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People v.

Wong Chuen Ming


G.R. Nos. 112801-11
Date promulgated: April 12, 1996
Ponente: Padilla, J.
Plaintiff-appellee People of the Philippines
Accused Wong Chuen Ming, Au Wing Cheung, Tas Soi Tee, Lim Chan Fatt, Chin Kok Wee,
Chin Kin Yong, Yap Boon Ah, Chin Kong Song, Chin Kin Fah, Chai Min Huwa, and
Lim Nyuk Sun
Accused- Wong Chuen Ming and Au Wing Cheung

appellants
summary Accused were charged with unlawfully transporting Shabu into the country. All of

them were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment by the RTC. Wong and
Au appealed and were acquitted by the SC because there signatures on the boxes and
plastic bags containing the prosecutions evidence were inadmissible.

facts of the case

Said 11 accused arrived as a group at the NAIA on Sept. 1991 at 1:00PM. Their respective passports
showed that Wong and Au are the only British (Hongkong) nationals in the group while the rest are all
Malaysian nationals. All accused arrived in Manila as a tour group arranged by Select Tours
International Co., Ltd. Au Wing Cheung, an employee of said travel agency, acted as the tour guide.
After passing through and obtaining clearance from immigration officers, the group went to the
baggage claim area to retrieve their respective checked-in baggages. Thereafter, they proceeded to the
customs area which at the time was manned by customs examiner Danilo Gomez.
According to Gomez testimony, he instructed the group to place their baggages on the examiners
table for inspection. Chin Kong Songs bag was first to be examined. In the course of the inspection,
Gomez found 3 brown colored boxes, marked Alpen Cereals and similar in size to powdered milk
boxes, underneath the clothes. Gomez found nothing wrong with them. Gomez allowed Chin Kong to
go. Following the same procedure, Gomez next examined the baggage of Wong Chuen and the former
again found and pulled out 2 boxes of Alpen Cereals without cutting them open. He found nothing
wrong with them and allowed Wong Chuen to go. But by the time the third baggage belonging to Lim
Nyuk was examined, Gomez again pulled out another 3 boxes of Alpen Cereals and this time he
became suspicious and decided to open one of the boxes with his cutter. The box contained white
crystalline substance. Gomez immediately called the attention of Appraiser Oreganan Palala and Duty
Collector Zenaida Bonifacio.
The group were thereafter escorted to the district collectors office, including Chin Kong and Wong
Chuen who were previously cleared by Gomez. Gomez continued to examined the remaining baggages
and he allegedly found that each baggage contained 1, 2, or 3 boxes similar to those previously found.
A total of 30 boxes (34.45 kg) of Alpen Cereals were recovered. Gomez bundled these boxes together
with a masking tape and handed them to Bonifacio, who in turn called out the names of the accused,
one by one, and ordered them to sign on the masking tape placed on the boxes allegedly recovered
from their respective baggages.
Capt. Rustico Francisco, who was present in the district collectors office, testified that he conducted a
field test on a sample of the substance and confirmed that they were indeed Shabu. Francisco
immediately informed the 11 accused that they were under arrest.
The accused were brought to Camp Crame, where they were asked to identify their signatures on the
boxes. They were again made to sign on the plastic bags containing white crystalline substance.
Elizabeth Ayonon, a forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Lab confirmed that they were indeed Shabu.
The defense endeavored to show that only Lim Chan Fatt, Chin Kong Song, and Lim nyuk Sun were
responsible for bringing boxes of Alpen Cereals into the country (Lim Chan testified that he met the
two at his boarding house in Hongkong a few days before the trip; that a certain Hongkong
businessman Ah Hong asked Lim Chan to deliver these boxes and in turn the former will see to it that
the latter will have a good time in the Philippines; that Lim Chan requested Chin Kong and Lim Nyuk
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to accommodate some of the boxes in their baggages) and that they cannot be held liable for violation
of the Dangerous Drugs Act because they had no knowledge that these boxes contained shabu.
As for the accused-appellants Wong Chuen and Au Wing, they denied that the boxes were recovered
from their baggages. They claimed that they were forced into signing the boxes by the police
authorities who were present inside the collectors office.
Only Wong Chuen and Au Wing appealed (the others neither filed a notice of appeal nor filed their
appellants brief).

issues
(1) WON the accused-appellants were deprived of their constitutional right to effective counsel and due
process. NO.
(2) WON the signatures of the accused on the boxes and plastic bags were inadmissible evidence as
they were obtained in violation of their Miranda Rights. YES.

ratio
(1) WON the accused-appellants were deprived of their constitutional right to effective counsel and due
process. NO.

Their contention that they were deprived of such rights when their previous counsels also
represented the other accused despite conflicting interests is NOT WELL-TAKEN.
Counsels trued to present all the defenses available to each of the accused and that they did not, in
any way, put in jeopardy accused-appellants constitutional right to counsel as it does not appear
from the records that the effectiveness of accused-appellants previous counsels was diminished by
the fact that they also represented the other accused.

(2) WON the signatures of the accused on the boxes and plastic bags were inadmissible evidence as
they were obtained in violation of their Miranda Rights. YES.

Accused were never informed of their fundamental rights during the entire time that they were
under investigation. When they were made to affix their signature on the boxes and on the
plastic bags, they were not informed of their right to remain silent and to counsel and that any
statement they might make could be used against them. Even custom examiner himself and
witness Danilo Gomez admitted to this fatal lapse during cross-examination.
Capt. Francisco, in his testimony, also admitted that he did not inform the accused of their
rights when he placed them under arrest.
It is also not shown from the testimony of Elizabeth Ayonon, the chemist, that the accused were
informed of their rights when they were again made to affix their signatures on the plastic bags.
By affixing their signatures, accused in effect made a tacit admission of the crime charged for
mere possession of shabu. These signatures are tantamount to an uncounseled extra-judicial
confession which is not sanctioned by Sec. 12(1)(3), Art. III, of the 1987 Constitution. The fact
that all the accused are foreign nationals does not preclude application of the exclusionary rule
because they extend to all persons, both aliens and citizens.
Without said signatures, the prosecution is left with the testimonies of its witnesses to establish
that all 11 accused transported shabu into the country. Among the witnesses, only Gomez
testified that all the seized baggages, include those of accused-appellants, contained boxes of
shabu. But Gomez testimony was not corroborated by the other witnesses.
o Bonifacio stated during cross-examination that she could not recall if each and everyone
of the accused were found in possession of any box or boxes.
o Franciscos testimony, to the effect that he was not sure if he saw with his own two eyes
that a box or boxes were recovered from the bag of both Au Wing and Wong Chuen,
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casts doubt on the claim of Gomez. Hence, no presumption of regularity in the


performance of duties could be accorded.
Other circumstances the Court considered in acquitting Wong Chuen and Au Wing:
o Accused-appellants are British national while all the other are Malaysians. They are total
strangers and do not even speak the same language. Difficult to imagine how they could
have conspired with each other.
o Testimonies of Au Wings superiors to the effect that the latter is indeed a bona fide
employee of Select Tours.
o Wong Chuen was not originally part of the tour group arranged by Select Tours but he
was only accommodated at the last minute when his package tour to Cebu was
cancelled.
o Both accused-appellants adamantly refused to sign on the transparent plastic bags.