People vs. Andre Marti G.R. No. 81561, January 18, 1991 193 SCRA 57 (1991)

Fact: In 1987, the appellant informed Anita Reyes that he was sending the packages to a friend in Zurich, Switzerland. Appellant filled up the contract necessary for the transaction, writing therein his name, passport number, the date of shipment and the name and address of the consignee, namely, “WALTER FIERZ, Mattacketr II, 8052 Zurich, Switzerland” Anita Reyes then asked the appellant if she could examine and inspect the packages. Appellant, however, refused, assuring her that the packages simply contained books, cigars, and gloves and were gifts to his friend in Zurich. In view of appellant’s representation, Anita Reyes no longer insisted on inspecting the packages. Before delivery of appellant’s box to the Bureau of Customs and/or Bureau of Posts, Mr. Job Reyes (proprietor) and husband of Anita (Reyes), following standard operating procedure, opened the boxes for final inspection. When he opened appellant’s box, a peculiar odor emitted therefrom. His curiousity aroused, He made an opening on one of the cellophane wrappers and took several grams of the contents thereof. Job Reyes forthwith prepared a letter reporting the shipment to the NBI and requesting a laboratory examination of the samples he extracted from the cellophane wrapper. He brought the letter and a sample of appellant’s shipment to the Narcotics Section of the NBI and informed the them that the rest of the shipment was still in his office. Therefore, Job Reyes and three NBI agents, and a photographer, went to the Reyes’ office at Ermita. The package which allegedly contained books was likewise opened by Job Reyes. He discovered that the package contained bricks or cake-like dried marijuana leaves. The package which allegedly contained tabacalera cigars was also opened. It turned out that dried marijuana leaves were neatly stocked underneath the cigars. The NBI agents made an inventory and took charge of the box and of the contents thereof, after signing a “Receipt” acknowledging custody of the said effects . Thereafter, an Information was filed against appellant for violation of RA 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Issue: Whether the search and seizure committed by the private individual inviolate the constitutional right of the accused against unlawful searches and seizures?

Held: No, 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. Corolarilly, alleged violations against unreasonable search and seizure may only be invoked against the State by an individual unjustly traduced by the exercise of sovereign authority. 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. That the Bill of Rights embodied in the Constitution is not meant to be invoked against acts of private individuals finds support in the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. True, the liberties guaranteed by the fundamental law of the land must always be subject to protection.

 

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