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SECOND DIVISION [ G.R. No. 86218, September 18, 1992 ] THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS.

ELSIE BAGISTA Y BANGCO, ACCUSED-APPELLANT. DECISION NOCON, J.: Appeal by accused-appellant Elsie Bagista from the decision dated September 26, 1988 of the Regional Trial Court of La Trinidad, Benguet, Branch 10, finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 4, Article II of Republic Act No. 6425, and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P20,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs. The facts of the case are as follows: On July 4, 1988, at around 8:00 o'clock in the morning, the Narcotics Command (NARCOM) Detachment Office located at the Arix Building, Bokawkan Road, Baguio City, received information from one of its regular informants that a certain woman, 23 years of age, with naturally curly hair, and with a height of 5'2" or 5'3", would be transporting marijuana from up north.[1] Acting upon this piece of information, Sgt. Oscar Parajas testified that he, Sgt. Godofredo Fider and a civilian NARCOM agent proceeded to Km. 16, Acop, Tublay, Benguet. Upon arriving at said location at around 11:00 o'clock that same morning, they established a checkpoint and flagged down all vehicles, both private and public, coming from the north to check if any of these vehicles were carrying marijuana leaves on board. [2] After about 4 1/2 hours, the NARCOM agents stopped a Dangwa Tranco bus with Plate No. AVD 938 and body number 428, which came from Lepanto, Benguet. Sgts. Parajas and Fider boarded the bus and thereupon Sgt. Parajas announced to the passengers that they were NARCOM agents and that they were going to search their baggages. Sgt. Parajas then proceeded to the rear of the bus while Sgt. Fider began inspecting the bags in the front.[3] While at the back, Sgt. Parajas noticed a woman with curly hair seated at the right side (as one is facing the driver) of the last seat of the bus, with a travelling bag with black and orange stripes[4] on her lap. Sgt. Parajas inspected the bag and discovered three (3) bundles of marijuana leaves covered by assorted clothing. The bag and the contents thereof were confiscated and the woman arrested; she was later brought to the NARCOM office in Baguio City where she was

booked and investigated. The woman was then identified as accused-appellant. [5] The confiscated bundles were subjected to laboratory examination, and found positive for marijuana. [6] Accused-appellant's defense rests solely on denial. She claimed that she was engaged in the buying and selling of vegetables, particularly cabbages. On the day in question, she boarded the Dangwa Tranco bus at Abatan, Benguet, bringing with her ten (10) sacks of cabbages which she intended to sell to a certain Maria Opino in Baguio City. While inside the bus, she approached the conductor for her ticket to cover the fare for her sacks of cabbages, but was told by the latter that he would attend to her later. When the bus reached Tublay, Benguet, it was stopped by the NARCOM agents who boarded the same and began inspecting the baggages of the passengers. Accused-appellant claimed that the bag containing the marijuana was taken from the luggage carrier above the passenger seats. When nobody admitted owning the bag, the NARCOM agent approached her, took the shoulder bag on her lap, and asked her to come with them for investigation as she fits the description of the would-be transporter of the marijuana given by the NARCOM informer. She denied having anything to do with the marijuana found on the bus. To corroborate her story, accused-appellant presented the conductor of the Dangwa Tranco bus, Nestor Yangkin. He testified that when the NARCOM agents boarded the bus at Tublay, Benguet, one of them got a bag from the luggage carrier, opened it, and smelled the contents. The agent then asked the passengers who among them owned the bag; when nobody answered, he walked to the back of the bus, all the time looking at the faces of the passengers. When the agent approached accused-appellant, who was seated at the rear of the bus, the former talked to her, then escorted her out of the bus.[7] During Yangkin's cross-examination, it came out that the 10 sacks of vegetables that were loaded at Abatan were brought by a man who told him that the fare for the sacks will be paid upon arrival at the Dangwa Station in Baguio City but that the owner of the sacks would be riding in the bus. And yet, Yangkin did not seek out the alleged owner of the sacks. The witness also testified that none of the passengers approached him and offered to pay for the fare of the sacks,[8] contrary to accused-appellant's testimony. In convicting accused-appellant, the trial court found the testimony of Sgt. Parajas credible. Said the court a quo:

