Hear cops' story in Makati bar raid, Lacson says

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Hear cops' story in Makati bar raid, Lacson says
The Southern Police District said the lawyers "entered the premises of the bar, took several pictures and videos of the scene [and] intimidated the members of the searching team."
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday urged the public to hold off their judgment against the policemen involved in the controversial raid in a Makati bar last week.

The senator, who is a former police chief, asked the public to not be too hasty in passing criticisms over the cops.

“Let us not be too hasty or harsh in condemning the [National Capital Region Police Office] without getting their side of the story. There is such a thing as presumption of regularity,” Lacson said in a statement.

Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police chief, also said the same sentiment on Monday morning.

Albayalde said that there must have been a "compelling reason” behind the cops’ actions. Should counter-charges be filed against the Makati cops, Albayalde said that the PNP will extend to them best legal assistance to defend their case.

Makati cops last Thursday detained lawyers Lenie Rocha, Jan Vincent Soliven and Romulo Alarcon for “intimidating” the police while they were conducting a search operation at TIME bar in Makati City.

The police, on the following day, filed criminal raps against the three lawyers, including a complaint on “constructive possession” of illegal drugs.

The arrest of the legal counsels drew strong criticism from Vice President Leni Robredo, lawyers’ groups and the public. The Commission on Human Rights also expressed alarm over the incident and said that it will continue its probe on the matter.

Lacson also pointed out that the NCRPO’s report noted that the lawyers roamed inside the premises, took pictures in every floor and touched items “as if doing their owns each without authority.” This could have contaminated evidence, the lawmaker said.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, also on Tuesday morning, said that the lawyers’ acts do not constitute obstruction of justice as the presidential decree on the violation has a list of specified acts.

'Arrest of lawyers alarming'

In a separate statement, the IBP board of governors said that the filing of criminal complaints against the three lawyers who were performing their duty “raises grave concerns for the rule of law in the Philippines.”

According to the Supreme Court, constructive possession “exists when the drug is under the dominion and control of the accused, or when he has the right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found.”

Earlier last week, police also filed complaints for maintenance of a drug den against the owner and employees of TIME bar. The NCRPO said that illegal drugs were recovered from chairs and tables of the customers in the bar.

But the IBP board of governors stressed that the three lawyers “had every right to represent their client and be present to observe and  record the implementation of a search warrant.”

“Such treatment of lawyers erodes the Constitution’s guarantee of due process for every person,” the IBP added.

The group also stressed that like the police who were investigating the case, the three lawyers who were arrested were only matching their determination in ensuring that legal rights are respected.

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