Lawmakers seek House probe into lawyers' arrest in Makati bar raid

MANILA, Philippines – Two lawmakers want two House committees to investigate  the recent arrest of 3 lawyers who were monitoring a police search of a raided bar in Makati City.

Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Doy Leachon and 1-Ang Edukasyon Representative Salvador Belaro Jr filed House Resolution (HR) No. 2086 on Wednesday, August 22.

The resolution directs the House justice committee as well as good government and public accountability committee to look into the Makati City police's detention of lawyers Jan Vincent Soliven, Lenie Rocel Rocha, and Romulo Bernard Alarkon.

Leachon is the chairperson of the House justice committee.

The two lawmakers, who were previously lawyers, said the "irregular" arrest has "serious implication on the observance of basic constitutional rights, especially the right to counsel, rights under custodial investigation, and right to due process."

"Whereas, in the event said lawyers' presence in the said raid is found out to be only for the fulfillment of their duties as officers of the court, a reference of the said irregularity should never be countenanced because of its chilling effect on the rule of law," said Leachon and Belaro.

They said there "might be a need" to propose new legislation or amend existing laws to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

What happened? On August 16, Makati City police detained the 3 lawyers for alleged "obstruction of justice" during a search and inventory of the Time in Manila bar.

The cops first raided the bar on August 11 for allegedly selling party drugs to customers.

The 3 lawyers' law firm, Desierto & Desierto, said they were merely taking down notes and photos of the police inventory.

But Southern Police District head Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario claimed the lawyers "harassed" the cops.

The lawyers were released from police custody on August 17.

The bar owner, however, is now no longer the client of Desierto & Desierto. The law firm's senior partner Diane Desierto said it was just a "temporary engagement" with the bar owner, but did not elaborate.

Who has condemned the arrest? Vice President Leni Robredo denounced the detention of the 3 lawyers, calling it an "alarming erosion of constitutional protections and the rule of law."

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Free Legal Assistance Group have also condemned the arrest.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, launched its own probe into the matter.

Read a full copy of HR 2086 below:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/386781425/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-1psEd47mwHcD9KhbcGMX&show_recommendations=true" data-auto-height="false" data-aspect-ratio="0.7080062794348508" scrolling="no" id="doc_44293" width="100%" height="600" frameborder="0">

– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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