. . . The testimony of Sgt. Oscar Parajas was direct and straightforward as he gave all the requisite details of the entrapment operation they conducted based on an information provided by a coordinating individual. His testimony reveals that the bag containing the marijuana leaves was found on the lap of the accused. There is nothing in the record to suggest that Sgt. Parajas was moved by any motive than simply the carrying out of his official mission or duty. Where there is no evidence and nothing to indicate that the principal witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motives, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit (People vs. Francia, L-69253, September 30, 1987, 154 SCRA 495)."[9] The trial court brushed aside the defense's observation that there were discrepancies between the testimony of Sgt. Parajas and the evidence presented, such as the color of the bag allegedly taken from accused-appellant and the kind of marijuana taken from the bag, as immaterial. Similarly brushed aside was the defense's contention that the evidence against accused-appellant, such as the Receipt of Property Seized
[10]

The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no person shall be subjected to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings, or his residence except by virtue of a search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. [14] The basis for the rule can be found in Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which states: "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 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." Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in violation of the aforementioned right shall, among others, "be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding." The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of a moving vehicle,[15] and the seizure of evidence in plain view.[16] With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.[17] This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid only as long as the officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search that they will find the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.[18] The NARCOM officers in the case at bar had probable cause to stop and search all vehicles coming from the north at Acop, Tublay, Benguet in view of the confidential information they received from their regular informant that a woman having the same appearance as that of accused-appellant would be bringing marijuana from up north. They likewise have probable cause to search accused-appellant's belongings since she fits the description given by the NARCOM informant.

and her signature thereon,

[11]

and the Booking Sheet and

Arrest Report[12] and her signature thereon,[13] were inadmissible due to the absence of counsel, since these were not confessions or extra-judicial statements. Finally, the trial court did not give credence to the testimonies of accused-appellant and her witness Nestor Yangkin, in view of the testimony of Sgt. Parajas that he took the bag containing the marijuana from accused-appellant's lap. Moreover, the court a quoobserved that there was a discrepancy between the testimonies of accused-appellant and Yangkin on the matter of the 10 sacks of cabbage, which led the court to conclude that the former was in the act of transporting marijuana at the time of her arrest. Accused-appellant filed a motion for reconsideration, alleging that the marijuana leaves found in the bag taken from her was inadmissible in evidence as it was the product of a warrantless search, which motion was denied by the trial court for lack of merit on November 22, 1988. Aggrieved, accused-appellant filed the instant appeal, alleging that the court a quoerred (1) in not finding the warrantless search conducted by the NARCOM agents as illegal and unconstitutional, and (2) in admitting the illegally obtained evidences and convicting her on the basis of said evidences. Accused-appellant is in error.

Since there was a valid warrantless search by the NARCOM agents, any evidence obtained during the course of said search is admissible against accused-appellant. At any rate, no objection was raised by the accused-appellant in the court below on the inadmissibility of the evidence against her on the ground that the same was obtained in a warrantless search. This amounts to a waiver of the objection on the legality of the search and the admissibility of the evidence obtained therefrom. [19] Amid a waiver, the court is duty bound to admit the evidence.
[20]

material since appellant's reason for being on the bus was to deliver these sacks to Baguio City. If the sacks of vegetables are not hers, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that she was on her way to Baguio City to sell the marijuana found in her possession. As to the alleged discrepancies in the prosecution's case, such as the color of the stripes of the bag which contained the marijuana and whether the items seized from accused-appellant were marijuana leaves or marijuana fruit tops, these are minor in character and do not detract from the prosecution's case since it was shown by the Receipt of Property Seized, [24] which was signed by accused-appellant, that these were the very items taken from her at the time of her arrest. WHEREFORE, finding no error in the decision appealed from, the same is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against accused-appellant. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Regalado, and Melo, JJ., concur. Padilla, J., see dissenting opinion.

