The Supreme Court (SC) said that 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 on Sunday.
SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka was reacting to the petition of leftist groups led by Neri Colmenares asking the high tribunal to sanction a Quezon City judge who 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.
Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 issued the warrants earlier this week after an exhaustive interview with the applicants of the warrants and their witnesses. For nine hours, Villavert reportedly propounded the questions to deponents 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.
“If respondents feel aggrieved with the issuance, 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 told reporters on Sunday.
He said Chief Justice (Diosdado) Peralta immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants.
“The Court Administrator was quick to note that the Executive Judges of Manila and Quezon City are really authorized to issue SWs (search warrants) which may be implemented nationwide in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met,” Hosaka said.
Joint police and Army 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 CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)