Alejano to Dela Rosa: Craft rules for subpoena powers

MANILA, Philippines – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano on Wednesday, March 14, urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to craft "concrete and definitive implementing rules and regulations" for a new law that returns to the police the authority to issue subpoenas.

In a statement, the former Marine officer said PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa's pronouncement that their "conscience" is enough in deciding how and when to issue subpoenas to aid investigations was a "rash statement."

Alejano was among the principal sponsors of House Bill 4863, which the lower chamber passed in November 2017. The Senate passed its own version in January 2017.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure into law in March 2018.

"The objective of this law is to strengthen the PNP in the conduct of their mandate. The process and limitations governing this power must be clearly defined, else, it will only be seen as shortcut to be used subjectively by the PNP's top officials," said Alejano.

Context: The recently-signed law has been controversial, with critics and experts slamming it as a violation of a person's constitutionally-mandated rights.

Under the new law, the PNP chief, the chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), as well as the CIDG deputy for administration, will all have the authority to issue subpoenas.

This power cannot be deputized.

"Having established rules and regulations would also clear the air of apprehension coming from the public which seeks safeguards against possible abuses of this power," said Alejano, a member of the House minority and among the current administration's loudest critics.

Looking back: The law restores a power that was once with the premiere investigative arm of the police force, which today is the CIDG.

Decades back, when it was still known as the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU), police had the power to issue subpoenas in order to compel persons to testify or provide documents in an investigation. The CIU then was under the Philippine Constabulary (PC), a major service of the Philippine military.

Following the EDSA Revolution and the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the PC and the Integrated National Police were abolished and replaced by the PNP, a civilian agency. The PC was infamous for abuses done under the Marcos era.

While lawmakers now see the wisdom in restoring this power, one of the authors of the law that created the PNP (and removed the subpoena powers), former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel II, thinks doing so is dangerous. –