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CABALLES v.

CA
January 15, 2002 | Puno, J. | Petition for Review of Certiorari on CA decision| Search and Seizure

PETITIONER: Rudy Caballes
RESPONDENT: CA, People of the Philippines

SUMMARY: Caballes passenger jeep was flagged down by two police officers as they deemed the vehicle
suspiciously covered with kakawati leaves. When the police checked the cargo they discovered bundles of
aluminum conductor wires owned by NAPOCOR. Caballes was charged with the crime of theft. RTC found
him guilty. CA affirmed judgment. SC acquitted Caballes stating that the warrantless arrest was invalid as
the police did not have probable cause the search, the search was not done following the Plain View
Doctrine, and that Caballes did not give his consent to the search.

DOCTRINE: The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures is not absolute but
admits of certain exceptions including the search of a moving vehicle. It is not practicable to secure a warrant
as the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought. A
warrantless search of a vehicle is permissible only if the officers conducting the search have reasonable or
probable cause to believe, before the search, that either the motorist is a law-offender or they will find the
instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime in the vehicle to be searched. // Object is in plain view if the
object itself is plainly exposed to sight. // In order to validate an otherwise illegal search, the consent must be
voluntary (unequivocal, specific, and intelligently given without duress or coercion). It must be shown by
clear and convincing evidence determined from the totality of all the circumstances.

FACTS:
1. Two police officers in Pagsanjan, Laguna flagged down a suspicious looking passenger jeep driven by Caballes which was
unusually covered with kakawati leaves. Caballes allegedly failed to answer when asked of the contents of the jeep.
2. The police officers checked the cargo and they discovered bundles of 3.08 mm aluminum/galvanized conductor wires exclusively
owned by the National Power Corp. The police asked Caballes where the wires came from and he said that they came from Cavinti, a
town approximately 8 km away. Caballes was brought to the police station. Picutres of him and the vehicle with the wires were
captured. Caballes was jailed for 7 days.
3. Caballes offered an alibi that he was merely requested to transport the wires by Resty Fernandez. He was promised 1K to do the
job. 5 masked men loaded the wires and when he crossed the bridge the police officers intercepted him. He told them of his story but
the police officers did not believe him.
4. Caballes was charged with the crime of theft. He pleaded not guilty during arraignment.
5. RTC found him guilty of the crime of theft sentencing him to 2 yrs, 4 mths, and 1 day of Prision Correccional as minimum to 10
yrs of Prision Mayor, as maximum with award for damages. CA affirmed the judgment but removed the award for damages.
6. Caballes contends that the flagging down of his vehicle by police officers who were on routine patrol, merely on suspicion that it
might contain smuggled goods, does not constitute probable cause that will justify a warrantless search and seizure.
7. He did not give any consent, express or implied, to the search of the vehicle. As such, any evidence obtained in violation of his right
against unreasonable search and seizure shall be deemed inadmissible.

ISSUE:
1. WON the evidence taken from the warrantless search is admissible against Caballes NO
RATIO:
1. Const, Sec 3, Art III provides for the inviolable right of the people to be secure in their persons and properties against unsreasonable
searches and seizures. Any evidence obtained in violation of such right is barred by the exclusionary rule found in Const, Sec 3 (2),
Art III.

2. Search of a Moving Vehicle: The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures is not absolute but admits of
certain exceptions
1
including the search of moving vehicles. This is so because it is not practicable to secure a warrant as the vehicle
can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought. This is also allowed for the purpose of
preventing violations of smuggling or immigration laws provided that the search was made at borders or checkpoints near the
boundary lines of the State.


1
Warrantless search incidental to a lawful arrest recognized under Sec 12, Rule 126, ROC and by prevailing jurisprudence; seizure of evidence in
plain view; search of moving vehicles; consented warrantless search; search of moving vehicles; customs search; stop and frisk situations (Terry
search); and exigent and emergency circumstances

3. In order to conduct a warrantless search, probable cause must exist. The required probable cause that will justify a warrantless
search and seizure is resolved according to the facts of each case.

4. Routine inspections are not regarded as violative of an individuals right against unreasonable search. A search is permissible in this
instance but will be limited to the following:
where the officer merely draws aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle which is parked on the public fair grounds;
simply looks into a vehicle;
flashes a light therein without opening the cars doors;
where the occupants are not subjected to a physical or body search;
where the inspection of the vehicles is limited to a visual search or visual inspection; and
where the routine check is conducted in a fixed area.

5. None of the foregoing circumstances is present here. The police officers did not merely conduct a visual search or visual inspection
of Caballes vehicle. They had to reach inside the vehicle, lift the kakawati leaves and look inside the sacks
before they were able to see the cable wires. It cannot be considered a simple routine check.

6. A warrantless search of a vehicle is permissible only if the officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to
believe, before the search, that either the motorist is a law-offender or they will find the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a
crime in the vehicle to be searched. The fact that the vehicle looked suspicious simply because it is not common for such to be covered
with kakawati leaves does not constitute probable cause as would justify the conduct of a search without a warrant. In addition, the
police authorities do not claim to have received any confidential report or tipped information that Caballes was carrying stolen cable
wires in his vehicle which could otherwise have sustained their suspicion.

7. Plain View Doctrine: Object is in plain view if the object itself is plainly exposed to sight. The warrantless seizure was invalid
under this doctrince since the cable wires were not exposed to sight because they were placed in sacks and covered with leaves. The
police had to ask Caballes what was loaded in his vehicle.

8. Consented Search: In order to validate an otherwise illegal search, the consent must be voluntary (unequivocal, specific, and
intelligently given without duress or coercion). It must be shown by clear and convincing evidence determined from the totality of all
the circumstances. Caballes did not utter his consent to the search in a voluntary manner. At most, there was only an implied
acquiescence, a mere passive conformity, which is no consent at all within the purview of the constitutional guarantee.

9. In case of consented searches or waiver of the constitutional guarantee against obtrusive searches, it is fundamental that to
constitute a waiver, it must first appear that (1) the right exists; (2) that the person involved had knowledge, either actual or
constructive, of the existence of such right; and (3) the said person had an actual intention to relinquish the right. Here, the evidence is
lacking that Caballes intentionally surrendered his right against unreasonable searches. The manner by which the two police officers
allegedly obtained the consent of petitioner for them to conduct the search leaves much to be desired. The police approached Caballes
and told him I will look at the contents of his vehicle and he answered in the positive. This only amounts to the police
informing/imposing upon Caballes that they will search his vehicle. The consent given under intimidating or coercive circumstances
is no consent within the purview of the constitutional guaranty. Neither can Caballes passive submission be construed as an implied
acquiescence to the warrantless search.