Reports of police overstepping their authority and trespassing into private property has some netizens fearing the very people tasked to serve and protect them.
A week ago, armed police barged into a posh Taguig condo, allegedly harassing residents they saw sitting around the pool area — this in spite of the facts that no one was using the pool and that the residents were still practicing social distancing. (Later, Mayor Lino Cayetano said that he ordered the police to conduct these checks.) Then, last weekend, police assaulted and nearly arrested a man in the front yard of his home. This was after the man argued with the police over a P1,000 fine, issued because his helper was not wearing a face mask while watering plants.
These incidents highlight the importance of knowing our rights when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. Here are some important points to remember from the PNP’s “Know Your Rights” primer.
Police should adhere to the Bill of Rights
Police procedures are supposed to be anchored on the Bill of Rights (which can be found in Article III of the 1987 Constitution), which says that*:
- No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. All persons shall enjoy equal protection of the law (Section 1).
- All persons have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. No search warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued except upon probable cause (Section 2).
- Any person under investigation shall have the right to be informed of his rights to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel. (Section 12.1).
- There should be no torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited (Section 12.2) and any confession or admission obtained through these shall be in admission in evidence against him (Section 12.3).
- The accused shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty (Section 14.2).
*Emphasis by 8List editor.
Police officers should be easily identifiable
According to the police’s general rule of conduct, police officers should be wearing a complete police uniform with ID and name plate. They should be led by a commissioned officer and should be using marked PNP vehicles.
Warning shots are strictly prohibited
Because of the danger they pose to life and property — especially in crowded areas — warning shots are strictly prohibited. Instead, officers should use peaceful means to warn offenders or suspects to stop and surrender to authority. This includes the use of whistles and megaphones.
When can the police make a warrantless arrest?
Arrests can be made at any day or time with a Warrant of Arrest, which is issued by the court. However, warrantless arrests can be made by police officers on the following conditions:
- When, in the police officer’s presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;
- When an offense has just been committed and the officer has cause to believe (based on knowledge of facts or circumstances) that the person to be arrested has committed it;
- When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or confinement facility.
When can an officer enter private property without a warrant?
If the situation follows the conditions of warrantless arrest (see above), officers can enter private property where the person being arrested is (or suspected to be). They can also break into the property if they are refused admittance after announcing their authority and purpose.
When can an officer search private property without a warrant?
A person who has been lawfully arrested can be searched without a warrant for dangerous weapons or anything that can be used as proof. The officer also has the authority to conduct a search of the surrounding premises.
Other instances where search and seizure without a warrant are:
- When it concerns objects of evidence in plain view, provided that:
- The police is not trespassing and has prior justification for an intrusion, or is in a position from which he/she can view the objects of evidence;
- The discovery of the evidence in plain view is inadvertent, or is a discovery by chance;
- It is immediately apparent to the obvious that the item may be evidence of a crime, contraband, or is otherwise subject to seizure.
- When it concerns goods concealed to avoid customs duties.
- When the citizen consents to the search, such as when a citizen voluntarily surrenders a firearm. However, before the citizen gives their consent, the police must make sure that the citizen knows that they have the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If you are arrested, your arresting officer should ensure that your rights are protected and respected
While in police custody, you should not be subjected to torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any means that impairs your free will. You should not be brought to secret detention places, solitary confinement, or other similar forms of detention.
How can you file a complaint against an officer?
If you feel that a police officer has violated the PNP’s code of ethics, you may file a citizen’s complaint. This can be filed before the:
- Chief of Police or Directors of City Police Office;
- Mayors of Cities and Municipalities;
- People Law Enforcement Board (PLEB).
Here are easy ways to make a complaint to PNP authorities:
Citizens with cell phones can text in complaints. Just type PNP (space) Message, then send to 2920. This message will be sent to the Complaints Referral and Action Center (CRAC), which will process the message then pass it on to the police unit concerned. The text sender should include the complete name and specific location of the person or place being reported. However, if the complaint or report involves emergencies, it is more appropriate to call emergency hotlines, such as 117.
I-TEXT MO KAY TSIP
This is a program that complements PNP-TXT 2920. Text your complaint to 09178475757 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, read the PNP’s official primer here: Know Your Rights: A Citizen’s Primer on Law Enforcement.
Stay safe, folks.