Under Gesmundo, Supreme Court will revise rules on warrants and writs

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo promised on Friday, June 11, that the Supreme Court will revise the rules on extraordinary writs, search warrants, and arrest warrants during his watch.

The top magistrate's pledge, which he made in his first meet the press event, is seen as an indication of the responsiveness of the Gesmundo-led Court in addressing escalating human rights problems involving state agents.

Gesmundo said that the en banc “will not hesitate” to exercise its special rule-making power when “circumstances warrant.”

“To give life to that constitutional mandate given to the Supreme Court under the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court will adopt rules as the exigencies require in order that this constitutionally-guaranteed rights are fully protected,” Gesmundo said.

Responding to the calls of activists who have seen colleagues killed while being served warrants, the Chief Justice said, “Justice [Marvic] Leonen submitted to the Court en banc a working draft on the revisions intended to specifically address the issue on [the] issuance of arrest warrant and search warrant.”

Police killings of suspects being served arrest warrants have also been a problem, prompting the Court to draft a resolution that would require cops to wear body cameras while serving warrants. The Philippine National Police (PNP) under General Guillermo Eleazar has indicated its willingness to follow this.

“We’re working on it. In relation to that, we will be amending the rules on criminal procedures with respect to those provisions. And one of the things we are working on is the adoption of the rule on use of body-worn camera. The proposed rule is to be taken up as soon we resume session on June 15,” Gesmundo said.

“It’s in the works. By July perhaps, we will have the final version and we’ll approve it for implementation immediately,” he added.

Revising protective writs

As for the extraordinary writs of amparo, habeas corpus, and habeas data – protective writs which had been weakened over the last decade, according to human rights defenders – Gesmundo said that “as early as I assumed office, I requested the office of the court attorneys to do their research.”

Writs are also a way for activists to protect themselves from red-tagging – also a growing problem amid the Duterte government's intense crackdown on the communist insurgency.

“We are doing our continuous effort to revise these rules. It’s just that we have to gather more materials to guide us in the revisions but it is one of the priorities of the Court for revision,” said Gesmundo.

“The Court must be able to adapt to these changing times so when the circumstances should warrant for the Court to adopt this, I’m sure my colleagues will not hesitate to adopt those rules,” added Gesmundo, an appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The new Chief Justice's pronouncements are in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, former chief justice Diosdado Peralta. When asked about these issues before he retired in March, Peralta said that the Supreme Court is “careful” in exercising its rule-making power.

The Supreme Court is currently evaluating reports on killings of lawyers. Gesmundo said they have formed a committee to study their next action.

Gesmundo, who served the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan prior to the High Court, will retire in November 2026.

Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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