it must be confined to ensuring public safety. Fourth, as to the evidence seized from the reasonable search, courts must be convinced that precautionary measures were in place to ensure that no evidence was planted against the accused.

The search of persons in a public place is valid because the safety of others may be put at risk. Given the present circumstances, the Court takes judicial notice that public transport buses and their terminals, just like passenger ships and seaports, are in that category.[30] (Emphasis in the original)
The facts in Saluday are not on all fours with this case. The initial search in Saluday was the third of the permissible searches of public vehicles in transit: the routine inspection at a military checkpoint. This case, on the other hand, is a targeted search of an individual on board a public vehicle based on an anonymous informant's tip.

It may be argued that this case falls under one (1) of the permissible searches of a public vehicle in transit: "upon receipt of information that a passenger carries contraband or illegal articles[.]"[31] Because the Saluday guidelines do not qualify "receipt of information," it may be tempting to say that when officers are told by anyone at all-an anonymous phone call and text message, in this case-that a passenger on a public vehicle is carrying anything illegal, they may stop the vehicle en route and intrusively search such passenger.

This, however, is ultimately untenable. The permitted searches in Saluday pertain to an exception to the general rule against warrantless searches, i.e., cases where the safety of others may be at risk. Courts must be more circumspect when invoking it, and law enforcers must not treat it as an expedient way to circumvent the Constitution. Before accepting that a search was permissible based on the received information, courts must at the very least evaluate the circumstances of the supposed information.

Even if this case had involved a permissible inspection upon receipt of information that a passenger is carrying contraband, the search would still not be deemed reasonable, as it failed to satisfy the conditions under the Saluday guidelines.

The guidelines require that the manner of search be the least intrusive, yet the search here involved an intrusive probing of the bag. The guidelines also require that the search be conducted only to ensure public safety; however, the search here was unequivocally made to apprehend a person who, as reported by an anonymous phone call and text message, was transporting marijuana. Finally, the guidelines require that "courts must be convinced that precautionary measures were in place to ensure that no evidence was planted against the accused," but there were no such measures here.

For all these reasons, I find the search conducted on accused-appellant Jerry Sapla y Guerrero a.k.a. Eric Salibad y Mallari unreasonable.

ACCORDINGLY, I concur.


[1] 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

[2] People v. Cristobal, G.R. No. 234207, June 10, 2019, <http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/65317> [Per J. Caguioa, Second Division].

[3] 266 Phil. 306 (1990) [Per J. Gancayco, First Division].

[4] Id. at 311-312.

[5] Id. at 312-313.

[6] 330 Phil. 811 (1996) [Per J. Romero, Second Division].

[7] 345 Phil. 632 (1997) [Per J. Panganiban, Third Division].

[8] 347 Phil. 462 (1997) [Per J. Davide, Jr., En Banc].

[9] Id. at 489-490.

[10] 643 Phil. 577 (2010) [Per J. Carpio Morales, Third Division].

[11] Id. at 606.

[12] 740 Phil. 212 (2014) [Per J. Leonen, Third Division].

[13] Sanchez v. People, 747 Phil. 552 (2014) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division]; Veridiano v. People, 810 Phil. 642 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division]; and People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018, 860 SCRA 420 [Per J. Martires, Third Division].

[14] Id. at 233-234 citing J. Bersamin, Dissenting Opinion in Esquillo v. People, 643 Phil. 577 (2010) [Per J. Carpio Morales, Third Division].

[15] 258 Phil. 838 (1989) [Per J. Padilla, En Banc].

[16] Id. at 843.

[17] Id. at 844.

[18] 264 Phil. 265 (1990) [Per J. Padilla, En Banc].

[19] Id. at 270.

[20] 307 Phil. 437 (1994) [Per J. Bellosillo, En Banc].

[21] Id. at 448.

[22] Id. at 450-451.

[23] 776 Phil. 653 (2016) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

[24] 460 Phil. 146 (2003) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, En Banc].

[25] Dela Cruz v. People, 776 Phil. 653, 684 (2016) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

[26] G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018, 860 SCRA 231 [Per Acting C.J. Carpio, En Banc].

[27] Id. at 237.

[28] Id. at 254-255.

[29] Id. at 254.

[30] Id. at 255-257.

[31] Id. at 256.



DISSENTING OPINION

LAZARO-JAVIER, J.:


This case involves a police operation that netted a sack of almost four (4) kilos of marijuana. The Majority acquit appellant based on what essentially is the distrust in the reasonableness of the police officers' on-­the-spot judgment call. It is my hope that the decision reached in this case does not dishearten the legitimate enthusiasm of our police forces in law enforcement.

The Majority set aside appellant's conviction for transportation of dangerous drugs in violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act 9165 (RA 9165) on ground that the apprehending officers violated appellant's constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures; hence, the drugs seized from him were inadmissible in evidence.

With due respect, I cannot concur in the decision to acquit appellant of the charge of transporting almost four (4) kilos of marijuana through a public jeepney as the lower courts' rulings were fully consistent with valid and binding jurisprudence.

First, the ponencia prefaces with this question:
Can the police conduct a warrantless intrusive search of a vehicle on the sole basis of an unverified tip relayed by an anonymous informant?
In the first place, the police officers here did not conduct an intrusive search of the passenger jeepney. The object of their surveillance and search was targeted to a very specific individual.

Secondly, the police officers did not rely on an unverified tip. The tip was verified by a subsequent tip describing in detail the person who was actually riding the passenger jeepney and the sack he was actually carrying. The tip was also verified by the exact match of the tip with the description of the passenger whom the police officers were targeting and actually approached.

Thirdly, the police officers were not just relying on the "tip." They were acting as well on the bases of the exact match as stated and their professional experience as regards the route plied by the passenger jeepney. It is not as if the police officers were guarding the premises of a religious institution where the transportation or even possession of marijuana would most likely be improbable. The police officers were situated along the silk road of marijuana transportation that the police officers could not have lightly ignored. Further, the police officers relied upon their personal knowledge of what they were then perceiving to be a suspicious bulky sack and the actual contents thereof through a visual and minimally intrusive observation thereof after appellant's act of opening this sack. Appellant did not even protest that he was carrying only camote crops or cauliflower or broccoli or smoked meat, had this been the case.

Fourthly, there was urgency in conducting the search because appellant was then a passenger in a passenger jeepney en route to another province. The same exceptional urgency involved in the warrantless search of a motor vehicle carries over to the search of a targeted passenger and a targeted baggage of the passenger in the moving vehicle. It is not feasible to obtain a search warrant in the situation presented to the police officers in the present case, especially where the passenger jeepney is in the process of crossing boundaries of court jurisdictions.

Clearly, the police officers did not just rely upon one (1) suspicious circumstance and certainly not just upon the "tip." This is not a case where a "mere passenger in a jeepney who did not exhibit any act that would give police officers reasonable suspicion to believe that he had drugs in his possession. x x x There was no evidence to show that the police had basis or personal knowledge that would reasonably allow them to infer anything suspicious." A tip is not sufficient to constitute probable cause ONLY in the absence of any other circumstance that will arouse suspicion. But that is not the situation here.

Second, I do not agree that "our constitutional order does not adopt a stance of neutrality," especially this statement "the law is heavily in favor of the accused,"[1] which then cites the presumption of innocence.

To begin with, the reference to the presumption of innocence is inappropriate.

We do not deal here with the calibration of evidence on the merits of the accusation against appellant. The right to be presumed innocent and the concomitant burden of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt do not therefore come into play.

