The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

Our constitutional right to security is sacrosanct. “The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purposes shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. (Article 3, Section 2).

The State must ensure that the safety of its citizens in their domicile is not threatened or suppressed by any government-sponsored activity. This sense of security should also extend to houses of worship that the people consider personal sanctuaries. The Constitution perpetually allows the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference (Article 3, Section 5).

As pointed out by the Supreme Court, religious freedom provides two guarantees: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The former principally forbids the State from favoring or sponsoring any religion. The latter prohibits the State from unduly interfering with the outside manifestations of one’s belief and faith (Imbong vs. Ochoa). 

Failed intelligence

The simultaneous raid of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on four worship areas of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) in Davao City, supposedly to apprehend church leader Apollo Quiboloy, was indeed an overkill. Armed with only an arrest warrant and in full battle gear, the combined operatives from the Special Action Force (SAF), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and police units in Regions 10, 11, and 12 forcibly entered, trespassed, and desecrated the hallowed grounds of the Church properties in the early morning of June 10. They also interrupted the devotional prayer service of the members.

The scale reminded me of the government operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 and the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf in 2017. Why is the government treating Quiboloy like an enemy of the state? While the Pastor is now considered a fugitive, Quiboloy is not an accused terrorist, mass murderer, or traitor.

For the PNP, the entire operation was a failure. They were not able to arrest the primary subject of their manhunt. Pastor Quiboloy remains at large until today. The faulty criminal intelligence of the police has led to the wastage of government resources.

I also agree with the contention of KOJC legal counsel Israelito Torreon that the PNP may have committed a crime against religious worship. According to Article 132 of the Revised Penal Code II, public officers and employees are prohibited from preventing or disturbing, in a violent or threatening manner, the ceremonies or manifestations of any religion. By disrespecting their praise and worship grounds, the PNP has offended the religious feelings of KOJC members.

For instance, police officers who barged into Glory Mountain in Barangay Tamayong, Calinan district traumatized the caretakers and church members belonging to indigenous communities. They repeatedly pleaded with the raiding team to wait for the KOJC lawyer. Ignoring them, the police destroyed the gate and broke into the prayer mountain. Several men, women, and children got hurt in the incident.

Judicial warrant

In my view, there is no such thing as an incidental search for a valid warrant of arrest. The police had no right to intrude on these properties or disrupt worship services without a search warrant. The law mandates all enforcers to produce a search warrant before entering an enclosed or private property.

Without the consent of the owner (or if it is against his will), they cannot enter any dwelling for a search or seizure activity. It is illegal for them to procure a search warrant without justifiable cause or abuse it in the service of those legally obtained (Revised Penal Code II, Articles 128-129).

Moreover, under Rule 126, Sections 7-9 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, an officer who is refused admittance may break the door or window of a house to execute the warrant. No search and seizure can be conducted without the presence of the lawful occupant, any family member, or two witnesses in case of the absence of the latter. The search warrant must be served in the daytime unless otherwise indicated by the court.

I do not have any issue with the arrest warrant for the Pastor. What is questionable is the way in which the PNP served the arrest warrant in four separate KOJC properties. It is an unwitting admission on PNP’s part that they do not know the exact whereabouts of Quiboloy. Again, this is a failure in their intelligence work.

Suppressing rights

Former president Rodrigo Duterte, the current administrator of KOJC properties, was correct in calling out the PNP’s use of excessive force. I also echo Digong’s position that the Marcos Jr. regime is hell-bent on demonizing the Pastor. They want to destroy his credibility as a religious leader and political figure owing to his close ties with the Duterte family. It does not matter if he has not been convicted with finality by any domestic or overseas court.

The PNP raid on KOJC properties is another reminder that the current dispensation will not tolerate any vociferous opposition or dissent. This administration seems predisposed to suppress and intimidate those critical of dubious government policies and programs. Local officials who dare provide a democratic space for the people to air their grievances face immediate suspension and legal action. Media organizations that air commentaries unfavorable to the government are threatened with franchise revocation.

The government wants to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the citizenry. They want to dissuade the people from exercising their rights to free speech, expression, and assembly. Several friends and supporters have asked if the government will declare Martial Law in the future. What for? The Judiciary and Congress must stringently review the legal and factual basis for a Martial Law declaration. Ergo, the measure might get disapproved by the Senate or the High Court. From what has been happening on the political front since 2023, highlighted by the persecution of people and entities identified with the Dutertes, the country appears to be under a state of ‘undeclared’ Martial Law.

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