(CHR – A2011 – 001)

QUESTION: What is the remedy when abusive law enforcers detain an innocent in the absence of a valid arrest?

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses its alarm over the incidents of arrest and arbitrary detention of innocent civilians by the police for purpose of extortion.  

The case of Joy Reyes y Lagman is an example.  

Based on the Resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in I.S. No. XV-07-INQ-09D-03624 promulgated on October 13, 2010 , Joy Reyes was picked up by SPO1 Gerardo Rivera and PO2 Jason Magbitang between 12:00 noon and 12:30 p.m. on April 22, 2009 in the area of Guido I, Tondo, Manila ; after which Rivera and Magbitang attempted to extort money from her in the amount of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00). Unsuccessful, the two police brought Joy Reyes to the Tayuman Police Station around 7:00 p.m. that same day. Reyes claims that she was not committing any crime at the time of her arrest, but that she was only looking for her nephew. The entry in the police blotter does not indicate why Joy Reyes was “brought in” the police station.  

It was only on April 24, 2009 about 8:40 p.m. that Reyes was brought to the Manila City Prosecutors Office for inquest. By then, she was already in detention for more than forty-eight (48) hours.

A criminal complaint for violation of Sections 5 and 11 of R.A. No. 9165 was filed against Joy Reyes. However, the City Prosecutor of Manila issued a Resolution dismissing the complaint against Joy Reyes.

On automatic review, the Department of Justice (DOJ), in I.S. XV-07-INQ-09D-03624, affirmed the aforesaid Resolution of the City Prosecutor of Manila.

The Department of Justice did not believe the claim of Rivera and Magbitang that Joy Reyes was arrested only on April 23, 2009 about 3:45 p.m. This is manifest in the DOJ Resolution, to wit:

The claim of Joy Reyes y Lagman that SPO1 Rivera and PO2 Magbitang arrested her on April 22, 2009 (and not on April 23, 2009, as claimed by the two police officers) is supported by this entry in the police blotter of the Tayuman PCP: “22 April 2009 (Wed), 7:00 P.M., BROUGHT IN THE PERSON OF JOY REYES Y LAGMAN AND TERESA HERNANDEZ Y REYES BY PO2 JAYSON MAGBITANG OF PS # 7.”  

X X X  

…Magbitang and Rivera lied under oath when they declared in their Joint Affidavit of Arrest that the ‘arrest’ of Joy Reyes occurred at 3:45 p.m. of April 23, 2009 .”  

It must be stressed that the arrest on the person of Joy Reyes was effected without a warrant of arrest. Under Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, there are only three (3) instances when a police may arrest a person without a warrant, as follows:

“(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; 

  • When an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and  
  • When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.”

It is crystal clear that the case of Joy Reyes does not fall under any of the abovementioned circumstances that would justify a warrantless arrest. As such, policemen Rivera and Magbitang should not have arrested her without a warrant. Thus, the Department of Justice found Joy Reyes to be a victim of human rights violation, as stated in the aforesaid DOJ Resolution, to wit:  

“The records show that the arresting policemen, SPO1 Gerardo Rivera and PO2 Jason Magbitang, concocted a story to justify the ‘arrest’ and detention of the hapless Joy L. Reyes. Joy L. Reyes is a victim here, not the drug dealer that the arresting policemen had pictured her to be…

x x x  

This is evidently not a case of an illegal arrest or even one of illegal search and seizure, but a fake arrest.

It is not enough, therefore, that we sustain the dismissal of the sham complaint against Joy Reyes y Lagman. For what has happened to Joy Reyes, as well as her family, is a tragedy and a farce that cry out for vindication and rectification.”  

Thus, the Department of Justice ordered the City Prosecutor of Manila to cause the immediate release from detention of Joy Reyes. The DOJ also ordered the City Prosecutor of Manila to send the records of the case to the Office of the Ombudsman as basis for its administrative investigation of Rivera and Magbitang.

The acts of policemen Rivera and Magbitang contravene the obligation of the Philippine Government to respect the human rights of Joy Reyes under Article 9, paragraph 1 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which provides that:

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

Joy Reyes, without legal grounds, was arbitrarily detained in jail for approximately sixteen (16) months. The suffering of innocent persons who are put behind bars is beyond imagination. While under detention, Joy had been deprived not only of the time to be together with her loved ones, but also opportunities in life, and the right to develop as a person. In all probability, many other persons may have experienced, or are experiencing, the human rights violations suffered by Joy Reyes.

Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” The Commission on Human Rights condemns acts of fake arrest and arbitrary detention as gross violation of human rights. Fake arrests and arbitrary detention of innocent civilians by the police must, at once, be abated, for it is the policy of the State, as provided under Article II Section 11 of the Constitution to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights.

It is also imperative for the Philippine National Police to observe the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Article 2 of which states that:

“In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.”

The Commission on Human Rights likewise raises its concern that the Resolution of the prosecutor dismissing the criminal complaint in drug cases is subject to automatic review by the Office of the President. During the time that the case is undergoing automatic review, the detainee is incarcerated. This is what Joy Reyes had experienced.

This is the same issue voiced out by the detainees at the PDEA Detention Center in Butuan City when the Commission on Human Rights conducted a jail visitation in the said detention facility last November 27, 2010. The detainees complained that they are still being held in detention despite the prosecutor’s dismissal of the criminal complaints for Violation of R.A. 9165 filed against them.

The CHR sees this as a violation of human rights – a deprivation of the right to liberty of a person – for if the Office of the President would later on affirm the dismissal of the complaint, which may take a year or more, the detainee had languished long enough in jail. This practice is counterproductive, as it results to congestion of the detention facilities, aside from burdening the Government with unnecessary expense for the upkeep of the detainees, which may reach hundreds of thousands of pesos, if not million.

Moreover, this practice is in violation of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides that:

“ART. 125. Delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities. – The penalties provided in the next preceding articles shall be imposed upon the public officer or employee who shall detain any person for some legal ground and shall fail to deliver such person to the proper judicial authorities within the period of: twelve (12) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by light penalties, or their equivalent; eighteen (18) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by correctional penalties, or their equivalent; and thirty-six (36) hours, for crimes or offenses punishable by afflictive or capital penalties, or their equivalent…”

This is not to deny the Office of the President of the power to automatically review dismissal resolutions in drug cases; but the detainee should be released while the case is on automatic review, without prejudice to re-incarceration if the dismissal of the complaint is reversed later on.

Therefore, the Commission on Human Rights is calling on the members of the Philippine National Police to desist from committing fake arrests and arbitrary detention, and be the guardians and protectors of human rights of the Filipino people.

The Commission on Human Rights is also calling for the release of detainees whose drug cases had already been dismissed by the prosecutor.

Issued on 13th day of May 2011, in Quezon City, Philippines.