Philippine National Police

Lawyers slam PNP Surigao del Sur order to profile PAO colleague

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Lawyers slam PNP Surigao del Sur  order to profile PAO colleague


Lawyers ask Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos to probe the incident and urge the Supreme Court to take a more aggressive stance in protecting members of the Bench and Bar

MANILA, Philippines – Mindanao-based lawyers on Thursday, April 6 slammed the Philippine National Police (PNP) Surigao del Sur provincial office for harassing a colleague representing suspected rebels in court.

A statement signed by more than a dozen lawyers, including law school deans and local heads of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) chapters, called out Surigao del Sur provincial police director, Col. Dennis A. Siruno’s “gross ignorance and blatant disrespect of the law.”

Their anger stemmed from Siruno’s March 29 memorandum ordering the Lianga Municipal Police Station to profile a public attorney.

In his order, which was shared with Rappler, Siruno noted how some lawyers “repeatedly” provided rebels assistance with their criminal cases.

He cited a meeting of members of the region’s intelligence division and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) as his source of information.

Siruno’s order targeted a woman lawyer. The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said she is a member of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) “tasked by the court to represent an accused who has no counsel.”

“This is an undue interference and grave assault on the independence and role of lawyers in our justice system,” said the Mindanao lawyers’ statement.

Constitutional right

Noting the “chilling effects” from previous lawyer profiling incidents, it urged the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos, Jr. and the PNP leadership, investigate the incident and impose the appropriate sanctions on the responsible official.

They also asked the Supreme Court “to take a more aggressive stance in protecting the members of the Bench and Bar.”

“PNP members, as law enforcers, are duty-bound and expected to assist in the administration of justice, not to make a mockery of our laws and transgress them with impunity,” they added.

Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights states: “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.”

A judge will usually ask a defendant if he or she has a lawyer. If the response is negative, the court will ask the PAO to provide the defense.

The NUPL said continuing attacks on the legal profession erode public trust and confidence in the justice system.

“Lawyers must be free to fulfill their sworn duties with passion and without fear of profiling, and worst, reprisals,” it added.

The statement from Mindanao was signed by Daniel Campoamor, IBP Governor, Eastern Mindanao Region; Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Davao City Chapter president Aiza Mae J. Kanda; Manuel Quibod, regional coordinator, Free Legal Assistance Group – Southern Mindanao and Dean of the Ateneo de Davao University – College of Law;

Dean Antonio Arellano of the University of Mindanao – College of Law; Dean Ramon Edison Batacan of the Rizal Memorial Colleges – School of Law; Dean Israelito Torreon of the Jose Maria Colleges – School of Law; Dean Genevieve Marie Dolores Brandares-Paulino of Cor Jesu College – Law School; Dean Lynnart Walford Tan of the St. Thomas More School of Law and Business – College of Law;

Caesar Europa, former IBP Governor, Eastern Mindanao Region; former IBP – Davao City Chapter presidents Socorro Ermac-Cabreros, Eleanor dela Peña, Marcos Chua Jr., and Carlos Isagani T Zarate; IBP-Surigao del Sur Chapter president Peter Neil Trinidad; and Antonio Azarcon, chairman of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao.

(Editor’s Note: The authors of the statement called Rappler to clarify the representative of the Public Attorney’s Office had not yet confirmed inclusion in the joint statement. Rappler has deleted that part.)

‘Chilling message’

The NUPL also asked the SC to protect its members and PAO lawyers against “unreasonable surveillance.” 

It called the PNP memo “a deliberate attempt to hinder lawyers from providing adequate and appropriate assistance to accused — a clear violation of the rights of the accused and the lawyers’ free exercise of their profession.”

“It sends a chilling message to lawyers — whether in public service or private practice — that defending suspects and accused would be taken against them,” the NUPL stressed.

In March 2021, the SC condemned the killing of lawyers in the country.

The High Court in October 2022 asked Lorraine Badoy, the former spokesperson of the government’s anti-communist task force, to explain why she should not be held in contempt for red-tagging a judge.

A group of lawyers also filed a petition‘ for indirect contempt before the High Court on Tuesday, on the same day and asked the SC to consolidate their petition with its memorandum on Badoy’s threats. –

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