The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Tuesday took a strong stance against harassment and intimidation that the police authorities might have employed against the three lawyers who were arrested by the policemen for allegedly obstructing the execution of the search warrant against Time in Manila bar, a suspected drug den, in Makati City last week.
IBP national president Abdiel Dan Fajardo stressed that lawyers should not be treated as if they were in criminal conspiracy with their clients when performing their duties.
“It is the sworn duty of lawyers to use all lawful means to defend their clients. They should not be harassed, intimidated or treated like criminals when performing their duty,” said the IBP, the country’s mandatory organization for lawyers.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson said the public should not be too quick to condemn the Philippine National Police over the arrest of the three lawyers.
“Let us not be too hasty or harsh in condemning the NCRPO, without getting their side of the story. There is such a thing as a presumption of regularity,” said Lacson, who headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001.
He noted videos taken of the raid at the Makati City bar showed that the NCRPO officers asked the lawyers who they were representing, and arrested them after they could not give clear answers.
He also said the videos showed one of the police officers explaining to the lawyers that they're entering the scene and taking videos without prior authorization might constitute obstruction of justice.
While the lawyers said they represented one of the establishment’s owner, Lacson pointed out that they did not provide names.
Furthermore, the senator said the NCRPO team’s report indicated the three lawyers roamed inside the premises, took pictures in every floor and touched items “as if doing their own search without authority,” which may have contaminated the evidence.
In taking the cudgels for the PNP in this case, Lacson pointed out the PNP leadership had shown it was sincere in cleansing its ranks of rogue members, and deserved at least a chance to have its side on the issue heard.
The IBP issued the statement after Leni Rocha, Jan Vincent Soliven and Romulo Alarcon were arrested last week while documenting the police’s inventory of the raided Time in Manila bar that allegedly sells party drugs.
The police then detained the lawyers and filed a complaint for obstruction of justice for violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, Resistance and Disobedience, violation of a city ordinance and Section 11, Article 2 of the Dangerous Drugs Act on constructive possession of illegal drugs against them.
The Makati City Prosecutors’ Office has ordered the release of the lawyers pending preliminary investigation on the complaint filed against them by the members of the Drug Enforcement Unit of Makati City Police Station.
The prosecutors set the preliminary investigation hearing on Aug. 28.
“Such treatment of lawyers erodes the Constitution’s guarantee of due process for every person—be they our son or daughter, teenagers who violated the curfew, or those suspected of committing a crime,” the IBP executive said.
Aside from violation of the Constitution, Fajardo said such treatment also violated the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which require the Government to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
The UN principles also require that lawyers not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.
“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, and should not be treated as if they are in criminal conspiracy with their clients,” he said.
“Lawyers and law enforcers have a common duty. As officers of the court, both are tasked to help administer justice in accordance with law. The law enforcer’s zeal to investigate and arrest criminals is matched by the lawyer’s determination to ensure that legal rules are followed and legal rights are respected,” the IBP official added.