By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Tuesday the public should not too quick to condemn the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the arrest of three lawyers following an anti-drug operation at a bar in Makati City last week.
As a former PNP chief from 1999 to 2001, Lacson stressed that the public should at least see the side of the PNP’s National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on the incident before judging.
“Let us not be too hasty or harsh in condemning the NCRPO, without getting their side of the story. There is such a thing as presumption of regularity,” he said.
On Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called the filing of charges against lawyers of a raided bar in Makati by police authorities “a manifestation of a worsening culture of impunity in the PNP and “patently unlawful and arbitrary.”
“As a lawyer and former justice secretary, I condemn in the strongest terms the intimidation of the legal profession. The arrest of the three lawyers is not only an assault against the country’s legal profession, but also a blatant display of disrespect against our entire justice system,” Drilon said.
If they can arrest, intimidate and threaten lawyers who are merely performing their sacred oath of protecting the rights of their clients, then we can just imagine what they do to ordinary citizens and the likes of Kian Delos Santos,” Drilon said.
Lacson, however, noted that videos taken of the raid at the Makati City bar showed that the NCRPO officers asked the lawyers who they were representing, and arrested them after they could not give clear answers.
He said the videos also showed one of the police officers explaining to the lawyers that their entering the scene and taking videos without prior authorization may constitute obstruction of justice. While the lawyers said they represent one of the establishment’s owners, they did not provide names.
The NCRPO team’s report also indicated the three lawyers roamed inside the premises, took pictures in every floor and touched items “as if doing their own search without authority,” which may have contaminated the evidence.
In taking the cudgels for the PNP in this case, Lacson pointed out the PNP leadership has shown it is sincere in cleansing its ranks of rogue members, and deserves at least a chance to have its side on the issue heard.
On the other hand, the PNP, as part of its internal cleansing efforts, should put an end to the “palakasan” (use of influence) system that could allow dismissed scalawags in uniform to sneak back into the service, he said.
“I encourage the PNP leadership to sustain the internal cleansing operations to their logical conclusion. This means the inept, corrupt and undisciplined should not be able to use the ‘palakasan’ system to get back to the service,” he said.
Lacson maintained that only a sustained effort would send home the message that the PNP leadership is serious in cleansing the police force’s ranks.
“Hulihin mo, file-an mo ng kaso, i-dismiss mo, para sabihin ng iba na seryoso ang liderato,” Lacson said. (The PNP leadership should arrest, file charges and dismiss from the service erring policemen to show that it is serious in its cleansing process.)
Lacson pointed out that he had sponsored on the Senate floor Senate Bill 1898, which transfers to the PNP the responsibility of training police recruits.
With the measure, Lacson said the PNP would have full authority – and accountability – to train new members and prevent them from falling prey to corruption.
He noted that in past months, police officers – many of them non-commissioned ones with the ranks of PO1 to PO3 – had been involved in heinous crimes.
Lacson also pointed out that during hearings conducted by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that he chairs, the PNP and Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) had blamed each other for the problem, with the PNP citing lapses in the PPSC’s training, and the PPSC indicating the police recruits were corrupted by PNP officers during their on-the-job training.
“It is better to weed out rogue cops before they can become a bad influence on their colleagues. We should nip them in the bud, so to speak,” he said.