The Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Philippines

The Presidential Commission on Good Goverment (PCGG) yesterday filed a petition for habeas corpus to compel the Senate to present Camilo Sabio, PCGG Chairman, before the Supreme Court and to justify his arrest and detention that was ordered by the Senate in connection with its on-going inquiry in aid of legislation. You probably read about the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante against U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other ranking US government officials in order to gain freedom in the United States.The term “writ of habeas corpus” had surfaced many times before. Let’s discuss this subject matter.

What is a writ of habeas corpus?

“Habeas corpus” is a Latin phrase which literally means “you have the body”. Basically, it is a writ directed to the person detaining another, commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner at a designated time and place, with the day and cause of his capture and detention, to do, submit to, and receive whatsoever the court or judge awarding the writ shall consider in that behalf.

What is the scope of the writ of habeas corpus?

The writ of habeas corpus generally extends to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which a person is deprived of liberty, or the rightful custody of a person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.

Who may issue the writ of habeas corpus?

The writ may be issued by the Supreme Court or by the Court of Appeals or any member thereof, enforceable anywhere in the Philippines.

It may also be issued by the Regional Trial Cout (RTC) or any judge thereof, enforceable only within the judicial district.

To whom is the writ directed?

If the detention is by an officer, the writ shall be directed to him, commanding him to bring the body of the person restrained of liberty before the court at the time and place specified. If the detention is by a person other than an officer, then the writ shall be directed to an officer commanding him to the same effect and to summon the person restraining. The respondent will be asked to explain the cause of the detention.

When shall the subject person be released?

When the prisoner is unlawfully restrained, the court or judge shall order his discharge which shall not be effective until a copy of the order is served on the officer or person detaining the prisoner. If such officer or person does not desire to appeal, the prisoner shall be forthwith released.

[Source and citations: Supreme Court; Rule 102 of the Rules of Court]

Atty.Fred

8 thoughts on “The Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Philippines

  1. Avatardomingo arong

    Last year, the Senate detained the fall guy Norberto Gonzalez for well over a month.

    Now, it’s Camilo Sabio’s turn to be deprived of his liberty.

    Is the indefinite detention of a person who has not been charged, tried and convicted allowed under our system of laws?

    If, indeed, this is legally allowed, the Senate should apply this rule to suspected terrorists or criminals and detain them forever by simply invoking the phrase “in aid of legislation” and cite them for contempt.

    As it is now, mere suspicion or accusation proves guilt, denial doubles it.

    Is the power to inquire “in aid of legislation” a constitution unto itself with the Senate unrestrained by the rule of law as lawyers and the Courts define it to mean?

    I’m not a lawyer. Hope you can enlighten.

    Reply
  2. Atty. FredAtty. Fred

    Mr. Arong, kindly refer to the latest post in this site, on inquiry in aid of legislation, for the answer to your query. As appearing on the last item on that post, the Senate can insist on the indefinite imprisonment of a person who refuses to answer, unless the SC decides that certain limitations (also in the article) have been exceeded.

    Technically, the ‘charge’ and ‘conviction’ refers to the finding of contempt made by the Senate. This is the same with courts, which can cite persons in contempt and impose the appropriate penalty, including imprisonment. Of course, the power to inquire in aid of legislation is a constitution unto itself, but is now based on the Constitution.

    As to the terrorists, maybe that’s a good idea…but I don’t think they’d want to do that.

    Reply
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  4. AvatarJoselito Basilio

    The writ is not allowed when the circumstances of the person for which the petition for writ of habeas corpus is sought is within the purview of Rule 102, Sec. 4 of the Rules of Court which provides in part:

    “if it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order issued by a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment, or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed…”

    In Ilagan vs. Enrile (139 SCRA 349) the IBP filed a petition for habeas corpus on behalf of 3 lawyers who were arrested in Davao by the military during the Marcos dictatorship. The SC ordered their temporary release but the respondents moved for reconsideration arguing that a presidential detention order against the 3 lawyers and an information for rebellion that was subsequently filed against them before an RTC and issuance of warrant of arrest against them had made the petition for habeas corpus moot and academic. Ten members of the SC ruled in favor of the respondents by virtue of Rule 102, Sec. 4 of the Rules of Court.

    My cabalen, the late Justice Vicente Abad Santos who displayed considerable independence from the Marcos government, along with Justices Tehankee, Patajo and Concepcion dissented. Justice Abad Santos, who lamented SC preference to the rule of form over substance in his dissenting opinion, said :

    “It was Holmes who said that the life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. Thus the Roman law was ritualistic and highly formal. Gradually, however, it evolved and form was replaced by substance. The development of the law did not stop there. The Roman praetorian law enlarged, supplemented and overrode law which had become narrow and rigid in scope. Finally common law produced equity jurisprudence. It is a formal set of legal and procedural rules and doctrines to aid and even override common and statute law in order to protect rights and enforce duties fixed by substantive law.

    “The majority opinion appeals to the mind for it appears to be logically constructed. It leans heavily on the letter of the law. Upon the other hand, the dissenting opinion of Justice Teehankee which is his article of faith appeals to the mind and the heart for it is based not only on law but on equity also.

    “I believe that Justice Teehankee’s opinion better serves the ends of justice and I gladly subscribe to it. I also subscribe to Justice Concepcion’s separate opinion.”

    The above case shows how rigid the application of procedural rules that prevent the enforcement of substantive rights is. A technicality called “form” always prevails over substance in judicial cases. Since the SC is due to clean the house, I suggest that the perceived defects of Rule 102, Sec. 4 be repaired too.

    Reply
  5. AvatarRoland

    The United States is holding our son of 6 years old and depriving my wife and son of their rights of affection for each other. Can a writ of habeas corpus be presented to the U.S. Embassy to produce our child at the Embassy for my wife to regain control of our son?

    Reply
  6. AvatarRoland

    Thanks attorney for this article….. Truly gives additional input and consensus for my topic in senior high, since I’m dealing with Philippine Politics and Governance…

    Reply
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