FOLLOWING talks with leaders of the Philippine National Police, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has vowed to help provide legal assistance to policemen facing harassment cases in the performance of their duties.
“The 87 well-organized IBP chapters will be there to help provide competent and accessible legal services to policemen who are facing counter-suits in the performance of their duties,” said IBP national president, lawyer Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa as he and PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa signed a memorandum of understanding reinforcing the partnership between the IBP and the PNP.
In their memorandum, the PNP and the IBP agreed to ‘open and maintain direct lines of communication between their national and local leaders for faster communication and coordination to preempt, avoid or reduce violence against their members and to expedite and monitor the investigation, arrest, prosecution, punishment and reformation of the malefactors.’
The agreement was made following talks between the IBP and the PNP Legal Service headed by Brigadier Gen. Matthew P. Baccay. Both Gen. Gamboa and Baccay are lawyers too.
Under the agreement, the IBP will help improve the legal knowledge and skills of police officers and inculcate in them adherence to the rule of law and respect for the rights of citizens thru lectures, seminars, workshops and other educational or training programs or projects.
Most importantly, the IBP will ‘provide legal assistance, through its legal aid program, to qualified police officers who are unjustly harassed for doing their job and who do not have access to a competent lawyer.’
They include policemen who have been sued in court by arrested moneyed drug personalities and other influential persons.
On the other hand, the PNP will help enhance the knowledge and skills of lawyers in security, personal defense, gun use and discipline and allow the free use of its facilities for such trainings subject to existing PNP rules and policies.
The PNP will also assist and facilitate the processing of the application for License to Own and Possess Firearm, Firearms Registration and Permit-to-Carry Firearms Outside Residence to qualified IBP members including an assurance that members of the Bar will be exempted from submitting Threat Assessment Certificate each time they file a gun permit application.
The PNP will also expedite the investigation of and give preferential attention to incidents and cases of violence against lawyers, prosecutors and magistrates to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and that justice is swiftly done.
The PNP recognized members of the Philippine Bar to be in ‘imminent danger due to the nature of their profession.’
The IBP particularly noted an escalation of incidents where lawyers were targeted and killed. More than 40 lawyers have been killed from mid-2016 to date, the IBP said.
The PNP needs all the help it can get to defend its personnel facing criminal and administrative charges in the performance of their duties.
In most cases, moneyed drug and illegal gambling personalities and other influential persons file counter-suits against their arresting officers before different courts to the chagrin of the police force.
In many cases, the harassment suits are filed in areas where the arrested personalities are known for having great influence. To illustrate the point, there have been many cases in which Metro Manila-based officers of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group or the PNP Special Action Force who raided organized crime syndicates’ lairs in far-flung parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were mostly charged with counter-suits in those areas.
Thus, they need not only a good lawyer to represent them and the money they need for their air fare, food and accommodation once they are required by the court to attend a court hearing. In case of postponement, the officers have no recourse but to return to their offices and look for money again for their next scheduled hearing.
Although there are a number of issues and concerns affecting the PNP’s opportunity to avail of free legal services from government agencies, the PNP is also getting private sector support to help policemen who are in trouble for job-related charges, among them the IBP.
The enhanced partnership between the PNP and the IBP will also equip the police with legal working knowledge to avoid criminal, civil or administrative liabilities that may arise while performing their duty.
“Based in our experience, some criminal syndicates and suspects have actually misused the legal system to get back at their arresting officers or to gain leverage in criminal cases that are filed against them by harassing the very same police officers who will testify against them in court,” Gen. Gamboa explained.
He added that although they condemn and punish undesirable members of the force, they also rush to the aid of honest police officers who are burdened by cases arising from their lawful performance of duty,” the PNP chief said.
The help private lawyers can give to policemen facing harassment suits include provision of legal advice and documentation; preparation of written explanation or any responsive pleading; and legal representation in judicial, quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies.