SC defends QC court-issued warrants in Negros raids
MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez defended the authority of executive judges of local courts to issue warrants that may be served anywhere in the country, following the arrest of 57 activists in Negros Occidental and Manila last week on search warrants issued in Quezon City.
According to Supreme Court public information chief Brian Keith Hosaka, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta over the weekend called Marquez’s attention to the arrests, which were carried out using search warrants issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn E. Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.
“Upon learning of this, Chief Justice Peralta immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect and prudent with the issuances of warrants,” Hosaka said on Sunday.
“The court administrator (Marquez), however, was quick to note that the executive judges of Manila and Quezon City are really authorized to issue search warrants [that] may be implemented nationwide in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met,” he added.
“If respondents feel aggrieved with the issuance [of the search warrants], 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,” Hosaka said.
Validity of warrants
In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers
(NUPL) pointed out that warrants being sought from the courts must be “personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies.”
“Who, in the Philippine National Police, if any, endorsed the application for search warrant?” the group asked. “Did the honorable judge hear any witness, ask and document searching questions to personally determine the existence of probable cause as mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of Criminal Procedure?”
NUPL president Edre Olalia pointed out that warrants “may be abused and weaponized by any branch of government to forum shop, to silence dissent and criticism, [and to] slow down legitimate advocacies.”
Sought for comment, Jonnie Dabuco, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) director for Western Visayas, said the commission had started “looking into the validity of the search warrants and the conduct of the search and arrest and because there are allegations that the pieces of evidence were planted.”
The mass arrest has also drawn the attention of Amnesty International.
“Government forces claim they seized firearms but arrested activists maintain that any weapons found during the raids were planted by security forces,” Amnesty said in a statement on Saturday. “The groups targeted in the raids and arrests have been critical of the Duterte administration.”
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) assailed Malacañang’s “patently false claim that the arrested activists in Bacolod City were members of the New People’s Army (NPA).”
“This brazen lie aims to conceal the martial law crackdown on mass-based organizations,” the CPP said.
Still, the Regional Task Force Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict maintained that those arrested were “high-value individuals” serving the communist party, including its armed wing, the NPA.
The task force also insisted the arrested minors were “undergoing combat-related training and indoctrination.”
In a radio interview on Saturday, the National Capital Region Police Office chief, Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, played down his “dialogue” with Villavert on Wednesday.
“We just a made a courtesy call,” he said. “It was a meet and greet, and we just asked if they needed security assistance.” —WITH REPORTS FROM NESTOR P. BURGOS JR., DEXTER CABALZA, CARLA GOMEZ, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR. AND MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.