The burden of the prosecution was only to prove the search to be reasonable - the standard of proof is simply one of probable cause. Probable cause requires a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found - whether a fair-minded evaluator would have reason to find it more likely than not that a fact (or ultimate fact) is true, which is quantified as a fifty-one percent (51%) certainty standard (using whole numbers as the increment of measurement).[2] What probable cause entails was described sharply in this manner:
The Court of Appeals held that the DEA agents seized respondent when they grabbed him by the arm and moved him back onto the sidewalk. 831 F.2d at 1416. The Government does not challenge that conclusion, and we assume - without deciding - that a stop occurred here. Our decision, then, turns on whether the agents had a reasonable suspicion that respondent was engaged in wrongdoing when they encountered him on the sidewalk. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 392 U. S. 30 (1968), we held that the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity "may be afoot," even if the officer lacks probable cause.

The officer, of course, must be able to articulate something more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch." Id. at 27. The Fourth Amendment requires "some minimal level of objective justification" for making the stop. INS v. Delgado, 466 U. S. 210, 466 U. S. 217 (1984). That level of suspicion is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence. We have held that probable cause means "a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found," Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 462 U. S. 238 (1983), and the level of suspicion required for a Terry stop is obviously less demanding than that for probable cause, see United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U. S. 531, 473 U. S. 541, 473 U. S. 544 (1985).

The concept of reasonable suspicion, like probable cause, is not "readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules." Gates, supra, at 462 U. S. 232. We think the Court of Appeals' effort to refine and elaborate the requirements of "reasonable suspicion" in this case creates unnecessary difficulty in dealing with one of the relatively simple concepts embodied in the Fourth Amendment. In evaluating the validity of a stop such as this, we must consider "the totality of the circumstances - the whole picture." United States v. Cortez, 449 U. S. 411, 449 U. S. 417 (1981). As we said in Cortez:

"The process does not deal with hard certainties, but with probabilities. Long before the law of probabilities was articulated as such, practical people formulated certain common sense conclusions about human behavior; jurors as fact-finders are permitted to do the same - and so are law enforcement officers."[3]
Further, the statement does disservice to years of jurisprudence that, while recognizing the Bill of Rights to be a check on government power, has taken stock of the varying interests that require balancing if not accommodation. Effective law enforcement is a legitimate interest that is not less favored by the law.

Certainly, the Court cannot quantify the legal rights of one (1) subset of our community to be heavily favored when the Court has not established a weighing scale by which to measure its validity, accuracy, and reliability.

The statement chills our law enforcers from doing their job in good faith of enforcing the law and keeping peace and order, and emboldens criminally-disposed persons to commit crimes as they please, because in any event the law would lend these criminal enterprises the veneer of protection that law-abiding citizens do not have. We cannot nonchalantly refuse to see the totality of circumstances, and choose to close our eyes to the whole picture and the common sense conclusions about human behavior.

Third, the case law research of the ponencia is quite impressive. Yet, it seems to have missed on a golden opportunity to refine the motor vehicle exemption to the warrant requirement.

We all agree that the motor vehicle exemption emanated from outside jurisprudence, particularly the United States. But as early as 1991, at least in that jurisdiction, the motor vehicle exemption has undergone refinements that our own jurisprudence has adopted implicitly if not expressly.

In California v. Acevedo, 500 U. S. 565 (1991),[4] the United States Supreme Court considered the motor vehicle exemption to the warrant requirement of its Fourth Amendment and its application to the search of a closed container within the motor vehicle.

Acevedo is keenly relevant to our present case because the police targeted not exactly the passenger jeepney in which our transporter of four (4) kilos of marijuana but the transporter and more particularly the sack in which the four (4) kilos of marijuana was being stored for transportation.

Acevedo ruled that the motor vehicle exemption extends to containers carried by passengers inside a moving vehicle, even if there is no probable cause to search the motor vehicle itself and the probable cause and the interest of the police officers has been piqued only by the circumstances of the passenger and the container he or she is carrying and transporting. As held in Acevedo:
[W]e now hold that the Fourth Amendment does not compel separate treatment for an automobile search that extends only to a container within the vehicle....

The interpretation of the Carroll doctrine set forth in Ross now applies to all searches of containers found in an automobile. In other words, the police may search without a warrant if their search is supported by probable cause. The Court in Ross put it this way:

"The scope of a warrantless search of an automobile... is not defined by the nature of the container in which the contraband is secreted. Rather, it is defined by the object of the search and the places in which there is probable cause to believe that it may be found."

....

Until today, this Court has drawn a curious line between the search of an automobile that coincidentally turns up a container and the search of a container that coincidentally turns up in an automobile. The protections of the Fourth Amendment must not turn on such coincidences. We therefore interpret Carroll as providing one rule to govern all automobile searches. The police may search an automobile and the containers within it where they have probable cause to believe contraband or evidence is contained.
Indeed, the distinction between probable cause as to the motor vehicle and probable cause as to the specific person and his or her specific container actually endangers the privacy interest that the right against unreasonable searches and seizures protects. Acevedo succinctly explains:
The line between probable cause to search a vehicle and probable cause to search a package in that vehicle is not always clear, and separate rules that govern the two objects to be searched may enable the police to broaden their power to make warrantless searches and disserve privacy interests. We noted this in Ross in the context of a search of an entire vehicle. Recognizing that, under Carroll, the "entire vehicle itself... could be searched without a warrant," we concluded that "prohibiting police from opening immediately a container in which the object of the search is most likely to be found, and instead forcing them first to comb the entire vehicle, would actually exacerbate the intrusion on privacy interests."

At the moment when officers stop an automobile, it may be less than clear whether they suspect with a high degree of certainty that the vehicle contains drugs in a bag or simply contains drugs. If the police know that they may open a bag only if they are actually searching the entire car, they may search more extensively than they otherwise would in order to establish the general probable cause required by Ross.

Such a situation is not far-fetched.... We cannot see the benefit of a rule that requires law enforcement officers to conduct a more intrusive search in order to justify a less intrusive
In greater detail, Acevedo ruled thus:
The facts in this case closely resemble the facts in Ross. In Ross, the police had probable cause to believe that drugs were stored in the trunk of a particular car. See 456 U.S. at 456 U. S. 800. Here, the California Court of Appeal concluded that the police had probable cause to believe that respondent was carrying marijuana in a bag in his car's trunk. Furthermore, for what it is worth, in Ross, as here, the drugs in the trunk were contained in a brown paper bag.

This Court in Ross rejected Chadwick's distinction between containers and cars. It concluded that the expectation of privacy in one's vehicle is equal to one's expectation of privacy in the container, and noted that "the privacy interests in a car's trunk or glove compartment may be no less than those in a movable container." 456 U. S. at 456 U. S. 823. It also recognized that it was arguable that the same exigent circumstances that permit a warrantless search of an automobile would justify the warrantless search of a movable container. Id. at 456 U. S. 809. In deference to the rule of Chadwick and Sanders, however, the Court put that question to one side. Id. at 456 U. S. 809-810. It concluded that the time and expense of the warrant process would be misdirected if the police could search every cubic inch of an automobile until they discovered a paper sack, at which point the Fourth Amendment required them to take the sack to a magistrate for permission to look inside. We now must decide the question deferred in Ross: whether the Fourth Amendment requires the police to obtain a warrant to open the sack in a movable vehicle simply because they lack probable cause to search the entire car. We conclude that it does not.

IV

Dissenters in Ross asked why the suitcase in Sanders was "more private, less difficult for police to seize and store, or in any other relevant respect more properly subject to the warrant requirement, than a container that police discover in a probable cause search of an entire automobile?"

We now agree that a container found after a general search of the automobile and a container found in a car after a limited search for the container are equally easy for the police to store and for the suspect to hide or destroy. In fact, we see no principled distinction in terms of either the privacy expectation or the exigent circumstances between the paper bag found by the police in Ross and the paper bag found by the police here. Furthermore, by attempting to distinguish between a container for which the police are specifically searching and a container which they come across in a car, we have provided only minimal protection for privacy, and have impeded effective law enforcement.

....

To the extent that the Chadwick-Sanders rule protects privacy, its protection is minimal. Law enforcement officers may seize a container and hold it until they obtain a search warrant. "Since the police, by hypothesis, have probable cause to seize the property, we can assume that a warrant will be routinely forthcoming in the overwhelming majority of cases."

And the police often will be able to search containers without a warrant, despite the Chadwick-Sanders rule, as a search incident to a lawful arrest. In New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981), the Court said: "[W]e hold that, when a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile." "It follows from this conclusion that the police may also examine the contents of any containers found within the passenger compartment."

Under Belton, the same probable cause to believe that a container holds drugs will allow the police to arrest the person transporting the container and search it.

Finally, the search of a paper bag intrudes far less on individual privacy than does the incursion sanctioned long ago in Carroll. In that case, prohibition agents slashed the upholstery of the automobile. This Court nonetheless found their search to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. If destroying the interior of an automobile is not unreasonable, we cannot conclude that looking inside a closed container is. In light of the minimal protection to privacy afforded by the Chadwick-Sanders rule, and our serious doubt whether that rule substantially serves privacy interests, we now hold that the Fourth Amendment does not compel separate treatment for an automobile search that extends only to a container within the vehicle.

V

The Chadwick-Sanders rule not only has failed to protect privacy, but it has also confused courts and police officers and impeded effective law enforcement. The conflict between the Carroll doctrine cases and the Chadwick-Sanders line has been criticized in academic commentary....

Although we have recognized firmly that the doctrine of stare decisis serves profoundly important purposes in our legal system, this Court has overruled a prior case on the comparatively rare occasion when it has bred confusion or been a derelict or led to anomalous results.... We conclude that it is better to adopt one clear-cut rule to govern automobile searches and eliminate the warrant requirement for closed containers set forth in Sanders.

VI

The interpretation of the Caroll doctrine set forth in Ross now applies to all searches of containers found in an automobile. In other words, the police may search without a warrant if their search is supported by probable cause. The Court in Ross put it this way:

"The scope of a warrantless search of an automobile... is not defined by the nature of the container in which the contraband is secreted. Rather, it is defined by the object of the search and the places in which there is probable cause to believe that it may be found."

"Probable cause to believe that a container placed in the trunk of a taxi contains contraband or evidence does not justify a search of the entire cab."

We reaffirm that principle. In the case before us, the police had probable cause to believe that the paper bag in the automobile's trunk contained marijuana. That probable cause now allows a warrantless search of the paper bag. The facts in the record reveal that the police did not have probable cause to believe that contraband was hidden in any other part of the automobile and a search of the entire vehicle would have been without probable cause and unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Our holding today neither extends the Carroll doctrine nor broadens the scope of the permissible automobile search delineated in Carroll, Chambers, and Ross. It remains a "cardinal principle that 'searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment - subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.'"

We held in Ross: "The exception recognized in Carroll is unquestionably one that is specifically established and well delineated."

Until today, this Court has drawn a curious line between the search of an automobile that coincidentally turns up a container and the search of a container that coincidentally turns up in an automobile. The protections of the Fourth Amendment must not turn on such coincidences. We therefore interpret Carroll as providing one rule to govern all automobile searches. The police may search an automobile and the containers within it where they have probable cause to believe contraband or evidence is contained.

The judgment of the California Court of Appeal is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Fourth, the Acevedo doctrine has been adopted in our jurisprudence, consciously or unconsciously as a matter of common sense, under the rubric of a valid warrantless search of a moving public utility vehicle.

Saluday v. People,[5] discussed below in greater detail, is one (1) such pinpoint example confirming the validity of the ruling and reasoning in Acevedo.

There is no dispute that the search of a moving vehicle is a jurisprudentially recognized exception to the rule that a search to be valid must be pursuant to a court-issued warrant.

The ponencia, however, insists that there was no valid search of a moving vehicle in this case, citing the following discussion in People v. Comprado:[6]
The search in this case, however, could not be classified as a search of a moving vehicle. In this particular type of search, the vehicle is the target and not a specific personFurther, in search of a moving vehicle, the vehicle was intentionally used as a means to transport illegal items. It is worthy to note that the information relayed to the police officers was that a passenger of that particular bus was carrying marijuana such that when the police officers boarded the bus, they searched the bag of the person matching the description given by their informant and not the cargo or contents of the said bus. Moreover, in this case, it just so happened that the alleged drug courier was a bus passenger. To extend to such breadth the scope of searches on moving vehicles would open the floodgates to unbridled warrantless searches which can be conducted by the mere expedient of waiting for the target person to ride a motor vehicle, setting up a checkpoint along the route of that vehicle, and then stopping such vehicle when it arrives at the checkpoint in order to search the target person.[7]
This restrictive definition of a search of a moving vehicle is found in no other judicial precedent and in fact, Comprado cites none. Comprado abides by a reasoning that has long been rejected from where we have obtained our motor vehicle exemption.

Our prevailing jurisprudence is, to be sure, contrary to what Comprado implies - which is that, as held in Comprado, if the confidential tip describes with particularity the person and the baggage to be searched, aside from giving a description of the vehicle, then the search conducted is no longer a search of a moving vehicle but a search of a particular person and his or her baggage, and that unless an accused is proved to have "intentionally used" the vehicle to transport illegal drugs, the motor vehicle exemption would not apply.

cannot subscribe to this narrow definition laid down in Comprado as it ignores well-settled jurisprudence.

To be sure, the only case cited by Comprado in relation to searches of moving vehicles, People v. Libnao,[8] in fact enumerates the varied types of situations that are considered valid searches of moving vehicles, including those involving persons "targeted" based on a description given by an informant/agent, to wit:
In earlier decisions, we held that there was probable cause in the following instances: (a) where the distinctive odor of marijuana emanated from the plastic bag carried by the accused;[9] (b) where an informer positively identified the accused who was observed to be acting suspiciously; (c) where the accused who were riding a jeepney were stopped and searched by policemen who had earlier received confidential reports that said accused would transport a quantity of marijuana;[10] (d) where Narcom agents had received information that a Caucasian coming from Sagada, Mountain Province had in his possession prohibited drugs and when the Narcom agents confronted the accused Caucasiari because of a conspicuous bulge in his waistline, he failed to present his passport and other identification papers when requested to do so; (f) where the moving vehicle was stopped and searched on the basis of intelligence information and clandestine reports by a deep penetration agent or spy - one who participated in the drug smuggling activities of the syndicate to which the accused belong - that said accused were bringing prohibited drugs into the country;[11] (g) where the arresting officers had received a confidential information that the accused, whose identity as a drug distributor was established in a previous test-buy operation, would be boarding MV Dona Virginia and probably carrying shabu with him;[12] (h) where police officers received an information that the accused, who was carrying a suspicious ­ looking gray luggage bag, would transport marijuana in a bag to Manila;[13] and (i) where the appearance of the accused and the color of the bag he was carrying fitted the description given by a civilian asset.[14]
An example of a warrantless search on a moving vehicle based on details given by an informant can be found in People v. Mariacos.[15] What should be emphasized is that the ruling in Comprado handed down by the Court's Third Division did not expressly reverse previous doctrine on warrantless searches of moving vehicles since a Division of this Court has no power to do so.

