THE SUPREME COURT has approved a rule on the issuance of a Precautionary Hold Departure Order (PHDO) against individuals facing criminal charges, SC Spokesman Theodore Te said.
Te said the High Tribunal, voting 11-1, approved the rule on PHDO – a written court order directing the Bureau of Immigration to prevent any attempt to leave the country by a person suspected of a crime, meted with a minimum penalty of at least six years and one day.
He said the rule on PHDO will take effect within 15 days of publication in two newspapers of general publication. The High Court said a prosecutor can file a PHDO application with “any regional trial court within whose territorial jurisdiction the alleged crime was committed.”
“For compelling reasons, it may be filed with any regional trial court within the region where the crime was committed if the place of the commission of the crime is known. The regional trial courts in the City of Manila, Quezon City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City, and Cagayan de Oro City shall also have authority to act on applications filed by the prosecutor based on complaints instituted by the National Bureau of Investigation, regardless of where the alleged crime was committed,” it said.
On the other hand, the SC assured that the issuance of a PHDO will not affect any findings of probable cause in the preliminary investigations of criminal complaints before the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service (NPS) and its regional and city offices.
“The preliminary finding of probable cause is solely based on the complaint and is for the sole purpose of issuing PHDO and shall be without the prejudice to the resolution by the prosecutor of any criminal complaint during the preliminary investigation,” it said.
The PHDO shall remain valid until recalled by the issuing court. “Once issued, the PHDO may be lifted by a verified motion filed by the respondent questioning the existence of probable cause or a showing that she or he is not a flight risk.
The PHDO may also be lifted to allow him or her to leave the country upon posting of a bond in an amount to be determined by the court,” it stated.
The Court said the PHDO may be applied for in the same manner that a search warrant may be issued, thus, a judge must first determine probable cause upon personal examination of witnesses under oath or affirmation. In addition, the judge in a PHDO application must also determine that there is a high probability that the subject will depart from the Philippines to evade arrest and prosecution of crime against him or her.
“The preliminary finding of probable cause is solely based on the complaint and is for the sole purpose of issuing the PHDO and shall be without prejudice to the resolution by the prosecutor of any criminal complaint during the preliminary investigation,” the Court said.
The ruling on PHDO issuance comes after the High Court affirmed its ruling, which declared as unconstitutional the Department of Justice’s issuance of watch list orders, hold departures orders and allow departure orders to suspected criminals.
In July, the SC affirmed its April 17, 2018 decision granting the petitions of former President and current House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, and former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairman Ephraim Genuino and his two children to declare as unconstitutional DOJ Circular No. 41.
The SC struck down the said circular for being violative of the right to travel under Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution. The DOJ circular had been used by then Justice Secretary and now detained Sen. Leila De Lima in issuing WLOs to prevent them from leaving the country back in 2011. (Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)
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