Justice Carpio: Warrantless entry of police inside Taguig condo illegal

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio said it was illegal for policemen to barge into the premises of a posh Taguig condominium without any court-issued warrant.

"The police needs a search or arrest warrant issued by a judge to enter a residential condominium building," Carpio told Rappler Monday night, April 20.

Taguig City Police stormed the Pacific Plaza Tower condominium complex at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City on Sunday, April 19, and accosted residents who were at the open area of the condo.

A video showed the cops shouting at the residents.

The Taguig City Police said Monday it was Mayor Lino Cayetano himself who ordered cops to go to the condo citing reports that residents were not observing physical distancing.

Even with the mayor's order, Carpio said the police still had no legal basis.

"There is no basis because no crime was being committed by the residents....  Every unit owner has a right to use a common area subject to reasonable rules by the condominium management," said Carpio.

While the Taguig police said Cayetano reported a violation of quarantine rules, a statement by the building's management said only "about 6-8 residents" were in the open area and they were "all practicing proper social distancing, none of them using the pool facilities and just walking or sitting away from each other, taking in the afternoon sun."

The management said the cop, who was not wearing a face mask, "berated (residents) loudly for not following the guidelines, and curtly shouted at them to go away." The management also said the cops forced their way in to the condo, saying "our security staff was unable to prevent their entry despite their attempts to do so."

"This incident involves a violation of the constitutional right to be secure in one’s house," Carpio said, referring to Section 6, Article III of the Constitution that guarantees the rights to the liberty of abode.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or President Rodrigo Duterte's special powers, do not mention anything about enforcing lockdown rules in private premises. Shutting down open areas in private spaces are also not in the rules issued by the Duterte government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against the coronavirus.

"This case is like sitting on a bench in the garden of your single detached residence. That is not a crime," said Carpio.

Carpio said "there is no other law" that prohibits it, "and assuming there is, entry would still be unconstitutional without the police securing a search or arrest warrant.  It will violate the constitutional right to security of abode and the constitutional right to privacy."

Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) have cleared the cops, saying they were just simply doing their jobs. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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