• Consented warrantless search

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    An agent from the Anti-Usury Board obtained a search warrant commanding any officer of the law to search the person, house, or store of a woman at Victoria, Tarlac, for “certain books, lists, chits, receipts, documents and other papers relating to her activities as usurer.” The search warrant was issued by a judge based on the affidavit of the same agent who believed that this woman conducts activities in violation of the Anti-Usury law and keeps evidence of these activities in her home and store.

    The same day the warrant was issued, the agent went to the store. The woman was not present because she was sick and confined at home. Regardless of this fact, the agent and police officer showed the search warrant to the woman’s bookkeeper and began to search the premises. Two packages of records and a locked filing cabinet containing several papers and documents were seized and a receipt issued to the bookkeeper.

    Six cases were filed in court for violation of the Anti-Usury Law. Pending decision, the woman demanded several times from the Anti-Usury Board to return all the documents seized. The legality of the search warrant was also questioned. The lower court refused to return the documents seized. While it found the search warrant to be illegal, it upheld the search on the basis that there was a waiver on the right against warrantless searches and seizures.

    The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the illegality of the search warrant but ruled that no such waiver or consent was given to warrant a warrantless search. It explained the concept of a consented warrantless searches, one of the exceptions to the rule on unreasonable searches and seizures –

    [t]he constitutional immunity against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right which may be waived. The waiver may be either express or implied. No express waiver has been made in the case before us . . . It is well-settled that to constitute a waiver of a constitutional right, it must appear, first, that the right exists; secondly, that the persons involved had knowledge, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such right; and, lastly, that said person had an actual intention to relinquish the right . . . Certainly, the constitutional immunity from unreasonable searches and seizures, being a personal one, cannot be waived by anyone except the person whose rights are invaded or one who is expressly authorized to do so in his or her behalf.

    The SC also declared that no implied waiver was present under the circumstances –
    [F]ailure to resist or object to the execution of the warrant does not constitute an implied waiver of constitutional right. It is but a submission to the authority of the law. As the constitutional guaranty is not dependent upon any affirmative act of the citizen, the courts do not place the citizen in the position of either contesting an officer’s authority by force, or waiving his constitutional rights; but instead they hold that a peaceful submission to a search or seizure is not a consent or an invitation thereto, but is merely a demonstration of regard for the supremacy of the law.

    Lastly, the Court recognized that even though the woman did not immediately demand the return of her documents upon seizure, she demanded their return on four different occassions before and pending criminal action. It held that “in the light of these circumstances, we find that the petitioner did not waive her constitutional right. The delay in making demand for the return of the documents seized is not such as to result in waiver by implication” (De Garcia v. Locsin, G.R. No. L-45950, 20 June 1938, J. Laurel).

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