In the midst of lockdowns, quarantines, and the COVID-19 situation, it may seem like the concern for people’s rights is not as essential – nor is it as highly prioritized – as the concern for people’s means of survival during this pandemic. However, it is imperative to remember and to understand that the rights and laws governed by the Constitution remain in effect regardless of the current status quo – and, yes, that means even in this trying time.
To quote Section 1 of the Bill of Rights, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” This should be true and should still be observed even to this day.
Thus, with multiple occurrences of illegal arrest, detainment, and various human rights violations amid the global health crisis, it is important to know and to demand for your rights should circumstances call for. Here is an explainer of what to do in case of seizures:
If you are to be arrested by uniformed men, remember that:
- It is a must for arresting authorities to enunciate your Miranda Rights.
- These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of a counsel per the writing in the Constitution.
Likewise, you have the right to:
- Demand a warrant of arrest to know the reason for your captivity
- Ask for the identity and the authority of the arresting officer
- Be promptly brought before a judge and be “entitled to a trial within a reasonable time” or to be “entitled to release subject” to guarantee appearance for trial
- Demand physical examination by an independent and competent doctor of your choice before and after interrogation as stated in the Anti-Torture Act.
- Be presented with a manual on law enforcement for citizens prepared by the Philippine National Police. Moreover, it is stated in the manual that, prior to the release of any charge of custody, “you will…be physically examined.”
- Ask the arresting officer where you will be brought. You also have the right to be accompanied by the witness of your arrest and to not agree to be blindfolded.
To reiterate Section 12 of the Bill of Rights, “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice.”
Apart from the abovementioned, the following procedures should be observed:
- It is recommended that you stay calm and to not resist arrest or offer any physical resistance.
- Ask a relative, friend, or even anybody to witness the seizure. Do not forget to get the witness’ name and address.
- If authorities invite you for questioning, say that you will first consult your lawyer who will arrange a date, time, and place for your questioning. Remember that if authorities insist on taking you with them, it is tantamount to an arrest.
Warrantless arrests are accepted but only on the following grounds:
- When the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense in the presence of an arresting officer
- When an offense has been committed and the arresting officer has probable cause – based on personal knowledge of facts and circumstance – to believe that the person to be arrested is responsible of the crime
- When the person has escaped prison, detention, or while being transferred to another facility
In relation to the previously mentioned, the following are regarded as constitutionally illegal:
- Unreasonable searches and seizures
- Use of torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate or impair the free will
- Use of secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention
- Use of a confession or admission obtained as it violates Section 17 of the Bill of Rights
- Detention solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations
- Involuntary servitude in any form except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted
- Imposition of excessive finds
- Infliction of cruel, degrading, or inhumane punishment
In case you have been detained, remember that you are entitled to the right to:
- Be treated as a human being
- Due process
- Be informed of written regulations in the detention center
- Not be subjected to harsh, excessive, or inhumane punishments
- Receive visits from family, friends, and lawyer/s
- Practice your religion
- Adequate food, clothing, and healthful accommodations
- Be furnished with or to procure reading or writing materials
- Be kept separate from convicts’ service sentence
- Speedy, impartial, and public trial as provided by the Constitution
Beyond means and modes of survival, the primacy of people’s rights should be held in high regard. It is imperative that – at all times – these should be observed, regarded, and respected.
Remember, even in this trying time, tampering with people’s rights is constitutionally illegal.