Sunday, March 3, 2013
Why policemen fear to go beyond visual search
By MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
This columnist, who used to preside over media men in their Kuatro-Kantos sessions, became an accidental resource speaker in a command conference composed of police colonels and majors of the Pangasinan Police Office and chiefs of police where OIC Provincial Director Marlou Chan asked them to brainstorm my observation on my previous columns on the mode of searching vehicles and the predictability of checkpoints. I wrote before that Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan) agreed with my observation that police men manning checkpoints should not be tied on visual search because criminals make them a laughing stock. Bataoil said peace officers worth their salt should use judgment call on how to search and seize illegal objects hidden inside the cars or motorcycles without the benefit of search warrant. He agreed with what I wrote that “consent” among motorists is enough to open their trunks and compartments as a lawful means to search vehicles without a search warrant. Colonel Chan and deputy provincial director Lt. Colonel Sison the two diminishing numbers of PMAyers (PMA last production of PC, the precursor of the PNP) was in 1992) at the Philipine National Police who are torn by the “sea” of Cavite graduates (Philippine National Police Academy like the snappy 6 –foot two- inch Dagupan City chief Lt. Colonels Cris Abrahano and Rodolfo Castro) and ROTC graduates like UPang’s (University of Pangasinan) pride Lt. Colonel Poly Cayabyab have a good time discussing with this writer (a humble graduate of MPSB or Mababang Paaralan ng San Andres Bukid) the nuances of what is the significance of a checkpoint and “judgment call”. Lt. Colonel Sison said search warrant is not necessary anymore when there is hostility inside the car like “nag-aaway na sila duon.”. Chan objected to the observation of his fellow Cavalier because hostility inside the car is already too obvious for the PNP to pacify by entering the car without the warrant. He asked his subordinates to explore the judgment call (e.g motorists acting nervously) Bataoil, a former two-star police general, espoused. Chan said being nervous could mean the motorist is hiding something illegal or he is being nervous because he fears the police would “plant” something illegal in case he opens his car or motorcycle.
One colonel, who asked anonymity lest Bataoil asked his generals in Camp Crame to demote him to sergeant where he would be relegated manning the gate of the Provincial Command, reacted to my statement when I quoted the congressman that the PNP in Pangasinan should think- out- of- the- box. “How can the police think out of the box where the policemen are hesitant or afraid to do that?”. He scribbled an illustration on my notes. “Here is the box Bataoil is espousing. If the police get out of it, he has to deal with another bigger box, and other series of bigger boxes that wait for him to get from the smaller boxes,” he stressed. He explained the bigger boxes as the symbol of fear that policemen found as a bane. The colonel cited them as the “Sword of Damocles” like the administrative cases in the Police Internal Affairs Service, People’s Law Enforcement Board, Human Rights, Prosecutor’s office, in case the motorists filed a trump out case against them because they threatened and illegally searched him. “Takot ang police. Iba diyan may pinapa-aral sa kolehiyo na mga anak. Iba diyan mag re-retire na sa serbisyo at ayaw ng mabulilyaso ang mga benepisyo na makukuha.” I could only commiserate on the backlash the PNP faces from the motorists. I could only paraphrase the posed of Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez of his dismayed to General Tomas Karingal, then Chief of the Northern Police District in Manila after he was shot by an assassin in 1982: “General,what is happening to our country?
One of the colonels however disagreed about the bane that faces the PNP on checkpoints. He opined that the police should not fear charges from the motorist as long as they are doing their jobs in maintaining the tranquillity of society.
One colonel, who asked that I not quote his name lest he would be demoted and reassigned to man the traffic in Dagupan City, appealed to Bataoil. He said with the 38 murder (more than four a week) cases perpetrated by riding in tandem (RIT) assassins since January this year to March 5 (the latest victim was the chief examiner of the BIR in Pangasinan) , he appealed through this column that the solon donate 21 motorcycles for the 2nd congressional district where the police riding gung-ho become a bane and deterrence to RIT. “He provides 21 motorcycles, we prepare full battle gear police sporting an M-16 assault rifle that are honed to chase and clash with the RIT.” What’s your take Congressman Bataoil on your former subordinates’ proposal? What’s your take other congressmen in the other five congressional to donate a minimum 21 motorbikes to chase RIT?
Can you still remember my previous column “Heydays for Criminals: Police tied to Visual Search” one of the top hits (according to the internet) in the biggest blog in Pangasinan that can be accessed at http://wwwmortzcortigoza.blogspot.com/2013/02/heydays-for-criminals-police-tied-to.html? Where during the press conference in Dagupan City called by the PNP and the Comelec, provincial election supervisor Lawyer Marino Salas answered my queries why the police contend themselves to “visual search” and not resort to consent, search incidental to a lawful arrest, search of a moving vehicle, custom search or seizure of goods concealed to avoid duties, stop and frisk, and exigent and emergency circumstances where these modes are protected by jurisprudences of the Supreme Court? Where Salas told me that “visual search” is what was contained in the Comelec resolution for this election. Chan asked his men in that conference to help him search for that resolution (as he swiped with finger his Apple iPad, yes Virginia most colonels and majors carried iPads there that I nearly walked out since I felt embarrassed with my Grade -1 “Pad Paper” I bought in a sari-sari store in Infanta town on which I take notes), other colonels and chief of police could not find the exception to visual search.
Lo and behold, Chan saved the day again for his men (mas magaling pa rin si PD kahit sa iPad na ang labanan) by finding and pinpointing to me Section 8 of Comelec Resolution on the Guidelines on the Establishment and Operation of Comelec Checkpoints in Connection with the May 13, 2013 Automated Synchronized National, Local, and ARMM Regional Elections).
It says there: “Any search at any Comelec checkpoint must be made only by members of the unit designated to man the same. It should be done in a manner which will impose minimum inconvenience upon the person or persons so searched, to the end that civil, political and human rights of the person/s are not violated. As a rule, a valid search must be authorized by a search warrant duly issued by an appropriate authority. However, a warrantless search can be made in the following cases: a. Moving vehicles and the seizure of evidence made in plain view; b. As long as the vehicle is neither searched nor its occupant/s subjected to a body search, and the inspection of the vehicle is merely limited to a visual search; c. When the occupant/s of the vehicle appear to be nervous or suspicious or exhibit unnatural reaction. d. If the officer conducting the search has reasonable or probable cause to believe that either the occupant/s is a law offender or that the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to the commission of a crime can be found in the vehicle to be searched; or e. On the basis of prior confidential information which are reasonablycorroborated by other attendant matters.
Oh by the way before I end my pulis-pulisan article, Lt. Colonel Castro refuted my observation that checkpoints are predictable after I wrote in my column that a hit men could just avoid the 7 pm to 9 pm and perpetrate their pernicious trade by murdering their victims in day time where there is no obvious checkpoints set up by the police. He said the PNP establish check points too in day time.
Lt. Colonel Abrahano said the 6 pm to 9 pm check points have deterred many killings even though it is hard to quantify them kasi hindi naman natin nakikita kung ilan ang na saved ng check points. So what’s your take my dear readers on these observations?
(You can read my selected columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too firstname.lastname@example.org).