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Amid Bacolod arrests, SC reminds justices to 'be prudent' in issuing warrants

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Amid Bacolod arrests, SC reminds justices to 'be prudent' in issuing warrants
Section 12 of Circular A.M. No. 03-8-02-SC states that executive judges and vice-executive judges of Manila and Quezon City regional trial courts have the authority to act on applications filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police for search warrants.
Philstar.com / Erwin Cagadas

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta reminded court judges to exercise prudence in issuing arrest warrants, amid questions raised in the arrest of 62 activists and members of activist groups in Bacolod City.

 Last week, members of Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers and Negros Island Health Integrated Program were arrested after the police implemented search warrant in their offices.

Also arrested was community journalist Anne Krueger of Negros-based Paghimutad, an alternative news outfit that had been reporting on extrajudicial killings on the island. 

Quezon City Executive Judge Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert issued the search warrant that, Karapatan said, “enabled the arbitrary arrest and planting of evidence against activists.”

SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka said that Peralta, upon learning of the incident, “immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect and prudent with the issuances of warrants.”

Executive judges' authority to issue warrants

Hosaka however said that Court Administrator Midas Marquez noted that Villavert as well as other executive judges in Manila and Quezon City, are authorized to issue search warrants that may be implemented across the country, “in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met.”

Marquez was referring to Circular A.M. No. 03-8-02-SC, issued in 2004.

Section 12 of the circular states that executive judges and vice-executive judges of Manila and Quezon City regional trial courts have the authority to act on applications filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police for search warrants.

This covers warrants for heinous crimes, illegal gambling, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions and violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the Intellectual Property Code, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and Tariff and Customs Code, among others.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers questioned the basis of the search warrant, to establish probable cause, when, Karapatan and NUPL claimed, evidence of firearms where planted during the search.

“Why is there seemingly a pattern to issue search warrants against political dissenters and critical groups from one and the exactly the same judge even if legally allowable?” NUPL raised.

The NUPL noted that Villavert also issued warrants that led to the arrest of other activists and peace consultants.

Aggrieved? File a motion

The NUPL also urged the SC to review the “seemingly irregular” issuance of search and arrest warrants “essentially based on political designs.”

Asked what remedy is left for the groups questioning the issuance of the warrant, Hosaka replied that they can filed a motion to quash.

“If respondents feel aggrieved with the issuance, the proper remedy is to file a motion to quash either before the court that issued them, or before the court where the cases are eventually filed,” he added.

DIOSDADO PERALTA KARAPATAN NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLES LAWYERS SUPREME COURT
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