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Arrest and inquest in the Philippines

"The mere thought of an arrest or apprehension sows fear in the minds of an individual and his relatives."

 

To arrest is to take a person into the custody of the law in order for him to be bound for the commission of an offense (Section 1, Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure). There are two types of arrest: (a) arrest with a warrant; and (b) a warrantless arrest.

An arrest with a warrant presupposes that an affidavit-complaint was filed against the suspect (respondent) with the Office of the Prosecutor (or in certain exceptional cases with the Department of Justice), and it finds probable cause to charge him in court. The court separately finds probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him.

On the other hand, a warrantless arrest takes place when a person to be arrested is caught committing, about to commit or has just committed a crime. Regardless of the type of arrest, the person arrested will have to be brought to the nearest police station. In all cases, the taking of custody should not be subject to a greater restraint than which is necessary for the suspect’s detention. The officer may break into any building or enclosure where the person to be arrested is or is reasonable believed to be, if he is refused admittance; and he may also break out when necessary to liberate himself.

A person arrested with a warrant is placed under the jurisdiction of the court that issues it and will have to be arraigned and subjected to pre-trial within a period of 10 days from receipt of the case (Section 8, Part III, Guidelines for Continuous Trial). The intention of the Rules is to bring the arrestee, now the accused, to trial to confront the witnesses and evidence presented against him, and for the court thereafter to render the judgment. However, warrantless arrest proceeds in a different legal direction before it goes to court. A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person: (a) when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (b) when an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and (c) when the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another (Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure).

Inside the police station, a suspect arrested while committing, about to commit or has just committed an offense will be booked, the sworn statements of the law enforcement officers or citizens who arrested him will be executed and subscribed, and evidence seized or obtained from the suspect will be preserved. While there is presumption of regularity in the performance of the duties of law enforcement officers in the conduct of their arrest it may be invalidated on the grounds of lack of personal knowledge based on probable cause. For example, a person walks along the street and is holding something in his hands. Even if he appears dubious, and has a previous criminal charge for the same offense, these are not by themselves sufficient to incite suspicion of criminal activity or to create probable cause enough to justify a warrantless arrest (People v. Villareal, G.R. No. 201363, 18 March 2013). If the only information that the police officers had in effecting the arrest was the information from a third person (People v. Burgos, G.R. L-68995, 4 September 1986) or when in Sanchez v. People (G.R. No. 204589, 19 November 2014) the police officers had no personal knowledge to believe that Sanchez bought shabu from the notorious drug dealer and actually possessed the illegal drug when he boarded the tricycle, the arrest may be invalidated.

It must be noted that the detention of the suspect (arrestee) may not exceed the periods provided in Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code for the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities. Specifically, the law requires the public officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of: twelve (12) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties or their equivalent; eighteen (18) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties or their equivalent; and thirty-six (36) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by afflictive or capital penalties or their equivalent.

Bearing this in mind, the suspect (arrestee) will be physically presented by the law enforcement officer to the Inquest Prosecutor together with the arrest records, documents and evidence. Only in those cases where the penalty for the offense is at least 4 years, 2 months and 1 day will there be inquest proceedings (Section 6, Rule 112 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure). The Inquest Prosecutor will ascertain whether the suspect (arrestee) may be: (a) released for further preliminary investigation, in the event there is no probable cause to hold him answerable for the offense at the moment; or (b) detained if there is strong evidence against him for the commission of the offense. The second option, if chosen by the Inquest Prosecutor, will lead to the filing of a complaint or information in court and the application for bail by the suspect (arrestee) who continues to be detained, now the accused in a criminal case. Alternatively, the suspect may opt to waive Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code if he wants to avail of preliminary investigation under Rule 112, or he can wait until the complaint or information is filed in court and within five days from knowledge of its filing, request for a preliminary investigation.

During the period of the detention, any member of the Philippine Bar shall, at the request of the person arrested, have the right to visit and confer privately with the person in jail or in any other place of custody at any hour of the day or night (Section 14, Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure). Subject to reasonable regulations, a relative of the person arrested can also exercise the same right. Any question on the validity or legality of the arrest, or absence or irregularity in the preliminary investigation must be raised by the accused before plea (Section 26, Rule 114 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure).

The mere thought of an arrest or apprehension sows fear in the minds of an individual and his relatives. There is fear of violence, coercion or duress to elicit a confession, and also of pressure, physical harm or sexual assault not only by the law enforcement officers but likewise by the co-detainees. While stories of these incidents abound, it will never be admitted unless the offenders are caught red-handed. Therefore, it is best to always abide by the law and not to fiddle with it.

Topics: Tranquil G.S. Salvador III , Rules on Criminal Procedure , arrest with a warrant; warrantless arrest
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