Habeas Corpus Cases

Fletcher vs. Director Bureau of Prisons (UDK-14071)

Petitioner Martin Gibbs Fletcher seeks his release from prison in this petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus. He claims that his prison sentence of 12 to 17 years was commuted by then President Fidel V. Ramos to nine to 12 years. Since he had already served 14 years, three months and 12 days, including his good conduct allowance, his continued imprisonment is illegal.

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We note the issuance of a warrant for petitioners arrest on March 8, 1996, the date he was first set for arraignment in Criminal Case No. 94-6988. Pursuant to Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, the writ cannot be issued and petitioner cannot be discharged since he has been charged with another criminal offense.  His continued detention is without doubt warranted under the circumstances.

Petitioner asserts that his sentence in Criminal Case No. 95-995 was commuted by then President Ramos. However, he presented no proof of such commutation. Other than indorsements by the Chief Justice, Public Attorneys Office and Undersecretary of the Department of Justice, no document purporting to be the commutation of his sentence by then President Ramos was attached in his petition and in his subsequent missives to this Court. His barren claim of commutation therefore deserves scant consideration, lest we be accused of usurping the Presidents sole prerogative to commute petitioners sentence in Criminal Case No. 95-995.

Bagtas vs. Hon. Santos (GR: 166682)

Section 1, Rule 102, of the Rules of Court states that the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the persons entitled thereto. In cases involving minors, the purpose of a petition for habeas corpus is not limited to the production of the child before the court. The main purpose of the petition for habeas corpus is to determine who has the rightful custody over the child. In Tijing v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that:

The writ of habeas corpus extends 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. Thus, it is the proper legal remedy to enable parents to regain the custody of a minor child even if the latter be in the custody of a third person of his own free will. It may even be said that in custody cases involving minors, the question of illegal and involuntary restraint of liberty is not the underlying rationale for the availability of the writ as a remedy. Rather, it is prosecuted for the purpose of determining the right of custody over a child. (Emphasis supplied).

The RTC erred when it hastily dismissed the action for having become moot after Maryl Joy was produced before the trial court. It should have conducted a trial to determine who had the rightful custody over Maryl Joy. In dismissing the action, the RTC, in effect, granted the petition for habeas corpus and awarded the custody of Maryl Joy to the Spouses Gallardo without sufficient basis.

Thornton vs. Thornton (GR: 154598)

The only issue before us therefore is whether the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to issue writs of habeas corpus in cases involving custody of minors in the light of the provision in RA 8369 giving family courts exclusive original jurisdiction over such petitions.

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The Court of Appeals opines that RA 8369 impliedly repealed RA 7902 and BP 129 since, by giving family courts exclusive jurisdiction over habeas corpus cases, the lawmakers intended it to be the sole court which can issue writs of habeas corpus. To the court a quo, the word exclusive apparently cannot be construed any other way.

We disagree with the CAs reasoning because it will result in an iniquitous situation, leaving individuals like petitioner without legal recourse in obtaining custody of their children. Individuals who do not know the whereabouts of minors they are looking for would be helpless since they cannot seek redress from family courts whose writs are enforceable only in their respective territorial jurisdictions. Thus, if a minor is being transferred from one place to another, which seems to be the case here, the petitioner in a habeas corpus case will be left without legal remedy. This lack of recourse could not have been the intention of the lawmakers when they passed the Family Courts Act of 1997.

De Villa vs. Director of Prisons (GR: 158802)

The most basic criterion for the issuance of the writ, therefore, is that the individual seeking such relief be illegally deprived of his freedom of movement or placed under some form of illegal restraint. If an individuals liberty is restrained via some legal process, the writ of habeas corpus is unavailing. Concomitant to this principle, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to directly assail a judgment rendered by a competent court or tribunal which, having duly acquired jurisdiction, was not deprived or ousted of this jurisdiction through some anomaly in the conduct of the proceedings.

Thus, notwithstanding its historic function as the great writ of liberty, the writ of habeas corpus has very limited availability as a post-conviction remedy. In the recent case of Feria v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that review of a judgment of conviction is allowed in a petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus only in very specific instances, such as when, as a consequence of a judicial proceeding, (a) there has been a deprivation of a constitutional right resulting in the restraint of a person; (b) the court had no jurisdiction to impose the sentence; or (c) an excessive penalty has been imposed, as such sentence is void as to such excess.

In this instance, petitioner invokes the writ of habeas corpus to assail a final judgment of conviction, without, however, providing a legal ground on which to anchor his petition. In fine, petitioner alleges neither the deprivation of a constitutional right, the absence of jurisdiction of the court imposing the sentence, or that an excessive penalty has been imposed upon him.

In fine, petitioner invokes the remedy of habeas corpus in order to seek the review of findings of fact long passed upon with finality. This relief is far outside the scope of habeas corpus proceedings. In the early case of Abriol v. Homeres, for example, this Court stated the general rule that the writ of habeas corpus is not a writ of error, and should not be thus used. The writ of habeas corpus, whereas permitting a collateral challenge of the jurisdiction of the court or tribunal issuing the process or judgment by which an individual is deprived of his liberty, cannot be distorted by extending the inquiry to mere errors of trial courts acting squarely within their jurisdiction. The reason for this is explained very simply in the case of Velasco v. Court of Appeals: a habeas corpus petition reaches the body, but not the record of the case.  A record must be allowed to remain extant, and cannot be revised, modified, altered or amended by the simple expedient of resort to habeas corpus proceedings.

Clearly, mere errors of fact or law, which did not have the effect of depriving the trial court of its jurisdiction over the case and the person of the defendant, are not correctible in a petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus; if at all, these errors must be corrected on certiorari or on appeal, in the form and manner prescribed by law. In the past, this Court has disallowed the review of a courts appreciation of the evidence in a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, as this is not the function of said writ. A survey of our decisions in habeas corpus cases demonstrates that, in general, the writ of habeas corpus is a high prerogative writ which furnishes an extraordinary remedy; it may thus be invoked only under extraordinary circumstances. We have been categorical in our pronouncements that the writ of habeas corpus is not to be used as a substitute for another, more proper remedy. Resort to the writ of habeas corpus is available only in the limited instances when a judgment is rendered by a court or tribunal devoid of jurisdiction. If, for instance, it can be demonstrated that there was a deprivation of a constitutional right, the writ can be granted even after an individual has been meted a sentence by final judgment.

Tribiana vs. Tribiana (GR: 137359)

Under Rule 102 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may resort to a habeas corpus proceeding in two instances. The first is when any person is deprived of liberty either through illegal confinement or through detention. The second instance is when custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled to such custody. The most common case falling under the second instance involves children who are taken away from a parent by another parent or by a relative. The case filed by Lourdes falls under this category.

The barangay conciliation requirement in Section 412 of the LGC does not apply to habeas corpus proceedings where a person is deprived of personal liberty. In such a case, Section 412 expressly authorizes the parties to go directly to court without need of any conciliation proceedings. There is deprivation of personal liberty warranting a petition for habeas corpus where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto. Thus, the Court of Appeals did not err when it dismissed Edwins contentions on the additional ground that Section 412 exempts petitions for habeas corpus from the barangay conciliation requirement.

 

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