People of the Philippines v Mikael Malmstedt; G.R. No. 91107; 19 Jul 1991

in Legal Chyme by

Due to persistent reports that vehicles coming from Sagada were transporting marijuana and other prohibited drugs, a temporary checkpoint was set up for the checking of vehicles coming from the Cordillera Region. During the inspection of a  bus, one of the officers noticed a bulge on accused’s waist. Initially suspected to be a gun, the bulging object turned out to be a pouch bag containing hashhish, a derivative of marijuana. When asked for his travel documents, suspect refused to present the same. In addition to the pouch bag, accused was carrying two travelling bags each containing a teddy  bear which also contained hashhish. Accused was arrested, tried and convicted for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, as amended.

Whether or not the arrest was valid.

YES. The officers merely conducted a routine inspection of the bus and the passengers therein, and no extensive search was initially made. It was only when one of the officers noticed a bulge on accused waist, during the course of the inspection, that the accused was required to present his passport. The failure of the accused to present his identification papers when ordered to do so only managed to arouse the suspicion of the officer that accused was trying to hide his identity.

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 the probable cause which justified the warrantless search that was made on the personal effects of the accused.

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