Granting of subpoena powers to police to result in spate of rights violations, groups warn

The measure has been criticized as indicative of the current administration’s crackdown against dissenters and the opposition.

By RUTH LUMIBAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — On Nov. 21, 2017, the House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 4863, granting subpoena powers to the Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP–CIDG) on third reading. In less than four months, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill into law.

Under Republic Act No. 10973, the PNP Chief and the director and deputy director for administration of the PNP-CIDG will have the ‘power to administer oath, issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum in relation to its investigation’.

Given this power, the PNP-CIDG will have the power to summon anyone to produce documents or to offer testimonies, and refusal to such empowers them to cite the person in contempt.

According to the President, this is meant to speed up criminal investigation.

Right after it was passed in Congress, however, the measure has already been criticized as indicative of the current administration’s crackdown against dissenters and the opposition.

Concern was raised given the record of PNP-CIDG and the Duterte administration in respect for human rights.

In fact, progressive peasant groups have already denounced PNP-CIDG in arresting activists based on ‘fake’ intel, especially in order to arrest activists, one of them being labor union organizer Maoj Maga.

“The CIDG, PNP and the Intelligence Service of the AFP are using sloppy operational procedures and counterfeit paper work to recklessly carry out illegal arrests and detention of activists, leaders and members of progressive organizations, and known government critics,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) spokesperson Antonio Flores said.

Maga was arrested based on a trumped-up charge of murder filed in Agusan Del Sur. He was arrested in Rizal last Feb. 22.

Read: ‘Free our labor organizer’ — KMU asks PNP

In a statement released last year, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago mentioned that the granting of subpoena powers to PNP-CIDG makes innocent civilians ‘vulnerable as the police intensify its counterinsurgency programs, the all-out war, and oplan tokhang.’

Gabriela Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas echoed this concern, in warning that giving this power to PNP-CIDG will lead to ‘wholesale legal attacks against government critics and worse rights violations.’ ()

Featured photo by the President Communications Operations Office.

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