Constitutional Law

VALMONTE vs. DE VILLA G.R. No. 83988 September 29, 1989 Right against Searches and/or Seizures

FACTS:

As part of the duty to maintain peace and order, the National Capital Region District Command (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.

ISSUES:

  1. What constitutes a reasonable search?
  2. Whether checkpoints violate the right against searches and/or seizures without search warrant or court order in violation of the Constitution.

RULING:

The constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right invocable only by those whose rights have been infringed, 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.

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.

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

The setting up of the questioned checkpoints in Valenzuela 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.

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.

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