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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW II

JC JAF O.

Valmonte v. De Villa 1989 decision


FACTS: 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. As part of its duty to maintain peace and order, the NCRDC installed
checkpoints in various parts of Valenzuela, Metro Manila.
Petitioners Atty. Ricardo Valmonte, who is a resident of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and the Union of Lawyers and
Advocates For Peoples Rights (ULAP) sought the declaration of checkpoints in Valenzuela, Metro Manila and
elsewhere as unconstitutional. In the alternative, they prayed that respondents Renato De Villa and the National
Capital Region District Command (NCRDC) be directed to formulate guidelines in the implementation of checkpoints
for the protection of the people. Petitioners contended that the checkpoints gave the respondents blanket authority
to make searches and seizures without search warrant or court order in violation of the Constitution.
ISSUE: Do the military and police checkpoints violate the right of the people against unreasonable search and
seizures?
RULING: DISMISSED.
NO, military and police checkpoints DO NOT violate the right of the people against unreasonable search and
seizures.
xxx. 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 (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.
Valmonte v. De Villa 1990 decision
It should be stated, at the outset, that nowhere in the questioned decision did this Court legalize all checkpoints, i.e.
at all times and under all circumstances. What the Court declared is, that checkpoints are not illegal per se. Thus,
under exceptional circumstances, as where the survival of organizedgovernment is on the balance, or where the
lives and safety of the people are ingrave peril, checkpoints may be allowed and installed by the government.
Implicit in this proposition is, that when the situation clears and such grave perils are removed, checkpoints will have
absolutely no reason to remain. One must concede to the basic right of the (government) to defend itself from its
enemies and, while in power, to pursue its program of government intended or public welfare; and in the pursuit of
those objectives, the government hasthe equal right, under its police power, to select the reasonable means and
methods for best achieving them. The checkpoint is evidently one of such means it has selected.
Admittedly, the routine checkpoint stop does intrude, to a certain extent, on motorist's right to "free passage without
interruption", but it cannot be denied that, as a rule, it involves only a brief detention of travelers during which the
vehicle's occupants are required to answer a brief question or two. For as long as the vehicle is neither searched nor
its occupants subjected to a body search, and the inspection of the vehicle is limited to a visual search, said routine
checks cannot be regarded as violative of an individual's right against unreasonable search. These routine checks,
when conducted in a fixed area, are even less intrusive
In any situation, where abuse marks the operation of a checkpoint, the citizen is not helpless. For the military is not
above but subject to the law. And the courts exist to see that the law is supreme. Soldiers, including those who man
checkpoints, who abuse their authority act beyond the scope of their authority and are, therefore, liable criminally
and civilly for their abusive acts.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW II

JC JAF O.