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PIA Press Release

Feature: Guidelines for proper search, seizure in checkpoints

by JB Guillermo

Roxas City (15 January) -- How do the public know that a proper search and seizure procedure is implemented in the established checkpoints?

The Commission on Elections has issued guidelines to effectively implement the firearm ban during the election period without violating the civil, political and human rights.

The COMELEC resolution provides for the implementation of the proper search procedure and seizure at their established checkpoints.

In said resolution, at least one COMELEC checkpoint in each city or municipality shall be established, however, additional checkpoints may be established subject to the discretion of the highest ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police in the city or municipality.

Checkpoints must be established in places which are well lighted, however, in areas where electric light is not available, artificial lighting shall be provided for the purpose.

Each COMELEC checkpoint must have a signboard to clearly identify the place as a COMELEC checkpoint from a reasonable distance, bearing the name and address of the election officer as well as the name of the commanding officer or team leader.

Accordingly, any unit designated to man a Comelec checkpoint must be led by a regular member of the AFP/PNP with a rank of at least lieutenant/inspector.

The AFP and PNP personnel manning the checkpoints must be in complete uniform and shall not be under the influence of liquor/drug. Any violation hereof shall make the offender and his commanding officer jointly liable for administrative/criminal action.

On the other hand, any search at any COMELEC checkpoint must be made only by members of the unit designated to man the same. It should be done in a manner which will impose minimum inconvenience upon the person or persons so searched, to the end that civil, political and human rights of the person/s are not violated.

As a rule, a valid search must be authorized by a search warrant duly issued by an appropriate authority.

However, a warrantless search can be made in cases such as moving vehicles and the seizure of evidence in plain view; as long as the vehicle is neither searched nor its occupant/s subjected to a body search and the inspection at the vehicle is merely limited to a visual search.

It can also be done when the occupant(s) of the vehicle appear to be nervous or suspicious or exhibit unnatural reaction; or if the officer conducting the search has reasonable or probable cause to believe that either the occupant(s) is a law offender or that the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to the commission of a crime can be found in the vehicle to be searched.

The warrantless search can likewise be made on the basis of prior confidential information which are reasonably corroborated by other attendant matters.

The constitutional rights of the person arrested shall at all times be respected, the COMELEC Resolution said, stressing that the arrest must be recorded chronologically with all the facts and circumstances surrounding said arrest.

In addition, the arrested person including the confiscated weapon, ammunition and materials must be turned over to the nearest law enforcement station together with the corresponding affidavit/s of arrest for proper action. (Comelec/PIA) [top]

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