In a weekend statement, Philippine National Police Officer-in-Charge, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said based on an initial investigation, the letter that went viral on social media signed by Lt. Fernando Calabria was part of his efforts to “come up with a comprehensive report on the communist insurgency situation in his area of responsibility.”
“The pressure of crafting a detailed report apparently took a toll on him and eventually prompted him to commit a serious breach of policy. In view of these initial findings and in consultation with our Chief PNP, Gen. Debold Sinas, I have already directed the relief of Lt. Calabria as the Chief of the Intelligence Unit of the Calbayog City Police Station,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers slammed the Calbayog City police’s “request” for a list of lawyers representing “communist terrorist groups.”
“Hands off lawyers and matters of the court,” said House vice committee chairperson and
Rizal Rep. Juan Fidel Nograles as he cried foul over a letter that surfaced on Friday from the Calbayog City Police Station to Calbayog City’s Office of the Clerk of Court asking for a list of lawyers for alleged communists.
“Last I checked lawyering is not a crime, regardless of who you represent. Lawyers must not be targeted for upholding constitutionally and universally guaranteed rights,” Nograles, an Ateneo de Manila-trained lawyer, said.
Eleazar also clarified that there had been no official order from the PNP’s ranking officials on such practice and that the police force would not tolerate “such unprofessional method of information-gathering.”
“We are currently checking if there were similar actions in other areas. At the same time, we are investigating to determine up to what level of police hierarchy is involved in this incident,” he said.
Eleazar also apologized on behalf of the PNP for the act, which he described as reckless.
“Our apology comes with an assurance to the judiciary and the members of the legal community that it is not and will never be the policy of the Philippine National Police to run after or even inflict harm on lawyers and members of the judiciary while performing their sworn duty,” he said.
For his part, Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also denounced such move of the PNP through the Calbayog City Police.
“This is a clear and present danger to the legal profession. This is an apparent hitlist for targetting lawyers being prepared by the national PNP down to its lower levels,” Zarate said.
The police force and judiciary, being essential parts of the country’s justice system, are enjoying a harmonious relationship with the common goal to protect democracy and maintain peace and order, Eleazar added.
He also gave assurances the incident would not affect the PNP’s full support and commitment to putting an end to the communist insurgency menace.
“While we in the PNP remain steadfast in the campaign against the communist insurgency, we will not condone any irresponsible and unprofessional act of any of our men in accomplishing that goal,” he said.
On Friday, the Supreme Court confirmed that the Office of the Clerk of Court in Calbayog City, Samar received such a request from the local police.
SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka, however, said no action had been taken on the request.
Nograles, who has repeatedly called for additional protection for lawyers, urged the leadership of the Department of Interior and Local Government and Philippine National Police to take concrete action, including the immediate relief of Calabria, Jr., who signed the letter.
“The police has no business meddling with affairs of the court. We cannot condone this overreach by the Calbayog City police, which undermines the administration of justice through intimidation, hidden behind the veil of courtesy and pseudo-legality,” said the lawyer.
Nograles, a deputy majority leader, also warned leaders of law enforcement agencies not to allow such “requests” to be standard procedure.
He added that the PNP also had to come out in the open and confirm or deny whether there had indeed been a directive from its leadership to ask for a list of lawyers representing alleged communists.
The letter mentioned that the request was made in “compliance from higher PNP offices.”
“I urge our DILG and PNP leadership to quickly dispel this mistaken notion that police stations have the authority to ask for such lists. In a climate where lawyers are put to the sword regularly without anyone being punished, it sends a message that those who choose to defend those who are out of favor will be under close watch simply for upholding their oaths as lawyers,” the lawmaker said.
Earlier this month, red-tagged lawyer Angelo Karlo “AK” Guillen was attacked and stabbed in the head in Iloilo City.
He is one of the counsel in the petition filed by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan against the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court. Guillen survived the attack.
So far, 56 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors have been killed from June 2016 to January 2021.
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