SC Sets Guidelines for Establishing Validity of Administrative Warrants
October 27, 2023
Recognizing the pressing need to fix a set of guidelines regarding an administrative agency’s power to issue warrants to prevent administrative agencies or officers from legally performing oppressive acts, the Supreme Court has laid down a set of conditions which must be present and strictly complied with in order to justify the validity of administrative warrants.
In a 65-page Decision penned by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, the Supreme Court En Banc resolved the issue of the constitutional validity of administrative warrants to allow prospective litigants a reasonable opportunity to adjust their future actions to avoid any situation where laws or private rights may be breached. It thus nullified an order of a trial court for having assumed jurisdiction over a habeas corpus proceeding and for declaring null and void a Summary Deportation Order (SDO) issued by the Bureau of Immigration’s (Bureau) Board of Commissioners (Board).
The Court stated that as an SDO essentially functions as a warrant issued by the Bureau, an administrative body, the issue of the validity of administrative warrants becomes integral and necessary to resolving whether Chinese national Yuan Wenle’s arrest, made pursuant to the subject SDO, was tainted with due process violations. “Whether an SDO’s nature is such that it violates due process rights of foreign detainees is dependent upon the resolution as regards the constitutional validity of administrative warrants,” emphasized the Court.
Opting to resolve the issue of the constitutionality of administrative warrants in the instant case, the Court acknowledged that any doctrine It would hand out by choosing to resolve issues concerning administrative issuances such as administrative warrants without addressing the constitutional validity of such warrants themselves would amount to an ex post facto promulgation of doctrinal policies.
The Court noted that the necessity of administrative warrants—or writs directing or authorizing someone to do an act as they pertain to administrative enforcement—cannot be entirely disregarded due to its ability to address some specialized, exigent public need, just as the existence of quasi-judicial bodies is imperative in addressing disputes involving technical matters which justifies the exercise of adjudicative powers by agencies under the Executive branch.
The Court thus laid down the following conditions, all of which must be present and strictly complied with, for administrative warrants to be valid and justified:
- The danger, harm, or evil sought to be prevented by the warrant must be imminent and must be greater than the damage or injury which will be sustained by the one who shall be temporarily deprived of a right to liberty or property;
- The warrant’s resultant deprivation of a right or legitimate claim of entitlement must be temporary or provisional, aimed only at suppressing imminent danger, harm or evil, with such deprivation’s permanency strictly subjected to procedural due process requirements;
- The issuing administrative authority must be empowered by law to perform specific implementing acts pursuant to regulatory purposes;
- The issuing administrative authority must be necessarily authorized by law to pass upon and make final pronouncements on conflicting rights and obligations of contending parties, as well as to issue warrants or orders that are incidental to the performance of the executive or administrative duty entrusted to it;
- The issuance of an administrative warrant must be based on tangible proof or probable cause and must state a specific purpose or infraction allegedly committed, with particular descriptions of the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized;
- The warrant issued must not pertain to a criminal offense or pursued as a precursor for the filing of criminal charges and any object seized pursuant to such writ shall not be admissible in evidence in any criminal proceeding;
- The person temporarily deprived of a right or entitlement by an administrative warrant shall be formally charged within a reasonable time, if no such period is provided, and shall not be denied access to a competent counsel of his or her choice. In cases where a person is deprived of liberty by virtue of an administrative warrant, the administrative body which issued said warrant shall immediately submit a verified notice to the RTC nearest to the detained for purposes of issuing a judicial commitment order; and
- A violation of any item of these guidelines is a prima facie proof of usurpation of judicial functions, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, or graft and corrupt practices on the part of responsible officers.
The case stemmed from an SDO issued in 2018 by the Board against respondent Wenle and his companion Chinese nationals.
On July 26, 2018, in response to a letter of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to the Bureau requesting assistance in the arrest and deportation of Wenle and his companions, petitioner Board issued an SDO against Wenle and his companions for being undocumented, for posing a risk to public interest, or being undesirable under Section 69, Article II of Act No. 2711, or The Administrative Code. Respondent was subsequently arrested while he was on his way to leave for Hongkong.
On September 11, 2018, Wenle filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, claiming, among others, that his arrest was arbitrary and illegal as the SDO issued by the Bureau was null and void for having been issued without notice and hearing, and not by a court of law.
The RTC, in a Resolution dated October 22, 2018, granted Wenle’s petition for habeas corpus, ruling that Wenle’s constitutional and statutory rights to due process were violated as he was not afforded the chance to refute the charges against him in a hearing. It declared null and void the SDO issued by the Board, and ordered the warden of the Bureau of Immigration Detention Center to release Wenle.
This prompted the Board, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), to challenge the RTC’s Resolution before the Supreme Court, questioning the propriety of petitioner’s resort to Rule 45 in assailing the RTC’s Order disposing a habeas corpus case, and the validity of the SDO as a means to arrest a prospective deportee.
The Court, in nullifying the October 22, 2018 Resolution of the RTC for seriously erring in assuming jurisdiction over the habeas corpus case and in invalidating the SDO issued by the Board for supposedly denying Wenle of due process, ruled that the OSG did not err in resorting to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court as the instant case did not need a re-examination or recalibration of evidentiary weight.
The Court also held that it could not allow Wenle to disregard the doctrines of exhaustion of administrative remedies and of primary jurisdiction for the sake of convenience, as “allowing one to directly resort to a habeas corpus proceeding before the regular courts will be to allow a preemption of the Bureau’s statutory duty to determine for itself the issues of legality in all deportation cases specifically and supposedly under its jurisdiction.”
The Court ordered the Bureau to amend its Omnibus Rules to reflect the principles laid out in the present case, especially on the issuance of its SDO. It likewise directed the En Banc Clerk of Court to serve a copy of the instant Decision to the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts, and to the Department of justice for dissemination to all administrative agencies of the Executive Branch. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
FULL TEXT of G.R. No. 242957, The Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration and the Jail Warden, Bureau of Immigration Detention Center v. Yuan Wenle, at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-the-board-of-the-commissioners-of-the-bureau-of-immigration-and-the-jail-warden-bureau-of-immigration-detention-center-vs-yuan-wenle/
FULL TEXT of Separate Concurring Opinion of Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-separate-concurring-opinion-justice-marvic-m-v-f-leonen/
FULL TEXT of Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-concurring-and-dissenting-opinion-justice-alfredo-benjamin-s-caguioa/
FULL TEXT of Concurrence of Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-concurrence-justice-amy-c-lazaro-javier/
FULL TEXT of Concurring Opinion of Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-concurring-opinion-justice-rodil-v-zalameda/
FULL TEXT of Separate Concurring Opinion of Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/242957-separate-concurring-opinion-justice-maria-filomena-d-singh/