Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 83988 September 29, 1989

RICARDO C. VALMONTE AND UNION OF LAWYERS AND ADVOCATES FOR PEOPLE'S RIGHTS (ULAP), petitioners,
vs.
GEN. RENATO DE VILLA AND NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION DISTRICT COMMAND, respondents.

Ricardo C. Valmonte for himself and his co-petitioners.

 

PADILLA, J.:

This is a petition for prohibition with preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order, seeking the declaration of checkpoints in Valenzuela, Metro Manila or elsewhere, as unconstitutional and the dismantling and banning of the same or, in the alternative, to direct the respondents to formulate guidelines in the implementation of checkpoints, for the protection of the people.

Petitioner Ricardo C. Valmonte sues in his capacity as citizen of the Republic, taxpayer, member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and resident of Valenzuela, Metro Manila; while petitioner Union of Lawyers and Advocates for People's Rights (ULAP) sues in its capacity as an association whose members are all members of the IBP.

The factual background of the case is as follows:

On 20 January 1987, the National Capital Region District Command (NCRDC) was activated pursuant to Letter of Instruction 02/87 of the Philippine General Headquarters, AFP, with the mission of conducting security operations within its area of responsibility and peripheral areas, for the purpose of establishing an effective territorial defense, maintaining peace and order, and providing an atmosphere conducive to the social, economic and political development of the National Capital Region. 1 As part of its duty to maintain peace and order, the NCRDC installed checkpoints in various parts of Valenzuela, Metro Manila.

Petitioners aver that, because of the installation of said checkpoints, the residents of Valenzuela are worried of being harassed and of their safety being placed at the arbitrary, capricious and whimsical disposition of the military manning the checkpoints, considering that their cars and vehicles are being subjected to regular searches and check-ups, especially at night or at dawn, without the benefit of a search warrant and/or court order. Their alleged fear for their safety increased when, at dawn of 9 July 1988, Benjamin Parpon, a supply officer of the Municipality of Valenzuela, Bulacan, was gunned down allegedly in cold blood by the members of the NCRDC manning the checkpoint along McArthur Highway at Malinta, Valenzuela, for ignoring and/or refusing to submit himself to the checkpoint and for continuing to speed off inspire of warning shots fired in the air. Petitioner Valmonte also claims that, on several occasions, he had gone thru these checkpoints where he was stopped and his car subjected to search/check-up without a court order or search warrant.

Petitioners further contend that the said checkpoints give the respondents a blanket authority to make searches and/or seizures without search warrant or court order in violation of the Constitution; 2 and, instances have occurred where a citizen, while not killed, had been harassed.

Petitioners' concern for their safety and apprehension at being harassed by the military manning the checkpoints are not sufficient grounds to declare the checkpoints as per se illegal. No proof has been presented before the Court to show that, in the course of their routine checks, the military indeed committed specific violations of petitioners' right against unlawful search and seizure or other rights.

In a case filed by the same petitioner organization, Union of Lawyers and Advocates for People's Right (ULAP) vs. Integrated National Police, 3 it was held that individual petitioners who do not allege that any of their rights were violated are not qualified to bring the action, as real parties in interest.

The constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right invocable only by those whose rights have been infringed, 4 or threatened to be infringed. What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable search and seizure in any particular case is purely a judicial question, determinable from a consideration of the circumstances involved. 5

Petitioner Valmonte's general allegation to the effect that he had been stopped and searched without a search warrant by the military manning the checkpoints, without more, i.e., without stating the details of the incidents which amount to a violation of his right against unlawful search and seizure, is not sufficient to enable the Court to determine whether there was a violation of Valmonte's right against unlawful search and seizure. Not all searches and seizures are prohibited. Those which are reasonable are not forbidden. A reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to be resolved according to the facts of each case. 6

Where, for example, the officer merely draws aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle which is parked on the public fair grounds, 7 or simply looks into a vehicle, 8 or flashes a light therein, 9 these do not constitute unreasonable search.

