Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. vs. Bright Future Technologies, Inc.

G.R. No. 169156. February 15, 2007.

FACTS: 

Inspector Macatlang of the Philippine National Police applied for eight search warrants for copyright and trademark infringement after a complaint was received from Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI). After the Search Warrants were issued by Manila Regional Trial Court, a raid was conducted on the premises of Bright Future Technologies, Inc. (BFTI).

BFTI filed an Urgent Motion to Quash and/or to Exclude or Suppress Evidence and Return Seized Articles, alleging that (a) The searching team entered the premises and conducted the search without any witness in violation of the Rules of Court; (b) SCEI had no personality to represent the People of the Philippines in the case and to file the opposition to the motion because SCEI’s agents were mere witnesses of the applicant for the issuance of the search warrants (c) the use of bolt cutter to enter into the premises is unnecessary thus violative of  Section 7 of Rule 126

The RTC denied BFTI’s motion to quash the warrants, it finding that search warrants were regularly issued and implemented. BFTI filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the denial of its motion to quash. The RTC granted the motion for reconsideration on the ground  that the two-witness rule under Section 8 of Rule 126 was violated and that the searching team’s use of a bolt cutter to open the searched premises was unnecessary.  The seized items were turned-over to the custody of BFTI. 

ISSUES: 

(a) Whether or not SCEI, has no right to participate in search warrant proceedings

(b) Whether or not the two-witness rule governing the execution of search warrant was not complied with, which rule is mandatory to ensure regularity in the execution of the search warrant

(c) Whether or not the use of bolt cutter to open the searched premises was unnecessary thus violating Section 7 of Rule 126

HELD: 

(a) NO. In United Laboratories, Inc. v. Isip, private individual or a private corporation complaining to the NBI or to a government agency charged with the enforcement of special penal laws, may appear, participate and file pleadings in the search warrant proceedings to maintain, inter alia, the validity of the search warrant issued by the court and the admissibility of the properties seized in anticipation of a criminal case to be filed; such private party may do so in collaboration with the NBI or such government agency.

When SCEI then opposed BFTI’s Urgent Motion to Quash and/or to Suppress or Exclude Evidence and Return Seized Articles (emphasis supplied), the RTC correctly recognized the participation of SCEI in the proceedings.

(b) YES. The two-witness rule was not complied with, the objects seized during the April 1, 2005 search are inadmissible in evidence. SCEI arguments that the searching team waited for the arrival of the barangay officials who were summoned to witness the search and they were accompanied at all times by one of the security guards on duty until the barangay officials arrived.” In any event, a security guard may not be considered a “lawful occupant” or “a member of [the lawful occupant’s] family” under the earlier quoted Section 8 of Rule 126.

(c) NO. The use of a bolt cutter to gain access to the premises of BFTI, it was, under the circumstances, was reasonable. after the members of the searching team introduced themselves to the security guards of BFTI and showed them the search warrants, the guards refused to receive the warrants and to open the premises, they claiming that “they are not in control of the case.” The conditions required under Section 7 of Rule 126 were thus complied with:

The officer, if refused admittance to the place of directed search after giving notice of his purpose and authority, may break open any outer or inner door or window of a house or any part of a house or anything therein to execute the warrant or liberate himself or any person lawfully aiding him when unlawfully detained therein.

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