Reviewing the evidence, We find the same sufficient to prove accused-appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution had shown, primarily through the positive testimony of Sgt. Parajas, that the bag containing the dried marijuana leaves was taken from accused-appellant's possession. She denies this fact and contends that the bag in question was actually taken from the luggage carrier above the passenger seats and not from her. Indisputably, We have two opposing versions of what actually happened at the checkpoint in Km. 16, Acop, Tublay, Benguet, resulting in the accused-appellant's apprehension, that of the prosecution and that of the defense. In situations like this, the matter of assigning values to the testimony of witnesses is best performed by the trial courts because, unlike appellate courts, they can weigh such testimony in the light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses at the trial. [21] The exception is when the trial court has overlooked certain facts of substance and value that, if considered, might affect the result,[22] which We do not find in the instant case. Moreover, accused-appellant's defense was weakened by the fact that her witness Nestor Yangkin contradicted her on the matter of the 10 sacks of vegetables appellant claims to have brought with her at the time of her arrest. Appellant claims she loaded the sacks of vegetables on the bus and tried to pay for its fare, but that conductor Yangkin, put her off. Yangkin claims otherwise: the sacks of vegetables were loaded by a man who told him that the fare for the sacks will be paid upon arrival in Baguio City, and that no one on the bus offered to pay for the same. In weighing contrary declarations and statements, greater weight must generally be given to the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses than the denials of the accused-appellant. [23] Given the discrepancy on this point, the trial court correctly disregarded thecorroborative testimony of Nestor Yangkin. The matter of the ownership of the 10 sacks of vegetables is

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Testimony of Sgt. Oscar Parajas, T.S.N., August 3, 1988, pp. 3-6. Id., pp. 6-9. Id., pp. 10-11, 15. Exhibit "D". T.S.N., August 3, 1988, pp. 15-18. Exhibit "E". T.S.N., September 13, 1988, pp. 25-29. Id., pp. 34-37. Decision, pp. 3-4. Exhibit "G". Exhibit "G-1". Exhibit "B". Exhibit "B-1". See the dissent of then Justice (now Chief Justice) Andres R. Narvasa in People vs. Malmstedt, 198

[10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

SCRA 401, 413.

[15] [16] [17] [18]

See Carroll vs. U.S., 267 U.S. 132, 153 (1925). Dissent of the Chief Justice Narvasa, supra note 14, 198 SCRA 401, 414. Carrol vs. U.S., supra. Valmonte vs. de Villa, 185 SCRA 665, at 670, citing Dyke v. Taylor, 361 U.S. 216, 20 L Ed 538, 88 S Ct

xxxx

xxxx

xxxx

The receipt of information by NARCOM that a Caucasian coming from Sagada had prohibited drugs in his possession, plus the suspicious failure of the accused to produce his passport, taken together as a whole, led the NARCOM officers to reasonably believe that the accused was trying to hide something illegal from the authorities. From these circumstances arose a probable cause which justified the warrantless search that was made on the personal effects of the accused. In other words, the acts of the NARCOM officers in requiring the accused to open his pouch bag and in opening one of the wrapped objects found inside said bag (which was discovered to contain hashish) as well as the two (2) travelling bags containing two (2) teddy bears with hashish stuffed inside them, were prompted by accuseds own attempt to hide his identity by refusing to present his passport, and by the information received by the NARCOM that a Caucasian coming from Sagada had prohibited drugs in his possession. To deprive the NARCOM agents of the ability and facility to act accordingly, including, to search even without warrant, in the light of such circumstances, would be to

1472.
[19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

Dimaisip vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 193 SCRA 373, 382. (1991). Id. People vs. Catalino, 22 SCRA 1091, 1098. People vs. Cabling, 74 SCRA 285. People vs. Barbano, 76 Phil 702. Exhibit "G".

