Sunday 24 March, 2019
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Restricting the right to travel: SC approves new rule allowing hold departure orders against mere suspects

The Supreme Court (SC) has approved a new rule allowing the issuance of “precautionary hold departure orders (PHDO)” that would restrict the right of mere suspects to travel even if they have not yet been formally charged with a crime in the courts.

11 of the SC’s justices voted to approve Administrative Matter (A.M.) Number 18-07-05-SC, or the Rule on Precautionary Hold Departure Order. Associate Justice Marvic Leonen cast the lone dissenting vote.

Under the new rule, courts may issue an order commanding the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to “prevent any attempt by a person suspected of a crime to depart from·the Philippines,” even of the complaint was only pending preliminary investigation and had not reached the court.

The order will be issued ex-parte—or without requiring the knowledge of the suspect—in cases involving foreigners or crimes with a minimum penalty of six years and one day.

The prosecutor may file the application for a PHDO with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) exercising jurisdiction over the location of the crime. Applications may also be filed any RTC within the same judicial region of the scene of the crime, but for compelling reasons.

For complaints instituted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the prosecutor may file a PHDO application with the RTCs in Manila, Quezon City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City or Cagayan de Oro City, regardless of where the crime was actually committed.

The judge may grant the PHDO upon finding that there is a “high probability that respondent will depaii from the Philippines to evade arrest and prosecution of crime against him or her.”

Since PHDOs will be issued while the case is pending preliminary investigation, the rule stressed that it shall be “without prejudice” to the prosecutor’s eventual finding of probable cause or the lack of it.

The respondent may seek the temporary lifting of the PHDO by showing that there is doubt about the existence of probable cause or that he is not a flight risk.

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