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The Checkpoints Case : Valmonte v. De Villa, G.R. No.

September 29, 1989 (173 SCRA 211)


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.


Do the military and police checkpoints violate the right of the people against unreasonable
search and seizures?


[The Court, voting 13-2, DISMISSED the petition.]

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 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.