I see no compelling reason for the Court En Banc to adopt the impractical restrictions imposed in Comprado.

Does the Court mean to require a search warrant if a specifically described person and baggage reasonably suspected to be carrying illegal drugs does so on a moving vehicle?

But this artificial distinction has long been discarded in the United States, where we took our motor vehicle exemption.

How exactly is the prosecution supposed to prove that a public or private vehicle was intentionally chosen to transport dangerous drugs if the mere apprehension of the accused possessing dangerous drugs in flagrante on such moving vehicle does not suffice?

We cannot perpetuate a rule that has long lost its vitality.

To stress, Acevedo provides a stirring counterpoint to a rule that the ponencia seeks to memorialize:
Although we have recognized firmly that the doctrine of stare decisis serves profoundly important purposes in our legal system, this Court has overruled a prior case on the comparatively rare occasion when it has bred confusion or been a derelict or led to anomalous results.... We conclude that it is better to adopt one clear-cut rule to govern automobile searches and eliminate the warrant requirement for closed containers set forth in Sanders.
Fifth, jurisprudence likewise recognizes the validity of warrantless searches and arrests based on a tip from a confidential informant as a legitimate basis for a police officer's determination of probable cause.

Notably, here, this tip is not just a whimsical tip but objectified by these circumstances:

(i) the police officers' long experience in dealing with marijuana coming from this route in northern Luzon;

(ii) the fact that appellant was a passenger on board a moving public jeepney crossing provincial boundaries; and

(iii) photographs of the bricks of marijuana show that they were of such size and bulk that they were readily the most conspicuous items in the blue sack, and therefore, no "probing" of the sack's contents would have even been necessary.

It is conceded that although searches of moving vehicles may be done without warrant, police officers do not have unlimited discretion in the conduct of such searches. As we held in People v. Tuazon:[16]
Nevertheless, the exception from securing a search warrant when it comes to moving vehicles does not give the police authorities unbridled discretion to conduct a warrantless search of an automobile. To do so would render the aforementioned constitutional stipulations inutile and expose the citizenry to indiscriminate police distrust which could amount to outright harassment. Surely, the policy consideration behind the exemption of search of moving vehicles does not encompass such arbitrariness on the part of the police authorities. In recognition of the possible abuse, jurisprudence dictates that at all times, it is required that probable cause exist in order to justify the warrantless search of a vehicle. (Emphasis supplied.)
While the ponencia was able to cite jurisprudence to the effect that tipped information is insufficient and police officers must have personal knowledge of facts giving them probable cause to conduct a search, the Court also cannot simply disregard long standing jurisprudence holding that probable cause may be based on reliable, confidential information received by police.

In People v. Bagista,[17] we ruled that the officers involved had probable cause to stop and search all vehicles coming from the north at Acop, Tublay, Benguet in view of the confidential information they had received that a woman having the same appearance as that of accused would be bringing marijuana from up north. They likewise had probable cause to search accused's belongings since she fit the description provided by the informant.

We have also upheld the warrantless search in People v. Valdez[18] where a police officer was informed by a civilian asset that a thin Ilocano person with a green bag was about to transport marijuana on a public bus from Banaue, Ifugao. That the search targeted a specifically described individual was even the basis for the reasonableness of the search, viz.:
Said information was received by SPO1 Mariano the very same morning he was waiting for a ride in Banaue to report for work in Lagawe, the capital town of Ifugao province. Thus, faced with such on-the-spot information, the law enforcer had to respond quickly to the call of duty. Obviously, there was not enough time to secure a search warrant considering the time involved in the process. In fact, in view of the urgency of the case, SPO1 Mariano together with the civilian "asset" proceeded immediately to Hingyon, Ifugao to pursue the drug trafficker. In Hingyon, he flagged down buses bound for Baguio City and Manila, and looked for the person described by the informant. It must be noted that the target of the pursuit was just the "thin Ilocano person with a green bag" and no other. And so, when SPO1 Mariano inspected the bus bound for Manila, he just singled out the passenger with the green bag. Evidently, there was definite information of the identity of the person engaged in transporting prohibited drugs at a particular time and place. SPO1 Mariano had already an inkling of the identity of the person he was looking for. As a matter of fact, no search at all was conducted on the baggages of other passengers. Hence, appellant's claim that the arresting officer was only fishing for evidence of a crime has no factual basis.
In that case, we deemed the accused caught in flagrante since he was carrying marijuana at the time of his arrest.

In People v. Mariacos,[19] we justified the warrantless search of a jeepney in this wise:
It is well to remember that on October 26, 2005, the night before appellant's arrest, the police received information that marijuana was to be transported from Barangay Balbalayang, and had set up a checkpoint around the area to intercept the suspects. At dawn of October 27, 2005, PO2 Pallayoc met the secret agent from the Barangay Intelligence Network, who informed him that a baggage of marijuana was loaded on a passenger jeepney about to leave for the poblacion. Thus, PO2 Pallayoc had probable cause to search the packages allegedly containing illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, in People v. Quebral,[20] where police officers acted on an informer's report that two (2) men and a woman on board an owner type jeep with a specific plate number would deliver shabu at a gas station, we explained:
As the lower court aptly put it in this case, the law enforcers already had an inkling of the personal circumstances of the persons they were looking for and the criminal act they were about to commit. That these circumstances played out in their presence supplied probable cause for the search. The police acted on reasonable ground of suspicion or belief supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man to believe that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Since the seized shabu resulted from a valid search, it is admissible in evidence against the accused. (Emphasis supplied.)
The citations may go on and on.[21] From the foregoing cases, it is clear that police officers, acting on a tip from an informant, may lawfully apprehend drug offenders.

This doctrine has not been abandoned.

The United States cases cited in the ponencia, Aguilar v. Texas,[22] U.S. v. Ventresca,[23] and Illinois v. Gates[24] are not on all fours with this case.

To begin with, these United States cases involved probable cause for issuance of a search warrant by a court while here we are discussing the search of a moving vehicle, an accepted exception to the need to secure a court-issued search warrant.

For another, Aguilar and Ventresca involved the search of a house while Illinois involved the search of a house and a private vehicle purportedly regularly used to transport illegal drugs. Thus, in Aguilar and Illinois, police officers would have had time to investigate further the veracity of the tip received perhaps through a surveillance or a test buy. Ventresca did not even involve an anonymous tip but concerned an investigator's affidavit which was used as basis for the issuance of a search warrant but was assailed as being partly hearsay for some of the information therein was gathered by fellow investigators. Ventresca is hardly even relevant here at all.