The setting up of the questioned checkpoints in Valenzuela (and probably in other areas) may be considered as a security measure to enable the NCRDC to pursue its mission of establishing effective territorial defense and maintaining peace and order for the benefit of the public. Checkpoints may also be regarded as measures to thwart plots to destabilize the government, in the interest of public security. In this connection, the Court may take judicial notice of the shift to urban centers and their suburbs of the insurgency movement, so clearly reflected in the increased killings in cities of police and military men by NPA "sparrow units," not to mention the abundance of unlicensed firearms and the alarming rise in lawlessness and violence in such urban centers, not all of which are reported in media, most likely brought about by deteriorating economic conditions which all sum up to what one can rightly consider, at the very least, as abnormal times. Between the inherent right of the state to protect its existence and promote public welfare and an individual's right against a warrantless search which is however reasonably conducted, the former should prevail.

True, the manning of checkpoints by the military is susceptible of abuse by the men in uniform, in the same manner that all governmental power is susceptible of abuse. But, at the cost of occasional inconvenience, discomfort and even irritation to the citizen, the checkpoints during these abnormal times, when conducted within reasonable limits, are part of the price we pay for an orderly society and a peaceful community.

Finally, on 17 July 1988, military and police checkpoints in Metro Manila were temporarily lifted and a review and refinement of the rules in the conduct of the police and military manning the checkpoints was ordered by the National Capital Regional Command Chief and the Metropolitan Police Director. 10

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Bidin, Cortes, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.

 

 

Separate Opinions

 

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I dissent. The sweeping statements in the majority opinion are as dangerous as the checkpoints it would sustain and fraught with serious threats to individual liberty. The bland declaration that individual rights must yield to the demands of national security ignores the fact that the Bill of Rights was intended precisely to limit the authority of the State even if asserted on the ground of national security. What is worse is that the searches and seizures are peremptorily pronounced to be reasonable even without proof of probable cause and much less the required warrant. The improbable excuse is that they are aimed at 'establishing an effective territorial defense, maintaining peace and order, and providing an atmosphere conducive to the social, economic and political development of the National Capital Region." For these purposes, every individual may be stopped and searched at random and at any time simply because he excites the suspicion, caprice, hostility or malice of the officers manning the checkpoints, on pain of arrest or worse, even being shot to death, if he resists.

I have no quarrel with a policeman flashing a light inside a parked vehicle on a dark street as a routine measure of security and curiosity. But the case at bar is different. Military officers are systematically stationed at strategic checkpoint to actively ferret out suspected criminals by detaining and searching any individual who in their opinion might impair "the social, economic and political development of the National Capital Region." It is incredible that we can sustain such a measure. And we are not even under martial law.

Unless we are vigilant of our rights, we may find ourselves back to the dark era of the truncheon and the barbed wire, with the Court itself a captive of its own complaisance and sitting at the death-bed of liberty.

SARMIENTO, J., dissenting:

I join Justice Isagani Cruz in his dissent, delivered so staightforwardly and eloquently. I am agreed that the existence alone of checkpoints makes search done therein, unreasonable and hence, repugnant to the Constitution.

The Charter says that the people enjoy the right of security of person, home, and effects. (CONST., art. III, sec. 2.) It is also the bedrock the right of the people to be left alone on which the regime of law and constitutionalism rest. It is not, as the majority would put it, a matter of "occasional inconveniences, discomfort and even irritation." (Resolution, 4.) To say that it is, is so I submit to trivialize the plain command of the Constitution.

Checkpoints, I further submit, are things of martial rule, and things of the past. They first saw the light of day by virtue of General Order No. 66 (AUTHORIZING THE CHIEF OF CONSTABULARY TO ESTABLISH CHECKPOINTS, UPDATE LISTS OF WANTED PERSONS AND CONDUCT DRAGNET OPERATIONS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES), a martial law issuance, as amended by General Order No. 67 (AMENDING AND AMPLIFYING PARAGRAPH 7 OF GENERAL ORDER NO. 66 DATED SEPTEMBER 12, 1980), yet another martial law issuance. (See O.G. 4224-4226; 4226-4227 [Aug., 1983].) They are, so I strongly submit, repressive measures, the same measures against which we had fought so painstakingly in our quest for liberty, a quest that ended at EDSA and a quest that terminated a dictatorship. How soon we forget.

