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Makati police sue lawyers for ‘constructive possession’ of drugs

Lian Buan

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Makati police sue lawyers for ‘constructive possession’ of drugs
(UPDATED) Constructive possession is defined as having dominion or control of a place where the drugs are found. The lawyers are newly hired by an owner of the bar.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Makati City Police filed on Friday, August 17, a complaint for constructive possession of illegal drugs against lawyers who were monitoring a police search on a raided bar.

As of this writing, inquest proceedings have been conducted on lawyers Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha, and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon.

Makati’s Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Romel Odronia was still resolving the issue.

Odronia will rule on whether the warrantless arrest was valid or invalid. An invalid arrest would free the lawyers, and the case would proceed to prosecution.

The 3 lawyers were newly-hired by the Time in Manila bar in Makati, which was raided last Saturday for selling party drugs to consumers. When the police conducted a search of the bar on Thursday, August 16, the laywers took notes and photos.

Police arrested and detained them for obstruction of justice. The complaint filed on Friday included more offenses like resistance and disobedience, violating an ordinance on crossing police lines, and the gravest of all, constructive possession of illegal drugs.

Several Supreme Court decisions define constructive possession as having the “right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found.”

The short-term effect of the drug complaint is the determination of whether they have been detained longer than they should have.

Under the revised penal code, there is only a certain amount of hours to detain persons arrested without a warrant until they are brought to the judicial process.

If it’s obstruction of justice, the lawyers should have been brought for inquest within 18 hours. They were arrested 1:30 pm on Thursday, but brought to the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office only past 3 pm, which exceeds the 18 hours.

Capital offense

But because of the drugs complaint, the police can now argue that it falls within a capital offense, which has a higher limit of 36 hours.

Iko-consider lahat ‘yan sa resolution,” said Odronia. (That will be considered in the resolution.)

In the meantime, the lawyers have been brought back to the police station.

The long-term effect is that they are now faced with a grave complaint. The police are citing Section 11, Article II of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which says that if the amount of drugs involved is 10 grams or more, the offense will be non-bailable.

The cops claim the lawyers intimidated the members of the search team.

“[They were] asked of their purpose or legal authority if they have any written authority to be inside the same premises but the subject persons did not give any identification or show their Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) cards,” said the police complaint signed by Senior Police Officer 2 Wilfredo Alvarez.

Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) called the constructive possession accusation a “ludicrous stretch,” saying that the police were just “saving face from a blunder.”

“If this silly scheme by the police is sanctioned, then nobody can seek legal succor at the time it is most needed. And fabrication, manufacture and constructive planting of spurious evidence will be used,” Olalia said.

The lawyers and their own lawyers refused to give statements. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.