Forensic exam of Carmel Eubra’s cellphones needs search warrant

Investigators of the Virac police station would need to apply for a search warrant for the digital examination of the two cellphones recovered from the car of slain Viga municipal social welfare and development officer Carmel Eubra.

This was disclosed to the Tribune by a member of the Eubra family, who hopes that the cellphone’s contents could provide evidence as to who had threatened their loved one before she was shot to death by riding-in-tandem gunmen in San Isidro Village last May 24, 2022.

Until now, the Virac police, especially officer-in-charge Maj. Robert Kevin Caparroso, has yet to provide a clearer picture of the probe to the Eubra family, it is claimed.

There were rumors last week that the probe has now considered as a person of interest a policeman who allegedly had an intimate relationship with the victim sometime in the past.

The family said it has not been informed of such a development by the police and considers the news, along with the claim that the killing was a result of a mistaken identity, as a diversionary tactic.

Just recently, Pandan Mayor-elect Raul Tabirara described as untrue allegations that he may have been the target of the killers as someone wanted him not to assume the office by June 30.

He said that his car was an Isuzu Mu-X, which is not similar to the Mitsubishi Expander driven by Eubra on the day she was killed.

The Eubra family remarked that it would have been stupid for the triggerman and his cohorts not to know the plate number of their target’s car.

They lamented the delay in the forensic examination of Carmel’s two cellphones which were recovered inside the car although they had already given their consent to the police.

Their lawyer reportedly advised that it would be better for the police to apply for a search warrant on the cellphone to make sure that it would be admissible as evidence in case a case is filed in court.

Under Investigation Directive No. 2017-17 of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), the Anti-Cybercrime Group’s Digital Forensic Laboratory receives requests from various PNP units for the conduct of digital forensic examinations on seized or recovered computers, computer systems, and storage devices, including those recovered from scenes of the crime during the conduct of police investigation.

The same directive provides that the ACG digital lab only requires a search warrant for the analysis of digital devices referred by PNP units in case of an ICT-enabled crime, traditional crimes wherein the device was seized as a result of the implementation of a search warrant, and search and seizure incidental to a lawful arrest.

In case of a crime under investigation by a PNP unit and the complainant or his witness desires that the police examine a legally owned computer or device in order to obtain evidence therefrom, the investigator-on-case shall cause the owner to sign a Consent to Search form to be attached to the request to the ACG, the guideline states.

“When a digital or electronic device is recovered in a crime scene, and the owner thereof is dead, digital forensic examination may be made without a Court warrant,” it says. “The requesting PNP unit shall specify in the request the type of information or data that shall be searched and seized.”

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