SC strong stance on drug enforcers’ protection vs harassments suits urged

By George M. De La Cruz/ PNS

The Supreme Court is urged to issue a circular or rules of procedure to protect drug enforcers from harassments suits, said Atty. Clarence Paul V. Oaminal, former Vice Chairman and Undersecretary Dangerous Drugs Board.

“It is high time that the Supreme Court take a proactive stance in the drug problem by leveling the playing field by providing a protective mantle against sincere and honest anti-drug enforcers from harassment suits” he said.

Oaminal cited that in countries like the United States and Canada , a principle known as SLAPP or the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is adopted to protect advocates of a law from harassment suits.

“If the Supreme Court has adopted the SLAPP doctrine in Environmental Law, there is no legal impediment if this could be applied in enforcing the Anti Drugs Law” he stressed.

It can be recalled that in the Philippines, the Supreme Court has issued Administrative Matter No. 09-6-8-SC dated April 13, 2010 or the Rules of Procedure in Environmental Laws, such contains the SLAPP doctrine.

“SLAPP is any action whether civil, criminal or administrative, brought against any person, institution or any government agency or local government unit or its officers and employees, with the intent to harass, vex, exert undue pressure or stifle any legal recourse from such person, institution or government agency has taken or may take in the enforcement of a law,” explained Oaminal.

The said administrative matter protects environmental advocates from these lawsuits, he said, adding that the Supreme Court could issue a similar circular that will protect law enforcers enforcing the anti drugs law.

“The proposed rules of procedure will consider lawsuits as SLAPP as long as the law enforcer could prove that it is a counter-charge or a harassment suit” Oaminal said.

The common cases filed against anti drug enforcers are Planting of Evidence under Section 29 of Republic Act 9165, Arbitrary Detention and Searching Domicile without witnesses under the Revised Penal Code. The practice of filing these cases has resulted in the disheartening of law enforcers, lamented Oaminal.

Dongail case

Oaminal cited the recent conviction of Inspector Clarence Dongail of Bacolod City and his fellow officers as an example of how lacking the country’s institutional support to the law enforcers.

“It is ironical that government officials and the public demand so much to our law enforcers in curbing drugs and crimes yet when our law enforcers faces trial they always stand alone. The existing legal offices in the Philippine National Police are created not to assist our police officers but are meant to persecute and prosecute them in administrative and quasi-judicial bodies. Thus, the need to create a Police Defenders Office,” he said.

He added that another way is providing a budget in the PNP specifically allocating an amount for police officers facing cases in the performance of their functions and duties.

Oaminal, a lawyer who has been extending legal assistance to law enforcers in the country prior to his appointment in the DDB plans to convince Senator Sotto, his former chairman and now Senate Majority Floor Leader and Senator Gregorio Honasan, Chairman of the Committee on Public Order to make sure that in this year’s budget deliberations the allocation of such amount.

Defending the legal rights of our law enforcers should start at the beginning, meaning in the filing of the case either before the Ombudsman or with the prosecutors’ office, Oaminal stressed.

“I know that there are vultures out there ready to prey on the blood and flesh of our gallant officers whenever they are down,” he said.

Oaminal has requested with the office of Senator Sotto to arrange a meeting with Police Director General Bacalzo, who is also a lawyer and the PNP Legal Office to study the case of Inspector Dongail and other hundred officers similarly situated on how the PNP could be help.