I am a TNVS driver, and have been working as such for almost two years now. Through the years, I have encountered different types of passengers but I never thought that I will meet a passenger as bad as the one I had last week. It was one ordinary afternoon like any other, and I picked up two drunk female passengers with one male companion from SM Mall of Asia en route to Antipolo City. They all sat at the backseat. Little did I know that the male companion was apparently taking advantage of the drunk female passengers by putting his hands inside their dresses. I only realized what was happening when one of the female passengers shouted, “Stop touching me!” and so I asked if they were alright, to which the male passenger angrily told me to mind my own business.
Moments later, I dropped them off at a motel in Antipolo City, and ate early dinner at a nearby carinderia (small restaurant). After eating, I was immediately arrested by the police for human trafficking upon a call they received from one of the female passengers. They then brought me to jail where I am still detained for 15 days already. Did I commit a crime? Was my arrest even valid? Please help me!
It appears from the facts you have narrated that you did not commit a crime nor did your arrest have any modicum of validity. It must be emphasized at the outset that Section 1, Article III of our 1987 Constitution provides that “[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law.” In your situation, your right to due process appears to have been violated inasmuch as you were abruptly arrested and detained for a crime you did not commit.
Moreover, it appears that your right to be secured in your person was also violated insofar as you were arrested without a warrant of arrest or without a showing of any cause justifying an exemption from the rule. To be sure, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides the general rule for the requirement of a warrant of arrest to be issued based upon probable cause before arresting a person, to wit:
“Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued 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, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” [Emphasis supplied.]
While the general rule is that a warrant of arrest is necessary before an arrest can be made, such rule is not without a few exceptions. In fact, under Section 5 of Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, an individual may be validly arrested without a warrant of arrest but only for specific instances, to wit:
“Section 5. Arrest without warrant; when lawful. — A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:
(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing or is attempting to commit an offense;
(b) When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal
knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and
(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.
In cases falling under paragraph (a) and (b) above, the person arrested without a warrant shall be forthwith delivered to the nearest police station or jail and shall be proceeded against in accordance with section 7 of Rule 112. (5a)”
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that when you were arrested after having your dinner, you were not doing any crime nor had a crime been just committed warranting a warrantless arrest against your person. Should the authorities feel that you had any involvement in the crime they are investigating, you should have been charged properly by undergoing a preliminary investigation, not just arrested and immediately put in jail. It is thus apparent that your basic human rights have been violated and your immediate release can be demanded through the filing of a petition for habeas corpus as ruled by former Chief Justice Ricardo Paras in the case entitled Nava, et al. vs. Hon. Magno Gatmaitan, et al. (G.R. No. L-4855, 11 October 1951), viz:
“The writ of habeas corpus was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relive persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom (Villavicencio vs, Lukban, 39 Phil., 778,788.) It secures to a prisoner the right to have the cause of his detention examined and determined by a court of justice, and to have ascertained if he is held under lawful authority. (Quintos vs. Director of Prisons, 55 Phil., 304, 306.)” [Emphasis supplied.]
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.