Lawyers freed amid howl

Three lawyers detained by the police during raid on Times Bar in Makati walked out free Friday night amid a howl raised by legal groups.

The lawyers were identified as Jan Vincent Sambrano Soliven, Lenie Rocel Elmido Rocha and Romulo Bernard Bustamante Alarkon of the Desierto and Desierto law firm, representing one of the owners of the twice-raided Makati bar.

According to the Makati police, the three lawyers were arrested on 16 August initially for obstruction of justice after they entered the premises of the bar, took several pictures and videos of the scene and intimidated the lawmen enforcing a valid search warrant.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Guillermo Eleazar said the lawyers were arrested because they repeatedly refused to identify themselves and their clients while the police were conducting investigation inside the bar.

“They came in unannounced and they were they were cautioned by the police there,” Eleazar said. “They were asked identification but they refused and even interfered with the procedure.”

Police said the lawyers underwent inquest proceedings on charges of constructive possession of illegal drugs, obstruction of justice, resistance and disobedience to persons of authorities and violation of a city ordinance that bars civilians from crossing a police line.

However, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) cried foul over lawyers’ arrest for allegedly “obstructing” the investigations.

IBP executive vice president Domingo Cayosa said there was no basis in charging the lawyers and that the police are apparently trying to cover up errors they committed during the raid.

He warned that the IBP will not take the incident sitting down.

Earlier, IBP president Abdiel Fajardo had slammed the police for the arrest.

“If you include even counsel in your, in the charge sheet, that’s a very grave cause for concern not only for the IBP but the entire judicial system as a whole,” Fajardo said.

He added the lawyers were only doing their job as counsels in ensuring that the search warrant is properly implemented in their client’s property.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon condemned the filing of the charges against the lawyers, saying it constitutes not only a blatant display of disrespect against the country’s legal profession but also against the entire justice system.

“Such action poses threats on the rule of law, the basic pillar of our society,” Drilon said.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers and the Free Legal Assistance Group also issued separate statements criticizing the police for the arrest of the three lawyers and the filing of charges against them.

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