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Monday, October 3, 2022

What is a valid checkpoint?

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Mayer Baladbad
Mayer is a proud soon to be Dad. Possess a Bachelor of Political Science and a Bachelor of Law degree from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He is a member of the Bar of good standing.

This pandemic had greatly affected our way of living, particularly, restriction to travel. The virus spreads through human interaction and movement. So, our Government has imposed policies to restrict the right to travel. To enforce this policy, police and military checkpoints are established across the national highways. Many of us, if not all, have experienced going through checkpoints and maybe some have asked themselves, is that valid?

YES, as long as it’s done to protect and secure public order, safety, and health and done in the least invading manner. That’s basically it. 

But maybe you’re wondering, how are checkpoints done in the least invading manner?

The Supreme Court has got you covered. It has set guidelines in order for the search of vehicles in a checkpoint to be non-invasive. The search must be limited to the following:

a) officer merely draws aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle and parked at public grounds;

b) officer simply looks into the vehicle; c) officer flashes a light therein without opening the car’s doors;

d) occupants are not subject to body search;

e) inspection of vehicle is limited to visual search/inspection; and

f) search is conducted at a fixed area. 

Manila has the longest lockdown implemented by uniformed personnel. Photo from Reuters

Simply put, the search is limited to visual inspection. The officer cannot go inside the vehicle and you have every right to refuse, if the officer insists, to get out of the vehicle.    

However, there is an exception. An invasive search of the vehicle is allowed when the officer searching has first-hand or personal knowledge that the vehicle is carrying illegal items or was used to commit a crime. 

What if the officer received an unverified and anonymous tip, is that considered first-hand or personal knowledge?

Hell NO! The Supreme Court has finally settled this issue in a recently decided case. An unverified and anonymous tip alone will not allow the officer to do an invasive search of the vehicle. 

Now that you have a grasp of what a valid checkpoint is, the question now is what you should do in case you are having a hard time at a routine checkpoint. 

First, don’t violate the law or any quarantine protocols. Be a good citizen and you won’t be arrested, especially during this quarantine. If you don’t have any business to go outside, then don’t go. Just don’t. Stay home and chill.

Second, calm yo’self! There is no point in arguing with the officers conducting the checkpoint. Worst, you might say something that would get you arrested. 

Third, be vigilant. Observe everything that is happening. Having a cam recording is quite convenient at this moment.

Lastly, call a lawyer. If you are having legal trouble, call a legal counsel to assist you in such situation.  

To summarize, checkpoints are not illegal so long as there is a valid reason and conducted without violating our individual constitutional rights.

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