By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday warned trial court judges against arbitrary and unwarranted issuance of search warrants sought by politicians against their rivals during the current election period.
In Circular No. 64-2019 issued by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, the SC said: “Nothing can justify the issuance of a search warrant unless all legal requisites are fulfilled. At the very least, the disregard by a judge of the requirements for the issuance of a search warrant constitutes grave abuse of discretion.”
The circular reminded and advised all judges “to remain impartial and non-partisan, and be very circumspect on acting on applications for search warrants to preclude the courts from being used for election purposes.”
It stressed that “courts must ensure their jurisdiction before entertaining applications for search warrants, and conduct the proper proceedings before the same are issued.”
In many decisions, the SC defined grave abuse of discretion as “an act that is too patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty, or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or act in contemplation of law, or where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility.”
It also cited a previous SC decision which stated: “Of all the rights of a citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves the exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers from inspection and scrutiny of others.”
“While the power to search and seize is necessary to the public welfare, still it must be exercised and the law enforced without transgressing the constitutional rights of the citizens,” the circular stated.
The circular pointed out that “in issuing a search warrant, the judge must strictly comply with the requirements of the Constitution and the statutory provisions.”