Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta Friday has aired his position on calls for the review of circular empowering executive judges of Manila and Quezon City to issue search warrants outside of their jurisdiction.
Peralta said “the issuance of a search warrant should be done confidentially” and “cannot be done openly”.
“(T)hat’s why when you apply for a search warrant, the judge will conduct the hearing inside his/her chamber so that nobody will hear,” Peralta said in a press conference.
“If you applied for a SW in the area where the house or the building is located, the possibility of leakage is very high, so by the time that you issue the SW, pagdating mo dun sa lugar, wala na yung tao, wala na lahat (when you get to the place, the persons and effects to be searched are no longer there,”. he added.
Peralta said judges in Manila and Quezon City are authorized to issue search warrants which are valid nationwide and even outside their territorial jurisdiction.
“During my time, I was also one of those who were authorized to issue search warrants during my time as a judge,” said Peralta, a former Quezon City court judge.
Last week, the High Court said a Quezon City judge is presumed to have acted correctly and legally in issuing seven search warrants against front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army in Bacolod and Escalante cities in Negros Occidental.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert issued search warrants used by joint teams from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army in arresting 57 suspected communist group members during a series of raids on the offices of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakpawis, Gabriela, and National Federation of Sugar Workers.
She issued the search warrants earlier this week after an exhaustive interview with the applicants of the warrants and their witnesses.
For 9 hours, Villavert reportedly propounded the questions to deponents (one who gives testimony) from Negros to ensure Constitutional requirements for the issuance of search warrants.
Under court rules, in determining probable cause in the issuance of a search warrant, a judge must be convinced of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable, discreet and prudent man to believe that there has been a crime committed and the things and objects connected to the crime committed are in the place to be searched.
Peralta immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants.
Joint police and military operatives conducted the raids in Bacolod City and Escalante City on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Some 32 assorted firearms, three fragmentation grenades, two grenade launchers, and assorted ammunition were reportedly confiscated during the operations.
Militant groups, however, claimed the pieces of evidence were merely planted by government operatives during the raids.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)