Home » Opinion » Firing Line » Threat to our rights

Threat to our rights

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

We understand that President Duterte signed into law Republic Act 10973, giving subpoena powers to the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) along with the director and deputy director for administration of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), in order to intensify his anti-criminality campaign.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has clarified that being issued a subpoena does not mean instant incarceration, although the state can file a petition for indirect contempt on the person. But what other choice does that leave its subject since he will be indicted if he fails to abide by the subpoena?

Cristina Antonio from the Center for International Law or CenterLaw, a law firm co-founded by Roque, says these new subpoena powers are blatant, gross violations of the right to life and liberty, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the rights of the accused under arrest and custodial investigation under the Constitution and our laws. In plain and simple words, Antonio describes these powers as downright illegal.

Human rights lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), who represents victims of drug war abuses, believes these powers are a legalization of a step that the police could not do before.

* * *

Before, police operatives who wanted to search a house would have to apply for a search warrant in court, answer certain questions from the judge, and describe in detail what they were searching for.

With the new law, the search powers of the police were increased since it states that the subpoena only has to contain a reasonable description of the things demanded which must be relevant to the investigation. Only the police could decide on what would be relevant or not.

And how many people would be brazen enough to defy a subpoena signed by no less than PNP Chief Director-General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa? If one does defy the subpoena and gets charged, he would have to spend money, be inconvenienced, and face a damaged reputation even if he wins the case.

Firing Line would like to point out that this could lead to a warrantless arrest since an officer could already arrest an individual legally if there was probable cause to believe that person committed an offense.

And more importantly, it could violate the constitutional rights of persons under custodial investigation as well as the Bill of Rights which guarantees the security of a person and his property against unreasonable searches and seizures.

* * *

SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column athttp://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/