Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code reads:
Delay in the Delivery of Detained Persons to the Proper Judicial Authorities. — The penalties provided in the next preceding article shall be imposed upon the public officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground and shall fail to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of twelve (12) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties, or their equivalent; eighteen (18) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties, or their equivalent, and thirty-six (36) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by afflictive or capital penalties, or their equivalent.
In every case, the person detained shall be informed of the caused of his detention and shall be allowed, upon his request, to communicate and confer at any time with his attorney or counsel.
The penalties provided in Article 125 are as follows:
1. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prisión correccional in its minimum period, if the [delay] has not exceeded three days;
2. The penalty of prisión correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if the [delay] has continued more than three but not more than fifteen days;
3. The penalty of prisión mayor, if the [delay] has continued for more than fifteen days but not more than six months; and
4. That of reclusión temporal, if the [delay] shall have exceeded six months.
Related to this is an inquest. The prevailing rules on inquest (Circular No. 61, s. 1993 by the Department of Justice) define this process as:
Inquest is an informal and summary investigation conducted by a public prosecutor in criminal cases involving persons arrested and detained without the benefit of a warrant of arrest issued by the court for the purpose of determining whether or not said persons should remain under custody and correspondingly be charged in court.
Section 3 of Circular No. 61 states, “the inquest proceedings must be terminated within the period prescribed under the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.” However, the inquest may be terminated beyond the periods prescribed in Article 125, as ruled by the Supreme Court in Medina v. Orozco (125 Phil. 313, G.R. No. L-26723, December 22, 1966) and Soria v. Desierto (490 Phil. 749, G.R. No. 153524-25, January 31, 2005).
Sayo v. Chief of Police
The earliest case on Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code is Sayo v. Chief of Police (80 Phil. 859, G.R. No. L-2128, May 12, 1948). Note that this case is not a prosecution of police officers for violation of Article 125. Rather, Melencio Sayo and Joaquin Mostero filed a petition for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court. They were arrested for robbery without a warrant on April 2, 1948. By the time the Supreme Court heard their petition on April 7, 1948 (five days later), Sayo and Mostero were still detained or under arrest, and the City Fiscal had not yet released or filed against them an information with the proper courts of justice. Article 125 at that time read:
The penalties provided in the next preceding article shall be imposed upon the public officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground and shall fail to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of six hours.
The Chief of Police argued that the phrase “judicial authority” included the City Fiscal of Manila. Thus, Article 125 had been complied with when Sayo and Mostero were brought before the City Fiscal of Manila.
The Supreme Court ruled that the “judicial authorities” contemplated in Article 125 means a competent court or judge, and the City Fiscal is not such a judicial authority. The grounds relied upon the Supreme Court may be seen in its decision and its resolution on the Chief of Police’s motion for reconsideration.
At this point, note that the procedure applied in Sayo and Mostero’s case is not exactly inquest as described in Circular No. 61 of the DOJ. No rules on inquest existed at that time, as may be seen from this paragraph in the resolution of the Court:
To consider a city fiscal as a judicial authority within the meaning of article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, would be to place a person arrested in provinces without warrant in a better position than those arrested in the City of Manila. Because, as there is no law requiring the city fiscal to act or file an information against such person within a limited period of time, after the arresting officer has taken the prisoner to the city fiscal within six hours, the prisoner may be held under detention without any warrant for days and weeks and possibly months until such time as the city fiscal may take action, either by releasing the prisoner without filing any information, or filing an information with the proper city court and obtain a warrant of commitment. While a person arrested outside of the City of Manila has to be delivered by the arresting person or peace officer to the competent judge within six hours alter his arrest, and the latter shall have to investigate the charge and issue a warrant of release or commitment of the prisoner within the period of twenty four hours or at most three days prescribed in said article 31 of the Provisional Law (emphasis mine, not by the Court).
