Vallejo v. CA: 156413 : April 14, 2004 : J. Callejo Sr : Second
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 156413.
ARIEL C. VALLEJO,
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, Former SPECIAL
FIFTEENTH DIVISION, JUDGE ISAAC R. DE ALBAN, Regional trial Court, Ilagan,
Isabela, Branch 16, and FRANKLIN M. JAVIER, NBI Head Agent, Cagayan Valley
Regional Office II, Ilagan, Isabela, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO SR., J.:
This is a special civil action for certiorari under Rule
65 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, to review and reverse the
Resolution1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 24265 dismissing the petitioners
petition as well as its Resolution dated November 28, 2002 denying the motion
to admit Petition for Certiorari.
The petitioner is a lawyer in the Register of Deeds of the province
of Isabela. On February 16, 2000, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Agent,
Franklin M. Javier, filed a sworn application for search warrant before the
Regional Trial Court of Iligan, Isabela, Branch 16, worded as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
COMES NOW the undersigned HEAD AGENT of the National Bureau
of Investigation, Cagayan Valley Regional Office Ilagan, Isabela hereby
requests that a Search Warrant be issued on the Office of the Registry (sic) of
Deeds, Provincial Capitol, Alibaga, Iligan for the purpose of seizing the
following documents, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
of FAKE LAND TITLES, Official Receipts in the Cashiers Office, Judicial Form
No. 39 known as Our Primary Entry Book under no. 496 and other pertinent
documents related therewith;
Blank Forms of Land
Titles kept inside the drawers of every table of employees of the Registry (sic)
of Land Transfer transactions without the corresponding payment of Documentary
Stamps and Capital Gains Tax.
all of which documents are being used or
intended to be used in the commission of a felony that is FALSIFICATION OF LAND
TITLES under Article 171, Revised Penal Code, Article 213, RPC and R.A. 3019
(Anti-Graft) and are hidden or being kept in the said office.
This application is founded on a confidential information received
by the undersigned, a peace officer, on information which I have personally
investigated and founded as follows: The Office of the Registry (sic) of Deeds
of Isabela is keeping and hiding Fake Land Titles, and embezzling or stealing
from the government thru non-payment of Capital Gains Tax and Documentary
That upon the facts above-stated, I have caused to believe and
verily believe that the said Office of the Registry (sic) of Deeds located at
the Provincial Capital, Alibagu, Ilagan, Isabela and/or in the said Office of
the Registry (sic) of Deeds the above-described documents are hidden and kept.2 cralawred
On the same date, Presiding Judge Isaac R. de Alban issued Search
Warrant No. 2000-03 against the petitioner, thusly worded:
TO ANY PEACE OFFICER:
It appearing to the satisfaction of the undersigned after examining
under oath NBI Head Agent Franklin M. Javier and his witness that there are
reasonable grounds to believe that Falsification of Land Titles under Art. 171,
Revised Penal Code, Article 213, RPC and R.A 3019 (Anti-Graft) has been
committed or is about to be committed and that there are good and sufficient
reasons to believe that the Registry (sic) of Deeds, Provincial Capitol,
Alibagu, Ilagan, Isabela has in its possession and control the following:
Undetermined number of Fake Land Titles, Official Receipts in the
Cashiers Office, Judicial Form No. 39 known as Primary Entry Book under No.
496 and other pertinent documents related therewith;
Blank Forms of Land Titles kept inside the drawers of every table of
employees of the Registry (sic) of Deeds;
Undetermined number of land Transfer transactions without the
corresponding payment of Capital Gains Tax and payment of documentary Stamps.
You are hereby commanded to make an
immediate search anytime of the day or night of the premises above-mentioned
and forthwith seize and take possession of the above mentioned
documents/subject of the offense and bring to this court said documents and persons
to be dealt with as the law may direct. You are further directed to submit
return within 10 days from today.3 cralawred
On February 17, 2000, the petitioner filed a motion to quash the
search warrant, which the trial court denied in its Order dated February 29, 2000.
The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the said order on the
ground that the questioned search warrant was in the form of a general warrant
for failure to describe the persons or things to be seized and was violative of
the Constitution; hence, null and void. The motion was, likewise, denied for
lack of merit.
On May 4, 2000, the petitioner filed a notice of appeal and
prayed that the entire record of the case be elevated to the Court of Appeals.
The case was docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 24265.
