Press Release
February 28, 2006

Gov't agents conducting illegal arrests, seizures
detention face criminal liability, Drilon warns

Senate President and Liberal Party head Franklin Drilon today warned that police and military officials who continue to conduct illegal arrests, seizures and detention may incur criminal and administrative liabilities, or be liable for damages even under Proclamation 1017 that placed the country under a state of emergency.

In an interview, Drilon maintained that the Bill of Rights was still in effect and government officials, such as officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who conduct illegal arrests, seizures and illegal detain persons can be sued before the courts.

"Admittedly, good faith is a defense because they can claim to be simply performing their duties. But if it is shown that there was bad faith or malice in the performance of their duties, certainly these police officers can be charged in court," Drilon said when asked if government agents who implement illegal arrest were free from criminal liability under Proclamation 1017.

Proclamation 1017, Drilon explained, does not exempt the agents of government from liability. "These police officers must be responsible for what they do and if it can be shown that there was malice on the part of these officers; that they knowingly commit unlawful acts, they can be liable for damages," Drilon said.

The Senate President said existing laws against illegal arrest, seizures and detention by the police were still in effect and were not suspended by Proclamation 1017.

Drilon deplored that the Arroyo administration was violating the civil liberties of those who were being arrested without the benefit of arrest warrants and condemned the government takeover of the operations of the Daily Tribune newspaper.

"The acts that they have committed under the guise of 1017 are totally unconstitutional," Drilon said. "Proclamation 1017 is a legal superfluity. The proclamation simply stated a state of national emergency. However, it would appear that it has metamorphosed into an emergency rule" Drilon said.

In the same interview, Drilon also contradicted the statement of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao that the police can arrest suspects without the benefit of an arrest warrant because rebellion is a continuing crime.

"That concept of a continuing crime is a much abused principle at this point. It is being used to justify illegal arrests and detention of government critics. The legal reasoning is really stretched. I think the Supreme Court, to calm people down, should issue a restraining order to stop these illegal arrests. This is just terrible," Drilon said.

A warrantless arrest can only be effected, according to Drilon, when in the presence of the arresting officer, a crime is committed, a crime is about to be committed, or is actually being committed.

In the absence of the above conditions, Drilon, a former secretary of justice, said the duty of the government is to file a case with the Department of Justice, allow the respondents to file counter-affidavits, and if the department believes that a crime has been committed, to file a case in court. The court may then issue a warrant of arrest which can be served on the accused.

Drilon said that a public officer who detains a person without a warrant may be found guilty of arbitrary detention or may be made answerable for damages.

"In other words, 1017 has its chilling effects. The government has taken advantage of this chilling effect. Without any regard for the freedoms of the people, they [the government] have suppressed and are trying to suppress the freedom of expression, freedom of speech and civil rights, like what they have done to media."

Drilon also pointed out that under the present Constitution, even a declaration of martial law by the President was not enough to suspend the Bill of Rights.

"Even in a martial law or a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, by express provision of the Constitution, is still in full effect," Drilon said.

"The right to information, the freedom of expression, the right to free speech, the right against unreasonable searches are all contained in the Bill of Rights. Even under martial law, these rights can not be suspended; much less under a state of national emergency," Drilon said.

"That is very clear. Under the Constitution, a declaration of martial law does not result in the suspension of basic rights," Drilon said.

He pointed out that Supreme Court, in the Sanlakas versus the Executive Secterary case, has ruled that even the declaration of a State of Rebellion in the country does not result in the suspension of basic civil liberties such as freedom of the press.

On Monday, Drilon led a bipartisan group of senators in passing a resolution condemning the "raid and exercise of control over print media, the warrantless arrest of several citizens including a member of the House of Representatives and other similar acts carried out by the government pursuant to Proclamation No. 1017 issued by President Arroyo." Eleven other senators, both from the majority and minority, co-sponsored the resolution.

"As liberals and advocates of liberal democracy, we can not stand idle while overzealous functionaries of President Arroyo trample upon the rights of the Filipino people under the guise of an imagined national emergency," Drilon said.

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