Cops in Makati bar arrest say lawyers ‘harassed’ them

Rambo Talabong

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Cops in Makati bar arrest say lawyers ‘harassed’ them
'Pakiramdam na ng mga pulis ay pressured na sila sa ginagawang search,' says Southern Police District director Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario

MANILA, Philippines – It’s the policemen’s turn to cry harassment.

According to Southern Police District (SPD) head Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario, the 3 lawyers arrested during the Time in Manila bar anti-drug raid in Makati City “harassed” the cops who were serving a  search warrant Thursday night, August 16.

As per team leader [of the] SDEU (Station Drug Enforcement Unit) Police Senior Inspector Jeson Vigilla, binastos ang mga pulis natin, yung dalawa lawyers tinatakot ang mga PO1 (Police Officer I),” Apolinario said in a text message on Friday, August 17.

(As per the team leader of the Station Drug Enforcement Unit Police Senior Inspector Jeson Vigilla, our cops were harassed, two of the lawyers were scaring our PO1s.)

How did they ‘harass’ cops? SPD chief Apolinario said the 3 lawyers did not coordinate with the search team.

Pumasok sa area ng police line sa loob ng Times Bar na hindi nagpaalam, walang prior coordination, at walang authority (They went beyond the policeline inside the Times Bar without permission, without prior coordination, and without authority),” Apolinario said, citing reports from his subordinates.

Apolinario added that the lawyers did not respond to police queries on who they were representing.

As the raid progressed, the lawyers “were taking pictures of the area and the operatives,” he said.

How they were arrested: The lawyers allegedly tried to stop the cops from climbing up to the 3rd floor of the bar and were “dominantly asking for the copy of the search warrant.”

Pakiramdam na ng mga pulis ay pressured na sila sa ginagawang search (Police felt pressured during the ongoing search),” Apolinario said.

That was when the policemen asked the lawyers to leave the building, or they would be detained.

The lawyers stayed.

[A]yaw pa rin sumunod at sumagot, nag-last warning na si CSDEU (Chief of the SDEU) na pag hindi lumabas ay aarestuhin na sila . After that last warning ay inaresto na sila,” Apolinario said.

(They still refused to follow and to answer. The chief of the SDEU gave a last warning that if they don’t leave, they will be arrested. After that last warning were they arrested.)

What were the lawyers doing there? Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon belong to the Desierto & Desierto law firm which has as a client one of the owners of Time in Manila Bar.

Diane Desierto, the firm’s senior partner, said Thursday night that the lawyers were there to monitor the inventory that the cops were doing 5 days after the August 11 police raid at the bar.

“The police opened the cabinets, took their inventory, and then turned to my 3 young lawyers and said they had no authority to be there. My lawyers respectfully said they were legal counsels of the owner and were just sent by the firm to take notes and photograph the opening of the cabinets,” she said.

Where are they? As of posting, the 3 are still detained at the Makati City police station.

Police filed obstruction of justice charges against them and an inquest is scheduled on Friday.

Desierto said the arrests were “arbitrary” and that they would file petitions for the lawyers’ immediate release. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.