The right against unreasonable search and seizure is a core right implicit in the natural right to life, liberty and property. Even in the absence of a constitution, individuals have a fundamental and natural right against unreasonable search and seizure under natural law. Moreover, the violation of the right to privacy produces a humiliating effect that cannot be rectified anymore. This is why there is no other justification to speak of for a search, except for a warrant.
Parallel to the rule on warrant of arrest is the rule on search and seizure. These two warrants are safeguards to the possible abuses that may be committed by public officers or employees against the constitutional rights of every Filipino citizens or aliens who live permanently or temporarily stay in the Philippines.
Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon a probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Section 13, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court and some cases decided by the Supreme Court provide the instances when search is lawful without search warrant:
1. When there are prohibited articles open to the eye and hand of an officer (Plain View Doctrine).
The “plain view doctrine” is usually applied where the police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes upon an incriminatory object (People v. Musa, 217 SCRA 597). The following requisites must be present :
a) a prior valid intrusion based on the valid warrantless arrest in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties;
b) the evidence was accidentally discovered by the police who have the right to be where they are;
c) the evidence must be immediately visible; and
d) “plain view” justified the seizure of the evidence without any further search (People v. Sarap, G.R. No. 132165, March 26, 2003).
2. When there is consent which is voluntary (consented search) and the following requisites must be present :
a) there is a right;
b) there must be knowledge of the existence of such right; and
c) there must be intention to waive (De Gracia v. Locsin, 65 Phil 689).
3. When it is incident to a lawful inspection.
Example of this kind of search is the searches of passengers at airports, ports or bus terminals.
Searches of passengers at airports, ports or bus terminals. is valid by virtue of Republic Act 6235 which provides that luggage and baggage of airline passengers shall be subject to search. However, Republic Act 6235 does not expressly provide that search and seizure may extend to the contents/ files of the laptops of passengers. But when a passenger who has the knowledge that he has the right to refuse such search by virtue of Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, but nonetheless consent voluntarily will amount to waiver of such right.