CA clears Aparri drug suspect nabbed with defective warrant

The Court of Appeals (CA) has acquitted a man arrested on drug possession charges three years ago in Aparri, Cagayan, after it noted defects in the search warrant issued by the lower court.

In a 16-page decision dated December 5, the appellate court’s Fourth Division reversed and set aside the decision of the Aparri, Cagayan Regional Trial Court Branch 6 and acquitted Hamil Pigao.

Pigar had been arrested after law enforcers serving a search warrant on his house and vehicles recovered 23 grams of shabu on Sept. 21, 2016.

“Based on the lack of substantial evidence that the search warrant was issued after the requisite examination of the complainant and his witnesses was made, we declare (the) search warrant a nullity,” the Court said.

The CA said normally, the failure to attach to the records the depositions of the complainant and his witnesses and/or the transcript of the judge’s examination “does not ipso facto nullify a warrant” if the prosecution could prove, through other evidence including the testimony of the applicant of the warrant or other witnesses, the precursors surrounding the issuance of the warrant.

However, the court said in this case, apart from the statement in the search warrant itself, there is “nothing in the records of this case indicating that the issuing judge personally and thoroughly examined the applicant and his witnesses”.

The court noted that the testimonies given during accused-appellant’s trial made no reference to the application for the search warrant.

No one also testified on how the said warrant was procured prior to its implementation, the court added.

“(T)he records bear no evidence from which We can conclude that the requisite examination was made, and from which the factual basis for probable cause to issue the search warrant was derived. A search warrant must conform strictly to the constitutional requirements for its issuance; otherwise, it is void,” the CA said in ordering the accused’s release. (PNA)

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