DISSENTING OPINION PADILLA, J.: Although there is a similarity in the factual circumstances of the case at bar with those of the Malmstedt case (GR No. 91107, 19 June 1991, 198 SCRA 101) where the Court upheld the validity of the warrantless search, however, in the present case, I am of the view that the information alone received by the NARCOM agents, without other suspiciouscircumstances surrounding the accused, did not give rise to a probable cause justifying the warrantless search made on the bag of the accused. In the Malmstedt case, it will be recalled that no extensive search was immediately made of the personal effects of the accused. It was only after the NARCOM agents noticeda bulge on the waist of the accused (causing them to suspect that he was carrying a gun) and only after he failed or refused to present his passport when required to do so, that awarrantless search was made of the personal effects of the accused. In other words, the information received by the NARCOM agents that a certain Caucasian travelling from Sagada to Baguio City was carrying prohibited drugs together with the suspicious failure or refusal of the accused to present his passport, supplied the probable cause that reasonably led the NARCOM agents to believe that the said accused was then and there committing a crime. Thus Warrantless search of the personal effects of an accused has been declared by this Court as valid, because of existence of probable cause, where the smell of marijuana emanated from a plastic bag owned by the accused, or where the accused was acting suspiciously, and attempted to flee.

sanction impotence and ineffectiveness in law enforcement, to the detriment of society. (198 SCRA 401) In the case at bar, the NARCOM agents searched the bag of the accused on the basisalone of an information they received that a woman, 23 years of age with naturally curly hair, and 52 or 53 in height would be transporting marijuana. The extensive search was indiscriminately made on all the baggages of all passengers of the bus where the accused was riding, whether male or female, and whether or not their physical appearance answered the description of the suspect as described in the alleged information. If there really was such an information, as claimed by the NARCOM agents, it is a perplexing thought why they had to search the baggages of ALL passengers, not only the bags of those who appeared to answer the description of the woman suspected of carrying marijuana. Moreover, the accused was not at all acting suspiciously when the NARCOM agents searched her bag, where they allegedly found the marijuana. From the circumstances of the case at bar, it would seem that the NARCOM agents were only fishing for evidence when they searched the baggages of all the passengers, including that of the accused. They had no probable cause to reasonably believe that theaccused was the woman carrying marijuana alluded to in the information they allegedly received. Thus, the warrantless search made on the personal effects of herein accused on the basis of mere information, without more, is to my mind bereft of probable cause and therefore, null and void. It follows that the marijuana seized in the course of such warrantless search was inadmissible in evidence.

SECOND DIVISION [G.R. No. 120365. December 17, 1996] PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appelle, vs. WILSON B. QUE, accusedappellant. DECISION PUNO, J.: Accused-appellant Wilson B. Que appeals from his conviction for violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 705[1] as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) 277.[2] The facts show that two weeks before March 8, 1994, SPO1 Dexter Corpuz, a member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging, received an information that a ten-wheeler truck bearing plate number PAD-548 loaded with illegally cut lumber will pass through Ilocos Norte. Acting on said information, members of the Provincial Task Force went on patrol several times within the vicinity of General Segundo Avenue in Laoag City. [3] On March 8, 1994, SPO1 Corpuz, together with SPO1 Zaldy Asuncion and SPO1 Elmer Patoc went on patrol around the area. At about 1:00 in the morning, they posted themselves at the corner of General Segundo Avenue and Rizal Street. Thirty minutes later, they saw a ten-wheeler truck with plate number PAD-548 pass by. They followed the truck and apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge.[4] There were three persons on board the truck: driver Wilfredo Cacao, accused-appellant Wilson Que, and an unnamed person. The driver identified accused-appellant as the owner of the truck and the cargo.[5] SPO1 Corpuz checked the cargo and found that it contained coconut slabs. When interviewed, accused-appellant told SPO1 Corpuz that there were sawn lumber inserted in between the coconut slabs.[6] SPO1 Corpuz asked accused-appellant for the Cargos supporting documents, specifically: (1) certificate of lumber origin, (2) certificate of transport agreement, (3) auxiliary invoice, (4) receipt from the DENR, and (5) certification from the forest ranger regarding the origin of the coconut slabs. Accused-appellant failed to present any of these documents. All he could show was a certification[7] from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Sanchez Mira, Cagayan that he legally acquired the coconut slabs. The certification was issued to facilitate transport of the slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan. [8] SPO1 Corpuz brought accused-appellant to the office of the Provincial Task Force at the provincial capitol. Again, accused-appellant admitted to the members of the Provincial Task Force that there were sawn lumber under the coconut slabs. [9] At 10:00 oclock in the morning, the members of the Provincial Task Force, together with three CENRO personnel examined the cargo. The examination confirmed that the cargo consisted of coconut slabs and sawn tanguile lumber. The coconut slabs were piled at the sides of the truck, concealing the tanguile lumber. [10] When the CENRO personnel inventoried and scaled the seized forest products, they counted two hundred fifty eight (258) pieces of tanguile lumber with a total volume of 3,729.3 board feet (8.79 cubic meters) and total assessed value ofP93,232.50.[11]

