SC alarmed by defective arrest, seizure warrants, reminds judges on guidelines
MANILA — The Supreme Court has reminded judges of lower courts to be careful in issuing warrants of arrest and search warrants so as not to violate constitutional rights and judicial procedures.
“In view of persistent reports on the pernicious issuance of defective warrants, all judges are enjoined to strictly observe the constitutional requirements and rules in the issuance of warrants,” the high court, through the Office of the Court Administrator, said in a three-page memorandum released last week.
The OCA explained how trial court judges should issue warrants of arrest upon determining the existence of probable cause based on their personal determination.
“This means that the the judge should consider not only the report of the investigating prosecutor but also the affidavit and the documentary evidence of the parties, the counter-affidavit of the accused and his witnesses, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes taken during the preliminary investigation, if any, submitted to the court,” the memo stated.
As long as the evidence shows a prima facie case against the accused, the judge has sufficient ground to issue a warrant of arrest, according to the OCA.
In such instances, the judge has the option either to issue the warrant if there is necessity to place the accused under custody, to refuse to issue the warrant if there is no probable cause, or to order the prosecutor to present additional evidence in case of doubt.
In the issuance of search and seizure warrants, the OCA said the judge must personally examine the complainant and his witnesses under oath and affirmation, in the form of searching questions and answers.
“The personal examination must not be merely routinary or pro forma, but must be probing and exhaustive,” the memo stated.
Judges should require a particular description of the place to be searched, of the persons to be arrested, or things to be seized, the OCA said.
“A designation or description that points out the place to be searched to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry unerringly leads the peace officer to it, satisfies the constitutional requirement of definiteness,” the OCA said.
Applications for warrants of search and seizure must be personally endorsed or authorized by the heads of the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, the Anti-Crime Task Forces and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for heinous crimes, illegal gambling, illegal possession of firearms and violations related to illegal drugs, intellectual property, money laundering, customs and tariff, and other laws enacted by Congress and included by the Supreme Court in its rules.
Judges must also keep a special docket book listing the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued, the OCA directed. SFM
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