G.R. No. L-23996 March 15, 1974

Respondent Ricardo Santos brought into this country Mercury automobile, model 1957. Petitioner Pedro Pacis, acting Collector of Customs, on July 22, 1964 received from the Administrator, General Affairs Administration of the Department of National Defense, a letter to the effect that the Land Transportation Commission reported that such automobile was a “hot car.” By virtue thereof, petitioner, through his subordinates, looked into the records of his office. Thus he did ascertain that although the amount of P311.00 was already paid for customs duty, the amount collectible on said car should be P2,500.00, more or less. Based on such discrepancy, on July 22, 1964, he instituted seizure proceedings and issued a warrant of seizure and detention. On the strength thereof, the automobile was taken while it was parked on Economia Street, Manila, and was then brought to the General Affairs Administration compound.

Then on August 26, 1964, respondent Ricardo Santos, through counsel, wrote to the petitioner asking that such warrant of seizure and detention issued against his car be withdrawn or dissolved and the car released on his contention that the issuance of the warrant was unauthorized. Petitioner denied the request for the release of the car and adverting that the petitioner had, under the law, authority to issue such warrant of seizure and detention. As a result, respondent on September 15, 1964 filed a criminal complaint for usurpation of judicial functions with the City Fiscal of Manila.

May petitioner effect the seizure without any search warrant issued by a component court.?

The Tariff and Customs Code does not require said warrant in the instant case. The Code authorizes persons having police authority under Section 2203 of the Tariff and Customs Code to enter, pass through or search any land, inclosure, warehouse, store or building, not being a dwelling house and also to inspect, search and examine any vessel or aircraft and any trunk, package, box or envelope or any person on board, or stop and search and examine any vehicle, beast or person suspected of holding or conveying any dutiable or prohibited article introduced into the Philippines contrary to law, without mentioning the need of a search warrant in said cases. But in the search of a dwelling house, the Code provides that said “dwelling house may be entered and searched only upon warrant issued by a judge or justice of the
peace … .”.

In this case the subject car was seized in a parking lot, not a dwelling house.

Nota Bene: The facts of the case is basically the same as the 2009 Bar Exam Question in Taxation Law (see: BAR EXAMINATION 2009 (No. V))