G.R. No. 170589 April 16, 2009
Petitioner was charged with the offense of illegal possession of premium hardwood lumber in violation of Section 68 of the Forestry Code. That on or about the 17th day of June 1992, Revaldo, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously possess 96.14 board ft. of flat lumber with a total value of P1,730.52, Philippine Currency, without any legal document as required under existing forest laws and regulations from proper government authorities, to the damage and prejudice of the government. Upon arraignment, petitioner, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued. The RTC rendered judgment on 1997 convicting petitioner of the offense charged, he appealed and the Court of Appeals ruled that motive or intention is immaterial for the reason that mere possession of the lumber without the legal documents gives rise to criminal liability. Hence, this petition for certiorari. Petitioner contends that the warrantless search and seizure conducted by the police officers was illegal and thus the items seized should not have been admitted in evidence against him. Petitioner argues that the police officers were not armed with a search warrant when they went to his house to verify the report that petitioner had in his possession lumber without the corresponding license
Whether or not the evidence obtained without a search warrant is admissible in court
When the police officers arrived at the house of petitioner, the lumber was lying around the vicinity of petitioner’s house. The lumber was in plain view. Under the plain view doctrine, objects falling in “plain view” of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be presented as evidence. When asked whether he had the necessary permit to possess the lumber, petitioner failed to produce one. Petitioner merely replied that the lumber in his possession was intended for the repair of his house and for his furniture shop. There was thus probable cause for the police officers to confiscate the lumber. There was, therefore, no necessity for a search warrant. Petitioner was in possession of the lumber without the necessary documents when the police officers accosted him. In open court, petitioner categorically admitted the possession and ownership of the confiscated lumber as well as the fact that he did not have any legal documents therefor and that he merely intended to use the lumber for the repair of his dilapidated house. Mere possession of forest products without the proper documentation consummates the crime. Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but that is the law. Therefore, the appealed decision convicting petitioner for violation of Section 68 (now Section 77) of the Forestry Code is affirmed.