By Martin Sadongdong
Various labor groups led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) took to the streets yesterday as they slammed the granting of subpoena powers to the Philippine National Police (PNP), which they say was a “license” to conduct “more illegal arrests of unionists and labor activists critical to the administration.”
The groups held a lightning-quick rally in front of Gate 2 of PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson, said the Republic Act 10973, which grants the PNP chief and the CIDG director and deputy director for administration the power to issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum in relation to its investigations, allows the government to “circumvent due process and conduct mass arrests of [Duterte’s] political dissenters and critics.”
In particular, Labog denounced the statement of PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa that the PNP need not formulate internal guidelines in the issuance of subpoenas as they only need to use their conscience.
Dela Rosa made the pronouncement in a press briefing on Monday, saying: “I don’t need to give rules, it’s only the three of us [given that power]. You use your conscience. If that is really needed, use it. If it is not needed, then don’t. Use only your conscience, no need for rules.
“We already know that the government has no conscience when it comes to dealing with unionists and activists advancing workers’ and people’s legitimate demands. The PNP’s refusal to set guidelines clearly shows that they are planning to abuse their subpoena power,” Labog stated.
However, Dela Rosa has repeatedly promised that he has no intentions of abusing the subpoena power given to him, to the extent that he vowed not to use it “as long as the CIDG is functioning well.”
The rallyists also called for the release of their labor leaders and other political prisoners in the country, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rafael Baylosis and his son-in-law and KMU organizer Marklen Maojo Maga.
“Duterte must stop criminalizing Filipino workers’ legitimate dissent over his oppressive policies,” Labog said.
Maga was arrested by the CIDG on February 22 in San Mateo, Rizal by virtue of an arrest warrant for murder issued by Judge Cesar Bordalba, of 10th judicial region in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Sur.
Maga, according to the CIDG, was also a member of the executive committee of the National Youth and Student Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). Police said he yielded a caliber .45 pistol loaded with seven bullets and a wallet containing several IDs when he was arrested.
In contrary, the KMU said Maga was arrested “on baseless charges and planted evidence.”
“This blatantly illegal detention is a form of trade union repression, aimed at stopping him from organizing workers’ unions,” Labog said.
Labog warned that more arrests, like Maga’s, would occur now that the PNP has the power to issue subpoena.
Dela Rosa clarified that the PNP cannot immediately arrest a person issued with subpoena if he/she refuses to comply to authorities.
He said the subject given with subpoena will be cited for indirect contempt upon noncooperation and the PNP would have to petition it first to a court.
If the court allows the arrest, only then will the PNP be able to conduct it, Dela Rosa added.