Thursday, April 16, 2009


I don’t know why the police keep violating the protocols established by law in carrying out their duties, especially the constitutional protections accorded each individual suspected of a crime. Is it lack of training, forgetfulness, comprehension or plain disregard for the law borne of a cavalier attitude – nurtured by that Maoist principle that power comes from the barrel of a gun?

Whatever the reason is, the plain fact is that the police never seem to learn from their mistakes in disregarding constitutional safeguards that only make criminal defense attorneys too happy in taking the cases of their clients and arguing for the dismissal of the charges against them on constitutional grounds – never mind the evidence, however overwhelming it is, for when the court finds the police violated the suspect’s constitutional rights in obtaining evidence against him, such evidence becomes useless.

This again is shown in the arrest on Thursday of ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon’s driver and three house helpers in connection with the shooting of Failon’s wife last Wednesday. Despite frantic protestations from the arrestees’ lady lawyer about the absence of warrants of arrest, the police proceeded with the arrest in haste by collaring, handcuffing and herding the arrestees into their patrol cars, as if they were dangerous criminals.

By the way, the police later on issued a statement saying that the four were not arrested but merely invited for questioning. But no amount of spinning will detract from that fact that these hapless individuals were arrested, however the police would like to characterize it. Clearly, the four were not free to decline the “invitation” since they were collared and even handcuffed as they were led into the patrol cars. Those were clear indications of restraint on the arrestees’ freedom of movement.

Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution declares in no uncertain terms the right of every person against unreasonable seizure to be inviolable. This constitutional protection is bolstered by the Rules on Criminal Procedure which requires every arrest to be accompanied by a valid warrant issued by a judge and enumerates limited instances when a warrantless arrest may be valid, namely: (1) when, in the presence of a police officer, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; (2) when an offense has just been committed and the arresting officer has probable cause to arrest; and (3) when the person to be arrested is an escaped prisoner or detainee.

Since Failon’s driver and house helpers were arrested without warrants, their case should fall under the exceptions enumerated above for the arrest to be legal. The arrest, however, does not fall either under number (1) or number (3). The police were not present at the house of Failon on the Wednesday morning that his wife was shot; they did not witness the clearing or attempt to clear a possible crime scene. The police effected the arrest only on Thursday. Obviously, the four are not fugitives from justice.

Likewise, the police had no probable cause to arrest them based on number (2) because it is not yet established that a crime of obstruction of justice was in fact committed – that is only a belief being entertained by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) – nor were the police with personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the arrestees committed the alleged crime. The police were only drawing their conclusion that the arrestees could have been the ones responsible for the clearing of what could be a possible crime scene simply because they were under the employ of Failon. This is not the probable cause required by law.

Take note, it is not even established yet that there was a crime committed, since Failon’s wife could have committed suicide. If there was no crime how could there be obstruction of justice?

Clearly, the police acted in haste and without putting much thought into what they did. While zealousness in the performance of a public duty is commendable, respect for the law and rights of others is equally important. If the police do not want to be accused of inaction, if that is what impelled them to take hasty moves, they could have filed charges before the appropriate court or prosecutor’s office for a proper determination of possible culpability of their suspects. It’s not like by the time the police have secured warrants the suspects would have fled already; there is clearly no such exigency in this case.

What is sad in this is that even in cases where the police have correctly pinpointed the culprits in a crime, the suspects go scot-free because of the constitutional short-cuts taken. One need only survey the multitude of cases that reached the Supreme Court to see that skirting the requirements of the law in exchange for a quick arrest does not really serve the police well. By doing this the police are only making a mockery of themselves.

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