Judge who filed search warrants vs 57 activists followed all the rules — CJ Peralta
MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta at a press conference Friday said that the judge who issued the search warrants against 57 activists did nothing wrong.
“She followed all the rules,” Peralta said of Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert.
Progressive groups have been calling for a probe into the issuances of the warrants that resulted in the arrests of over 57 activists in what they warned as signs of a “creeping martial law.”
“There is no formal complaint yet on the judges,” Peralta said. “There must be [one] because the procedure is that there should be a formal complaint.”
After 32 of the activist detainees were released Thursday, groups said that this proved their charges were trumped-up in a state-sponsored crackdown on dissent.
But Interior and Local Government spokesperson Jonathan Malaya defended the validity of the warrants in front of reporters at the Manila City Hall. “This is just a warrant of arrest issued by a competent court,” he said.
The chief justice also backed the circular authorizing two executive judges to issue search warrants outside their jurisdictions.
“The issuance of a search warrant should be done confidentially, it cannot be done openly, that’s why when you apply for a search warrant, the judge will conduct the hearing inside his/her chamber so that nobody will hear,” said Peralta.
“You can just imagine the search warrants that they issued, or the [applications] that they received. Marami yan. And these are the only two authorized judges to issue [them] even nationwide.”
Peralta, however, expressed openness to the idea of opening a moto propio investigation on the judges in question, or an investigation taken without a formal request from another party.
This is in line with what he said was one of his core focuses for his term: the pursuit of the integrity of the court by “weeding out of misfits in the judiciary.” He said that he planned to pursue the SC’s self-initiating of investigations of case relating to misdeeds in court decisions.
Even upon his appointment, he had already bared that he intended to implement the procedure of “Res ipsa loquitur” in the Supreme Court, which assumes negligence upon any untoward incident.
“The principle of res ipsa loquitur [says that] even if there is no complaint, if we believed that a judge rendered a decision, came out with a resolution, misapprehended the fact, misapplied the law and later on favored a party,” he explained at the press conference.
“If we can see from this resolution and decision, then we can initiate the filing of cases or initiate the investigation of these judges.”
He said that the authorization of executive judges to issue search warrants nationwide was simply a means to avoid leaking of information and to expedite the issuance of a warrant.
“[Otherwise] it will take a lot of time, mga at least two hours yan, naghihearing yan, because [a judge] has to be convinced of the existence of probable cause,” he said.
Peralta was appointed to his current post by President Rodrigo Duterte on October 23. He will sit as chief justice until March 27, 2022, outlasting Duterte’s term.
Amid these calls, 11 persons still remain in detention at the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s headquarters, all facing the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Neri Colmenares, chairperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said that he expects the 32 releases to “substantially weaken” the cases against the 11.