By Jeffrey Damicog
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday, May 15, said it is up to government prosecutors to determine if a salesman in Agusan del Norte should have been arrested by the police and charged for cyber libel for calling President Duterte “crazy and stupid.”
“The DOJ inquest prosecutor will determine not only the existence of probable cause but also the validity of the warrantless arrest,” Guevarra said.
The secretary pointed this out in the wake of criticisms made by Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chairman and human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno that the PNP can’t make warrantless arrests of persons accused of cyber libel.
The Philippine National Police-Regional Police Office 13 (PNP-PRO 13) said it arrested salesman Reynaldo Orcullo, 41, last May 13 in Barangay Triangulo in Nasipit town, Agusan del Norte.
The PNP-PRO 13 said the arrest was made after Orcullo posted on his Facebook page the statement: “ALAM NA PATTERN, MOSALIDA SI GO KONUHAY SIYA MOHANGYO SA BUANG NGA PANGULO, DIGONG GAGO. BUANG SI DIGONG. (“We know the pattern. Sen. Christopher Go will try to make a scripted request to crazy President Duterte. Duterte is stupid. Digong is crazy).”
Following his arrest, Orcullo was presented for inquest for violating Section 4 of Republic Act 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
However, Diokno said in a statement that the PNP’s authority to conduct warrantless arrests is limited “only for crimes that occur in their presence or for hot pursuit.”
“Crimes like libel (specially those where no complaint is filed) were never meant to be the subject of warrantless arrests,” the lawyer explained.
“Only judges are equipped with the knowledge and impartiality to decide if a person should be jailed for libel,” he added.
Diokno reminded that Duterte himself hurled curses at senators, the Pope, the Catholic Church and many others.
“Hindi trabaho ng PNP protektahan ang Pangulo sa opinyon ng taumbayan. (It is not the job of the PNP to protect the President from opinions of the public),” stressed Diokno.
“Ang trabaho nyo e protektahan ang taumbayan (Your job is to protect the citizens),” the lawyer told the PNP.