The Supreme Court (SC) has decided to cut down the wide-ranging powers of Manila and Quezon City courts in the matter of issuance of search warrants due to alleged abuses.
Per Administrative Matter No. 21-06-08-SC which was issued last June 29, the high tribunal reportedly barred Manila and QC judges from issuing search warrants outside their respective jurisdictions.
This recent ruling revokes an earlier order authorizing the executive judges of the Manila and QC regional trial courts to grant search warrants outside their territorial jurisdiction.
In layman’s terms, a Manila judge can no longer issue a search warrant beyond the City of Manila, and likewise for a judge assigned in Quezon City.
The SC’s ruling was hailed by numerous human rights advocates who alleged these judicial orders were virtual “death warrants” for members of activist groups who had been Red-tagged by the government.
In a related order, the SC directed law enforcers to wear body cameras, under pain of sanctions, while serving search/arrest warrants in view of the “increasing reports of civilian deaths resulting from execution of warrants issued by the trial courts.”
In lieu of a body camera, the SC said the police must use an “alternative recording device” such as a mobile phone with a camera for a digital recording of the implementation of arrest, search and seizure warrants.
The SC said the police should also inform the subject of the warrant of the recording procedure to respect his privacy.
“Failure to observe the requirement of using body-worn cameras or alternative recording devices without reasonable grounds shall render the evidence obtained inadmissible for the prosecution of the offense for which the search warrant was applied,” the Court said.
And any law enforcer who disregards the strict guidelines set forth regarding the use of body cameras shall be held in contempt of court.
The Court said the body cameras, aside from supporting law enforcers, would guarantee the protection of fundamental rights as they “can deter the excessive use of force by law enforcers” in the service of warrants and aid trial courts in resolving issues such as conflicting eyewitness accounts, especially in murder or justified killing cases.