Chief justice: SC working on issues on search warrants, attacks on lawyers

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Chief justice: SC working on issues on search warrants, attacks on lawyers
Leaders and members of progressive groups and activists' kin on Tuesday filed a report before the Supreme Court detailing incidents where they said the rule of law has been weaponized against them.
JUCRA pool photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court, under the helm of recently-appointed Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, is working on the guidelines on the use of body-worn cameras in police operations as well as a revision of guidelines on the issuance of search and arrest warrants.

Gesmundo on Friday assured the public that the SC is working on these issues that were raised to the SC earlier this year and was addressed by the justices, in a rare statement, on March 24.

He took over the reins of the Judiciary shortly after the high court, with now-retired Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued condemned the attacks on lawyers and vowed to issue rules on requiring the use of body cameras in police operations. His first Chief Justice Meets the Press event was also attended by his fellow magistrates in the zoom conference room.

Gesmundo said Associate Justice Marvic Leonen submitted to the SC en banc a working draft on the revisions that addresses the issue on the issuance of arrest and search warrants. “We’re working on it,” the chief justice said.

He added that the proposed rule on the use of body-worn cameras will be taken up at the resumption of SC en banc on Tuesday, June 15, and that the final version of the rules may be approved in July.

"And our colleagues have submitted their respective inputs. Hopefully and I’m optimistic that maybe two or three deliberations, we will come up with the final version. The Court is very clear in our responsibility that they have to comply with what the Constitution and the Rules of Court should provide," Gesmundo also said.

Several progressive groups have been pressing the SC to look into its rules on issuing search warrants that, they claimed, have been weaponized against activists and dissenters. They asserted that trumped-up charges have been filed against them, and in worse cases, the implementation of warrants led to killings.

READ: 103 rights groups call on SC, Justice to review search warrant issuance, implementation

Attacks on lawyers

The chief justice noted that the SC already received reports from affected groups. “After we received it, we transmitted it to our fellow lawyers and we agreed that I assigned it to a committee for evaluation and recommendation,” he said.

He added that the SC received a lot of data and there is a need to scrutinize them to understand the issue and allow the SC to give proper action.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers is among the groups that submitted information to the SC, where they told the court that there have been 176 work-related attacks on lawyers, including 73 killings, in the past ten years and the numbers have surged since the start of the Duterte administration.

"We will act on the results of those reports and recommendation within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary. If it is outside the Judiciary’s jurisdiction, then we would endorse them, the results to the appropriate entity or institution of government for them to address these issues," he also said.

The SC is also waiting for the Philippine National Police report on who put up tarpaulins along EDSA that red-tagged Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio after she ordered the release of two activists.

“In fact when we had a courtesy call from the former PNP chief, there are a number of matters that we took up with them. And hopefully when we meet the new chief PNP [General Guillermo Eleazar] also who requested for a courtesy call we can be updated. One thing sure, we addressed the security concern of the judge involved,” he added.

Gesmundo also expressed optimism that once the judicial marshal bill hurdles the House of Representatives, the Senate will act on it.

“Hopefully, before the end of this current Congress, the judicial marshal [bill] shall be approved into law,” he added.

The House approved on third and final reading the “Philippine Judiciary Marshals Service Act” early in June. It aims to protect the members of the Judiciary from threats and allow them to exercise their functions free from external factors.

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