In a Resolution dated September 6, 2000, the appellate court
dismissed the petitioners appeal as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The appealed order denying a motion to quash the search warrant is
interlocutory and not appealable. Accordingly, the appeal is hereby
(Rule 41, Sec. 1 (c); Rule
50, Sec. 1
(i) and Sec. 2, 2nd paragraph, in relation to Rule 124, Sec. 18,
Revised Rules of Court).
SO ORDERED.4 cralawred
The petitioner filed a motion to admit Petition for Certiorari
on August 29, 2000 before the Court of Appeals.
Respondent Franklin M. Javier, for and in behalf of the NBI,
filed his comment on the petition where he alleged his version of the facts as
4.1 On 08 December 1999, the undersigned received a tip-off (i.e.
from the respondent himself, ATTY. ARIEL VALLEJO) about the presence of
fixers who were allegedly submitting to him fake titles;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4.2 The undersigned together with other operatives of the Cagayan
Valley Regional Office (CAVRO) NBI, Isabela, Ilagan, conducted surveillance and
entrapment operations to confirm the veracity of reported, (sic) As a result thereof, the fixer
was later apprehended in flagrante delicto and was subjected to investigation
together with other employees of the Register of Deeds of Ilagan, Isabela;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4.3 Thereafter a certain, MS. REMEDIOS BIRI, a clerk assigned at
the Register of Deeds of Isabela, volunteered to provide CAVRO operatives vital
information and later on turned witness considering her knowledge of the
scheme being used by corrupt employees assigned at the said office;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4.4. On 16 February 2000, after confirming information relayed to
us by witness MS. REMEDIOS BIRI, the undersigned applied for a search warrant
against the Office of the Register of Deeds, Ilagan, Isabela for Falsification
of Public Document under Art. 171 of the Revised Penal Code. The respondent
presiding Judge HON. ISAAC DE ALBAN of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 16,
Isabela, Ilagan finding the existence of probable cause issued Search Warrant
4.5 On 16 February 2000, operatives of CAVRO headed by the
undersigned served aforecited search warrant. Found and seized inside the
premises of the Register of Deeds if Ilagan, Isabela were several fake
titles/documents; On 2 March 2000, a Return of the search warrant was made informing
the respondent presiding judge of its positive findings;5 cralawred
Respondent Javier asserted that contrary to the position of the
petitioner, the things to be seized were particularly described in the
considering the volume of the documents to be seized, it would be difficult, if
not impossible, to provide the court with the technical descriptions of all the
official receipts and the titles, including the reference number or mark of the
To require such task is to
render the application of the search warrant nil, as no such search warrant
could be granted.
respondent Javier, there was no way that the court could determine with
precision the exact details of the things to be seized.
The law does not require that the things to
be seized must be described in precise and minute details as to leave no room
for doubt on the part of the searching authorities.6 Respondent Javier also posited that the article Judicial Form No. 39 known as
the Primary Entry Book could not or would not have been mistaken for any other
documents; similarly the Blank Forms of Land Titles kept inside the drawer of
every table of employees of the Register of Deeds clearly indicates the
documents to be seized.7 cralawred
The Court of Appeals denied the petitioners motion in its
Resolution dated November 28, 2002 on the following grounds:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
dismissed movants appeal because it was a wrong choice of
remedy to assail an order denying a motion
to quash the search warrant. Movant himself has conceded that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
the relief that was resorted to by your appellant from the denial
of his motion to quash search warrant subject of the case was under the imports
of an ordinary appeal and that it was not the proper remedy under the
petition for certiorari under rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure
purportedly to cure the procedural defect he incurred cannot be countenanced.
He admitted that his petition was filed beyond the reglementary period. The
correct dismissal of an appeal becomes a final judgment of the appellate court
after the lapse of 15 days from service of a copy thereof upon the accused or
cannot simultaneously or alternately resort to a Petition for Review under Rule
45 (ordinary appeal) and/or petition for certiorari under Rule 65 (special
civil action). They are mutually exclusive remedies having different legal
grounds for their availment. Thus, the dismissed appeal cannot be incorporated
with movants petition for certiorari which should have been first resorted to
upon denial of his motion to quash and docketed as a special civil action (SP).
ACCORDINGLY, the motion for reconsideration and the motion
to admit petition for certiorari are DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.8 cralawred
Hence, the instant petition.
