While limited to visual search, the checkpoints of the Commission on Elections to enforce the ban on firearms and explosives also allow brief detention of the occupants of vehicles who are required to answer brief questions.
However, the occupants or motorists cannot be compelled to step out of the vehicle; compelled to open the trunk, glove compartment or bags or be subjected to physical or body search in the absence of any reasonable ground to believe that a person has just committed, is about to commit or is committing a crime.
These are some of the do’s and don’ts in COMELEC checkpoints as provided in Resolution No. 10468 of the agency in the proper implementation of the gun ban during the election period from January 13 to June 12, 2019.
Under the rules, motorists are requested to dim the headlights and turn on cabin lights only visual search is required which involves the officer simply looking into the vehicle and flashes a light therein without opening the car’s door.
Beyond that, the search must be authorized by a warrant from an appropriate authority. Warrantless search can only be made in the following: when the occupant of the vehicles acts suspiciously or exhibits unnatural reaction or conduct that may convince the officers manning the checkpoint that a criminal activity exist or on the basis of prior confidential information which are reasonably corroborated by other attendant matters.
In cases that checkpoints are ignored, the team leader must immediately report the incident to adjacent teams and establish road roadblock to apprehend the fleeing persons of interest.
Any person found to be in possession of firearms, ammunitions or explosives without any authority must be apprehended while fully respecting his or her constitutional rights.
Finally, a checkpoint must be well lighted, properly identified and manned with uniform personnel and signboards with an indication that there is a COMELEC checkpoint to give sufficient notice to the public as they approach the checkpoint.
Nevertheless, Election Officers and law enforcers are reminded that any search at Comelec checkpoints must be made only by members of the unit designated to man the same and should be done in a manner that will impose minimum inconvenience without violating the civil, political and human rights of any person.