SC: Art. 125 waiver doesn't mean indefinite detention

QUOTED FROM THE SUPREME COURT'S FULL TEXT: Although the latest circular of Secretary Aguirre is laudable as it adheres to the constitutional provisions on the rights of pre-trial detainees, the Court will not dismiss the case on the ground of mootness. As can be gleaned from the ever-changing DOJ circulars, there is a possibility that the latest circular would again be amended by succeeding secretaries. It has been repeatedly held that "the Court will decide cases, otherwise moot, if: first, there is a grave violation of the Constitution; second, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest are involved; third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and fourth, the case is capable of repetition yet evading review. All four (4) requisites are present in this case. (G.R. No. 232413. July 25, 2017)

As the case is prone to being repeated as a result of constant changes, the Court, as the guardian and final arbiter of the Constitution and pursuant to its prerogative to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, takes this opportunity to lay down controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public on the propriety of the continued detention of an arrested person whose case has been dismissed on inquest, preliminary investigation, re-investigation, or appeal but pending automatic review by the SOJ.The rule is that a person subject of a warrantless arrest must be delivered to the proper judicial authorities within the periods provided in Article 125 of the RPC, otherwise, the public official or employee could be held liable for the failure to deliver except if grounded on reasonable and allowable delays. Article 125 of the RPC is intended to prevent any abuse resulting from confining a person without informing him of his offense and without allowing him to post bail. It punishes public officials or employees who shall detain any person for some legal ground but fail to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the periods prescribed by law. In case the detention is without legal ground, the person arrested can charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention under Article 124 of the RPC. This is without prejudice to the possible filing of an action for damages under Article 32 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines.

Article 125 of the RPC, however, can be waived if the detainee who was validly arrested without a warrant opts for the conduct of preliminary investigation. The question to be addressed here, therefore, is whether such waiver gives the State the right to detain a person indefinitely.

The Court answers in the negative.

The waiver of Article 125 of the RPC does not vest upon the DOJ, PPO, BJMP, and PNP the unbridled right to indefinitely incarcerate an arrested person and subject him to the whims and caprices of the reviewing prosecutor of the DOJ. The waiver of Article 125 must coincide with the prescribed period for preliminary investigation as mandated by Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Detention beyond this period violates the accused's constitutional right to liberty.

Stated differently, the waiver of the effects of Article 125 of the RPC is not a license to detain a person ad infinitum. Waiver of a detainee's right to be delivered to proper judicial authorities as prescribed by Article 125 of the RPC does not trump his constitutional right in cases where probable cause was initially found wanting by reason of the dismissal of the complaint filed before the prosecutor's office even if such dismissal is on appeal, reconsideration, reinvestigation or on automatic review. Every person's basic right to liberty is not to be construed as waived by mere operation of Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. The fundamental law provides limits and this must be all the more followed especially so that detention is proscribed absent probable cause.

Accordingly, the Court rules that a detainee under such circumstances must be promptly released to avoid violation of the constitutional right to liberty, despite a waiver of Article 125, if the 15-day period (or the thirty 30- day period in cases of violation of R.A. No. 9165 ) for the conduct of the preliminary investigation lapses. This rule also applies in cases where the investigating prosecutor resolves to dismiss the case, even if such dismissal was appealed to the DOJ or made the subject of a motion for reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review. The reason is that such dismissal automatically results in a prima facie finding of lack of probable cause to file an information in court and to detain a person.

The Court is aware that this decision may raise discomfort to some, especially at this time when the present administration aggressively wages its "indisputably popular war on illegal drugs." As Justice Diosdado Peralta puts it, that the security of the public and the interest of the State would be jeopardized is not a justification to trample upon the constitutional rights of the detainees against deprivation of liberty without due process of law, to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and to a speedy disposition of the case.

WHEREFORE, it is hereby declared, and ruled, that all detainees whose pending cases have gone beyond the mandated periods for the conduct of preliminary investigation, or whose cases have already been dismissed on inquest or preliminary investigation, despite pending appeal, reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review by the Secretary of Justice, are entitled to be released pursuant to their constitutional right to liberty and their constitutional right against unreasonable seizures, unless detained for some other lawful cause. (G.R. No. 232413. July 25, 2017)