The Philippines: Cops detain lawyers monitoring inventory of raided Makati bar

August 16, 2018

Policemen arrest the young lawyers as they were documenting what the cops were doing in the bar

OBSTRUCTION? Cops detain lawyers at the Makati Police Station on August 16, 2018, for taking notes and photos during a police inventory of a raided bar. Photo courtesy of the Southern Police District

For monitoring a police inventory of a drug raid, 3 lawyers were detained at the Makati Police Station on Thursday, August 16, after cops arrested them for alleged obstruction of justice.

Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon are the lawyers for the Times Bar in Makati, which was raided by the Southern Police District (SPD) on Saturday, August 11, for allegedly selling party drugs to customers.

The lawyers were monitoring the inventory of the bar on Thursday, when they were apprehended for taking down notes and photos as the police opened cabinets.

“The police opened the cabinets, took their inventory, and then turned to my three young lawyers and said they had no authority to be there. My lawyers respectfully said they were legal counsels of the owner and were just sent by the firm to take notes and photograph the opening of the cabinets,” said Diane Desierto, a partner of the firm where the lawyers work.

The Desierto & Desierto law firm represents one of the owners of the Times Bar, where police reportedly seized sachets of suspected cocaine, ecstacy capsules and tablets, marijuana and drug paraphernalia when they raided it on Saturday.

17 August 2018

Role of Lawyers in the Rule of Law: We are not the Enemy

The attacks on lawyers assisting or representing clients allegedly involved in drugs have been going on in various forms.

One NUPL lawyer in Bicol continues to dodge actual death threats. An NUPL ally lawyer in Iloilo has been charged with obstruction of justice years back. Rights lawyers who have been critical have been maligned and demonized as villains by drug-crazed authorities.

Now these three (3) Makati young lawyers openly performing their professional duties during a police search are arrested and treated like criminals.

This is not only against the so-called rule of law but against the role of lawyers. Lawyers — the decent and professional ones anyway— are officers of the court and defenders of justice. They are there to ensure rights are protected even if they help bring the guilty to perdition. We are not the enemies.

The UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Philippine Code of Professional Responsibility guarantee that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference or be threatened with sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

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 startup in disorder reigns. Then the failing bloody “war on drugs” becomes a drugged war. And we are all none the safer. #


NUPL President
(63) 917 511 3373

(National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Facebook)

Manlaban statement on the arrest of Desierto & Desierto Law Firm lawyers

The arrest of three young lawyers, who were monitoring the service of a search warrant, highlights the complete degradation of law enforcement and the collapse of order in the country.

As counsel of the property owner, the three lawyers were legally entitled to be present during the search. Search by police of private premises, if with color of law, requires witnesses. According to the Desierto & Desierto Law Firm, they were documenting the opening of cabinets, “quiet and passive”, at Times Bar in Makati owned by their client.
Lawyers while in the legitimate exercise of their profession are considered officers of the court and aides to the administration of justice. Hence,they are entitled to due courtesy and respect.

Arresting, detaining, and charging them, ironically, with obstruction of justice shows how police have become brutal and high-handed in their operations, especially in those involving drugs. What more can they be toward people who know nothing about the law?

The Manananggol (Manlaban) sa EJK soundly denounces the arrest of lawyers while in the peformance of their duties. This blatant show of excess and abuse by the police is a clear disregard of the law and independence of the legal profession, a direct and inevitable result of Duterte’s unrelenting anti-drug war. Police high on power have gone wild and senseless, with only the barest regard for law or order.

Manlaban demands the immediate release of the lawyers and the dropping of charges. And not only will we stand by our colleagues in the profession who are at the frontlines, we join them in battle for reason and sanity. Police should expect countersuits as lessons in law and pain of penalty so timely due.

(Facebook, 17/8/18)


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