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Valmonte vs. De Villa, 178 SCRA 211 , G.R. No.

83988, September 29, 1989

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 reasonablyconducted, 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.