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‘Lawyers in bar may have contaminated evidence’

Lacson, a former PNP chief, also asks public not to judge police harshly

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said on Tuesday that the three lawyers arrested and detained by the police were not entirely free of blame as they might have “contaminated evidence.”

The chair of the Senate public order committee took up the cudgels for the Makati policemen who apprehended the lawyers on Aug. 16, urging the public not to judge them harshly and to listen to their side first.

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He suggested that the presence of the lawyers might have compromised the operation as they were seen “touching items” inside the Time in Manila bar while the police were searching for party drugs.

Lacson cited a report of the National Capital Region Police Office which “indicated the three lawyers roamed inside the premises, took pictures on every floor and touched items ‘as if doing their own search without authority,’ which might have contaminated the evidence.”

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Presumption of regularity

“There is such a thing as presumption of regularity,” he said, noting that videos taken of the search operation at the bar showed that the policemen asked the lawyers who they were representing, and arrested them “after they could not give clear answers.”

However, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said the arrest and detention for over 24 hours of the lawyers who were representing the bar owner raised “grave concerns for the rule of law in the Philippines.”

According to the IBP which is composed of 55,000 lawyers nationwide, the three “had every right to represent their client and be present to observe and record the implementation of a search warrant.”

IBP president Abdiel Fajardo said in a statement that the incident not only “[eroded] the constitutional guarantee of due process” but also violated the United Nations’ basic principles on the role of lawyers.

These principles, Fajardo pointed out, require governments to ensure that lawyers perform their duty “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”

“In representing their clients in court, in counseling them while in detention and in representing them during searches, lawyers are performing their constitutional duty to act as legal counsel. [They] should not be treated as if they are in criminal conspiracy with their clients,” he said.

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Charges filed

The Makati police have charged Lenie Rocha, Jan Soliven and Romulo Alarcon with resistance and disobedience to a person in authority under the Revised Penal Code, violation of a city ordinance against crossing a police line during an investigation, and constructive possession of illegal drugs.

The police claimed the three lawyers did not identify themselves and took pictures and videos as they were searching the Makati bar on Aug. 16 for more drugs. During a raid five days before, the police said they found ecstasy, cocaine and kush inside the bar.

Makati prosecutors scheduled the preliminary investigation on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4.

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TAGS: lawyers, Phil‎ippine National Police, Sen. Panfilo Lacson
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