December 06, 2007

crossing the line

Much has been said about the pros and cons of the warrantless arrests made by the PNP NCRPO and SAF of the media members and support crew during the Pen caper.

The PNP has said that the warrantless arrests were justified because: 1. they could not determine whether the media members were indeed from media because some Magdalo members were posing as media (right, as if Sonny Trillanes could look like Pinky Webb or Ces Drilon) and 2. they had been warned off already and because they chose to stay, then they could be arrested.

One thing must be made clear: a line was crossed on November 29, 2007; and it was crossed by the police. That line was drawn by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press and until very recently (February 2006), that line had been held sacred--at least from 1986 onwards.

I unequivocally support my friends from the media who have condemned the arrests. Clearly, they were not only an overkill, they were also illegal and in violation of the constitution.

A difference must be struck between the refusal of some media members (particularly from ABS-CBN) to not obey the directive to leave the pen and the decision of the police to arrest (not process) the members of the media.

The only legal consequence of refusing to leave the pen is that the media who stayed waived their right to be protected from harm and cannot sue the police if they are injured or killed. That, I believe, the members of media who stayed knew very well and accepted fully.

Such refusal, however, cannot result in a valid warrantless arrest. Under the Rules of Court, a warrantless arrest may only be made on three (3) occasions and the pen caper did not fall under any of the three occasions. Moreover, refusal to leave did not justify the treatment accorded--handcuffed and paraded like ordinary criminals.

In doing so, the police crossed the line and considered, in blanket fashion, the media as combatant, as partisan, as enemy, By arresting media together with Trillanes, Lim et al, the police spoke loud and clear: the media are part of the rebellion.

True, often the media doth speak too much, complain too much but this is not one of those times. This time, they are in the right.

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