A man’s castle no more
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - April 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Reports about police abuse in enforcing search warrants, or knocking on people’s doors without a court warrant, prod me to remember a valuable lesson in Constitutional Law taught in Law school.

This drug war, mostly at the retail level and emboldened by a commander-in-chief who has so often expressed derision toward the niceties of human rights, has caused this alarming lowering of standards in law enforcement.

Such loose standards seem to have now been extended against suspected rebels and selected political opponents of the ruling party.

I may have a liberal leaning, but I am for the most part a believer in the traditions and conventions of our constitutional democracy. These traditions should not be swept away by fleeting bursts of populist frustration or compulsiveness. Otherwise, we who are led by mere men and yet supposedly ruled by law, become mere subjects ruled by men who are revered at best, and feared at worst.

To act for the people in their name without regard for law and standards of human decency is dangerous. “For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift,” said the British theologian C.S. Lewis. When it speaks for the people – or in Lewis’ words, if its adds to its commands ‘Thus saith the Lord,” – that government “lies and lies dangerously.”

So what it is this valuable lesson in Constitutional Law that I would like to bring up?

Associate Justice Isagani Cruz, lending his voice as ponente for the Supreme Court in the 1986 case of Roan versus Hon. Gonzales, wrote: “One of the most precious rights of the citizen in a free society is the right to be left alone in the privacy of his own house. That right has ancient roots, dating back through the mists of history to the mighty English kings in their fortresses of power.”

“Even then, the lowly subject had his own castle where he was monarch of all he surveyed. This was his humble cottage from which he could bar his sovereign lord and all the forces of the Crown,” declared the Supreme Court through the clear and palpable prose of Justice Cruz. The reference to castles has to do with painful lessons learned from absolute monarchies of the past.

That right against all kings, traced from English and American constitutional theory, is now guaranteed in Section 2, Article III of our 1987 Constitution, known as the right against unreasonable search and seizure.

If there is reason to break a person’s castle, before the sheriff breaks it, he ought to signify the cause of his coming, and to make request to open doors, said the Supreme Court in People vs. Hua (2004) quoting from English history.

It added: “Generally, officers implementing a search warrant must announce their presence, identify themselves to the accused and to the persons who rightfully have possession of the premises to be searched, and show to them the search warrant to be implemented by them and explain to them said warrant in a language or dialect known to and understood by them.”

Exceptions to the general rule imply extraordinary circumstances where the oft-cited presumption of regularity in the performance of duty by the police easily disappears, and thus must require explanation.

Today, in our country, there is not even an ounce of explanation, much more a rebuttal of forensic findings and CCTV or eyewitness accounts pointing to blatant abuse.

Just pure smugness, like we’re ruled by kings.

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