The Petitioners Arguments
The petitioner asserts that the Court of Appeals committed grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in committing
MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION ON THE RESOLUTION OF THE RESPONDENT HON. COURT OF
APPEALS DISMISSING PETITIONERS APPEAL ON THE RESPONDENTS REGIONAL TRIAL
COURTS ORDER DENYING PETITIONERS MOTION TO QUASH SEARCH WARRANT;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
MOTION TO ADMIT PETITION FOR CERTIORARI UNDER RULE 65 OF THE REVISED RULES OF
COURT, SEEKING TO CORRECT THE ERROR OF JURISDICTION COMMITTED BY THE RESPONDENT
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, AS THERE WAS GRAVE ABUSE OF JUDICIAL DISCRETION AMOUNTING
TO EXCESS OR LACK OF JURISDICTION IN DENYING PETITIONERS MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION OF THE SAID REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS ORDER DENYING THE MOTION TO
QUASH SEARCH WARRANT;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
C.FAILING TO APPRECIATE
AND CONSIDER SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE ON PETITIONERS APPEAL OR CASE, AND BY REASON
OF THIS FAILURE SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE IS SERIOUSLY INJURED AND MADE SUBSERVIENT
TO THE TECHNICALITY OF THE RULES;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
D.FAILING TO ACT UPON
PETITIONERS PETITION FOR CERTIORARI AND MAKE A RULING ON THE MATTER OF THE
PATENT NULLITY OF THE SEARCH WARRANT ISSUED BY THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT THAT IN ITS EXECUTION EXTREME PREJUDICE RESULTED AND THAT BY REASON FOR
WHICH RELIEF IS EXTREMELY URGENT;9 cralawred
According to the petitioner, by its failure to consider the
petition on the merits, the Court of Appeals allowed technicality rather than
substantial justice to prevail, considering that the issue involved is a
constitutional right, no less than the right of one to be secure against
unreasonable searches and seizures.
The petitioner claims that in the implementation of the
questioned search warrant, damages of far reaching implications were sustained
not only in the functional operations of the Office of the Register of Deeds,
but also in the business transactions involving lands in the province of
According to the petitioner,
millions of documents of various nature were seized and hauled out of the
premises of the office by the respondent Javier, which continue to be in the
The petitioner further asserts that the search warrant issued by
the RTC is in the nature of a general warrant.
There was no particularity as to what documents were to be searched and
While the warrant made mention
of fake land titles, there was no mention of which titles were spurious.
The petitioner points out that the Register
of Deeds is the repository of all land titles within the territorial
jurisdiction of the province of Isabela, and millions of such titles are kept
The phrase undetermined
number of land transfer transactions without the corresponding payment of
capital gains tax and payment of documentary stamps is, likewise, a dangerous
supposition, as there are millions of documents on various land transactions
kept in the registry.
Anent the phrase
blank forms of land titles kept inside the drawers of every table of employees
of the Register of Deeds, the petitioner asserts that no conceivable wrong
could have been committed therein, as it was the normal practice for employees
to have such blank forms in hand, in preparation for their issuance after
thorough examination of the propriety of documents submitted in support
However, the petitioner
asserts that not every employee can take hold of such blank forms but only
those designated as examiners.
was no mention in the warrant of the names of the employees who purportedly
kept the blank forms.
According to the petitioner, the warrant was a wanton, sweeping
authority for the NBI agents who raided the Registry Offices and confiscated
and seized every document in sight.
was a fishing expedition for the raiding party to obtain any kind of
conceivable evidence to support the offense for which it was applied.
The petitioner also contends that the warrant is patently
objectionable for having been issued despite the fact that the application
therefor contained more than one offense, in violation of Article III, Section
2, of the 1987 Constitution.
The petitioner concludes that the search warrant in question,
being in the nature of a general warrant, violated the constitutional as well
as the statutory requirements for its issuance, and as such, is null and void.
The Position of the Office of the Solicitor General10 cralawred
The Office of the Solicitor General, for its part, agrees with
the petitioner and opines that the strict application of the rules of procedure
should be relaxed in this case.
The OSG also asserts that it cannot sustain the questioned CA
Resolutions of September 6, 2000 and November 28, 2002 for the reason that the
subject search warrant is a patent nullity.
It submitted the following reasons for such conclusion:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
First. The subject search warrant issued by the RTC was not just
for one offense, but for at least three offenses, namely: violation of a)
Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code (Falsification by public officer, employee
or notary or ecclesiastical minister); b) Article 213 of the same Code (Frauds
against the public treasury and similar offenses); and, c) Rep. Act No. 3019
(Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
The things to be
seized were not particularly described in the search warrant, leaving the
officer of the law with limitless discretion in its implementation on what
articles to seize.
From the contents
of the search warrant itself, the raiding team could not have distinguished
which of the land titles kept in the custody of the Register of Deeds in
Iligan, Isabela were fake, and which of them were genuine.
