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The rights of those accused of doing wrong

Aside from protecting people and property, law enforcement officers are required to ensure that a suspect's rights are not violated. File photo

All Philippine National Police personnel are required to "respect the human rights and dignity of suspects during police operations," according to Rule 1 of the Revised PNP Operational Procedures handbook. This requirement is just below the PNP's directive "to serve the public and protect life and property."

But just what are these rights? 

According to the PNP handbook and to "Know Your Rights: A Citizen's Primer on Law Enforcement" that the PNP and the Hanns Sidel Foundation produced in 2008, those rights include the suspect's rights to remain silent, to be assisted by counsel and to be informed of those rights in the first place.

Arrests

According to the police manual, PNP personnel can generally effect arrests any day of the week and any time of day or night. Arrests generally have to be based on warrants signed by a judge unless a person is seen committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime. Police officers can also arrest a person without warrant "when an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances, that the person to be arrested has committed it."

When making an arrest, police officers have to verify that the warrant is valid and must request the court for a copy of the warrant. PNP personnel must also introduce themselves and provide identification when serving a warrant. They are also required to inform the person being arrested the reason that an arrest is being made.

Once an arrest is made, PNP personnel must "secure the person to be arrested and use handcuffs for the protection of the arresting officer, other individuals or the arrested person himself." They can use other methods of restraint if handcuffs are not available, but are prohibited from using "torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will," according to the "Know Your Rights" handbook.

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Arresting officers are also required to inform suspects of the following rights:

  • The right to remain silent and to be informed that statements made can be used in court

  • The right to counsel of the suspect's choice and the right to be provided counsel if the suspect cannot afford to hire a lawyer

  • The right to communicate with a lawyer or with immediate family

It is the arresting officer's responsibility to make sure that these rights are read to a suspect and that suspects understand their rights.

Custody

While in custody, suspects can give sworn statements but these must be made in writing. PNP personnel must also make sure that the sworn statement has been explained to the suspect before it is signed.

Sworn statements must be signed in the presence of counsel, or if a lawyer is not available, "in the presence of any of the parents, elder brothers and sisters, his spouse, the municipal mayor, the municipal judge, district school supervisor, priest, imam or religious minister chosen by him."

Without those factors, extrajudicial confessions and sworn statements are inadmissible in court, the PNP procedural manual says.

"After interrogation, the person under custodial investigation shall have the right to be informed of his right to demand physical examination by an independent and competent doctor of his own choice," the manual also says.

Suspects also have the right to be visited by immediate family, medical doctors, religious leaders, and representatives of accredited non-government organizations.

'Nuclear explosion of violence'

President Rodrigo Duterte's assumption to power has prompted a drastic rise in the number of alleged drug users and drug pushers surrendering to authorities en masse. It has also, however, seen a rise in the number of drug suspects being killed while allegedly resisting arrest or while in police custody.

The number of deaths has led lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group and trustee of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, to call the war on crime "a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiraling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law, and without reason."

Aside from suspects killed during police operations, there have been summary executions of supposed criminals. Two victims found in Quezon City on Saturday night are just the latest.

"Yes, drug pushers destroy lives. Yes, criminals behave like animals. But are those who kill them any better? And will the killing stop there?" Diokno said in a post on the PCIJ website.

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