Of note also are the succeeding paragraphs regarding compliance with Article 125 (not highlighting anything because all three paragraphs are important):
It is obvious that the surrender or delivery to the judicial authority of a person arrested without warrant by a peace officer, does not consist in a physical delivery, but in making an accusation or charge or filing of an information against the person arrested with the corresponding court or judge, whereby the latter acquires jurisdiction to issue an order of release or of commitment of the prisoner, because the arresting officer can not transfer to the judge and the latter does not assume the physical custody of the person arrested. And in the City of Manila it does not consist in delivering physically the body of the prisoner to the city fiscal, for the latter will not assume the responsibility of being the custodian of the prisoner; nor in making or lodging a complaint against him with the said fiscal, because the latter has no power to order the commitment or release of the prisoner by a warrant containing the ground on which it is based (auto motivado). Such delivery is a legal one and consists in making a charge or filing a complaint against the prisoner with the proper justice of the peace or judge of Court of First Instance in provinces, and in filing by the city fiscal of an information with the corresponding city courts after an investigation if the evidence against said person so warrants. Upon the filing of such information will the prisoner be deemed delivered to a judicial authority in the City of Manila within the meaning of article 125 of the Revised Penal Code?
The city court or judge need not make an investigation of the facts alleged in the information, which the judge or justices of the peace in provinces have to make before issuing the proper warrant, because the law vest that power in the city fiscal, but said city judge shall determine only the legal question whether said facts constitute an offense or violation of ordinances, and issue a warrant of commitment if they do, or of release if they do not.
As a peace officer can not deliver directly the person arrested to the city courts, he shall deliver him to said court through the city fiscal, and if the latter does not take the prisoner in time to the latter so that the proper investigation may be made and information filed within six hours, he has to release the prisoner in order to avoid criminal liability for violation of article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. The city fiscal is not an agent of the arresting officer, but as prosecuting officer, he will be recreant to his duty if he does not do his best to make the investigation and file the corresponding information in time against the person arrested without warrant, in order to effect the delivery of the prisoner to the city courts within the period of six hours prescribed by law, and thus prevent his being released by the officer making the arrest. If the city fiscal does not file the information within said period of time and the arresting officer continues holding the prisoner beyond the six-hour period, the fiscal will not be responsible for violation of said article 125, because he is not the one who has arrested and illegally detained the person arrested, unless he has ordered or induced the arresting officer to hold and not release the prisoner after the expiration of said period.
Also, the penultimate paragraph implies that the period required under Article 125 is not coterminous with the period for conducting an inquest:
After the release of the prisoner, the city fiscal may make or continue the investigation and file afterwards the proper information against him with the corresponding court, if the result of the investigation so warrants, in order to secure a warrant of arrest of the same. Of course, as we have said in our decision for the purpose of determining the criminal liability of a peace officer detaining a person for a longer period of time than the six hours prescribed by article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, “the means of communication as well as the hour of arrest and other circumstances such as the time of surrender and the material possibility for the fiscal to make the investigation and file in time the necessary information, must be taken into consideration.” The period originally fixed by our Penal Code was twenty four (24) hours, and if the city fiscal believes that the period now prescribed by article 125 of the Revised Penal Code is short, and that the law must be amended so as to extend it, it would be proper for the interested parties to take the case to Congress, since it can not be done by judicial legislation (emphasis mine, not by the Court).
Lastly, at the time of Sayo, the rules in the City of Manila on the delivery of persons arrested without a warrant differed from those in the provinces. This is no longer the case, with Circular No. 61 of the Department of Justice.
Medina v. Orozco and Soria v. Desierto
Medina v. Orozco (citation above) is also a petition for habeas corpus. Medina had been arrested at about 12:00 p.m. (probably this was supposed to read “midnight”) on November 7, 1965 for a charge of murder. At about 9:00 a.m. in the morning of the same day, the case against Medina was referred to a fiscal, who forthwith conducted a preliminary investigation in Medina’s presence. At about 3:40 p.m. on November 10, 1965 (ten days later), an information for murder was filed against Medina and two others in the Caloocan branch of the Court of First Instance of Rizal.
Medina claimed violation of Article 125. Since he had been charged of murder, the arresting officer’s duty under the law1 was either to deliver him to the proper judicial authorities within 18 hours, or thereafter release him. The fact however is that he was not released. From the time of his arrest at 12:00 p.m. (m.n.?) on November 7 to 3:40 p.m. on November 10 when the information against him for murder actually was in court, over 75 hours have elapsed.
