House probe of bar lawyers’ arrest pushed
Two congressmen, one of them a former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) official, on Wednesday called for a House inquiry into the arrest and detention of three lawyers who allegedly interfered as policemen were searching a bar in Makati City for drugs.
In a resolution, Assistant Majority Leader and 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon called the arrests “highly irregular considering that the … lawyers [were] only at the scene … to perform their duties as counsel of the said establishment.”
Leachon chairs the House justice committee while Belaro, one of its members, is a former IBP official and once headed its commission on bar discipline.
They called for a legislative inquiry to be conducted by the justice committee and committee on good government and public accountability, saying the incident “has serious implications on the observance of basic constitutional rights, especially the right to counsel, rights under custodial investigation and right to due process.”
Need for new rules
According to them, should it turn out that the lawyers were at the bar just to carry out their duties, a repeat of the incident “should never be countenanced because of its chilling effect on the rule of law.”
Thus, there might be a need to propose new legislation or amend the existing ones, or even come up with new administrative rules, they said.
In a raid on Aug. 11, Makati policemen seized ecstasy, cocaine and kush from the Time in Manila bar at Barangay Poblacion.
Obstruction of justice
In a follow-up operation on Aug. 16, a police team returned to the establishment to look for more drugs when lawyers Jan Vincent Soliven, Lenie Rocel Rocha and Romulo Bernard Alarkon of the Desierto & Desierto law office arrived at the scene to take notes and photographs.
The police, however, accused the three of interfering in their operation and arrested them for obstruction of justice.
The lawyers were released over 24 hours later after they were charged with resistance and disobedience to agents of authority, violation of a city ordinance against civilians crossing a police line, and constructive possession of illegal drugs.
In a separate statement, Belaro said the lawyers could file administrative cases against the police in the National Police Commission or People’s Law Enforcement Board for violating the Philippine National Police operations manual and standard operating procedures on crime scene investigation and criminal procedure.
They could also file countercharges in court against the policemen, he said. —JEROME ANING
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