By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Richard Gordon on Sunday said the Makati policemen who filed, detained and charged three lawyers for “obstruction of justice” and “constructive possession” of illegal drugs apparently went overboard.
Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights and who is also a lawyer, said policemen should understand that every person has the right to get a legal counsel.
“Ginagawa nila ang trabaho nila (they are only doing their job) within the bounds of the law, and that is also part and parcel of democracy that anybody arrested is entitled to a lawyer. You have a right to an attorney,” Gordon said in a Radio DZBB interview.
As far as he is concerned, he doesn’t see the lawyers Lenie Rocel Rocha, Jan Vincent Soliven and Romulo Bernard Alarkon any act of obstruction of justice on the part of the lawyers whom police claimed took several pictures and videos of the scene when they conducted a raid at the time in Manila Bar in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City.
Around 30 employees of the bar were arrested during the raid last weekend for allegedly supplying and distributing illegal drugs. Police claimed the lawyers did not properly identify themselves and intimidated the cops.
According to Gordon, obstruction of justice is only committed when a person blocks the retrieval or recovery of an evidence.
“Asking questions, taking pictures while evidence is being gathered does not constitute obstruction of justice. That is part of the chain of custody,” Gordon pointed out.
“It was really wrong of them. The cops know that. These are lawyers; they’re officers of the court. And a lawyer’s job is to protect and be vigilant for his client. But he is not to obstruct,” he said.
Gordon warned that the cops involved may also be charged for arbitrary detention.
“These are lawyers. And yet these cops tried to stretch what they were doing. They can be charged for arbitrary detention,” he said.
Gordon noted the police had to file “constructive possession” of dangerous drugs against the lawyers precisely to justify their extended detention.
“Dahil napasubo na ‘yung pulis. Dahil kung obstruction of justice, within 18 hours dapat nilabas na nila, (The police got drawn into it. Because if they are to file obstruction of justice only, within 18 hours they should be set free),” Gordon said.
But Gordon said it’s impossible for the lawyers to have committed “constructive possession” of dangerous drugs.
He said the Supreme Court cited that such case only exists when “the drug is under the dominion and control of the accused or when he has the right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found.”
“These are young lawyers, how can they exercise dominion (on that bar?)” he pointed out.
“Dapat mahimasmasan ang mga pulis na ito (These cops should get themselves going). They are going overboard. Dapat ‘yung karapatan ng tao ay pangalagaan ng abogado ‘yan pero hindi naman haharangin ng abogado (ang ebidensya) (Lawyers are there to take care of the welfare of the rights of people, but not to block evidences),” he stressed.