On June 23, 1994, accused-appellant was charged before the Regional Trial Court of Laoag with violation of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. The Information alleged: That on or about the 8th day of March, 1994, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the owner of an I(s)uzu Ten Wheeler Truck bearing Plate No. PAD-548, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in possession, control and custody 258 pieces of various sizes of Forest Products Chainsawn lumber (Species of Tanguile) with a total volume of 3,729.3 bd. ft. or equivalent to 8.79 cubic meters valued in the total amount of P93,232.50 at P25.00/bd. ft., necessary permit, license or authority to do so from the proper authorities, thus violating the aforecited provision of the law, to the damage and prejudice of the government. CONTRARY TO LAW.[12] Accused-appellant denied the charge against him. He claimed that he acquired the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber from a legal source. During the trial, he presented the private land timber permits (PLTP) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to Enrica Cayosa[13] and Elpidio Sabal.[14] The PLTP authorizes its holder to cut, gather and dispose timber from the forest area covered by the permit. He alleged that the tanguile lumber came from the forest area covered by th PLTPs of Cayosa and Sabal and that they were given to him by Cayosa and Sabal as payment for his hauling services. [15] Accused-appellant also objected to the admission of the 258 pieces of lumber as evidence against him. He contended that they were fruits of an illegal search and seizure and of an uncounselled extrajudicial admission. The trial court found accused-appellant guilty and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua. It also ordered the confiscation of the seized lumber and the ten-wheeler truck owned by accused-appellant. The dispositive portion of the Decision[16] states: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring accused Wilson B. Que guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277 and he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, plus all the accessory penalties provided by law. The bail bond filed for the provisional liberty of the accused is CANCELLED. The two hundred fifty-eight (258) pieces of lumber (tanguile specie) and the ten-wheeler truck bearing plate No. PAD-548 which was used in the commission of the crime are hereby ordered confiscated in favor of the government to be disposed of in accordance with law. Costs against the accused. SO ORDERED.[17] Appellant now comes before us with the following assignment of errors: [18] 1. It was error for the Court to convict accused under Section 68, PD705 as amended by EO 277 for possessing timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations on the ground that since it is only in EO No. 277 where for the first time mere possession of timber was criminalized, there are no existing forest laws

and regulations which required certain legal documents for possession of timber and other forest products. 2. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional rights of accused against unlawful searches and seizures. 3. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional rights of accused under custodial investigation. On the first assignment of error, appellant argues that he cannot be convicted for violation of Section 68 of P.D. 705 because E.O. 277 which amended Section 68 to penalize the possession of timber or other forest products without the proper legal documents did not indicate the particular documents necessary to make the possession legal. Neither did the other forest laws and regulations existing at the time of its enactment. Appellants argument deserves scant consideration. Section 68 of P.D. 705 provides: Sec. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or other Forest Products Without License. Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation. The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found. (emphasis supplied) Appellant interprets the phrase existing forest laws and regulations to refer to those laws and regulations which were already in effect at the time of the enactment of E. O. 277. The suggested interpretation is strained and would render the law inutile. Statutory construction should not kill but give life to the law. The phrase should be construed to refer to laws and regulations existing at the time of possession of timber or other forest products. DENR Administrative Order No. 59 series of 1993 specifies the documents required for the transport of timber and other forest products. Section 3 of the Administrative Order provides: Section 3. Documents Required. Consistent with the policy stated above, the movement of logs, lumber, plywood, veneer, non-timber forest products and wood-based or nonwood-based products/commodities shall be covered with appropriate Certificates of Origin, issued by authorized DENR officials, as specified in the succeeding sections. xxx 3.3 Lumber. Unless otherwise herein provided, the transport of lumber shall be accompanied by a CERTIFICATE OF LUMBER ORIGIN (CLO) issued by the CENRO or his duly

