MANILA The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Tuesday slammed the arrest of the three lawyers during search of a suspected drug den in Makati City.
The arrest and detention of three lawyers for alleged obstruction of justice and the filing of charges for constructive possession of illegal drugs, when they had every right to represent their client and be present to observe and record the implementation of a search warrant, raises grave concerns for the rule of law in the Philippines, IBP national President Abdiel Dan Fajardo said in a statement.
The lawyers' group made the remarks in response to the arrest of Lenie Rocha, Jan Vincent Soliven and Romulo Alarcon after they allegedly tried to prevent Makati policemen from proceeding to the third floor to conduct a search of the premises of Time in Manila Bar in Makati City last week.
He added such treatment of lawyers "erodes the Constitution's guarantee of due process for every person be they our son or daughter, teenagers who violated the curfew or those suspected of committing a crime."
Such treatment also violates the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which require the Government to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. The UN principles also require that lawyers not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions, he noted.
He also said it the sworn duty of lawyers to use all lawful means to defend their clients and they should not be harassed, intimidated or treated like criminals when performing their duty.
In representing their clients in court, in counseling them while in detention, and in representing them during searches, lawyers are performing their constitutional duty to act as legal counsel, and should not be treated as if they are in criminal conspiracy with their clients, Fajardo said.
The IBP president explained that lawyers and law enforcers have a common duty as officers of the court, both are tasked to help administer justice in accordance with law while law enforcer's zeal to investigate and arrest criminals is matched by the lawyer's determination to ensure that legal rules are followed and legal rights are respected.
On Monday, Makati City prosecutors have set the preliminary investigation on August 28 relative to the complaint filed against the three lawyers.
Rocha, Soliven and Alarcon are facing charges for violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, Resistance and Disobedience, violation of a city ordinance and Section 11, Article 2 of the Dangerous Drugs Act on constructive possession.
The case was filed by members of the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Makati City Police Station.
Meanwhile, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the police has always been working closely with members of the legal profession who opt to "guide and help" police in the orderly administration of justice.
While recognizing lawyers' roles in protecting their clients, the PNP chief urged them "not to intimidate" policemen enforcing a court order.
Albayalde also vowed to provide legal assistance to these policemen if they are charged for the arrests of the counsels.
He also said the policemen enjoy a "presumption of regularity" in the exercise of their duties and had "acted with good reason" in acting against the lawyers. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency