DILG on arrest of 3 lawyers: No one is above the law


“No one is above the law.”  This is the message of Department of the Interior and Local Government  (DILG) OIC-Secretary Eduardo M. Año regarding the arrest of three lawyers for alleged obstruction of justice in a bar in Makati City last week.

Año says the members of the Makati police who made the arrest were just doing their jobs when they arrested the lawyers who interfered in their search for drugs and other evidence in the Time Bar right at the heart of the city’s Central Business District last week. The search reportedly yielded some 1.7M worth of party drugs and drug money.

“Hindi porket abogado, hindi na puwedeng hulihin lalo na kung mali ang ginagawa at nakakasagabal sa ligal na operasyon ng kapulisan.  Matuto po sana tayong rumespeto sa mga pulis na tumutupad lang sa kanilang tungkulin na sugpuin ang iligal na droga,” he says.

Año says he lauds the arresting police officers for standing their ground and serving the search warrant despite being intimidated by the lawyers during the search of the bar premises on the basis of a search warrant issued by the Makati Regional Trial Court.

“Imbis na punahin sila, dapat nga ay pinupuri at pinapasalamatan natin sila dahil naging matagumpay ang kanilang operasyon at maraming nakumpiskang iligal na droga sa bar,” he says.

Last Thursday night, Makati cops nabbed and detained three lawyers for reportedly obstructing the implementation of a search warrant inside the Makati bar.  Charges of constructive possession of illegal drugs, as well as obstruction of justice, resistance and disobedience to persons of authorities, and violation of a city ordinance against civilians crossing a police line were slapped against the lawyers.

After being detained for more than 24 hours, the lawyers were ordered released by the Makati City prosecutor who set the preliminary investigation on Aug. 28.

Within the bounds of authority
DILG Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya says the Makati cops were operating within the bounds of their authority during the operation.

Malaya says that based on the report of the Makati Police, the lawyers entered the crime scene and crossed the police line without coordination and without any legal authority. “Worse, when the police asked for the identity of the client, they refused to answer despite repeated demands to do so.”

“Our jurisprudence provides that the identity of the client is not privileged communication. As a general rule, it is not covered by attorney-client privilege. As lawyers, they ought to know that attorney-client privilege does not cover the identity of their client. What is covered are the communications or correspondences between lawyer and client so that the client can fully confide to his lawyer in order that he may have adequate legal advice and proper defense. Thus, when asked by a law enforcer, lawyers are required to identify their client otherwise they have no business crossing a police line,” he says.

He underscores that no one, not even lawyers, can interfere with or obstruct an on-going police investigation especially if it is service of a search warrant issued by a competent court.

“In addition to refusing to reveal their clients, the 3 lawyers also failed to show any written authorization from the owner of the place being searched. It is important for lawyers to establish their legal authority to be there,” he says.

“Sa isyung ito, malinaw na nasa tama ang ating kapulisan.  Ginawa lang nila ang kanilang trabaho kaya hindi sila dapat husgahan sa pag-aresto sa mga abogado na nakasagabal sa kanilang operasyon,” he adds.

The DILG Assistant Secretary says that the arrest of the lawyers should not be seen as an affront to the legal profession or the justice system because the real issue are the illegal drugs that are allegedly being peddled in the bar. “We have no problem with lawyers. It’s their job to protect their clients but it’s also the job of the police to enforce the law,” he says.

“Hindi po ito isyu sa pagitan ng mga abogado at kapulisan dahil pareho lang naman po nating pinangangalagaan ang katarungan.  Ang tunay na isyu po dito ay ang droga at lahat tayo ay dapat magkakakampi laban dito,” he adds.