People vs. Canton. 394 SCRA 478

Posted: April 13, 2017 in case digests, criminal procedure cases, Uncategorized

Search warrants. Justification. People vs. canton. 394 SCRA 478

By: Randel Bejasa



G.R. No. 148825                    December 27, 2002


SUSAN CANTON, appellant.




  • February 12, 1998 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Canton was a departing passenger bound to go to Saigon, Vietnam.
  • She passed through a metal detector which emitted a beeping sound.
  • Cabunoc, who was a civilian employee of the NATCH and the frisker duty called her attention. They checked Canton.
  • Cabunoc felt something bulging in several parts of Canton. This was reported to her supervisor.
  • Canton was requested to go the comfort room for a physical examination wherein she was asked to take her clothes off.
  • The packages that she carried was examined and turned out to be NINE HUNDRED NINETY EIGHT POINT TWO EIGHT HUNDRED ZERO NINE (998.2809) GRAMS of methamphetamine hydrochloride or SHABU, a regulated drug, without the corresponding prescription or license.
  • She was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating the Article 3, Section 16 of the RA 6425 or the Dangerous Drugs Act.
  • Canton filed for Motion for reconsideration but this was denied.












  1. WON the search conducted on Canton was incidental to lawful arrest
  2. WON the scope of search pursuant to airport security is not confined only to search warrant for weapons under the Terry Search Doctrine.
  3. WON the ruling in People v. Johnson is applicable to this case
  4. WON the appellant having been caught in flagrante delicto, was lawfully arrested.
  5. WON the constitutional right to counsel afforded an accused under the custodial investigation was not violated.
  6. WON the admission of the medical report was erroneous.




  1. No. Susan’s arrest did not precede the search. She was arrested after the shabu was discovered by the authorities.

As pointed out by the appellant, prior to the strip search in the ladies’ room, the airport security personnel had no knowledge yet of what were hidden on SUSAN’s body; hence, they did not know yet whether a crime was being committed.  It was only after the strip search upon the discovery by the police officers of the white crystalline substances inside the packages, which they believed to be shabu, that SUSAN was arrested.  The search cannot, therefore, be said to have been done incidental to a lawful arrest.  In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, the law requires that there be first a lawful arrest before a search can be made; the process cannot be reversed.

Such restraint during the time she was being frisked / search is not tantamount to an arrest or taking of a person into custody.


  1. No.

In the present case, the search was made pursuant to routine airport security procedure, which is allowed under Section 9 of Republic Act No. 6235 reading as follows:

SEC. 9. Every ticket issued to a passenger by the airline or air carrier concerned shall contain among others the following condition printed thereon: “Holder hereof and his hand-carried luggage(s) are subject to search for , and seizure of, prohibited materials or substances.  Holder refusing to be searched shall not be allowed to board the aircraft,” which shall constitute a part of the contract between the passenger and the air carrier.

This constitutes another exception to the proscription against warrantless searches and seizures.  As admitted by SUSAN and shown in Annex “D” of her Brief, the afore-quoted provision is stated in the “Notice to All Passengers” located at the final security checkpoint at the departure lounge.  From the said provision, it is clear that the search, unlike in the Terry search, is not limited to weapons.  Passengers are also subject to search for prohibited materials or substances.


  1. Yes.

Persons may lose the protection of the search and seizure clause by exposure of their persons or property to the public in a manner reflecting a lack of subjective expectation of privacy, which expectation society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.  Such recognition is implicit in airport security procedures.

The maxim – stare decisis et non quieta movere – invokes adherence to precedents and mandates not to unsettle things which are established.

Materials acquired legitimately in airport security checks are admissible as evidence.


  1. Yes.

Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, as amended, provides:

SEC. 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. — A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

  1. When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

In cases falling under paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112.


The present case falls under paragraph (a) of the afore-quoted Section.  The search conducted on SUSAN resulted in the discovery and recovery of three packages containing white crystalline substances, which upon examination yielded positive results for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.  As discussed earlier, such warrantless search and seizure were legal.  Armed with the knowledge that SUSAN was committing a crime, the airport security personnel and police authorities were duty-bound to arrest her.  As held in People v. Johnson, her subsequent arrest without a warrant was justified, since it was effected upon the discovery and recovery of shabu in her person flagrante delicto.







  1. No.

Custodial investigation refers to the “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”[32] This presupposes that he is suspected of having committed a crime and that the investigator is trying to elicit information or a confession from him.[33] And the right to counsel attaches upon the start of such investigation.[34] The objective is to prohibit “incommunicado” interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere, resulting in self-incriminating statements without full warnings of constitutional rights.[35]

In this case, as testified to by the lone witness for the defense, SPO2 Jerome Cause, no custodial investigation was conducted after SUSAN’s arrest.  She affixed her signature to the receipt of the articles seized from her, but before she did so, she was told that she had the option to sign or not to sign it.  In any event, her signature to the packages was not relied upon by the prosecution to prove its case. Moreover, no statement was taken from her during her detention and used in evidence against her.[36] Hence, her claim of violation of her right to counsel has no leg to stand on.


  1. No.

On subsequent examinations, she was seen behaved and cooperative.  She related that she was an illegitimate daughter, married, but divorced in 1995.  She verbalized, “I gamble like an addict.  I gambled since I was young and I lost control of myself when I played cards.  When I lost control, I want my money back.  I owe other people lots of money.  I lost all the cash of my husband.  This is the first time I carried shabu.  I need the money.”  She denied having any morbid thoughts and perceptual disturbances. (Emphasis supplied).

This argument is meritorious.  The admission of the questioned document was erroneous because it was not properly identified.  Nevertheless, even without the medical report, appellant’s conviction will stand, as the court’s finding of guilt was not based on that document.

Having found the warrantless search and seizure conducted in this case to be valid, we do not hesitate to rule that that the three packages of shabu recovered from SUSAN are admissible in evidence against her.  Supported by this evidence and the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, her conviction must inevitably be sustained sentencing her to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000).



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