Warrant of Arrest Illustrative Cases
Q — In a case, the accused claimed that under Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, no warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce. Is the contention that the judge should personally conduct personal examination of the complainant and the witnesses correct? Explain.
ANS: No. In the leading case of Soliven v. Makasiar, it was explained that this constitutional provision does not mandatorily require the judge to personally examine the complainant and her witnesses. Instead, he may opt to personally evaluate the report and supporting documents submitted by the prosecutor or he may disregard the prosecutor’s report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses. Thus:
The addition of the word “personally” after the word “determined” and the deletion of the grant of authority by he 1973 Constitution to issue warrants to “other responsible officers as may be authorized by law”, has apparently convinced petitioner Beltran that the Constitution now requires the judge to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses in his determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest. This is not an accurate interpretation.
What the Constitution underscores is the exclusive and personal responsibility of the issuing judge to satisfy himself of the existence of probable cause. In satisfying himself of the existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the judge is not required to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses. Following established doctrine and procedure, he shall: (1) personally evaluate the report and the supporting documents submitted by the fiscal regarding the existence of probable cause and, on the basis thereof, issue a warrant of arrest; or (2) if on the basis thereof he finds no probable cause, he may disregard the fiscal’s report and require the submission of supporting affidavits of witnesses to aid him in arriving at a conclusion as to the existence of probable cause.
Sound policy dictates this procedure, otherwise judges would by unduly laden with the preliminary examination and investigation of criminal complaints instead of concentrating on hearing and deciding cases filed before their courts. (G.R. Nos. L-82585; 82827; 83979, November 14, 1998, 167 SCRA 393).
In Webb v. De Leon, 317 SCRA 758 (1995) it was held that before issuing warrants of arrest, judges merely determine the probability, not the certainty, of guilt of an accused. In doing so, judges do not conduct a de novo hearing to determine the existence of probable cause. They just personally review the initial determination of the prosecutor finding a probable cause to see if it is supported by substantial evidence. (AAA v. Hon. Antonio Carbonell, et al., G.R. No. 171465, June 8, 2007)
It is well to remember that there is a distinction between the preliminary inquiry which determines probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest and the preliminary investigation proper which ascertains whether the offender should be held for trial or be released. The determination of probable cause for purposes of issuing the warrant of arrest is made by the judge. The preliminary investigation proper – whether or not there is reasonable ground to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense charged – is the function of the investigating prosecutor.
True, there are cases where the circumstances may call for the judge’s personal examination of the complainant and his witnesses. But it must be emphasized that such personal examination is not mandatory and indispensable in the determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. The necessity arises only when there is an utter failure of the evidence to show the existence of probable cause. Otherwise, the judge may rely on the report of the investigating prosecutor, provided that he likewise evaluates the documentary evidence in support thereof.
Indeed, what the law requires as personal determination on the part of the judge is that he should not rely solely on the report of the investigating prosecutor. In Okabe v. Gutierrez, the Court stressed that the judge should consider not only the report of the investigating prosecutor but also the affidavit and the documentary evidence of the parties, the counter-affidavit of the accused and his witnesses, as well as the transcript of stenographic notes taken during the preliminary investigation, if any, submitted to the court by the investigating prosecutor upon the filing of the Information. If the report, taken together with the supporting evidence, is sufficient to sustain a finding of probable cause, it is not compulsory that a personal examination of the complainant and his witnesses be conducted. (G.R. No. 150185, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 685).