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Warrantless Arrests led by JRI

Eleven business groups on Sunday commended the Supreme Court for a decision made public this week that stressed that arrests made on the basis of warrantless searches based on anonymous tips are invalid.

The Supreme Court, voting 11-3, acquitted drug trading convict Jerry Sapla, who was arrested in 2014 with four bricks of dried marijuana leaves in his bag, saying his arrest was invalid because it did not follow proper procedure.

“We thank the Court for delivering a message that no citizen should be deprived of his personal liberty based on unlawfully obtained evidence, such as in an illegal search or a warrantless arrest,” the groups, which include the Makati Business Club and foreign chambers of commerce, said.

In the Sapla case, the Supreme Court held that a text message from an anonymous person is not probable cause for a conduct of an intrusive, warrantless search, which was what led to the arrest.

“Simply stated, a more extensive and intrusive search that goes beyond a mere visual search of the vehicle necessitates probable cause on the part of the apprehending officers,” the ruling read.

“Does the mere reception of a text message from an anonymous person suffice to create probable cause that enables the authorities to conduct an extensive and intrusive search without a search warrant? The answer is a resounding no,” the court said, adding that allowing that could lead to harassments and abuse.

“Simply stated, the citizen’s sanctified and heavily-protected right against unreasonable search and seizure will be at the mercy of phony tips,” it added.

Although the Sapla arrest was made during the Aquino administration, the Supreme Court pointed out that “a battle waged against illegal drugs that tramples on the rights of the people is not a war on drugs; it is a war against the people.”

“The business community is highly encouraged by the Court’s determination to uphold the rule of law over the rule of men,” the groups said Sunday.

“We appeal to all the sectors of the government, as well as ordinary citizens, to be watchful and to help ensure that constitutional rights are always protected, and that those who violate the same are held accountable.”

Business groups included in the statement are the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute of Corporate Directors, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Investment Houses Association of the Philippines, Judicial Reform Initiative, Management Association of the Philippines, Shareholders Association of the Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.