When checkpoints become illegal?

In People v. Escaño,[16] the Court, through the ponencia of Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., held:

Accused-appellants assail the manner by which the checkpoint in question was conducted. They contend that the checkpoint manned by elements of the Makati Police should have been announced. They also complain of its having been conducted in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.

We take judicial notice of the existence of the COMELEC resolution imposing a gun ban during the election period issued pursuant to Section 52(c) in relation to Section 26(q) of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881). The national and local elections in 1995 were held on 8 May, the second Monday of the month. The incident, which happened on 5 April 1995, was well within the election period.

This Court has ruled that not all checkpoints are illegal. Those which are warranted by the exigencies of public order and are conducted in a way least intrusive to motorists are allowed. For, admittedly, routine checkpoints do intrude, to a certain extent, on motorists’ 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. In fact, these routine checks, when conducted in a fixed area, are even less intrusive.

The checkpoint herein conducted was in pursuance of the gun ban enforced by the COMELEC. The COMELEC would be hard put to implement the ban if its deputized agents were limited to a visual search of pedestrians. It would also defeat the purpose for which such ban was instituted. Those who intend to bring a gun during said period would know that they only need a car to be able to easily perpetrate their malicious designs.

The facts adduced do not constitute a ground for a violation of the constitutional rights of the accused against illegal search and seizure. PO3 Suba admitted that they were merely stopping cars they deemed suspicious, such as those whose windows are heavily tinted just to see if the passengers thereof were carrying guns. At best they would merely direct their flashlights inside the cars they would stop, without opening the car’s doors or subjecting its passengers to a body search. There is nothing discriminatory in this as this is what the situation demands.[17]

16 380 Phil. 719, 733-734 (2000).  17 Id.


Read also: Checkpoints and the right against unreasonable search and seizure


About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Checkpoints, Constitutional Rights, PNP and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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