ACOSTA v. OCHOA [G.R. No. 211559  |  October 15, 2019]

by | Jan 29, 2022

Doctrine: There is no constitutional right to bear arms. Neither is the ownership or possession of a firearm a property right. Persons intending to use a firearm can only either accept or decline the government’s terms for its use. The grant of a license, however, is without prejudice to the inviolability of the home. The right of the people against unreasonable searches and seizures remains paramount, and the government in the guise of regulation, cannot conduct inspections of applicants for firearm licenses unless armed with a search warrant.

G.R. No. 211559  |  October 15, 2019

ERIC F. ACOSTA AND NATHANIEL G. DELA PAZ, Petitioners

v.

HON. PAQUITON N. OCHOA, IN HIS CAPACITY AS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, ET. AL., Respondents

Ponente: LEONEN, J.:

Narrative

Republic Act No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act regulates the ownership, possession, carrying, manufacture, dealing in, and importation of firearms and ammunition in the country. It was enacted with the view of maintaining peace and order and protecting the people from violence.

After the Implementing Rules and Regulations had become effective, the PNP centralized all firearms licensing applications and renewals at its headquarters at Camp Crame, Quezon City. The pro forma application form for firearm registration, to be accomplished and signed by the applicant, contained a paragraph on the “Consent of Voluntary Presentation for Inspection” authorizing the PNP to search and seize firearms in the residence/address of the applicant without a search warrant.

Petitions were filed assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of RA 10591 and their corresponding provisions in the 2013 IRR for allegedly violating petitioners’ right to bear arms, right to property, and right to privacy. 

The Supreme Court resolves the consolidated petitions and rules in favor of the petitioners.

The inviolability of the house is one of the most fundamental of all individual rights declared and recognized in the political codes of civilized nations. “A man’s house is his castle,” has become a maxim among the civilized peoples of the earth.

In addition, Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. However, this right may be waived if it can be shown that the consent was “unequivocal, specific, and intelligently given, uncontaminated by any duress or coercion.”

For that reason, the Court holds the inspection requirement under R.A. 10591, as interpreted by the PNP in the IRR, to be an unreasonable search, as it is prohibited in Art. III, Sec. 2 of the Constitution and a violation of the right to privacy. The legitimate, almost absolute, expectation of privacy in one’s residence renders the State’s intrusion a “search” within the meaning of Art. III, Sec. 2., and which intrusion requires a search warrant.   

Further, signing the Consent of Voluntary Presentation for Inspection would be an invalid waiver of the right against unreasonable searches under Art. III, Sec. 2. as it is not given “freely, voluntarily, and knowingly” by the applicant who would just sign it, to prevent the application not to be approved. The applicant cannot intelligently consent to the warrantless inspection allowed in R.A. 10591 because of the utter lack of parameters under Sec. 9 on how the inspection shall be conducted. 

Digested by Charity Niel S. Casas, 4L – JD, S.Y. 2021-2022, Mindanao State University – College of Law (Iligan Extension)