Still, a careful reading of Illinois demonstrates that United States jurisprudence does not prohibit law enforcement officers from relying on anonymous tips, even when they may constitute hearsay. Illinois even expressly abandoned the rigid two (2)-pronged test under Aguilar requiring that "(1) the informant's 'basis of knowledge' be revealed and (2) sufficient facts to establish either the informant's 'veracity' or the 'reliability' of the informant's report must be provided."[25] Instead, it held that "[w]hile a conscientious assessment of the basis for crediting such tips is required by the Fourth Amendment, a standard that leaves virtually no place for anonymous citizen informants is not."[26]

To be sure, Illinois in proposing the "totality of circumstances test" merely recognized that corroboration of details of an informant's tip by prior independent police work bolstered the veracity of the tip but it was not requisite to a finding of probable cause. Illinois also amply discussed the evidentiary value of on-site verification of the accuracy of the anonymous information received by the police, to wit:
The corroboration of the letter's predictions that the Gateses' car would be in Florida, that Lance Gates would fly to Florida in the next day or so, and that he would drive the car north toward Bloomingdale all indicated, albeit not with certainty, that the informant's other assertions also were true. "[B]ecause an informant is right about some things, he is more probably right about other facts"[27] x x x including the claim regarding the Gateses' illegal activity.[28]
Relating this principle to the present case, the anonymous tip received by the police officers turned out to be accurate as their on-site investigation showed. There was a passenger jeepney with plate number AYA 270 bound for Roxas, lsabela that passed through their checkpoint. There was a man on board fitting the description in the anonymous tip who had a blue sack. That blue sack indeed contained illegal drugs, a large and hard to ignore quantity of it. All of these facts came to the personal knowledge of the arresting officers upon investigation of the tip.

In Illinois, the United States Supreme Court aptly observed:
This totality-of-the-circumstances approach is far more consistent with our prior treatment of probable cause than is any rigid demand that specific "tests" be satisfied by every informant's tip. Perhaps the central teaching of our decisions bearing on the probable cause standard is that it is a "practical, nontechnical conception."

In dealing with probable cause,... as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Our observation in United States v. Cortez, regarding "particularized suspicion," is also applicable to the probable cause standard:
"The process does not deal with hard certainties, but with probabilities. Long before the law of probabilities was articulated as such, practical people formulated certain common sense conclusions about human behavior; jurors as factfinders are permitted to do the same - and so are law enforcement officers. Finally, the evidence thus collected must be seen and weighed not in terms of library analysis by scholars, but as understood by those versed in the field of law enforcement."
As these comments illustrate, probable cause is a fluid concept - turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts - not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules. Informants' tips doubtless come in many shapes and sizes from many different types of persons. As we said in Adams v. Williams:
"Informants' tips, like all other clues and evidence coming to a policeman on the scene, may vary greatly in their value and reliability."

Rigid legal rules are ill-suited to an area of such diversity. "One simple rule will not cover every situation."[29] (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted.)
The ponencia acknowledges that jurisprudence on this matter is divergent but has now set in stone that a confidential tip is insufficient to establish probable cause to conduct a warrantless search. It holds that despite the detailed nature of a tip, it must be accompanied by other circumstances that come to the arresting officers' personal knowledge, such as the observation that the person might be a drug user as in People v. Manalili[30] or was otherwise acting suspiciously as in People v. Tangliben[31] and the other cases cited in the ponencia.

The ponencia's reasoning, however, is based on the assumption that drug couriers are all drug users or would all act suspiciously while in the act of committing the crime of possession of illegal drugs.

We have long recognized that people may act differently in the same situation.[32] This is true not only in the case of victims of a crime but also of perpetrators.

Indeed, as early as the case of People v. Saycon,[33] the Court observed that "unlike in the case of crimes like, e.g., homicide, murder, physical injuries, robbery or rape which by their nature involve physical, optically perceptible, overt acts, the offense of possessing or delivering or transporting some prohibited or regulated drug is customarily carried out without any external signs or indicia visible to police officers and the rest of the outside world."

Thus, in evaluating the evidence against the accused, the Court must account for this fact.

Sixth, since appellant consented to the warrantless search, he cannot claim that it is invalid.

Time and again, the Court has ruled the constitutional immunity against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right which may be waived and a person may voluntarily consent to have government officials conduct a search or seizure that would otherwise be barred by the Constitution.[34] Hence, in the oft-cited People v. Montilla, where the accused spontaneously performed affirmative acts of volition by himself opening his bag without being forced or intimidated to do so, such acts should properly be construed as a clear waiver of his right.[35] Montilla is still good law and had been most recently cited in the 2018 case of Saluday v. People.[36]

The ruling in Montilla is applicable here since appellant freely and readily acceded to the police officers' request for him to open the blue sack that he also voluntarily acknowledged was his.

The ponencia relies heavily on our pronouncement in People v. Cogaed that mere silence or passive acquiescence given under intimidating or coercive circumstances does not constitute a valid waiver of the constitutional right against unreasonable searches.[37]

We must, however, distinguish the present case from Cogaed where the police officers themselves testified that the accused therein seemed frightened during the search.

Here, there is absolutely no indication in the records that appellant was intimidated or moved by fear in his act of opening the sack and thereby displaying the four (4) bricks of marijuana to the apprehending officers' view.

By appellant's own account, there were only two (2) policemen manning the checkpoint and who conducted the search of the jeepney.[38] Throughout his testimony which spanned several hearing dates, appellant never even mentioned whether these policemen were armed nor did he claim that he was threatened by them.

PO3 Mabiasan's testimony that when appellant was asked to open his sack, it was only after a while that he voluntarily opened it does not necessarily indicate appellant acted under duress or fear.[39] Appellant's hesitation could have just been hesitation easily indicative of guilt. In any event, it is best left to the trial court to decipher such factual details as it was the one that had the opportunity to observe the witnesses during their testimony.

SeventhI do not agree with the ponencia's finding that the police conducted a probing, highly intrusive search on appellant.

In truth, it is the rule espoused by the ponencia and Comprado that endangers the people's right to privacy. The rationale in Acevedo, extensively quoted above, affirms this conclusion.

People v. Manago,[40] Valmonte v. de Villa,[41] and Caballes v. Court of Appeals[42] where the "visual and minimally intrusive" standard was applied, all involved searches of private vehicles conducted at routine military or police checkpoint. It stands to reason that only a visual and minimally intrusive search would be permissible at routine checkpoints as any number of vehicles and persons would pass through them and in all likelihood, these vehicles or persons would not be involved in criminal activity.

Interestingly, the ponencia cites Saluday v. People[43] as another example of a "visual and minimally intrusive" search by focusing on the fact that the authorities merely lifted the bag containing the illegal firearms but it ignores the extensive discussion in the same case on the validity of law enforcement officers' inspections of persons and the opening of their belongings in instances when they have reduced expectations of privacy, particularly in public places, such as airports, seaports, bus terminals, malls, and even on board public transportation that is in transit. In connection with inspections of public buses and their passengers, Saluday had this to say:
Further, in the conduct of bus searches, the Court lays down the following guidelines. Prior to entry, passengers and their bags and luggages can be subjected to a routine inspection akin to airport and seaport security protocol. In this regard, metal detectors and x-ray scanning machines can be installed at bus terminals. Passengers can also be frisked. In lieu of electronic scanners, passengers can be required instead to open their bags and luggages for inspection, which inspection must be made in the passenger's presence. Should the passenger object, hem she can validly be refused entry into the terminal.

While in transit, a bus can still be searched by government agents or the security personnel of the bus owner in the following three instances. First, upon receipt of information that a passenger carries contraband or illegal articles, the bus where the passenger is aboard can be stopped en route to allow for an inspection of the person and his or her effects. This is no different from an airplane that is forced to land upon receipt of information about the contraband or illegal articles carried by a passenger onboard. Second, whenever a bus picks passengers en route, the prospective passenger can be frisked and his or her bag or luggage be subjected to the same routine inspection by government agents or private security personnel as though the person boarded the bus at the terminal. This is because unlike an airplane, a bus is able to stop and pick passengers along the way, making it possible for these passengers to evade the routine search at the bus terminal. Third, a bus can be flagged down at designated military or police checkpoints where State agents can board the vehicle for a routine inspection of the passengers and their bags or luggages.[44] (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied.)
Verily, Saluday considers the opening and inspection of a passenger's bag/belongings by authorities in a public place or on board public transportation as a reasonable and minimally intrusive search.

