Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When stare decisis kills liberty

Apropos to my previous entries in this blog on the issue of illegal arrests and detentions and other human rights violations committed by Filipino soldiers and policemen, it is sad to note that under existing Philippine jurisprudence and by virtue of the legal operation of the traditional doctrine of stare decisis, even if the arrest and detention that effected by soldiers or policemen against citizen suspected as communist rebels were illegal and unlawful from the very beginning for lack of valid judicial warrants of search, seizure and arrest, nonetheless, such serious legal errors and violations of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution are deemed cured and healed by the subsequent filing by the concerned prosecutors, acting on the written complaints of the soldiers and policemen, of the appropriate criminal Informations before the proper criminal courts against such suspects and by the subsequent issuance by the trial courts of the appropriate warrants of arrest or commitment orders based on their findings that probable cause exists on the basis of their reading and analysis of the records supporting the criminal Informations filed by the prosecutors.

In other words, the special civil action of habeas corpus does not lie and is improper, useless and powerless to urgently secure the freedom and liberty of the illegally arrested citizens in such cases, the proper and remaining remedy available to them being simply to undergo the ordinary rigmarole, pain, and tediousness of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, that is, post a bail bond before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) if the crime charged is bailable; file with the RTC a motion to quash the information on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused (i.e., illegal arrest); file with the RTC a motion for reconsideration if the motion to quash is denied by it; go up to the Court of Appeals (CA) on a special civil action for certiorari (Rule 65) to question the denial by the RTC of the motion to quash and the motion for reconsideration; if the CA denies the Rule 65 petition, file a motion for reconsideration with the said court to question the denial; go up further to the Supreme Court (SC) on a petition for review on certiorari (Rule 45) if the motion for reconsideration is denied by the CA; and patiently wait for the final resolution of the SC on the Rule 45 petition for review -- all of which, from bottom to top, may take a total of 10 years, at the very least, based on my personal experience with the ageing of cases in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, even if the accused enjoys temporary liberty on the basis of his bail bond (the premium of which is very high at 20% of the amount of the bail imposed by the court and which is renewed annually), his substantive and actual freedoms and rights are practically restricted, limited and inconvenienced because of the pendency of the fabricated criminal cases filed against him by the military or the police, i.e., upon the prodding of the military or the police, the trial prosecutors may move before the trial courts for the issuance of a hold-departure order; the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration on their own may place the name of the accused on their travel watch lists; the accused is constrained to spend for huge attorney’s fees and litigation expenses, considering that he would rather rely on the services of good private trial lawyers rather that the free legal services of young and inexperienced trial lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), which, incidentally, is under the Department of Justice just like the National Prosecution Service which controls and directs all prosecutors in the country); the accused is forced to attend all hearings to monitor the case and to assist his private lawyer; he is forced to spend money and time to gather the necessary evidence and prepare the witnesses to prove his defenses; and he is exposed to the social stigma and humiliation of being tagged as a criminal and a communist, thus, inflicting on him extreme mental anguish and social humiliation and ridicule during the entire pendency of the fabricated case filed against him, which can mean up to 10 painful and costly years from the trial court up to the Supreme Court.

My conscience tells me that it is time for the Philippine Judiciary to review and revisit the aforecited existing jurisprudence on habeas corpus and its collateral issues to give real flesh to the libertarian spirit of the Bill of Rights and all applicable international covenants and instruments on human rights and to protect the helpless private citizens against military and police abuses and harassment and to insulate them from political inquisition and persecution by abusive and corrupt government officials.

Read below the news item on the dismissal by the CA of the habeas corpus petition of the arrested 43 health workers based on the abovementioned legal technicality and stare decisis.

CA junks habeas petition of 43 Morong health workers
By: Tetch Torres
First Posted 10:24:00 03/10/2010

MANILA, Philippines – The 43 detained health workers accused of being communist insurgents will remain in jail after the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for habeas corpus filed by their relatives.

In a 20-page decision by the Court of Appeals Special Division of five, it said that whatever irregularities present in the arrest of the 43 were corrected by the subsequent filing of criminal charges against the detainees in Camp Capinpin.

“Indeed, it has been held in a long line of cases that even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of some supervening event, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application,” the appeals court said through Senior Associate Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos.

The appeals court also said that there was a commitment order against the 43 issued by the Morong regional trial court Branch 78 through Acting Presiding Judge Amorfina Cerrado-Cezar last February 12 or a day after they were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In the commitment order, the Morong court directed the jail warden of Camp Capinpin to take custody of the 43 following the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

“Once a person is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be allowed after the party sought to be released had been charged before any court,” the appeals court said.

“Having established that the detainees’ continued imprisonment is by virtue of a valid court process, we find it unnecessary to dwell on the other issues raised by the petitioners,” the appeals court said.

At the same time, in the motion seeking the transfer of the 43 from Camp Capinpin to Camp Crame, the appeals court said that they would leave this to the Morong RTC to decide.
A division of five was created by the Court of Appeals second division after it failed to reach a unanimous vote.

Members of the original division assigned to the case – Associate Justices Normandie Pizarro and Francisco Acosta –stood pat on their decision favoring the 43 health workers.

Associate Justices Magdangal De Leon and Sesinando Villon concurred with Justice Hormachuelos in dismissing the case.

The 43 health workers were arrested last February 6 at a rest house in Morong, Rizal while undergoing community health training.

The military accused the 43 of undergoing training for making explosives, which they claimed were seized during the arrest.

But relatives of the 43 countered that the military violated the rights of the health workers by torturing and harassing them to force an admission that they were members of the communist party.

Various organizations as well as international human rights groups joined the call in condemning the military in the arrest and continued detention of the 43 health workers.