While the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, as my brethren advance, is a right personal to the aggrieved party, the petitioners, precisely, have come to Court because they had been, or had felt, aggrieved. I submit that in that event, the burden is the State's, to demonstrate the reasonableness of the search. The petitioners, Ricardo Valmonte in particular, need not, therefore, have illustrated the "details of the incident" (Resolution, supra, 4) in all their gore and gruesomeness.

In any event, the absence alone of a search warrant, as I have averred, makes checkpoint searches unreasonable, and by itself, subject to constitutional challenges. (Supra.) As it is, "checkpoints", have become "search warrants" unto themselves a roving one at that.

That "[n]ot all searches and seizures are prohibited," the majority points out, is fine. And so is "a reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to be resolved according to the facts of each case." (Supra) But the question, exactly, is: Is (are) the search(es) in this case reasonable? I submit that it (they) is (are) not, for one simple reason: No search warrant has been issued by a judge.

I likewise do not find this case to be a simple matter of an "officer merely draw(ing) aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle ... or simply look(ing) (supra) there, "or flash(ing) a light therein." (Supra) What we have here is Orwell's Big Brother watching every step we take and every move we make.

As it also is, "checkpoints" are apparently, State policy. The American cases the majority refers to involve routine checks compelled by "probable cause". What we have here, however, is not simply a policeman on the beat but armed men, CAFGU or Alsa Masa, who hold the power of life or death over the citizenry, who fire with no provocation and without batting an eyelash. They likewise shoot you simply because they do not like your face. I have witnessed actual incidents.

Washington said that militia can not be made to dictate the terms for the nation. He can not be anymore correct here.

"Between the inherent right of the state to protect its existence ... and on individual's right against a warrantless search, which is reasonably conducted, "so my brethren go on, the former shall prevail. (Supra) First, this is the same lie that the hated despot foisted on the Filipino people. It is a serious mistake to fall for it a second time around. Second, the checkpoint searches herein are unreasonable: There was no warrant.

A final word. After twenty years of tyranny, the dawn is upon us. The country is once again the "showcase of democracy" in Asia. But if in many cases, it has been "paper democracy", let this Court anyway bring to pass its stand, and make liberty in the land, a living reality.

I vote then, to grant the petition.

 

 

Separate Opinions

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I dissent. The sweeping statements in the majority opinion are as dangerous as the checkpoints it would sustain and fraught with serious threats to individual liberty. The bland declaration that individual rights must yield to the demands of national security ignores the fact that the Bill of Rights was intended precisely to limit the authority of the State even if asserted on the ground of national security. What is worse is that the searches and seizures are peremptorily pronounced to be reasonable even without proof of probable cause and much less the required warrant. The improbable excuse is that they are aimed at 'establishing an effective territorial defense, maintaining peace and order, and providing an atmosphere conducive to the social, economic and political development of the National Capital Region." For these purposes, every individual may be stopped and searched at random and at any time simply because he excites the suspicion, caprice, hostility or malice of the officers manning the checkpoints, on pain of arrest or worse, even being shot to death, if he resists.

I have no quarrel with a policeman flashing a light inside a parked vehicle on a dark street as a routine measure of security and curiosity. But the case at bar is different. Military officers are systematically stationed at strategic checkpoint to actively ferret out suspected criminals by detaining and searching any individual who in their opinion might impair "the social, economic and political development of the National Capital Region." It is incredible that we can sustain such a measure. And we are not even under martial law.

Unless we are vigilant of our rights, we may find ourselves back to the dark era of the truncheon and the barbed wire, with the Court itself a captive of its own complaisance and sitting at the death-bed of liberty.

SARMIENTO, J., dissenting:

I join Justice Isagani Cruz in his dissent, delivered so staightforwardly and eloquently. I am agreed that the existence alone of checkpoints makes search done therein, unreasonable and hence, repugnant to the Constitution.

The Charter says that the people enjoy the right of security of person, home, and effects. (CONST., art. III, sec. 2.) It is also the bedrock the right of the people to be left alone on which the regime of law and constitutionalism rest. It is not, as the majority would put it, a matter of "occasional inconveniences, discomfort and even irritation." (Resolution, 4.) To say that it is, is so I submit to trivialize the plain command of the Constitution.

