The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) has expressed concern over judges becoming “warrant factories” amid the spate of arrests against persons who have alleged links with communist groups.

“The Philippine Bar Association, the oldest voluntary national organization of lawyers in the Philippines established in 1891, expresses its concerns that certain courts are reportedly turning into ‘warrant factories.’ Public reports create the impression that one particular court is single-handedly responsible for issuing tens of search warrants targeting a particular group of citizens,” the PBA said in a statement Thursday.

PBA issued the statement after human rights and progressive groups have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to investigate Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert who has been issuing search warrants to law enforcement that have resulted to the arrests of numerous activists who have been red tagged or suspected to be affiliated with communists.

Last Dec. 10, on International Human Rights Day, the Philippine National Police (PNP) used the search warrants Villavert issued to arrest Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and unionists Dennise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate, and Jaymie Gregorio for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

PBA stressed that “our courts act as our people’s shield against unwarranted searches and seizures.”

“As such, judges must be deliberate, circumspect, and prudent in the discharge of this constitutional duty,” it stated.

The PBA said the Constitution mandates “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable” and “no search warrant shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by a judge after examination under oath or affirmation or the complainant and his witnesses.”

“The Rule of Law requires a fair and just application even to those whose views we may not agree with. As justice is blind and favors none, so should her instruments not serve as tools for political persecution. Whenever the fairness of our Laws is not accorded those we vehemently disagree with, the perceived oppression only tends to fuel their cause and weaken our own,” PBA added.

The PBA expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will remain vigilant and continue to safeguard our people’s constitutional rights.

The SC, the PBA said, has “investigated and imposed administrative sanctions in the past against judges who have been lightly this most important responsibility imposed upon them in our Constitution.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (