The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued Circular No. 050 on 15 August 2012 guidelines for law enforcers, prosecutors and public attorneys on the application of Art. 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, on the delay in the delivery of detained persons to judicial authorities.
Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima said that “the guidelines are in line with the Department’s commitment to advance the rule of law especially the constitutional guarantee against deprivation of liberty without due process of law.” The issuance reinforces the protection of arrested person by emphasizing that authorities who detain a person arrested without warrant and without filing charges in court after the lapse of 12, 18 and 36 hours depending on the gravity of crime committed are criminally liable.
Moreover, investigators of the DILG-Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), prosecutors of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and public defenders of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), all agencies of the DOJ have through the years differing understanding and application of Article 125 leading to confusion and inconsistencies.
Key provisions of the guidelines include:
1) counting of the prescribed “12-18-36” periods shall be done by the hour starting from the time of detention. However, there are circumstances that may be considered in determining whether the public officer can be held liable for violating the law such as: (a) observance of non-working holidays, during which it becomes legally and physically impossible to properly file charges in court; (b) extraneous factors like means of communication and transportation, the hour of the arrest or the time of surrender of an accused. It must be noted, however, that the two exceptions should not be used as grounds for abuse. As they can be availed of when circumstances warrant extraordinary measures, however, in no case the exceptions absolved public officers from liability under Art. 125 if it can be shown the delay is attended by malice, bad faith or gross negligence.
2) Upon an arrest, the person shall be brought to the nearest local law enforcement office. Without delay, the on-duty inquest prosecutor shall conduct the inquest proceedings within the locality, even during weekends.
Provincial Prosecutor Pepita Jane A. Petralba of Cebu who contributed a position paper on Article 125 welcomed the guidelines as a concrete step towards a predictable legal environment and for better protection of human rights.