The warrant did not define the parameters
upon which the fake land titles could be gauged with sufficient clarity and
definiteness, such as distinguishing marks.
regarding the validity of a Torrens title is a judicial question.
Thus, the OSG prays that the instant petition be granted.
The Courts Ruling
The issues in this case are as follows: a) whether or not the
technical rules of procedure may be relaxed in the case at bar; and, if so b)
whether or not the warrant issued by the RTC was valid.
A Relaxation of Technical Rules
Warranted in this Case
According to the OSG, the petitioners motion to admit Petition for Certiorari was filed beyond the sixty-day reglementary period.
The petitioner received a copy of the trial
courts Order dated February 29, 2000 denying the motion to quash search
warrant on March 6, 2000.
Thus, he had
only until May 5, 2000 within which to file a petition for certiorari .
Realizing that the appeal under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Court he earlier filed with the Court of Appeals was not the
proper remedy, the petitioner filed his motion to admit Petition for Certiorari
only on August 29, 2000, way beyond the reglementary period.
However, considering that the petitioner has
presented a good cause for the proper and just determination of his case, the
appellate court should have relaxed the stringent application of technical
rules of procedure and yielded to considerations of substantial justice.
The Court has
allowed some meritorious cases to proceed despite inherent procedural defects
This is in keeping with the
principle that rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the
attainment of justice and that strict and rigid application of rules which
would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote
substantial justice must always be avoided.11 It
is a far better and more prudent cause of action for the court to excuse a
technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case to attain the ends
of justice, rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause grave
injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases
while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.12 cralawred
The issue involved in this case is no less than the legality of
the issuance of a warrant of arrest.13 It
behooved the Court of Appeals to look past rules of technicality and to resolve
the case on its merits, considering that the petitioner therein was invoking a
constitutional right. The appellate court should have, thus, considered the
petitioners appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as a special civil
action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the said Rules.
Thus, in dismissing the petitioners appeal, and, thereafter, the motion to admit Petition for Certiorari, the
appellate court gravely abused its discretion. Indeed, the court has discretion
to dismiss or not to dismiss an appeal, but such discretion must be a sound
one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play,
having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case.14 cralawred
The consequence of our ruling would be for the Court to direct
the Court of Appeals to resolve on its merits CA-G.R. No. 24265 by delving into
and resolving the issue raised therein on whether or not Judge de Alban of the
RTC of Isabela, Branch 16, committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing Search
Warrant No. 2000-03.
However, such step
would unduly prolong the resolution of the case.We shall act on the petition, considering that the lone issue
raised is one of law, and an invocation of a constitutional right at that. It
is an accepted rule that the Court may resolve the dispute and serve the ends
of justice instead of remanding the case to the lower court for further
proceedings, if, based on the records, pleadings, and other evidence, the
matter can readily be ruled upon.15 We
take cognizance of this petition in view of the seriousness and urgency of the
constitutional issues raised.16 cralawred
The Search Warrant in Question
is Constitutionally Infirm; Void
Lack of Particularity
Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution guarantees the right
to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Sec 2. The 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 such search
warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be
determined personally by the judge after 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.
Furthermore, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
provides the requisites for the issuance of a search warrant, viz.:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Sec. 4. Requisites for
issuing search warrant. A search warrant shall not issue except upon
probable cause in connection with one specific offense to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the
complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the
place to be searched and the things to be seized which may be anywhere in the
Sec. 5. Examination of
complainant; record. The judge must, before issuing the warrant,
personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing and
under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts
personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements,
together with the affidavits submitted.
Thus, in issuing a search warrant, the judge must strictly comply
with the foregoing constitutional and statutory requirements; failure to comply
therewith constitutes grave abuse of discretion.17 cralawred
The things to be seized must be described with
Technical precision of
description is not required. It is only necessary that there be reasonable
particularity and certainty as to the identity of the property to be searched
for and seized, so that the warrant shall not be a mere roving commission.18 Indeed, the law does not require that the things to be seized must be described
in precise and minute detail as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the
If this were the
rule, it would be virtually impossible for the applicants to obtain a warrant
as they would not know exactly what kind of things to look for.19 Any description of the place or thing to be searched that will enable the
officer making the search with reasonable certainty to locate such place or
thing is sufficient.20 cralawred
However, the requirement that search warrants shall particularly
describe the things to be seized makes general searches under them impossible
and prevents the seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another.