Here, appellant, a passenger on board a public jeepney, voluntarily opened his blue sack at the request of police officers who had previously received information that such blue sack most likely contained illegal drugs.

As soon as appellant opened the sack, the two (2) police officers, without any need to do more, immediately saw the four (4) large bricks of marijuana inside. Not only did the testimonies of the two (2) police officers coincide on these material points but also their testimonies were corroborated by the physical evidence.

Photographs of the bricks of marijuana show that they were of such size and bulk that they were readily the most conspicuous items in the blue sack. No "probing" of the sack's contents would have even been necessary.

Significantly, too, appellant did not plead, much less prove, that these police officers had some ill motive for testifying against him.

Eighth, the ponencia now relies on the exclusionary rule or the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine as a basis to acquit accused-appellant. Suffice it to state, since it is my view there was a valid warrantless search of a moving vehicle in this case, I likewise hold that the prosecution's evidence is admissible against appellant and fully supports the lower courts' finding of guilt.

A final word. I whole-heartedly agree with the doctrine in drugs cases that the presumption of regularity accorded to acts undertaken by police officers in the pursuit of their official duties cannot be used to negate the constitutional presumption of innocence.[45]

The Court, however, should not go so far as to presume at the outset that our law enforcement officers are negligent or in bad faith. It chills our law enforcers from their important mission to preserve peace and order and destroy the menace of illegal drugs. Equally foreboding, it goes against our duty to judge cases with cold neutrality.

Neither do I believe that the Court should undeservedly place a premium on the quantity of past precedents that have applied a certain principle, especially when a mechanical application of this principle would not only defeat the ends of justice but also resurrect and worse perpetuate a ruling and rationale that others whose interest in the right to privacy has been firm have long discarded.

We must not evade our duty to revisit previously established doctrine, abandon or, perhaps, at least carve out exceptions or reconcile contradictory rulings when warranted.

For the foregoing reasons, I vote to AFFIRM the Court of Appeals' Decision dated April 24, 2018 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 09296 and to uphold the trial court's judgment of conviction, but with the modification that appellant be sentenced to life imprisonment instead of reclusion perpetua, in line with the nomenclature used in RA 9165 and to pay a fine of P1,000,000.00 as warranted under prevailing jurisprudence.


[1] Italics added.

[2] United States v. Sokolow, 490 US 1 (1989).

[3] Id.

[4] https://supreme.justia.com /cases/federal/us/500/565/

[5] Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018.

[6] G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018.

[7] Id.

[8] 443 Phil. 506 (2003).

[9] Referring to People v. Claudio, 243 Phil. 795 (1988), wherein a policeman accosted a fellow passenger on a public bus who was acting suspiciously.

[10] See, People v. Maspil, Jr., 266 Phil. 815 (1990).

[11] See, People v. v. Lo Ho Wing, 271 Phil. 120, (1991).

[12] See, People v. Saycon y Baquiran, 306 Phil. 359 (1994).

[13] Referring to People v. Balingan y Bobbonan, 311 Phil. 290 (1995).

[14] See, People v. Valdez, 363 Phil. 481 (1990).

[15] 635 Phil. 315 (2010).

[16] 558 Phil. 759 (2007).

[17] 288 Phil. 828 (1992).

[18] Supra note 9.

[19] 635 Phil. 315 (2010).

[20] 621 Phil. 226 (2009).

[21] Macad v. People, G.R. No. 227366, August 01, 2018; Veridiano v. People, G.R. No. 200370, June 07, 2017; People v. Macalaba, 443 Phil. 565 (2003); Caballes v. People, 424 Phil. 263 (2002).

[22] 378 US 108 (1964).

[23] 380 US 102 (1965).

[24] 462 US 213 (1983).

[25] Ponencia, p. 12.

[26] 462 US 213, 238.

[27] Citing Spinelli v. United States, 393 US 410, 427 (1969).

[28] 462 US 213, 244.

[29] 62 US 213, 230.

[30] 345 Phil. 632 (1997).

[31] G.R. No. L-63630, April 6, 1990.

[32] People v. Cabel y Iwag, 347 Phil. 82 (1997).

[33] 306 Phil. 359 (1994).

[34] People v. O'Cochlain, G.R. No. 229071, December 10, 2018.

[35] People v. Mantilla y Gatdula, 349 Phil. 640 (1998).

[36] G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018.

[37] 740 Phil. 212 (2014).

[38] TSN dated November 9, 2015, p. 121.

[39] Ponencia, p. 29.

[40] 793 Phil. 505 (2016).

[41] 264 Phil. 265 (1990).

[42] 424 Phil. 263, (2002).

[43] Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018.

[44] Id.

[45] See, for example, People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 229053, July 17, 2019.



DISSENTING OPINION

LOPEZ, J.:

Not all searches and seizures are prohibited. Those which are reasonable are not forbidden. A reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to he resolved according to the facts of each case.[1]
The ponencia reversed the conviction of the accused for the crime of illegal transportation of dangerous drugs on the ground that the contraband was obtained in violation of the right against unreasonable searches. It pointed out that the police conducted a warrantless intrusive search of a vehicle based solely on an unverified tip from an anonymous informant. Also, there was no consented warrantless search but a mere passive conformity within a coercive and intimidating environment.

For proper reference, there is a need to revisit the facts of the case.

On January 10, 2014 at around 11:30 a.m., the police received a phone call from a concerned citizen that a person will be transporting marijuana out of Kalinga province. At 1:00 p.m., the police received a text message that the transporter of marijuana is a male person wearing a collared white shirt with green stripes, red ball cap and is carrying a blue sack on board a passenger jeepney with plate number AYA 270 bound for Roxas, Isabela. A checkpoint was then established. After 20 minutes, the identified jeepney arrived and was flagged down. The police saw the accused who matched the description with a blue sack in front of him. The police asked about the sack and the accused admitted its ownership. Thereafter, the police requested the accused to open the sack. The accused opened it which yielded four bricks of dried marijuana leaves with a total weight of 3,953.111 grams.

In these circumstances, I believed that what transpired is a reasonable search of the vehicle and not a warrantless search. Obviously, the law enforcers did not have sufficient time to obtain a search warrant. They only have less than two hours between the receipt of the information and the arrival of the passenger jeepney. However, this does not necessarily mean that the authorities have no choice but to conduct a warrantless search. In Saluday v. People,[2] we distinguished a reasonable search from a warrantless search and described them as mutually exclusive, thus:
To emphasize, a reasonable search, on the one hand, and a warrantless search, on the other, are mutually exclusive. While both State intrusions are valid even without a warrant, the underlying reasons for the absence of a warrant are different. A reasonable search arises from a reduced expectation of privacy, for which reason Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application. Examples include searches clone at airports, seaports, bus terminals, malls, and similar public places. In contrast, a warrantless search is presumably an "unreasonable search," but for reasons of practicality, a search warrant can be dispensed with. Examples include search incidental to a lawful arrest, search of evidence in plain view, consented search, and extensive search of a private moving vehicle. (Emphases Supplied).
Moreover, we clarified that the constitutional guarantee under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution[3] is not a blanket prohibition. Rather, it operates against "unreasonable" searches and seizures only. Thus, the general rule is that no search can be made without a valid warrant subject to certain legal and judicial exceptions.[4] Otherwise, any evidence obtained is inadmissible in any proceeding.[5] On the other hand, the recognized exceptions do not apply when the search is "reasonable" simply because there is nothing to exempt.

