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PEOPLE V.

CANTON
People of the Philippines, appellee, vs.
Susan Canton, appellant.
Digest by Raffi Reyes
Nature: Appeal from a decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch
110
Date: December 27, 2002
Ponente: Davide, Jr., C. J.
Doctrine: RA 6235 Sec. 9 is another
exception to the proscription against
warrantless searches and seizures. The
provision clearly states that the search,
unlike in the Terry search, is not limited to
weapons. Passengers are also subject to
search for prohibited materials or
substances.

Facts:

February 12, 1998 Susan Canton was


at the NAIA, being a departing
passenger bound for Saigon, Vietnam.
When she passed through the metal
detector booth, a beeping sound was
emitted. Mylene Cabunoc, a civilian
employee of the National Action
Committee on Hijacking and Terrorism
(NACHT) and the frisker on duty at that
time, called her attention and asked
her if she (Cabunoc) could search her
(Canton).
Upon
frisking
Canton,
Cabunoc felt something bulging at her
abdominal area, and similar packages
in front of her genital area and thighs.
According to Cabunoc, she noticed that
the package contained what felt like
rice granules. Cabunoc asked Canton
to bring out the packages but Canton
refused, saying: Money, money only.
Cabunoc reported the matter to her
supervisor on duty, SPO4 Victorio de
los Reyes.
SPO4 de los Reyes instructed Cabunoc
to call Customs Examiner Lorna Jalac
and to bring Canton to a comfort room
for a thorough physical examination.
Upon further frisking in the ladies

room, Cabunoc touched something in


front of Cantons sex organ and she
directed Canton to remove her skirt,
girdles and panty. Canton obliged and
Cabunoc and Jalac discovered three
packages (abdominal area, in front of
her genital area, and right thigh)
individually wrapped and sealed in
gray colored packing tape, which
Canton voluntarily handed to them.
Cabunoc turned over the packages to
SPO4 de los Reyes who then informed
Police Superintendent Daniel Santos
about the incident. Together with
Canton, they brought the gray plastic
packs to the customs examination
table, opened them, and found white
crystalline substances inside, which
after laboratory examination yielded
positive
results
for
methamphetamine hydrochloride
or shabu, a regulated drug.
For the defense, SPO2 Jerome Cause
testified that no investigation was ever
conducted
on
Canton.
However,
Canton signed a receipt of the
following articles seized from her: (1) 3
bags
of
methamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu approximately
1,100 grams; (2) 1 American passport;
(3) 1 Continental Micronesia plane
ticket; and (4) two panty girdles. SPO2
Cause said that he informed Canton of
her rights but admitted that she did not
have a counsel when she signed the
receipt.
RTC: found Canton guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violating Section
16 Article III of RA 6425, and
sentencing her to suffer the penalty of
reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of
Php1million.

Issue: Whether or not the warrantless


search made on Canton was valid. YES, it
was valid.

Held/Ratio:
Cantons contentions
TC erred in justifying the warrantless
search against her based on the alleged
existence of probable cause

TC erred in holding that she was caught


in flagrante delicto and that the
warrantless search was incidental to a
lawful arrest

The arrest could not be said to have


been made before the search
because at the time of the strip
search, the arresting officers could
not have known what was inside the
plastic containers hidden in her body,
which were wrapped and sealed.
They could not have determined
whether
Canton
was
actually
committing a crime; the strip search
was therefore nothing but a fishing
expedition

TC erred in not ruling that the frisker


went beyond the limits of the Terry
search doctrine

Supreme Court
The search conducted on Canton was not
incidental to a lawful arrest

Cantons arrest did not precede the


search. When the metal detector
alarmed while Canton was passing
through it, the lady frisker on duty
made a pat down search on her. In
the process, Cabunoc felt a bulge on
Cantons abdomen. The strip search
that followed was for the purpose of
ascertaining what were the packages
concealed on Cantons body.
Canton, having been flagrante delicto,
was lawfully arrested without a warrant

