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Chief Justice Peralta reminds judges to be ‘prudent’ in issuing warrants

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has reminded judges to be "prudent" in issuing warrants amid criticism of the arrest of some 62 activists last week on the basis of a search warrant issued by a Quezon City judge.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) has called on the Supreme Court to review the "seemingly irregular" issuance by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, leading to simultaneous police raids in Bacolod City that resulted in the arrest of dozens of activists.

"Upon learning of this, CJ Peralta immediately directed the Court Administrator to remind judges to be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent with the issuances of warrants," SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said in a statement.

But Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, according to the statement, pointed out that executive judges of Manila and Quezon City can issue search warrants that may be implemented nationwide "in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met."

The subjects of the warrants may challenge the issuances in court, Hosaka said.

"If respondents feel aggrieved with the issuance, the proper remedy is to file a motion to quash either before the court that issued them, or before the court where the cases are eventually filed," the spokesman said.

A complaint against a judge, on the other hand, may be initiated through the filing of a verified complaint or by direct action by the SC itself, but Hosaka said he cannot answer for the tribunal on whether the latter action is warranted.

Police and Army units raided the offices of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela Negors Center, and the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers last Thursday night. The KMU called the search warrant "questionable."

In Manila, police arrested Gabriela chairperson Cora Agovida and her partner Michael Bartolome in Paco for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives, a common charge against activists that their groups usually say are false and based on planted evidence. — Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/RSJ, GMA News