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Business groups welcome SC ruling on warrantless searches

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Business groups welcome SC ruling on warrantless searches
A policeman wearing a facemask stands guard at a checkpoint after the government imposed an enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on March 25, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — 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.

RELATED: The rights of those accused of doing wrong

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."

RELATED: 'By the book': A look at quarantine incidents and police operational procedures

"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. — Jonathan de Santos

AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN THE PHILIPPINES

CANADIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES

EUROPEAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES

FINANCIAL EXECUTIVES INSTITUTITE OF THE PHILIPPINES

HUMAN RIGHTS

INSTITUTE OF CORPORATE DIRECTORS

JUDICIAL REFORM INITIATIVE

MAKATI BUSINESS CLUB

MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES

SUPREME COURT

WAR ON DRUGS

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