If you see on TV, particularly court drama scenes, you may often hear, “Where is the body?,” or in tagalog, “San na ang bangkay?”

The query is often uttered when drama in the scene is at its max. Most murderers see to it that no trace of the body can be found as it will almost all the time implicate them. However, are you aware that this question can be asked by the living?

There is an action that prevents any agency or person from incarcerating or detaining a person without legal or just cause—HABEAS CORPUS.

The Latin phrase can roughly be translated as “that you have body.” The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over habeas corpus petition. When it issues the writ, it commands an individual person or a government official who has detained another individual to produce the prisoner at a designated time and place so that the Court can determine whether the prisoner’s custody is legal or not. If the detention is invalid, the prisoner must then be released. In other words, the writ is a serves as protection against warrantless arrests and illegal detention.

In May of 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao, allowing authorities to bypass warrants of arrest supposedly in the interest of peace and order. Coincidentally the writ of habeas corpus was also suspended to aid in curbing the discord in Marawi, Lanao del Sur.

Similar to the declaration of Martial Law, the 1987 Constitution states that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may only be suspended for up to 60 days. The writ may only be valid in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it.

Furthermore, within 48 hours of suspending the privilege, the President must submit “a report in person or in writing to the Congress,” which may revoke or extend the suspension of the writ after a majority vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The president must comply if there is any revocation. Also, any concern citizen may file with supreme court regarding a review of the suspension of the privilege and must promulgate its decision on it within 30 days from the filing.

The Constitution distinguishes that the suspension of the privilege “shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion” and that any person arrested or detained while the privilege is suspended must be charged within three days or else he or she will be released. In addition, the Constitution provides that the right to bail shall remain even when the privilege is suspended. ***

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