authorized representative which has jurisdiction over the processing plant producing the said lumber or the lumber firm authorized to deal in such commodities. In order to be valid, the CLO must be supported by the company tally sheet or delivery receipt, and in case of sale, a lumber sales invoice. xxx When apprehended on March 8, 1994, accused-appellant failed to present any certificate of origin of the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber. The trial court found: xxx xxx When apprehended by the police officers, the accused admittedly could not present a single document to justify his possession of the subject lumber. xxx Significantly, at the time the accused was apprehended by the police offices, he readily showed documents to justify his possession of the coconut slabs. Thus, he showed a certification issued by Remigio B. Rosario, Forest Ranger, of the DENR, CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan (Exhibit "E") and a xerox copy of the original certificate of title covering the parcel of land where the coconut slabs were cut. (Exhibit "F") It is worthy to note that the certification dated March 7, 1994 states: THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the one (1) truckload of coconut slabs to be transported by Mr. Wilson Que on board truck bearing Plate No. PAD548 were derived from matured coconut palms gathered inside the private land of Miss Bonifacia Collado under OCT No. P-11614 (8) located at Nagrangtayan, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan. This certification is being issued upon the request of Mr. Wilson Que for the purpose of facilitating the transportation of said coconut slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan and is valid up to March 11, 1994 or upon discharge of its cargoes at its final destination, whichever comes first. It is crystal clear, therefore, that the accused was given permit by the DENR to transport one (1) truckload of coconut slabs only between March 7 to 11, 1994. The accused was apprehended on March 8, 1994 aboard his truck bearing plate number PAD-548 which was loaded not only with coconut slabs but with chainsawn lumber as well. Admittedly, the lumber could not be seen from the outside. The lumber were placed in the middle and not visible unless the coconut slabs which were placed on the top, sides and rear of the truck were removed. Under these circumstances, the Court has no doubt that the accused was very much aware that he needed documents to possess and transport the lumber (b)ut could not secure one and, therefore, concealed the lumber by placing the same in such a manner that they could not be seen by police authorities by merely looking at the cargo. In this regard, the Court cannot give credence to his alleged letter dated March 3, 1994 addressed to the OIC CENRO Officer, CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan informing the CENRO that he would be transporting the subject lumber on March 7, 1994 from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur but was returned to him for the reason that he did not need a permit to transport the subject lumber. (Exhibit 8, 8-A)

While it is true that the letter indicates that it was received by CENRO on March 4, 1994, the court has doubts that this was duly filed with the concerned office. According to the accused, he filed the letter in the morning of March 4 and returned in the afternoon of the same day. He was then informed by an employee of the CENRO whom he did not identify that he did not need a permit to transport the lumber because the lumber would be for personal used (sic) and x x came from PLTP. (Ibid) The letter-request was returned to him. The fact that the letter-request was returned to him creates doubts on the stance of the accused. Documents or other papers, i.e., letter-request of this kind filed with a government agency are not returned. Hence, when a person files or submits any document to a government agency, the agency gets the original copy. The filer only gets a duplicate copy to show that he has filed such document with the agency. Moreover, his avoidance as regards the identity of the employee of the CENRO who allegedly returned the letter-request to him also creates doubts on his stance. Thus, on cross-examination, the accused, when asked about the identity of the employee of the CENRO who returned the letter-request to him answered that he could recognize the person x x but they were already reshuffled. (TSN, February 8, 1995, p. 104) At one point, the accused also said that he did not know if that person was an employee of the DENR. (Ibid, p. 105) Be that as it may, the Court finds significance in the last paragraph of this letter-request, to wit: x x x Please consider this as my Certificate of Transport Agreement in view of the fact that I am hauling and transporting my own lumber for my own needs. Thus, the accused through this letter considered the same as his certificate of transport agreement. Why then, if he was telling the truth, did he not take this letter with him when he transported the lumber on March 7, 1994? All these circumstances clearly show that the letter comes from a polluted source. [19] xxx Accused-appellants possession of the subject lumber without any documentation clearly constitutes an offense under Section 68 of P.D. 705. We also reject appellants argument that the law only penalizes possession of illegal forest products and that the possessor cannot be held liable if he proves that the cutting, gathering, collecting or removal of such forest products is legal. There are two (2) distinct and separate offenses punished under Section 68 of P.D. 705, to wit: (1) Cutting, gathering, collecting and removing timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority; and (2) Possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents required under existing forest laws and regulations. In the first offense, one can raise as a defense the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting or removing timber or other forest products by presenting the authorization issued by the DENR. In the second offense, however, it is immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of the forest products is legal or not. Mere

