Amid pressure to address killings, Peralta says SC being 'careful' in flexing rule-making power

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Amid pressure to address killings, Peralta says SC being 'careful' in flexing rule-making power
This undated photo shows Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta in a briefing with the media.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Amid mounting pressure on the Supreme Court to address activist killings during service of court-issued warrants, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said they are being careful in exercising the court’s special power to promulgate rules.

“We believe the SC — because it has the power to promulgate rules pertaining to practice and pleadings — we are also very careful in performing that duty because it is only the Philippines were SC is allowed to promulgate rules that’s why are taking care of that power because that is rare,” Peralta said in Filipino during a chance interview on Friday.

Peralta’s former colleague, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pointed out the Judiciary’s power to promulgate rules on the protection of constitutional rights — that are superior to Congress-crafted laws — following the killings during the service of search warrants.

In a strongly-worded newspaper column on Thursday, Carpio said: “The fact that the search warrants were served by police and military personnel, who are under the Executive branch of government, does not excuse the Supreme Court from investigating the killings, which happened while judicial warrants were being served.”

Court taking time

Peralta, like Court Administrator Midas Marquez, also drew a line between the issuance of the warrant, which the chief justice said is a judicial function, and its enforcement.

The chief justice also said it would still be premature for the SC to comment specifically on the bloody Calabarzon raids since the period for the return of warrant, which would also detail its implementation, has yet to lapse.

Peralta also pointed out that those affected by the enforcement of the search warrant may file a motion to quash because of an alleged unreasonable search. Nine people, however, died in the Calabarzon raids.

“Until such time that the return (of warrant) is not yet with the court, we cannot comment yet because we do not know what actually would be the report of the seizing police officers,” he added.

The chief justice, however, assured that this will be discussed, along with the proposal to require law enforcers to wear body cameras during service of warrants, on Tuesday — also Peralta’s last en banc session before he officially hangs his judicial robe on March 27.

The chief justice explained that in amending rules, they also need to receive suggestion from affected sectors. The academe, retired magistrates and known legal luminaries will have to be consulted too.

“It is difficult to make rules that are not just anything. I myself is having a hard time in the rules that we are making… It’s not easy, it will need a lot of your time,” he added.

Looking into writs

Carpio in his opinion piece pointed out that the SC has in the past exercised its rule-making power, specifically in 2007, to promulgate the Rule on the Writ of Amparo, in 2008 for the Writ of Habeas Data and in 2010 for the Writ of Kalikasan.

These were all done under the court led by now retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Peralta said he idolizes Puno, but admitted it may be too late for him to replicate his court. “We are still using all of these writs. We have not yet received any recommendation for these amendments so that means they were very good. No one is complaining,” he pointed out.

But there has been an appeal to amend the writs, and Court Administrator Marquez has promised a review. In September 2020, ep. Carlos Zarate (BAYAN Muna party-list) mentioned the case of slain rights worker Zara Alvarez, whose organization Karapatan sought protection from the court against perceived State-sponsored harassment but failed.

“What the ordinary citizens are thinking is to seek the courts, but if the courts can no longer protect them, where will they run?” Zarate said.

Marquez had said then that Peralta will “welcome the review” of the writ and look into how this will be strengthened.

Peralta is leaving it up to his successor to look into the potential promulgation of a Writ of Kalayaan to address jail congestion.




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