Groups slam arrest of 3 lawyers in Makati drug den raid

By Joel R. San Juan & Rene Acosta

THE president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has warned that the warrantless arrest and the subsequent filing of criminal charges by police authorities against three lawyers monitoring a police raid on their client’s establishment suspected of being a drug den would send a “chilling effect” on the lawyers’ performance of their duty to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of an accused are respected.

IBP President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo told the Businessmirror that the filing of constructive possession of illegal drugs against lawyers Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha  and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon was merely to justify their illegal detention and to give policemen the basis for holding them longer under custody.

‘Steer clear’

IN Makati City, meanwhile, Mayor Abby Binay has warned drug dealers and their clients to steer clear of the city, as the city government is determined to put them behind bars, and urged the Makati police to pursue the charges filed against 31 employees of a bar at Barangay Poblacion arrested during an anti-illegal drugs operation last August 11.

  “We are determined to banish the illegal-drug trade from our communities, especially in establishments like bars where drug dealing can easily become part of the services offered to clients because of unscrupulous business owners,” the mayor said in a news statement issued on Monday.

The mayor noted that, out of the 31 suspects arrested at Time Bar along Makati Avenue during the said operation, only two turned out to be residents of Makati City. The rest of them, including the bar manager, are nonresidents with residential addresses in the cities of Pasay, Quezon, Taguig, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Caloocan, Pasig, Manila, and in the provinces of Cavite and Rizal.

No warrantless arrest

Fajardo, in a news statement issued over the weekend, added: “Laws of nations accord special treatment to lawyers because they perform a unique role in the administration of justice. A lawyer who is subjected to intimidation or threats may not be an effective
advocate of his client’s cause, resulting in miscarriage of justice.”

“If the police are allowed to effect warrantless arrests against lawyers upon their sole and exclusive determination of the elements of obstruction of justice as a crime, then we will see fewer lawyers responding to their clients’ pleas for assistance,” the IBP head added.

Earlier the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) denounced the warrantless arrest of the three lawyers, saying that it “personifies the government’s arrogance, ignorance and disregard of law.”

“It demonstrates that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is really a war against the law,” FLAG Chairman Jose Manuel Diokno said.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) also defended the three lawyers, saying that they were merely performing their professional duties during the police search.

“When the police arrogantly act as judge, jury and executioner, and with brazen impunity and boorishness at that, then a breakdown in law and a start-up in disorder reigns. Then the failing bloody ‘war on drugs’ becomes a drugged war. And we are all none the safer,” NUPL President lawyer Edre Olalia said.

Their arrest stemmed from a search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court in Makati City on the registered owners and managers of Time Bar along Makati Avenue in Makati City.

The warrant was served by the police last Thursday and the raid yielded a number of drugs, including ecstacy and some sachets of cocaine and other party drugs amounting to more than P1 million.

The three lawyers arrived at the establishment during the raid to represent one of the owners of the establishments and took notes and photos of the search.

The police claimed that the lawyers were trying to intimidate their team implementing the search warrant, which resulted in a verbal confrontation and eventually the arrest of the lawyers for alleged obstructive of justice.

However, when the police officially filed a complaint before the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office against the lawyers, it identified their other supposed offenses, such as resistance and disobedience, violation of an ordinance on crossing police lines and constructive
possession of illegal drugs.

No mercy

National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde revealed on Monday that the number of high value targets(HVTs)listed on its Double Barrel antidrug campaign has slightly increased.

“The list of high-value targets as of August 15, 2018, based on new information and continuing validation has increased to 9,972, from 9,866 listed in June 30, 2018,” the PNP chief said at a news briefing.

The PNP is carrying a combination of two operational campaigns in its intensified operations against illegal drugs, and these are the Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang.

Double Barrel is aimed against big-time operators, protectors and peddlers of illegal drugs, while Tokhang is directed against street pushers and users of illegal drugs.

Albayalde said that out of the 9,972 HVTs, a total of 4,959 big-time drug suspects have already surrendered and are now under monitoring and evaluation, while 2,825 others or 28.32 percent were arrested and charged as of August 15.   

He said that only 258 HVT personalities or about 2.58 percent have died in police operations.

On the other hand, at least 654 HVTs can no longer be located in their last known addresses and areas of operation, while 322 other HVT personalities had become victims of “homicide cases under investigation.”

With the new figures, Albayalde said the PNP is working to get 1,003 HVTs through police interdiction operations by way of buy-bust operation and service of warrants of arrest and search warrants.

Meanwhile, the PNP chief said that while the PNP will carry out the campaign against illegal drugs with “chilling” effect, it would also show no mercy to its members who have been tagged as “ninja cops” or those who are rogue.

“Just as we have promised our anti-illegal drugs campaign to be relentless and chilling, so it shall be. But more so when police personnel are involved, there will be no mercy,” he said.



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