Section 5, Rule 113 ROC provides


that a peace officer or a private
person may, without a warrant, arrest
a person: (a) When, in his presence,
the person to be arrested has
committed, is actually committing, or
is attempting to commit an offense...
The present case falls under
paragraph (a) of Section 5, Rule
113. The search conducted on
Canton resulted in the discovery of
shabu. Armed with the knowledge
that Canton was committing a crime,
the airport security personnel and
police authorities were dutybound
to
arrest
her.
Her
subsequent arrest without a warrant
was justified, since it was effected
upon the discovery and recovery of
shabu in her person flagrante delicto.
The scope of a search pursuant to
airport security procedure is not
confined only to search for weapons
under the Terry search doctrine

The stop and frisk search should have


been limited to the patting of her
outer garments in order to determine
whether
she
was
armed
or
dangerous.

The Terry search or stop and frisk


situation refers to a case where a
police officer approaches a person
who is acting suspiciously for

TC erred in not ruling that Canton was


under custodial investigation without
counsel

purposes of investigating possibly


criminal behavior in line with the
general interest of effective crime
prevention and detection. He could
validly conduct a carefully limited
search of the outer clothing of such
person to discover weapons which
might be used to assault him.
In the present case, the search was
made pursuant to routine airport
security procedure. RA 6235
Section 9 provides: Every ticket
issued to a passenger by the airline
or air carrier concerned shall contain
among others the following condition
printed thereon: Holder hereof
and his hand-carried luggage(s)
are subject to search for, and
seizure of, prohibited materials
or substances. Holder refusing to
be searched shall not be allowed
to board the aircraft, which shall
constitute a part of the contract
between the passenger and the air
carrier.
RA 6235 Sec. 9 is another
exception to the proscription
against warrantless searches and
seizures. The provision clearly states
that the search, unlike in the Terry
search, is not limited to weapons.
Passengers are also subject to search
for
prohibited
materials
or
substances.
The strip search in the ladies room
was
justified
under
the
circumstances.
The constitutional right to counsel
afforded an accused under custodial
investigation was not violated

Canton alleges that from the moment


frisker Cabunoc felt a package at her
abdominal area, started inquiring
about its contents, detained her, and
stripped search her in the ladies
room, she was under custodial
investigation without counsel.

In
this
case,
no
custodial
investigation
was
conducted
after Cantons arrest. She affixed
her signature to the receipt of the
articles seized from her, but before
she did so, she was told that she had
the option to sign or not to sign it.
Aside from this, no statement was

TC erred in admitting to the records of


the case the report of Dr. Ma. Bernadette
Arcena, which was not testified on or
offered in evidence, and using the same
in determining her guilt

TC erred in applying the ruling in People


v. Johnson

taken from her during her detention


and used in evidence against her.
The admission of the medical report was
erroneous.

Canton assails the validity of the


medical report as evidence on the
ground that it violates the hearsay
rule.
The medical report contained the
following: This is the first time I
carried shabu. I need the money.
SC held that this contention is
meritorious. The admission of the
questioned document was erroneous
because
it
was
not
properly
identified.
The ruling in People v. Johnson is
applicable to the instant case

Canton questions the applicability of


the doctrine in the Johnson case
because of its sweeping statement
allowing searches and seizures of
departing passengers in airports in
view of the gravity of the safety
interests involved.
She argues that the applicable case
should have been Katz v. United
States
which
upholds
the
4th
Amendment that protects people

and not places.

The Johnson case, which involves


similar facts and issues, finds
application to the present case. The
court ruled that the packs of
methamphetamine
hydrochloride
seized during the routine frisk at the
airport was acquired legitimately
pursuant
to
airport
security
procedures
and
are
therefore
admissible in evidence against
Johnson.
Cantons reliance on Katz v. United
States is misplaced. The facts and
circumstances of that case are
entirely different from the case at bar.

Dispositive: Canton guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the violation of Section 16


Article III of RA 6425, sentencing her to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and
to pay the fine of Php 1 million. The appellants passport, plane ticket, and girdles
are ordered to be returned to her.
-Raffi Reyes-