In Saluday, this Court expounded as to what qualifies as a reasonable search. We cited foreign[6] as well as local[7] jurisprudence and explained that the prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure ultimately stems from a person's right to privacy. Hence, only when the State intrudes into a person's expectation of privacy, which society regards as reasonable, is the Fourth Amendment[8] triggered. Conversely, where a person does not have an expectation of privacy or one's expectation of privacy is not reasonable to society, the alleged State intrusion is not a "search" within the protection of the Fourth Amendment. More importantly the reasonableness of a person's expectation of privacy must be determined on a case-to-case basis since it depends on the factual circumstances surrounding the case. In Saluday, we ruled that the bus inspection constitutes a reasonable search, viz.:
In view of the foregoing, the bus inspection conducted by Task Force Davao at a military checkpoint constitutes a reasonable search. Bus No. 66 of Davao Metro Shuttle was a vehicle of public transportation where passengers have a reduced expectation of privacy. Further, SCAA Buco merely lifted petitioner's bag. This visual and minimally intrusive inspection was even less than the standard x-ray and physical inspections done at the airport and seaport terminals where passengers may further be required to open their bags and luggages. Considering the reasonableness of the bus search, Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application, thereby precluding the necessity for a warrant. (Emphases Supplied)
In that case, we likewise formulated guidelines in conducting reasonable searches of public transport buses and any moving vehicle that similarly accepts passengers at the terminal and along its route, to wit:
Further, in the conduct of bus searches, the Court lays down the following guidelines. Prior to entry, passengers and their bags and luggages can be subjected to a routine inspection akin to airport and seaport security protocol. In this regard, metal detectors and x-ray scanning machines can be installed at bus terminals. Passengers can also be frisked. In lieu of electronic scanners, passengers can be required instead to open their bags and luggages for inspection, which inspection must be made in the passenger's presence. Should the passenger object, he or she can validly be refused entry into the terminal.

While in transit, a bus can still be searched by government agents or the security personnel of the bus owner in the following three instances. First, upon receipt of information that a passenger carries contraband or illegal articles, the bus where the passenger is aboard can be stopped en route to allow for an inspection of the person and his or her effects. This is no different from an airplane that is forced to land upon receipt of information about the contraband or illegal articles carried by a passenger onboard. Second, whenever a bus picks passengers en route, the prospective passenger can be frisked and his or her bag or luggage be subjected to the same routine inspection by government agents or private security personnel as though the person boarded the bus at the terminal. This is because unlike an airplane, a bus is able to stop and pick passengers along the way, making it possible for these passengers to evade the routine search at the bus terminal. Third, a bus can be flagged down at designated military or police checkpoints where State agents can board the vehicle for a routine inspection of the passengers and their bags or luggages.

In both situations, the inspection of passengers and their effects prior to entry at the bus terminal and the search of the bus while in transit must also satisfy the following conditions to qualify as a valid reasonable search. First, as to the manner of the search, it must be the least intrusive and must uphold the dignity of the person or persons being searched, minimizing, if not altogether eradicating, any cause for public embarrassment, humiliation or ridicule. Second, neither can the search result from any discriminatory motive such as insidious profiling, stereotyping and other similar motives. In all instances, the fundamental rights of vulnerable identities, persons with disabilities, children and other similar groups should be protected. Third, as to the purpose of the starch, it must be confined to ensuring public safety. Fourth, as to the evidence seized from the reasonable search, courts must be convinced that precautionary measures were in place to ensure that no evidence was planted against the accused.

The search of persons in a public place is valid because the safety of others may be put at risk. Given the present circumstances, the Court takes judicial notice that public transport buses and their terminals, just like passenger ships and seaports, are in that category.

Aside from public transport buses, any moving vehicle that similarly accepts passengers at the terminal and along its route is likewise covered by these guidelines. Hence, whenever compliant with these guidelines, a routine inspection at the terminal or of the vehicle itself while in transit constitutes a reasonable search. Otherwise, the intrusion becomes unreasonable, thereby triggering the constitutional guarantee under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. (Emphases Supplied)
Applying these guidelines, it becomes clearer that what happened is a reasonable search. First, the accused is on board a passenger jeepney or a vehicle of public transportation where passengers have a reduced expectation of privacy. Second, the authorities properly set up a checkpoint. The guidelines in Saluday are explicit that upon receipt of information that a passenger is carrying contraband, the law enforcers are authorized to stop the vehicle en route to allow for an inspection of the person and his or her effects. Third, the police did not perform an intrusive search of the jeepney but merely inquired by asking about the ownership of the blue sack which the accused admitted. As such, Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application in the reasonable search conducted in this case. Corollarily, there is no need to discuss whether the law enforcers have probable cause to search the vehicle. The requirement of probable cause is necessary in applications for search warrant and warrantless searches but not to a reasonable search. Otherwise, to require probable cause before the authorities could conduct a search, no matter how reasonable, would cripple law enforcement resulting in non-action and dereliction of duty. It must be emphasized that police officers are duty bound to respond to any information involving illegal activities. But the involution of intelligence materials obliges them to be discerning and vigilant in scintillating truthful information from the false ones.

In People v. Montilla,[9] experience shows that although information gathered and passed on by assets to law enforcers are vague and piecemeal, and not as neatly and completely packaged as one would expect from a professional spymaster, such tip-offs are sometimes successful. If the courts of justice are to be of understanding assistance to our law enforcement agencies, it is necessary to adopt a realistic appreciation of the physical and tactical problems, instead of critically viewing them from the placid and clinical environment of judicial chambers.

Here, it can hardly be said that search was conducted based solely on an unverified tip from an anonymous informant. The information given exactly matched the descriptions of the vehicle and passenger to be searched. More especially, the blue sack which is apparent to the eye arouses reasonable suspicion as to its content. On that point, the police officers are left with no choice because letting a suspect pass without further investigation is a euphemism of allowing a crime to run. To hold that no criminal can, in any case, be arrested and searched for the evidence and tokens of his crime without a warrant, would be to leave society, to a large extent, at the mercy of the shrewdest, the most expert, and the most depraved of criminals, facilitating their escape in many instances,[10] even exploiting public utility vehicles to boost their nefarious activities.

Nonetheless, even assuming that what occurred is a warrantless search, there is still no violation of the accused's constitutional right. In Valmonte v. De Villa,[11] the general allegation to the effect that the petitioner had been stopped and searched without a search warrant by the military manning the checkpoints is insufficient to determine whether there was a violation of the right against unlawful search and seizure. Moreover, the inherent right of the state to protect its existence and promote public welfare should prevail over an individual's right against a warrantless search which is however reasonably conducted. Besides, warrantless searches and seizures at checkpoints are quite similar to searches and seizures accompanying warrantless arrests during the commission of a crime, or immediately thereafter.[12]

There is no need to discuss on whether the accused acceded to the search. A consented search is an exception to a warrantless search. To reiterate, this exception does not apply in a reasonable search simply because there is nothing to exempt. At any rate, the accused performed affirmative acts of volition without being forced and intimidated to do so. In this case, the police asked the passengers about the sack and the accused admitted its ownership. Thereafter, the police requested the accused to open the sack. The accused voluntarily opened it which yielded four bricks of Marijuana. These facts are similar in Montilla where the appellant consented to the search. In that case, when the officers approached appellant and introduced themselves as pol icemen, they asked him about the contents of his luggage, and after he replied that they contained personal effects, the officers asked him to open the traveling bag. Appellant readily acceded, presumably or in all likelihood resigned to the fact that the law had caught up with his criminal activities.