The Supreme Court ruled there was no Article 125, holding:
But, stock should be taken of the fact that November 7 was a Sunday; November 8 was declared an official holiday; and November 9 (election day) was also an official holiday. In these three no-office days, it was not an easy matter for a fiscal to look for his clerk and stenographer, draft the information and search for the Judge to have him act thereon, and get the clerk of court to open the courthouse, docket the case and have the order of commitment prepared. And then, where to locate and the certainty of locating those officers and employees could very well compound the fiscal’s difficulties. These are considerations sufficient enough to deter us from declaring that Arthur Medina was arbitrarily detained. For, he was brought to court on the very first office day following arrest (emphasis mine, not by the Court).
Thus, Medina’s petition for habeas corpus, for other reasons, was not granted.
Medina was cited in the 2005 case of Soria v. Desierto. Again Soria is not a criminal prosecution for violation of Article 125. Rather, it was a special civil action for certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the officers of the Office of the Ombudsman in dismissing Soria’s complaint for violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code (Delay in the delivery of detained persons) against his arresting officers. At the time of Soria’s arrest, Article 125 as presently-worded and quoted on top of this page was already in force.
On or about 8:30 p.m. of May 13, 2001 (a Sunday), Soria was arrested without a warrant for alleged illegal possession of a .38 cal. revolver (at that time with the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period) and for violation of Article 261 par. (f) of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to the Commission on Election Resolution No. 3328 (which carries the penalty of imprisonment of not less than one  year but not more than six  years).
The next day, at about 4:30 p.m. of 14 May 2001 (Monday and election day), Soria was brought to the residence of Provincial Prosecutor Jessica Viloria in San Juan, Ilocos Sur, before whom a Joint-Affidavit against them was subscribed and sworn to by the arresting officers. From there, the arresting officers brought Soria to the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and there at about 6:00 p.m. the Joint-Affidavit was filed and docketed.
At about 6:30 p.m., 14 May 2001, Soria was released upon the order of Prosecutor Viloria to undergo the requisite preliminary investigation. From the time of Soria’s detention up to the time of his release, twenty-two (22) hours had already elapsed.
At 5:00 p.m., 15 May 2001, informations for Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition and violation of Article 261 par. (f) of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to COMELEC Resolution No. 3328, were filed in the Regional Trial Court at Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.
Soria alleged that the Ombudsman gravely erred in construing Article 125 as excluding Sundays, holidays and election days in the computation of the periods prescribed within which public officers should deliver arrested persons to the proper judicial authorities as the law never makes such exception. Statutory construction has it that if a statute is clear and unequivocal, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without any attempts at interpretation
The Ombudsman, on the other hand, relied on the cases of Medina and Sayo and on commentaries of jurists (those of former Chief Justice Ramon Aquino and of Prof. Leonor Boado) to bolster their position that Sundays, holidays and election days are excluded in the computation of the periods provided in Article 125, hence, the arresting officers delivered Sayo well within the allowable time.
The Supreme Court upheld the Ombudsman’s resolution, which read:
An election day or a special holiday, should not be included in the computation of the period prescribed by law for the filing of complaint/information in courts in cases of warrantless arrests, it being a no-office day. (Medina vs. Orosco, 125 Phil. 313.) In the instant case, while it appears that the complaints against Soria for Illegal Possession of Firearm and Violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 3328 were filed with the Regional Trial Court and Municipal Trial Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, only on May 15, 200 at 4:30 p.m., he had already been released the day before or on May 14, 2001 at about 6:30 p.m. by the respondents, as directed by Prov. Prosecutor Jessica [Viloria]. Hence, there could be no arbitrary detention or violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to speak of (emphasis mine, not by the Court).
The Supreme Court appears to imply, based on Medina and Soria, that the period under Article 125 need not be coterminous with the period for completing an inquest, because of the presence of holidays and the consequent inability to file the information before the court. Thus, the inquest may still be held even after the expiration of the period under Article 125. Whether the arresting officers would be liable under Article 125 is another question.
Thus, Section 3, Circular No. 61, which provides that the inquest proceedings must be terminated within the period prescribed under the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, must be understood as being qualified by the term “as may be practicable” or “as soon as possible” to consider the rulings in Medina and Soria.