Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Sunday ordered the Office of the Court Administrator to remind judges to be circumspect and prudent with the issuances of warrants after a Quezon City court issued search warrants that resulted in the arrest of 57 activists in Negros Occidental.
Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said Chief Justice Peralta issued the directive following reports that Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 89, issued search warrants that were served in the offices of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Anakpawis, Gabriela, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers.
As a result, 57 alleged activities were arrested by joint elements from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army. The arrests were reportedly done last Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
“Upon learning of this, CJ Peralta immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants,” Hosaka said in a text message.
However, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said that executive judges of Manila and Quezon City are authorized to issue search warrants that could be enforced in other parts of the country.
“The Court Administrator, however, was quick to note that the executive judges of Manila and Quezon City are really authorized to issue SWs which may be implemented nationwide in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met,” Hosaka said.
Nonetheless, Marquez advised the aggrieved parties to exercise available administrative remedies, such as the filing of motion seeking to invalidate the search warrants issued by the Quezon City court.
“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 said, quoting Marquez.
Earlier, Bayan Muna leaders led by chairman Neri Colmenares and Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate—questioned why a Quezon City court would issue search warrants against activists based in Bacolod City.
Colmenares assailed the search warrants issued by a Quezon City judge on the offices of progressive groups in Bacolod and Escalante, saying the court should disclose the records that were used as bases for the warrants.
“We are calling on the Supreme Court, especially Chief Justice (Diosdado) Peralta to review this act of the Quezon City (Regional Trial Court) judge, and for the Supreme Court to provide mechanism to discipline judges who abuse legal processes and merely accede to baseless application for search warrant by state forces,” Colmenares said in a statement.