As to what is to be taken, nothing is left
to the discretion of the officer executing the warrant.21 Thus, the specific property to be searched for should be so particularly
described as to preclude any possibility of seizing any other property.22 cralawred
A perusal of the tenor of the search warrant in question readily
shows that it failed to pass this test of particularity.
The questioned warrant directed the peace
officers to search and seize the following in the petitioners office at the
Register of Deeds of Isabela:
Undetermined number of Fake Land Titles,
Official Receipts in the Cashiers Office, Judicial Form No. 39 known as
Primary Entry Book under No. 496 and other pertinent documents related
Blank Forms of Land Titles kept inside the
drawers of every table of employees of the Registry of Deeds;
Undetermined number of land Transfer transactions
without the corresponding payment of Capital Gains Tax and payment of
Documentary Stamps.23 cralawred
As correctly pointed out by the petitioner and the OSG, the terms
expressly used in the warrant were too all-embracing, with the obvious intent
of subjecting all the records pertaining to all the transactions of the
petitioners office at the Register of Deeds to search and seizure. Such tenor
of a seizure warrant contravenes the explicit command of the Constitution that
there be a particular description of the things to be seized.24 The executing officers sole function is to apply the description to its
subject matter, which function may frequently involve the exercise of limited
discretion in identifying the property described.A description of such generality, however, as to lodge in the
executing officer virtually unlimited discretion as to what property shall be
seized, is repugnant to the Constitution.25 As
we held in the early case of People v. Veloso:26 cralawred
A search warrant must conform strictly to the requirements of the
constitutional and statutory provisions under which it was issued. Otherwise,
it is void. The proceedings upon search warrants, it has rightly been held,
must be absolutely legal, for there is not a description of process known to
law, the execution of which is more distressing to the citizen. Perhaps there
is none which excites such intense feeling in consequence of its humiliating
and degrading effect. The warrant will always be construed strictly without,
however, going into the full length of requiring technical accuracy. No
presumptions of regularity are to be invoked in aid of the process when an
officer undertakes to justify under it.27 cralawred
The Search Warrant Must
Be Issued for One Specific
The questioned warrant in this case is a scatter-shot warrant28 for having been issued for more than one offense - Falsification of Land Titles
under Article 171 and Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code, and violation of
Rep. Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
A warrant must be issued upon probable cause
in connection with one specific offense.29 In fact, a careful perusal of the application for the warrant shows that the
applicant did not allege any specific act performed by the petitioner
constituting a violation of any of the aforementioned offenses..
Thus, the questioned warrant must be struck down for having been
issued in contravention of the 1987 Constitution, the Rules of Criminal
Procedure, and existing jurisprudence.
As the Court, through Justice Concepcion held in the landmark case of Stonehill v. Diokno:30 cralawred
To uphold the validity of the warrant in question would be to wipe
out completely one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed in our
Constitution, for it would place the sanctity of the domicile and the privacy
of communication and correspondence at the mercy of the whims, caprice, or
passion of peace officers. This is precisely the evil sought to be remedied by
the constitutional provision above-quoted to outlaw the so-called general
warrants. It is not difficult to imagine what would happen, in times of keen
political strife, when the party in power feels that the minority is likely to
wrest it, even though by legal means.31 cralawred
WHEREFORE, the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated
September 6, 2000 and November 28, 2002 are SET ASIDE AND REVERSED.
The respondent National Bureau of
Investigation is hereby ORDERED to return to the petitioner all items seized
from the subject premises.
Puno, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Penned by Associate Justice Ruben T. Reyes, with Associate Justices Andres B.
Reyes, Jr. and Josefina Guevarra-Salonga concurring.
Annex B, CA Rollo,
p. 47 (Emphasis supplied
Annex B, Rollo
, p. 50 (Emphasis supplied
Manifestation and Motion dated June 16, 2003.
In Uy v. Bureau of Internal Revenue,
the Court, speaking through
Associate Justice Santiago M. Kapunan, pointed out a plethora of cases where the
Court took cognizance of, and resolved, without regard to the question of
whether the special civil action (not an appeal) was employed as the
See Roan v. Gonzales
, 145 SCRA 687 (1986).
18 United States v. Quantity of Extracts,
54 F. 2d 643 (1931).
20 Borders v. State
, 104 So.145 (1925)
21 Stanford, Jr. v. Texas
, 379 US 476
13 L ed 2d 431.
22 Lea v. State
, 181 S.W. 2d 351 (1944).
Annex B, Rollo
, p. 50.
28 People v. Court of Appeals
216 SCRA 101 (1992).
Section 4, Rule 126, Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
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