Finally, while the ponencia aptly stated that the right against an unreasonable search should not be sacrificed tor expediency's sake, its premise that there is an unreasonable seizure in this case is unfounded. To invalidate a mere request to open the sack on the ground that it created a coercive and intimidating environment is taking the provisions of Section 2, Article III of the Constitution too far in favor of the accused. To reiterate, the constitutional guarantee protects only against an unreasonable search. It does not cover a reasonable search, nor is it intended to discourage honest police work.

FOR THESE REASONS, I vote to DENY the appeal.


[1] Valmonte v. De Villa, G.R. No. 83988, September 29, 1989, citing U.S. v. Robinwitz, N.Y., 70 S. Crt. 430, 339 U.S. 56, 94 L. Ed. 653; Harries v. U.S., Okl.,67 S. Ct. 1098 & 331 U.S. 145, 94 L. Ed. 1871; and Martin v. U.S., C.A. Va., 183 F2d 436; 66, 79 C.J.S., 835-836.

[2] G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018.

[3] The 1987 Constitution, Article III, Section 2 provides that [t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons. houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant or arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge aller examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Notably, this right has been included in the Philippine Constitution since 1899 through the Malolos Constitution and has been incorporated in the various organic laws governing the Philippines during the American colonization, the 1935 Constitution, and the 1973 Constitution.

[4] The exceptions include: (1) search incidental to a lawful arrest; (2) search of moving vehicles; (3) seizure in plain view; (4) customs searches; (5) consented warrantless search; (6) stop and frisk; and (7) exigent and emergency circumstances. In Valmonte v. De Villa, 258 Phil. 838 (1989), the Supreme Court held that not all searches are prohibited. Those which are reasonable are not forbidden. See also Esquillo v. People, G.R. No. 182010, August 25, 2010; People v. Nuevas, 545 Phil. 356 (2007), People v. Aruta, 351 Phil. 868 (1998).

[5] The 1987 Constitution, Article III, Section 2(3) provides an exclusionary rule which instructs that evidence obtained and confiscated on the occasion or such unreasonable searches and seizures are deemed tainted and should be excluded for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree. In other words, evidence obtained from unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding. See Comerciante v. People, G.R. No. 205926, July 22, 2015, citing Ambre v. People, 692 Phil. 681 (2012).

[6] In the seminal case of Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the electronic surveillance of a phone conversation without a warrant violated the fourth Amendment. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, what the fourth Amendment protects are people, not places such that what a person knowingly exposes to the public even in his or her own home or office, is not a subject of fourth Amendment protection in much the same way that what he or she seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public may be constitutionally protected. Further, Justice John Harlan laid down in his concurring opinion the two-part test that would trigger the application of the Fourth Amendment. First, a person exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy. Second, the expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable (objective).

[7] In People v. Johnson, 401 Phil. 734 (2000), the Court declared airport searches as outside the protection of the search and seizure clause clue to the lack of an expectation of privacy that society will regard as reasonable. In Dela Cruz v. People, 776 Phil. 653 (2016), the Court described seaport searches as reasonable searches on the ground that the safety of the traveling public overrides a person's right to privacy. In People v. Breis, 766 Phil. 785 (2015), the Court also justified a bus search owing to the reduced expectation of privacy of the riding public.

[8] It is a part of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution which provides that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

[9] G.R. No. 123872, January 30, 1998.

[10] People v. Malasugui, G.R. No. L-44335, July 30, 1936, citing United States v. Snyder (278 Fed., 650).

[11] G.R. No. 83988, September 29, 1989.

[12] Valmonte v. De Villa, G.R. No. 83988, May 24, 1990.



SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION

GAERLAN, J.:


I concur with the ponencia of our esteemed colleague Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa. The circumstances leading to the apprehension of appellant Jerry Sapla (Sapla) are tainted with constitutional infirmities which render his conviction invalid. Nevertheless, I find it necessary to raise a few points regarding traffic stops and constitutionally permissible searches of a moving automobile.

I submit that despite the absence of any citation of sources, the conception of a moving vehicle search in People v. Comprado[1] is nevertheless supported by applicable jurisprudence. For reference, that case described moving vehicle searches in this manner:
The search in this case, however, could not be classified as a search of a moving vehicle. In this particular type of search, the vehicle is the target and not a specific person. Further, in search of a moving vehicle, the vehicle was intentionally used as a means to transport illegal items. It is worthy to note that the information relayed to the police officers was that a passenger of that particular bus was carrying marijuana such that when the police officers boarded the bus, they searched the bag of the person matching the description given by their informant and not the cargo or contents of the said bus. Moreover, in this case, it just so happened that the alleged drug courier was a bus passenger. To extend to such breadth the scope of searches on moving vehicles would open the floodgates to unbridled warrantless searches which can be conducted by the mere expedient of waiting for the target person to ride a motor vehicle, setting up a checkpoint along the route of that vehicle, and then stopping such vehicle when it arrives at the checkpoint in order to search the target person.[2]
American jurisprudence cites three bases for the constitutionality of a warrantless search of an automobile in motion. First, the "ready mobility" of automobiles, and the consequent utility thereof in the transport of contraband, makes it impracticable for police officers to secure a warrant prior to stopping and searching an automobile.[3] Second, there is a lesser expectation of privacy with respect to an automobile as compared to a dwelling or an office;[4] and third, related to the first two bases, is the "pervasive regulation of vehicles capable of traveling on the public highways". On this point, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) noted that "automobiles x x x are subjected to pervasive and continuing governmental regulation and controls, including periodic inspection and licensing requirements."[5] As such, American jurisprudence on automobile searches and seizures amply illustrates how the automobile exception is rooted in the attributes of ready mobility and pervasive state regulation, which are inherent and unique to automobiles. The cases likewise recognize that perpetrators intentionally utilize these unique attributes of automobiles as a means for committing or concealing crimes. These jurisprudential insights find concrete expression in the aforequoted statements in Comprado.

Likewise, do not subscribe to the assertion that an anonymous tip, standing alone, constitutes probable cause sufficient to validate an automobile search. Recourse must be had once again to American jurisprudence on the matter, given that most of our jurisprudential doctrines on the matter are adopted from American precedents.

In Lampkins v. White, it was observed that "x x x as a general rule, an anonymous tip alone is not likely to constitute the reasonable suspicion necessary for a valid Terry stop. However, where significant aspects of the tip are corroborated by the police, a Terry stop is likely valid."[6] Thus, to constitute probable cause sufficient to make a traffic stop and automobile search, the SCOTUS has required anonymous tips to either meet certain criteria of reliability[7] or be corroborated by other police work.[8] Alabama v. White puts it succinctly:
"Some tips, completely lacking in indicia of reliability, would either warrant no police response or require further investigation before a forcible stop of a suspect would be authorized x x x." Simply put, a tip such as this one, standing alone, would not "warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that [a stop] was appropriate."[9]
In the case at bar, the ponencia has more than adequately shown that the anonymous tip relied upon by the police when they arrested appellant Sapla is utterly unreliable. Standing alone, it cannot, therefore, validate the automobile search and subsequent arrest of Sapla.

For the following reasons, I concur with the ponencia.


[1] People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018, 860 SCRA 420.

[2] Id. at 440-441.

[3] Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925).

[4] California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 391-393 (1985).

[5] South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 368 (1976).

[6] 682 N.E.2d 1268 (1997), citing Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 329-30 (1990).

[7] Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683 (2014); Florida v. JL, 529 U.S. 266 (2000).

[8]Alabama v. White, supra; Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983).

[9] Id. at 329. Citations omitted.

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