G.R. No. 81561 January 18, 1991 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee vs. ANDRE MARTI, accused-appellant.

Facts: The proprietor of Manila Packing and Export Forwarders and her husband, following standard operating procedure, opened four gift wrapped boxes from which emerged a peculiar odor. They reported this to the NBI on the same day, and in the presence of said agents, opened the boxes which contained marijuana. The NBI filed an information against appellant for violation of RA 6425, Dangerous Drugs Act, but appellant contended that the evidence had been obtained in violation of consti rights against unreasonable search and seizure and privacy of communication. Issue: May an act of a private individual without the intervention and participation of the State, and allegedly in violation of appellant’s constitutional rights, be invoked against the State?

Held: No. It was the proprietor of the forwarding agency who made search/inspection of the packages, not the NBI, as appellant would have the Court believe. Said inspection was reasonable and a standard operating procedure on the part of the proprietor as a precautionary measure before delivery of packages to the Bureau of Customs or the Bureau of Posts. Second, the mere presence of the NBI agents did not convert the reasonable search the proprietor effected into a warrantless search and seizure proscribed by the Constitution. Merely to observe and look at that which is in plain sight is not a search. Outlawed is any unwarranted intrusion by the government, which is called upon to refrain from any invasion of his dwelling and to respect the privacies of his life. However, in the absence of governmental interference, the liberties granted by the Constitution cannot be invoked against the State. As held in Bernas vs. US, the Fourth Amendment and the law applying to it do not require exclusion of evidence obtained through a search by a private citizen; rather the amendment only proscribes government action. To agree with appellant that an act of a private individual in violation of the Bill of Rights should also be construed as an act of the State would result in serious legal complications and an absurd interpretation of the constitution. The constitutional proscription against unlawful searches and seizures therefore applies as a restraint directed only against the government and its agencies tasked with the enforcement of the law. Thus, it could only be invoked against the State to whom the restraint against arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of power is imposed.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful