The Supreme Court, voting 11-3 in a June 16, 2020 ruling, has reversed the conviction of a man who was found guilty of drug charges last 2017 due to the illegality of the search conducted resulting in his arrest. (Photo: Noraida Sales, DZUP)

The Supreme Court (SC) has acquitted a man who was previously convicted of drug charges, citing the inadmissibility of the evidence confiscated in an illegal search.

Voting 11-3, the High Tribunal on June 16 ruled that an anonymous tip is not enough to engender probable cause which is necessary to justify an extensive and intrusive warrantless search of a moving vehicle.

“A tip is still hearsay no matter how reliable it may be. It is not sufficient to constitute probable cause in the absence of any other circumstance that will arouse suspicion,” the high court explained, quoting a 2017 decision.

This ruling reverses the 2018 decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the conviction of Jerry Sapla who was arrested during a 2014 police operation in Kalinga after authorities seized four bricks of dried marijuana leaves from him. Police officers relied on an unverified tip from an unidentified informant in conducting the warrantless search which led to Sapla’s arrest.

“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. The Bill of Rights should never be sacrificed on the altar of convenience. Otherwise, the malevolent mantle of the rule of men dislodges the rule of law,” the SC concluded.

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