Illegal act or omission rule; habeas corpus, amparo writs

The Rules on the Writs of Habeas Corpus and Amparo are clear; the act or omission or the threatened act or omission complained of - confinement and custody for habeas corpus and violations of, or threat to violate, a person's life, liberty, and security for amparo cases - should be illegal or unlawful.

Rule 102 of the Rules of Court on Habeas Corpus provides:
Sec. 1.To what habeas corpus extends. - Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, or by which the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.
On the other hand, the Rule on the Writ of Amparo states:
Section 1. Petition. - The petition for a writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

The writ shall cover extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof.

The Supreme Court's decisions on the propriety of the issuance of these writs reiterate the foregoing rules. In Lourdes D. Rubrico v. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,[14] the High Court qualified and explained:

The privilege of the writ of amparo is envisioned basically to protect and guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and security of persons, free from fears and threats that vitiate the quality of this life. It is an extraordinary writ conceptualized and adopted in light of and in response to the prevalence of extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances. Accordingly, the remedy ought to be resorted to and granted judiciously, lest the ideal sought by the Amparo Rule be diluted and undermined by the indiscriminate filing of amparo petitions for purposes less than the desire to secureamparo reliefs and protection and/or on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.

In the recent case of Nurhida Juhuri Ampatuan v. Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig,[16] it was intoned:

The most basic criterion for the issuance of the writ, therefore, is that the individual seeking such relief is illegally deprived of his freedom of movement or place under some form of illegal restraint. If an individual's liberty is restrainted via some legal process, the writ of habeas corpus is unavailing. Fundamentally, in order to justify the grant of the writ of habeas corpus, the restraint of liberty must be in the nature of an illegal and involuntary deprivation of freedom of action.

In general, the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to determine whether or not a particular person is legally held. A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus, in fact, is an actual and effective, and not merely nominal or moral, illegal restraint of liberty. The writ of habeas corpus was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom. xxx The essential object and purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal. Any restraint which will preclude freedom of action is sufficient.

In passing upon a petition for habeas corpus, a court or judge must first inquire into whether the petitioner is being restrained of his liberty. If he is not, the writ will be refused. Inquiry into the cause of detention will proceed only where such restraint exists. If the alleged cause is thereafter found to be unlawful, then the writ should be granted and the petitioner discharged. Needless to state, if otherwise, again the writ will be refused.

While habeas corpus is a writ of right, it will not issue as a matter of course or as a mere perfunctory operation on the filing of the petition. Judicial discretion is called for in its issuance and it must be clear to the judge to whom the petition is presented that, prima facie, the petitioner is entitled to the writ. It is only if the court is satisfied that a person is being unlawfully restrained of his liberty will the petition for habeas corpus be granted. If the respondents are not detaining or restraining the applicant of the person in whose behalf the petition is filed, the petition should be dismissed.

[14] G.R. No. 183871, Feb. 18, 2010.

[16] G.R. No. 182497, June 29, 2010.