Checkpoints, I further submit, are things of martial rule, and things of the past. They first saw the light of day by virtue of General Order No. 66 (AUTHORIZING THE CHIEF OF CONSTABULARY TO ESTABLISH CHECKPOINTS, UPDATE LISTS OF WANTED PERSONS AND CONDUCT DRAGNET OPERATIONS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES), a martial law issuance, as amended by General Order No. 67 (AMENDING AND AMPLIFYING PARAGRAPH 7 OF GENERAL ORDER NO. 66 DATED SEPTEMBER 12, 1980), yet another martial law issuance. (See O.G. 4224-4226; 4226-4227 [Aug., 1983].) They are, so I strongly submit, repressive measures, the same measures against which we had fought so painstakingly in our quest for liberty, a quest that ended at EDSA and a quest that terminated a dictatorship. How soon we forget.

While the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, as my brethren advance, is a right personal to the aggrieved party, the petitioners, precisely, have come to Court because they had been, or had felt, aggrieved. I submit that in that event, the burden is the State's, to demonstrate the reasonableness of the search. The petitioners, Ricardo Valmonte in particular, need not, therefore, have illustrated the "details of the incident" (Resolution, supra, 4) in all their gore and gruesomeness.

In any event, the absence alone of a search warrant, as I have averred, makes checkpoint searches unreasonable, and by itself, subject to constitutional challenges. (Supra.) As it is, "checkpoints", have become "search warrants" unto themselves a roving one at that.

That "[n]ot all searches and seizures are prohibited," the majority points out, is fine. And so is "a reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to be resolved according to the facts of each case." (Supra) But the question, exactly, is: Is (are) the search(es) in this case reasonable? I submit that it (they) is (are) not, for one simple reason: No search warrant has been issued by a judge.

I likewise do not find this case to be a simple matter of an "officer merely draw(ing) aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle ... or simply look(ing) (supra) there, "or flash(ing) a light therein." (Supra) What we have here is Orwell's Big Brother watching every step we take and every move we make.

As it also is, "checkpoints" are apparently, State policy. The American cases the majority refers to involve routine checks compelled by "probable cause". What we have here, however, is not simply a policeman on the beat but armed men, CAFGU or Alsa Masa, who hold the power of life or death over the citizenry, who fire with no provocation and without batting an eyelash. They likewise shoot you simply because they do not like your face. I have witnessed actual incidents.

Washington said that militia can not be made to dictate the terms for the nation. He can not be anymore correct here.

"Between the inherent right of the state to protect its existence ... and on individual's right against a warrantless search, which is reasonably conducted, "so my brethren go on, the former shall prevail. (Supra) First, this is the same lie that the hated despot foisted on the Filipino people. It is a serious mistake to fall for it a second time around. Second, the checkpoint searches herein are unreasonable: There was no warrant.

A final word. After twenty years of tyranny, the dawn is upon us. The country is once again the "showcase of democracy" in Asia. But if in many cases, it has been "paper democracy", let this Court anyway bring to pass its stand, and make liberty in the land, a living reality.

I vote then, to grant the petition.

Footnotes

1 Comment of Respondents. Rollo, p. 32.

2 Article III, Section 2, 1987 Constitution provides: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

3 G.R. No. 80432. Minute Resolution dated 8 March 1988.

4 Section 52, 79 C.J.S. 810-811.

5 Section 8, 79 C.J.S. 786.

6 U.S. v. Robinwitz, N.Y., 70 S. Crt. 430,339 U.S. 56,94 L.Ed. 653; Harries v. U.S., Okl., 67 S.Ct. 1098 & 331 U.S. 146, 94 L.Ed. 1871; Martin v. U.S., C.A. Va., 183 F2d 436; 66, 79 C.J.S., 835-8,36.

7 Ibid., citing the case of People v. Case, 190 MW 289, 220 Mich. 379, 27 A.L.R. 686.

8 Ibid., citing the case of State v. Gaina, 97 SE 62, 111 S.C. 1 74, 3 A.L.R. 1500.

9 Ibid., citing the case of Rowland v. Commonwealth, 259 SW 33, 202 Rg 92.

10 Comment. Rollo, pp. 25-26.


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