Cops hit for conduct in Etong probe

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2009 04:21 PM | Updated as of Apr 18 2009 12:26 AM

Human rights advocates criticized on Friday Quezon City police operatives who handled the alleged suicide of Trinidad 'Trina' Etong, the wife of ABS-CBN broadcast journalist Ted Failon.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon called the handling of the case "outrageous" saying police appeared to be "arrest-happy".

“That was the impression that I got when I saw last night that even the brother was picked up. Although I understand that he was released already, but from what we saw last night, that appears to be the case....Outrageous, really,” Biazon said in an interview on ANC’s Dateline Philippines Friday.

Biazon was referring to the arrest of Failon’s brother-in-law Maximo Arteche Thursday night at the New Era General Hospital. Police brought Arteche to the station after he allegedly tried to stop authorities from arresting his other sister Pamela Arteche-Trinchera.

“Still the actuations put the police in a bad light. The actions of the policemen themselves would show there would be an impression that there was an excessive use of force. Considering that this case is still being investigated and we really don’t know whether there was foul play or it was really a suicide,” said Biazon.

Failon's wife passed away Thursday night after suffering from a "self-inflicted" gunshot wound to the head.

Not flight-risk

Biazon believes that police treatment should have been handled much better, since the people they were arresting were not “flight-risk”. Police, he said, have to consider such circumstances in the performance of their duty.
 
He added police could have stayed in the hospital and guarded Mrs. Trinchera “until such time they could bring her” to the station.

“There could have been a better time and a less tense situation. Hindi naman flight risk because they were already there confined in the hospital. The urgency of the situation wherein it warranted for them to manhandle Pamela to bring her out is under question,” he said.

Biazon is urging the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct a review on how it trains and orients policemen.

“I guess it also goes back to that question how do we prepare our policemen when they perform their jobs because they must be thinking policemen. With policemen they encounter different situations. They encounter the civilian populace and it requires a higher level of thinking when it comes to performing their duties. So we might have to go into that aspect, how do we train and orient our policemen?” said Biazon.

Biazon said that police actions as shown on television footages should be a cause for concern, especially if such incidents happen to a less prominent person and the cameras are not rolling.

“We have to let the voice of outrage come out so that things will happen. I am hoping that with outrage that was heard from the public, the PNP leadership would take action on this. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that the PNP leadership will not tolerate such kind of behavior by policemen and that they will act accordingly and if there is anybody who needs to be disciplined, disciplinary actions should be taken,” he said.

Warrantless arrest

Meanwhile, Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Carlos Medina said the alleged arrest made against Mrs. Trinchera was “warrantless”.

Medina explained that based on the general rule, all arrests should be with a warrant. but in practice “more than 90 percent of arrests conducted by the police are all without warrant.”
 
It can be recalled that a commotion ensued inside the hospital where Mrs. Etong was confined when police forcibly tried to arrest her siblings for obstruction of justice.

“I don’t think that there was really an attempt to obstruct justice at that point. Maybe some people were just questioning why the arrest was being made at that time it was being made. It was not an ordinary situation. They were in a hospital, the wife was fighting for her life and any other situation which violates the privacy of the family, which pulls out a family member from that kind of situation, is already a kind of violation of the rights of the family,” Medina said.

Arresting policemen, he noticed, have violated rights of the persons they were arresting.

'No Miranda rights' 
 
“The rights to be arrested in a humane manner, the right to be read your rights, to have an attorney, to remain silent,” he said. “I did not hear that, the Miranda Rights”.

The lawyer said humanitarian considerations should have been applied since the incident was not an ordinary situation.

“This was not an ordinary situation. A family member was dying so you have to take this situation into consideration,” he said.

Furthermore, he added that policemen should be well trained so as not to violate the rights of people.

Footages also showed a police officer leading two of Failon’s household workers to a waiting police mobile car despite the protests of one of the TV anchor’s legal counsels.

Access to lawyers

“A lawyer should have access to the client, and a policeman making arrest should give a person arrested access to a lawyer. In fact, one of the rights that must be read to a person arrested is his right to have a lawyer, to have access to a lawyer and so that whatever she says would be with the protection of the presence of a lawyer. A lawyer is important because a lawyer is able to prevent further violation of rights.

Medina said the PNP is also making an effort to improve with the series of trainings and seminars on human rights.

“To what extent are these trainings and seminars effective? At the very least, this call for an investigation to really find out what happened and to determine what lessons can be learned from this experience,” he said.

Objectionable

Commission on Human Rights chief Leila de Lima also said she initially saw "objectionable" actions by policemen based on the videos that showed how Failon's household helpers and in-laws were arrested.

De Lima said the policemen had no warrants of arrest and did not inform the "suspects" of their rights.

"I never saw anyone reading the Miranda rights, but police are saying everybody in Failon's household is being considered as suspects," she said.

De Lima said she had formed a team to look into the possible rights violations committed by the police during the arrests.

Excessive force

The chief of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) said Friday that he has ordered an investigation of his own men for possible use of excessive use of force and violation of police procedures in the arrest of ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon's household helpers and in-laws.

"We intend to investigate this. We have asked some footage and we're looking for witnesses to determine if there was excess. If there are violations [committed by the arresting policemen] they have to be punished," Senior Superintendent Elmo San Diego, QCPD chief, told ABS-CBN's morning show, Umagang Kay Ganda.

San Diego said that "from the looks" of the footage that he saw Friday morning, there's enough reason for the QCPD to investigate its own men for use of excessive force during the arrest of Trinidad Arteche-Etong's kin at the New Era General Hospital on Thursday night.

"These people should explain their actuations," he said.

Stress

Policemen arrested Arteche's kin -- Pamela Arteche and Maximo Arteche -- at the New Era General Hospital for alleged obstruction of justice. Failon's wife died minutes after her siblings were arrested at 8:50 p.m. Thursday.

Failon's eldest daughter, Kaye, believes the commotion caused by the "warrantless" arrest of their relatives contributed to her mother's already bad condition. She said her mother felt the "stress" while her brother and sister were being arrested.

San Diego agreed that the arresting policemen should have considered the family's ordeal at the time.

Pamela was charged with obstruction of justice. She was allowed to go back to the hospital past 10 p.m. Thursday while police said his brother, Maximo, was released without being charged.

Aside from Pamela, police said Failon and his three household helpers Carlota Morbos, Frida Bollecer and Pacifico Apacible, and driver Glenn Pola were charged for obstruction of justice. They were set to pay P12,000 bail bond each on Friday.