IBP to seek release of Makati bar lawyers detained for 'obstruction'

IBP to seek release of Makati bar lawyers detained for 'obstruction'
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."
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines will be filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the “questionable arrest and detention” of three lawyers who were detained by Makati police on Thursday for alleged obstruction of justice.

The writ of habeas corpus, which means “to produce the body,” is a court order for individuals or agencies to bring a detained person before the court issuing the order and to explain the validity of their detention.

IBP president Abdiel Dan Fajardo said they intend to file the petition on Friday but said the national organization for lawyers has yet to issue a formal statement on the detention of lawyers Romulo Alarkon, Jan Vincent Soliven and Leni Rocha.

According to the Southern Police District, the three lawyers "entered the premises of the bar, took several pictures and videos of the scene [and] intimidated the members of the searching team" while police were implementing a search warrant on TIME in Manila, a bar in Makati City where a sting operation was conducted last Saturday.

READ: ‘Drug bar’ owner, 31 employees charged

The SPD said the lawyers did all these "without proper and prior coordination."

"Eventually they were placed under arrest for Obstruction of Justice," SPD also said.

'Lawyers followed procedure'

Diane Desierto, a law professor and a partner at the Desierto and Desierto law firm, has denied the supposed obstruction of justice on her Facebook page and on the blog of the European Journal of International Law.

"The young lawyers were sent to just monitor the search implementation and inventory-taking as part of standard procedures," she said on social media. "They identified themselves as counsels for the owner, and thereafter were told they had no authority there and then publicly handcuffed and arrested to the public."

She said on the EJIL blog that the lawyers had been following standard procedure "[b]ut instead, one of the police team members thought they were being 'arrogant' and immediately arrested them on a charge of 'obstruction of justice'." 

She added: "The police did not explain why, and how, the passive and quiet acts of note-taking and phone camera photography of cabinets being opened amounted to an 'obstruction of justice' under the Philippines' Presidential Decree No. 1829."

Manlaban sa EJK joins call for lawyers' release

In a statement, Mga Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings, or Manlaban sa EJKs, demanded the immediate release of the three lawyers, whose detention they said "highlights the complete degradation of law enforcement and the collapse of order in the country."

The lawyers' group said that the three lawyers were legally entitled to be present during the search of their client's bar. "Search by police of private premises, if with color of law, requires witnesses," the group, which includes former Ateneo School of Governance dean and law professor Antonio La Viña and Bayan Muna party-list chairman Neri Colmenares, said.

"Arresting, detaining, and charging them, ironically, with obstruction of justice shows how police have become brutal and high-handed in their operations, especially in those involving drugs," Manlaban sa EJKs said. "What more can they be toward people who know nothing about the law?"

RELATED: High-profile lawyers behind Manlaban sa EJK alliance

— Kristine Joy Patag with Jonathan de Santos

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