possession of forest products without the proper documents consummates the crime. Whether or not the lumber comes from a legal source is immaterial because E.O. 277 considers the mere possession of timber or other forest products without the proper legal documents as malum prohibitum. On the second and third assignment of error, appellant contends that the seized lumber are inadmissible in evidence for being fruits of a poisonous tree. Appellant avers that these pieces of lumber were obtained in violation of his constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures as well as his right to counsel. We do not agree. The rule on warrantless search and seizure of a moving vehicle was summarized by this court in People vs. Bagista,[20] thus: The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no person shall be subjected to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings, or his residence except by virtue of a search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. The basis for the rule can be found in Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which states: 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 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 witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized. Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in violation of the aforementioned right shall, among others, be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. The Constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of moving vehicles, and the seizure of evidence in plain view. With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought. This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid as long as the officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before search that they will find the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched. (citations omitted; emphasis supplied) As in Bagista, the police officers in the case at bar had probable cause to search appellants truck. A member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging received a reliable information that a ten-wheeler truck bearing plate number PAD-548 loaded with illegal lumber would pass through Ilocos Norte. Two weeks later, while members of the Provincial Task Force were patrolling along General Segundo Avenue, they saw the tenwheeler truck described by the informant. When they apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge,

accused-appellant, the owner of the truck and the cargo, admitted that there were sawn lumber in between the coconut slabs. When the police officers asked for the lumbers supporting documents, accused-appellant could not present any. The foregoing circumstances are sufficient to prove the existence of probable cause which justified the extensive search of appellants truck even without a warrant. Thus, the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber were lawfully seized and were thus properly admitted as evidence to prove the guilt of accused-appellant. The foregoing disquisition renders unnecessary the issue of whether appellants right to counsel under custodial investigation was violated. The Resolution of the issue will not affect the finding of guilt of appellant. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. Costs Against appellant. SO ORDERED. Regalado (Chairman), Romero, Mendoza, and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.
[1] [2]

Revised Forestry Code. Amending Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705, as Amended, Otherwise Known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, For the Purpose of Penalizing Possession of Timber or Other Forest Products Without the Legal Documents Required By Existing Forest Laws, Authorizing the Confiscation of Illegally Cut, Gathered, Removed and Possessed Forest Products, and Granting Rewards to Informers of Violations of Forestry Laws, Rules and Regulations. [3] TSN, December 2, 1994, pp. 3-4. [4] TSN, December 2, 1994, pp. 4-5; TSN, December 8, 1994, pp. 39-41. [5] TSN, December 2, 1994, p. 6. [6] TSN, December 2, 1994, pp. 7-8. [7] Exhibits E and E-1. [8] TSN, December 8, 1994, p. 43. [9] TSN, December 2, 1994, p. 7. [10] TSN, December 8, 1994, p. 44; Exhibits D, D-1, D-2 and D-3. [11] Inventory and Scale Sheet of Seized Lumber Loaded on Isuzu Ten Wheeler Truck Bearing Plate No. PAD-548 prepared and signed by Aurelio E. Macugay, Forest Protection Officer, Clemente A. Visco, Jr., Scaler, and Maisee A. Bartolome, Forest Ranger (Exhibits G, G-1 and G-2). [12] Original Records, p. 1. [13] Exhibit 4. [14] Exhibit 5. [15] TSN, February 8, 1995, pp. 91-93. [16] Penned by Judge Perla B. Querubin. [17] Rollo, p. 33. [18] Appellants Brief, Rollo, p. 57. [19] Rollo, pp. 28-31. [20] 214 SCRA 63 (1992).