On any given day, you are working hard on your desk - taking calls, holding meetings and getting things done. Suddenly, an assistant rushes into your office, pale as a sheet of paper. The police are looking for you, he says. A thousand thoughts race: what happened, is there something wrong?
The three or four males who look like goons to you flash their identification cards. They tell you that you have been charged with the crime of rape of a minor whose name is utterly unfamiliar. A photocopy of what appears to be a warrant of arrest is shown for you to come with them. You have no choice but to comply with nary a time to make a call or leave instructions for your family.
To any student of law, what makes this narration especially grave is that this crime is a non-bailable offense, meaning that you have to be in jail awaiting the outcome of the case. Can one tell if the men are really police officers? Do they have jurisdiction? Is it a genuine warrant of arrest? What does a warrant look like in the first place? Is there anyone who can help?
The modus operandi is simple enough. It is a variation of the notorious hulidap, a local word combining huli (caught) and kid-nap. Either pay up or face the consequences of the monstrous criminal justice system with its twists and delays.
Several years back, there was a notorious lawyer who secured warrants of arrest in cahoots with a law enforcer, a prosecutor and a judge. He would get them as far away as Lanao or as near as Manila. The hapless victims are chosen almost at random and at will. Sometimes, they are picked because of some incident or encounter with the lawyer and his ilk. It seems that the same scheme is staging a comeback.
The basic problem is the use of the authority of the law to abuse and oppress a citizen of the Republic. We obey the law and respect authority but only if wielded for justice and fairness. But first we must know our rights and obligations.
Get a copy of warrant of arrest and also a search warrant. (Perhaps the editor can publish one for public service showing the different sections and an explanation of each.) Note that the warrant is not necessary at the time of arrest. But one can insist that a copy be presented as soon as practicable. One has also the right to be informed of the charges and that is to ask for the records of the case.
Arrest may be made at anytime of the day or night. A commercial establishment or business place affords a lesser standard of protection or privacy than a residence. These rules and other principles can be found in any criminal law book. Common sense comes into play by building a directory of hot lines on who to call to verify the identity of the police officers. A briefing for staff and family members on what to do may help. Some months ago at the height of criminality of all kinds, we published a set of ten checkpoint rules to help motorists on their way home on dark nights.
We are facing daily struggles and it seems to be alarming and disappointing to add to our list of woes that make life even more stressful and in this case, brutish. There are some who leave the country, fed up with the system and a sense of helplessness. For us who are staying, either complain meekly or take a stand. We need to believe that there are dedicated men and women in the bench and bar that will hold the fort against tyranny of the legal kind. From belief springs action. A failure to act will result to more arrests of innocents.