FLAG asks police to reconsider 'arrest without warning' directive

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
FLAG asks police to reconsider 'arrest without warning' directive
A few residents spend the night at a covered court at Barangay 420 in Sampaloc, Manila after violating the curfew of the enhanced community quarantine midnight of April 23. The covered court is one of the four temporary detention facilities the local government will use once the 48-hour "hard lockdown" of Sampaloc, Manila is implemented. The temporary detention facilities are furnished with an audio-visual equipment that will show a some infomercials about the COVID-19 for the violators.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines—Rights lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group asked the Philippine National Police to reconsider a spoken order to “arrest without warning” supposed violators of quarantine guidelines.

Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, said Tuesday there will be no letup in arrests during the lockdown. Government officials have been ramping up the narrative that Filipinos are "pasaway"—or are too stubborn to follow quarantine guidelines—as April 30, the projected date of the lifting of the quarantine nears.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier blamed "pasaway" Filipinos for a rise in cases of COVID-19. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease had been expected to rise as the Philippines improves its capacity to test potential cases.

"There will be no more warning for violators,” Gamboa warned.

But FLAG, in a statement, said this order from the police chief “appears to give the police the green light to arrest ‘ECQ violators’ even if the grounds for a lawful warrantless arrest are not present.”

Neither the Constitution nor the country's laws are during the state of national health emergency, FLAG said, which means that warrantless arrests are only valid if a person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; if a crime has just been committed; or if the person is an escaped prisoner.

FLAG also stressed that police must comply with their procedural duty to inform a person to be arrested of their authority to do so, their intention to arrest and the cause of it—as provided by Rule 113 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Arrest without warning or without prior information "would mean disregarding the carefully calibrated general rule and exceptions in Rule 113 and creating a new rule of arrests, which is not allowed in the Constitution."

The lawyers’ group also noted that a person arrested should be subjected to an inquest procedure within 12, 18, or 36 hours as the case may be.

Arrested persons should also not be maltreated or abused, they added.

Actual warnings required for one violation

Gamboa’s latest order also gives rise to arrests to be made on two laws with penal clauses yet to be interpreted by the Supreme Court, and one felony which requires prior warning before arrest.

These are Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Evennts of Public Concern. The latter allowed President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency.

An arrest may also be made for a supposed violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code or the resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.

FLAG said the SC interpreted Article 151 as “an act directed knowingly against a the person in authority—which may require, necessarily, a prior warning as to the officer’s identity and official capacity.”

FLAG asked the PNP to “reconsider its directive to arrest without warning, to observe the law and rules on arrest, and to ensure that the basic rights of persons under their custody are respected and protected.”

The PNP said Tuesday that they recorded a total of 136,517 ECQ violators since the lockdown period.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who violated quarantine protocols by going to a Makati hospital and a supermarket in Taguig while waiting for his COVID-19 test result, remains free.

The National Bureau of Investigation said it would have invited Pimentel for questioning, but the senator—who found out he was positive for COVID-19 while at Makati Medical Center—was still under quarantine.

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