WORLDWIDE WEB CORPORATION and CHERRYLL L. YU, Petitioners,
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and PHILIPPINE LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE COMPANY, Respondents.
G.R. No. 161106 January 13, 2014
Is an application for a search warrant a criminal action?
The Supreme Court held that an application for a search warrant is not a criminal action.
As held in Malaloan v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 104879, 6 May 1994, 232 SCRA 249), an application for a search warrant is a “special criminal process,” rather than a criminal action.
A warrant, such as a warrant of arrest or a search warrant, merely constitutes process. A search warrant is defined in our jurisdiction as an order in writing issued in the name of the People of the Philippines signed by a judge and directed to a peace officer, commanding him to search for personal property and bring it before the court. A search warrant is in the nature of a criminal process akin to a writ of discovery. It is a special and peculiar remedy, drastic in its nature, and made necessary because of a public necessity.
Is the conformity of the public prosecutor necessary to question an order quashing search warrants?
NO. The Court has consistently recognized the right of parties to question orders quashing those warrants. Accordingly, the Court sustained the CA’s ruling that the conformity of the public prosecutor is not necessary before an aggrieved party moves for reconsideration of an order granting a motion to quash search warrants.
May an order quashing a search warrant be the proper subject of an appeal?
It depends. Where the search warrant is issued as an incident in a pending criminal case, the quashal of a search warrant is merely interlocutory. There is still “something more to be done in the said criminal case, i.e., the determination of the guilt of the accused therein.”
In contrast, where a search warrant is applied for and issued in anticipation of a criminal case yet to be filed, the order quashing the warrant (and denial of a motion for reconsideration of the grant) ends the judicial process. There is nothing more to be done thereafter.
In this case, the applications for search warrants were instituted as principal proceedings and not as incidents to pending criminal actions. When the search warrants issued were subsequently quashed by the RTC, there was nothing left to be done by the trial court. Thus, the quashal of the search warrants were final orders, not interlocutory, and an appeal may be properly taken therefrom.
What is a general warrant?
It is defined as “a search or arrest warrant that is not particular as to the person to be arrested or the property to be seized.” It is one that allows the “seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another” and gives the officer executing the warrant the discretion over which items to take.
State the rule in describing the place to be searched and the things to be seized in a search warrant.
The search warrant must satisfy the requirement of particularity in the description of the things to be seized
A search warrant need not describe the items to be seized in precise and minute detail. The warrant is valid when it enables the police officers to readily identify the properties to be seized and leaves them with no discretion regarding the articles to be seized.
A search warrant fulfills the requirement of particularity in the description of the things to be seized when the things described are limited to those that bear a direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued.
In this case, PLDT was able to establish the connection between the items to be searched as identified in the warrants and the crime of theft of its telephone services and business. Prior to the application for the search warrants, Rivera conducted ocular inspection of the premises of petitioners and was then able to confirm that they had utilized various telecommunications equipment consisting of computers, lines, cables, antennas, modems, or routers, multiplexers, PABX or switching equipment, and support equipment such as software, diskettes, tapes, manuals and other documentary records to support the illegal toll bypass operations.”