When ‘invited’ by the police, do not go
MEL STA.MARIA | When ‘invited’ by the police, do not go
Drugs and human rights are the national issues these days. President Duterte himself declared, “I don’t care about human rights, believe me”. Whether the President likes it or not, wittingly or unwittingly, this public pronouncement appears to have emboldened and continues to embolden some scoundrel policemen (who may even be secret participants in the drug trade) and vigilantes to kill suspected drug pushers. I believe that even the President does not desire these criminal acts. Unfortunately, however, the wrong message has been understood by undesirable elements — resulting in a rash of “salvaging” (summary execution) with impunity.
Also, threateningly, “lists” of alleged persons involved in allegedly illegal drugs have mushroomed. The President’s style of “naming and shaming” is now being mimicked at the lower echelons of government. There have been stories of the police knocking on houses and, on the basis of the “lists,” issuing “invitations” for persons to go to the precincts.
Know your rights
All citizens must know their constitutional and human rights.
If you are “invited” to the police station by policemen or men in power or authority, always ask if they have a warrant of arrest. If they do not have any warrant, their “invitation” should be politely declined.
Even if they appear to be “friendly”, do not go. If they insist, call your lawyer first. Also, as soon as you hear that you are being invited, be sure to have witnesses around you. Ask for the names of the police officers, remember their faces or, better still, take their pictures via your cellphone.
Better to be safe than be subjected to possible persecution, extortion and/or even extra-judicial execution.
The use of “invitations” by policemen and/or people with authority has been so abused that even our Supreme Court has said that such “invitations” have become a “euphemism for an arrest without a warrant of arrest” (People vs. Dilao G.R. No. L-43259 October 23, 1980). This is a violation of the Bill of Rights enshrined in our Constitution prohibiting illegal arrest, search and seizure. It is also a contravention of the fundamentally declared principle that “the state values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights” (Section 7 Article 2, 1987 Constitution).
‘Invitation’ akin to arrest without warrant
Considering that an “invitation’ is, in effect, an arrest without warrant, the police “list”– which is the basis of the “invitation” — is nothing more than a witch-hunt-register. The “list” is not the result of the findings of a judge (required of a warrant of arrest) but a disclosure of an alleged informant, who could be unknown and whose-say-so may even be suspect or borne out of a grudge or other dark motive).
At the point of “invitation” by the police or person-in-authority based on this “list”, be aware that, though seemingly innocuous, the trampling of your rights has already started.
Once you are in a police station by yourself, without a lawyer, in the midst of these policemen or persons in authority, you are at their mercy. Subsequent events will be beyond your control. Without realizing it, you are already being probed about a drug-crime. Interrogation will have been set in motion subjecting you to searching questions aimed at obtaining incriminating evidence or forced confession. “In such an atmosphere, a man of ordinary or average composure may yield to a skilled investigator or one who though unskilled is prone to brutal techniques” (People vs. Dilao, supra), which may include the threat of extermination. This is a natural, but dreadfully obnoxious, expectation.
Because of this pernicious police practice, Republic Act No. 7438, or “An Act defining the rights of persons arrested or under custodial investigation,” explicitly provides that “custodial investigation shall include the practice of issuing an ‘invitation’ to a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without prejudice to the liability of the ‘inviting’ officer for any violation of law.” A violation of the law shall mean a jail term for the arresting officers.
Remember also that, under Republic Act No. 7438,when an “invitee” is in the precinct and being held therein by virtue of these “invitations,” the “invitee”, among others:
“shall be allowed visits by or conferences with any member of his immediate family, or any medical doctor or priest or religious minister chosen by him or by any member of his immediate family or by his counsel, or by any national non-governmental organization duly accredited by the Commission on Human Rights or by any international non-governmental organization duly accredited by the Office of the President. The person’s “immediate family” shall include his or her spouse, fiancé or fiancée, parent or child, brother or sister, grandparent or grandchild, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, and guardian or ward.” (Section 2 (f) of R.A. 7438)
You must always be vigilant. If the occasion presents itself, inform others of what you know about “invitations” by the police. In so doing, you may be saving lives.
Be an advocate of human rights. Always remember that, in disregarding or ignoring the human rights of others, you may be endangering your own.
Atty. Mel Sta. Maria is the resident legal expert of TV5 and co-host of the daily Radyo5 show “Relasyon.” He is also dean of the FEU Institute of Law.