MORE than 100 lawyers yesterday wrote the Supreme Court proposing changes to the rules on the issuance and service of search warrants amid the death of nine activists in Calabarzon in separate police operations earlier this month.
The letter-proposal, initiated and drafted by former Bayan Muna Rep.Neri Colmenares and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia, was signed by 139 lawyers.
Among the changes they proposed to the SC are prohibiting the wholesale application of search warrants and limiting application of warrants to courts within the judicial region.
They said that when there are multiple applications for search warrants, they must be raffled and distributed to other courts within the same judicial region.
The lawyers also said the SC should review Administrative Memorandum No.03-8-02 authorizing executive judges of the Manila and Quezon City Regional Trial Courts to issue “remote or roving” search warrants that can be applied anywhere in the country for heinous crimes, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, illegal gambling, violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Tariff and Customs Code and the Securities Regulation Code.
Earlier, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, in a report to the SC, said a total of 63 applications for search warrants were made by the PNP on March 1 before the Manila RTC for implementation in different areas of Calabarzon.
“Of the 63 applications, 42 were granted, 9 were denied while 2 were withdrawn,” Marquez said in his report.
The petitioners also asked the SC to ensure that judges conduct a rigorous examination of the application for search warrants.
The lawyers also told the SC that the identities of witnesses must be “sufficiently established to avoid the possibility that police trainees and coached or coerced informants are used to pretend to be witnesses in the application process.”
They also proposed the use of body cameras in the service of search warrants, and the prohibition against any restraint, relocation, or arrest of the subject of the search unless they are engaged in the actual commission of the offense or there are compelling reason to use reasonable force in implementing the search warrant.
They also proposed limiting the serving of the search warrants during office hours unless there are compelling reasons for performing the search in the middle of the night.
The lawyers said in cases of deaths during the implementation of search warrant, the SC should require the submission of incident reports, the reasons why persons were killed or arrested, the result of the inquest as required by the PNP rules when death occurs, and the provision of related reports such as investigative report by the Scene of the Crime Operatives.
In a related development, the SC en banc will hear today, Tuesday, the letter by the University of the Philippines College of Law requesting the court to convene a Special Committee to Protect Lawyers and to order the PNP to explain the letter to the Calbayog City RTC clerk of court requesting the names of lawyers representing “communist terrorist group personalities.”