There’s only two people in your life you should lie to . . . the police and your girlfriend.
— Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson
WHAT the authorities don’t know is that it’s a long trend among law enforcement agencies, particularly the warrant section of some police stations, to abuse the serving of warrants for searches and to arrest accused individuals with cases filed in court.
I know some policemen or warrant officers who use this document in extorting money from people who may be called fugitives of the law or those who have contraband inside their residence or office.
Hence the call from lawyers urging the Supreme Court to come out with clear guidelines for judges in issuing search or arrest warrants following what Vice President Leni Robredo has condemned as the “massacre” of nine activists in simultaneous police operations in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal recently.
Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Government dean Professor Antonio La Viña lamented that such court orders have been used as “death warrants” against members of militant organizations. This is a gross violation of our Bill of Rights, which states in Section 1: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
Human rights and activist groups are now questioning the police practice of getting warrants from courts outside the jurisdiction of their targets, which had led to killings, the latest on Sunday (March 7, 2021) in Calabarzon, which the police explained had resulted from their perennial alibi “nanlaban,” or resistance by the victims.
Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyer Kristina Conti said that while her group was considering legal remedies against the abuse of a Supreme Court circular that allowed courts in Metro Manila to issue search warrants in places outside the national capital, its main call was for the police to “stick to the rules and apply with the court of jurisdiction.”
The point here is that judges should be circumspect as to their appreciation of witnesses who might not be telling the truth. It appears that some judges who issue the warrants appear to be clueless, careless, or complicit.”
Even before this, critics have been sounding the alarm against SC Circular No. 3-8-2-SC, saying that the search warrants issued by Metro Manila judges were being “weaponized” to target critics of the government.
Under Sec. 12 of the circular, the Manila and Quezon City executive judges can act on applications filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Anti-Crime Task Force (ACTF) for search warrants involving heinous crimes, illegal gambling, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions as well as violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
These applications must be “personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies and shall particularly describe therein the places to be searched and/or the property or things to be seized as prescribed in the Rules of Court, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia noted.
Regarding the deaths of the nine people whose names were indicated in the search warrants, PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said that police operatives exerted all possible means to “peacefully serve the search warrants.”
Usana added, however, that “(policemen) are . . . trained to defend themselves against any unlawful aggression.”
The Department of Justice (DoJ) said it will be studying whether the killings could be investigated by the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons, which was created by Administrative Order No. 35 issued in 2012.
Justice undersecretary Adrian Sugay said those who died must first be confirmed as legitimate activists, stressing that “if they are not, what will happen is that it should be brought before the police, the ordinary processes of the police.”
Amidst all of these controversies, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed shock and horror at the recent killings of activists in Southern Luzon and an international human rights watchdog urged the UN body to immediately send a ‘rapid response unit’ to investigate their deaths at the hands of security forces.
OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani expressed much concern over the incidents and they are “deeply worried that these latest killings indicate an escalation in violence, intimidation, harassment and ‘red-tagging’ of human rights defenders.”
Shamdasani said an investigation must be “conducted with a view to accountability” because “the fact remains that most of the perpetrators of these human rights violations are enjoying impunity to this day.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the killings show the need for an independent and international inquiry into rights violations in the Philippines. It added that the Southern Luzon raids were apparent politically motivated killings and the police and military are merely trying to justify their abuses with unconvincing justifications that echo the Duterte administration’s drug war’ claims. (ai/mtvn)