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Human Rights Law Case Digest: Stonehill v. Diokno (1967)

G.R. No. L-19550             June 19, 1967

Lessons Applicable: Right against warrantless searches and seizures

Laws Applicable: bill of rights

  • In violation of Central Bank Laws, Tariff and Customs Laws, Internal Revenue (Code) and the Revised Penal Code, 42 warrants were issued against petitioners or the corporation where they are officers to search the persons above-named and/or the premises of their offices, warehouses and/or residences, and to seize and take possession of their books of accounts, financial records, vouchers, correspondence, receipts, ledgers, journals, portfolios, credit journals, typewriters, and other documents and/or papers showing all business transactions including disbursements receipts, balance sheets and profit and loss statements and Bobbins (cigarette wrappers) which are the subject of the offense.
  • Petitioners filed with the Supreme Court this original action for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus and injunction, and prayed that, pending final disposition of the present case, a writ of preliminary injunction be issued alleging the search warrants to be void since (1) they do not describe with particularity the documents, books and things to be seized; (2) cash money, not mentioned in the warrants, were actually seized; (3) the warrants were issued to fish evidence against the aforementioned petitioners in deportation cases filed against them; (4) the searches and seizures were made in an illegal manner; and (5) the documents, papers and cash money seized were not delivered to the courts that issued the warrants, to be disposed of in accordance with law 
ISSUE: W/N the seizure is valid

HELD: YES. warrants for the search of 3 residences null and void; searches and seizures made are illegal; that the writ of preliminary injunction issued
  • the documents, papers, and things seized under the alleged authority of the warrants in question may be split into two (2) major groups, namely: 
    • (a) those found and seized in the offices of the aforementioned corporations, and 
      • have no cause of action to assail the legality of the contested warrants and of the seizures made in pursuance thereof, for the simple reason that said corporations have their respective personalities, separate and distinct from the personality of herein petitioners, regardless of the amount of shares of stock or of the interest of each of them in said corporations, and whatever the offices they hold therein may be.
      • question of the lawfulness of a seizure can be raised only by one whose rights have been invaded. Certainly, such a seizure, if unlawful, could not affect the constitutional rights of defendants whose property had not been seized or the privacy of whose homes had not been disturbed
    • (b) those found and seized in the residences of petitioners herein.
  •  2 points must be stressed in connection with this constitutional mandate, namely: 
    • (1) that no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, to be determined by the judge in the manner set forth in said provision; and - not met
    • (2) that the warrant shall particularly describe the things to be seized. - not met
      • without reference to any determinate provision of said laws 
      • the warrants authorized the search for and seizure of records pertaining to all business transactions of petitioners herein, regardless of whether the transactions were legal or illegal.
  • To uphold the validity of the warrants in question would be to wipe out completely one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution, for it would place the sanctity of the domicile and the privacy of communication and correspondence at the mercy of the whims caprice or passion of peace officers.