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Diokno: Review warrantless arrests

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Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the arrest of film director Jade Castro and his companions accused of arson in Quezon province show the need for a review of policies and retraining for law enforcement on warrantless arrests.

“This case should concern everyone,” Diokno said, “because it could happen to any of us.”

He questioned the basis for the arrests, which lacked a warrant, and emphasized the importance of law enforcement respecting individual rights.

The Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Quezon on Friday recommended the filing of destructive arson cases against Castro and 3 others over their alleged involvement in the burning of a modern jeepney in Catanauan town on Jan. 31, reports said.

“When we allow our law enforcers to take it upon themselves to take away our liberty, I think that must be very strictly construed and they must be trained in a way that they always respect the rights of ordinary people,” Diokno, who earlier questioned the basis for the warrantless arrests, said.

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Witnesses in Mulanay town, which Castro’s group visited for a local festival, have said that they were eating at a food park there when the arson happened.

CCTV footage has also suggested they were in Mulanay, around 30 minutes away from Catanauan, at the time.

Police have their own witness and have pointed to Castro’s social media posts critical of the government’s jeepney modernization program as potential motive for the arson.

He added that social media posts and opinions are part of freedom of expression and should not “be used against us this way.”

Diokno said that the case should be of public concern, especially for those who travel to remote places. The Political Officers League of the Philippines (POLPhil) meanwhile said it stands in solidarity with Castro and his companions who were arrested without warrant.

Castro and his companions have refuted these accusations, claiming they were in Mulanay at the time of the incident. Mulanay and Catanauan have a distance of 24.4 km. POLPhil President Rudy Cañeda said: “We demand Castro’s immediate release if there is no concrete proof to support his continuing arrest together with his companions.”

“We believe in the fundamental right to freedom of expression and due process, cornerstones of a just and open society,” Cañeda said.

The director was in the other town at the time, according to Mulanay, Quezon LGU authorities, and there is CCTV footage to support their claims. However, the PNP is adamant that the CCTV run by the local government is unreliable.

POLPhil urged the appropriate authorities “to respect these principles and make sure that the allegations against Mr. Castro are thoroughly and fairly investigated.”

“POLPhil encourages open dialogue and peaceful discourse as essential tools for addressing societal issues. We believe that silencing voices, regardless of personal opinions, undermines the democratic values we strive to uphold,” it added.

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