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Anonymous Letter-complaint Agaist Atty.

Miguel Morales, Clerk of Court, Metropolitan Trial Court of


Manila, A.M. No. P-08-2519 November 19, 2008 –
Topic: Warrantless Search of Computers & Cell Phones: Computers

Facts:
Before the Court are two anonymous complaints of Administrative cases:

A.M. No. P-08-2519 charging Atty. Morales, Branch Clerk of Court of Metropolitan Trial Court of
Manila (MeTC) of misconduct

In an unsigned letter, The writers who claimed to be employees of the OCC-MeTC of Manila, allege
that Atty. Morales, was consuming his working hours as clerk of court by filing and attending to
personal cases, such as administrative cases against employees using their office supplies, equipment
and utilities.

Procedure:
1. Assistant Court Administrator (ACA) or Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) conducted an
investigation to verify these allegations of the complaint but failed to verify the same. Hence,
the DCA with NBI agents made a spot investigation of Atty Morales computer and finding:
a. A document of a “Petition for Relief from Judgment” titled Manolo N. Blanquera, et al.
v. Heirs of Lamberto N. Blanquera in the name of Atty. Icaonapo filed with the CA,
b. and a document of a “Pre-trial Brief” titled, Pentacapital Investment Corp. v. Toyoharu
Aoki, et al. also in the name of Atty. Icaonapo.
2. The computer of Atty Morales was originally seized and taken to custody, however, upon
motion of atty Morales, the Court ordered its release.
3. In a Manifestation to the OCA, Atty. Morales states:
a. the anonymous letter-complaint should not have been given due course as there is no
truth to the allegations therein;
b. the OCA took almost a year to act on the anonymous letter-complaint which did not
have the proper indorsement from the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ);
c. even though he brought to the OCC his personal computer, such act is not prohibited;
d. he did not use his computer to write pleadings during office hours and neither did he
use paper of the OCC;
e. the raid conducted by DCA without search and seizure orders violated his right to
privacy and the articles seized therewith should be considered inadmissible

A.M. No. P-08-2520 charging Atty. Morales, together with Court Stenographer Isabel Siwa;
Administrative Officer III, Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) William Calda;, Branch Clerk of Court Amie
Grace Arreola, and, Clerk of Court VI, (OCC) Atty. Henry P. Favorito, all of the MeTC, Manila of
misconduct, graft and corruption and moonlighting.

In another unsigned letter, the writers who claim to be employees of the OCC- MeTC, Manila, charged
Atty. Morales, Arreola, Atty. Favorito, Calda and Siwa of the following:
 Atty. Morales and Arreola, leave the office after logging-in only to return in the afternoon;
 Atty. Morales and Arreola are not given assignments and when in the OCC, they do nothing
but play computer games;
 Siwa lends money and rediscount checks during office hours using court premises; many
people from different offices go to the OCC because of the business of Siwa; and Siwa's
personal maids use the OCC as their office in rediscounting checks;
 Atty. Favorito allows all the prior mentioned acts
 and Atty. Favorito and Calda charge P50.00 to P500.00 from sureties claiming said amounts to
be processing fees without issuing receipts
Procedure:
1. During the same spot investigation by the DCA, a partly hidden plastic box was found
containing the amount of P65,390.00 and six commercial checks. Siwa voluntarily opened the
box to the team. These were also confiscated and turned over to the custody of the OCA
2. However, this was returned when, Siwa complained of the DCA’s conduct with the spot
investigation through a letter to then Chief Justice Davide.
3. In Siwa’s Manifestation she states that:
a. The letter-complaint should not have been given due course as it contravened Sec.
46(c) of Executive Order No. 292 and the implementing rules because the complaint
was not subscribed and sworn to;
b. Although admittedly she is involved in the rediscounting of checks, this is a allowed
with no rule prohibiting her from doing so;
c. she does not use the OCC to conduct her business that although she has a staff to do
the encashment of the checks; there were rare occasions;
d. she never neglected her duty as a court stenographer
In MEtC Judge Recommend: Dismissed the complaints against all except Atty Siwa. That no one from
the OCC personnel who were interviewed would give positive statement affirming that Atty Morales
worked on pleadings which were for private cases during office hours and no proof that the pleadings
in the hard drive was composed at the OCC during official working hours. However, Siwa admitted to
engaging in the rediscounting business during office hours and according to court records, Atty Siwa
had not completed transcription of (7) stenographic notes in (5) cases with (3) already with decisions
rendered.

OCA HELD: Found Morales guilty along with Siwa and other parties except Arreola and Calda.
Issue: WON the pleadings from the hard drive obtained in the spot investigation can be admissible?
Held: NO

Although both the Investigating Justice and the OCA failed to discuss this matter, The ruling against
Atty Morales depends on whether the pleadings found in Atty. Morales's personal computer are
admissible. Here it is not.

The fact that this case is administrative in nature will not prevent his constitutional right against
search and seizure. According to Zulueta v CA any violation of the constitutional right against
unreasonable searches and seizures renders any evidence obtained inadmissible for any purpose in
any proceeding.

EXCEPTION DCA argue that: they were able to obtain the subject pleadings with the consent of Atty.
Morales.
COURT: However, consent to a search can’t be inferred and must be obtained with clear and
convincing evidence. It must be voluntary in order to validate an otherwise illegal search. the consent
must be unequivocal, specific, intelligently given and uncontaminated by any duress or coercion.

Burden of Proof: The State has the burden of proving that the consent was freely and voluntarily
given. Acquiescence in the loss of fundamental rights is not to be presumed and courts indulge every
reasonable presumption against waiver of fundamental constitutional rights.

Requisites to Waive Unreasonable searches: To constitute a valid consent or waiver of the


constitutional guarantee against obtrusive searches, it must be shown that (1) the right exists; (2) that
the person involved had knowledge, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such right; and
(3) the said person had an actual intention to relinquish the right.

Here, what is missing is showing that Atty. Morales had an actual intention to relinquish his right.
Although he may have agreed to the opening of his personal computer and the printing, Atty. Morales
immediately filed an administrative case against said persons questioning the validity of the
investigation.