Lawyer's group to question law granting subpoena powers to police chief, CIDG officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) will question the new law granting subpoena powers to the National Police chief, as well as the director and deputy director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for supposedly violating the Bill of Rights.

NUPL President Edre Olalia said Republic Act (RA) No. 10973, which President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed into law, gives the police a shortcut to avoid complying with the strict requirements needed when applying for warrants of search or arrest.

"I think it is open to questions of constitutionality for violation of the Bill of we will question it in court, subject to resources," Olalia said.

READ: Duterte signs law giving PNP chief, officials subpoena powers

Article 3, section 2 of the Bill of RIghts states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose 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."

He added, while the police cannot arrest those who do not heed the subpoena, a charge for obstruction of justice may be filed against them.

Olalia warned the police may use the subpoena powers to conduct a so-called fishing expedition on persons of interest for a case without the need to get warrants from the court.

"'Yung mga shortcuts na hindi nakukuha ng search warrant, hindi na kailangang kumuha ng warrant of arrest, dadaanin na lang sa subpoena," Olalia said.

[Translation: The shortcuts that aren't covered by a search warrant, they don't need to get a warrant of arrest, they'll do it with a subpoena.]

Olalia clarified that these subpeonas were not like those from the NBI or prosecutors, where there would be no prejudice if not followed.

"Dito pwede kang i-indirect contempt. Maliban diyan, ang di sinasabi nila, kahit di ka i-indirect contempt, pwede nilang sabihin obstruction of justice ka," he said.

[Translation: Here, you can be charged with indirect contempt. Apart from that, what they're not saying is, even if you're not cited for indirect contempt, they can cite you for obstruction of justice.]

Duterte approved RA 10973 on  March 1, saying police officials now have the power to summon people and request documents in aid of investigations.

"The subpoena shall state the nature and purpose of the investigation, shall be directed to the person whose attendance is required, and in the case of a subpoena ducus tecum, it shall also contain a reasonable description of the books, documents, or things demanded which must be relevant to the investigation," the law said.

R.A. 10973 also said failure to comply with a PNP subpoena could lead to an indirect contempt charge at the Regional Trial Court.