MANILA - The law giving top police officers the power to summon witnesses and suspects in aid of their investigation will not be abused, its proponent said Monday.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Philippine Constabulary used to have subpoena powers but the proponents of the Philippine National Police Law "overlooked" this when they reorganized the Department of the Interior and Local Government and created the PNP.
Without this, the PNP is "helpless" in its investigation because its invitations to participate are not coercive, said the lawmaker.
Under the new law, a person may only be subpoenaed if there was a sworn statement taken by the investigator implicating him or her, or mentioning the name of that person as a possible witness.
The person must also appear for the investigation with a lawyer, otherwise the testimony will be null and void, added Lacson.
"If it doesn’t fall under those, under the purpose of the investigation and it will not serve the purpose of that investigation, then the PNP is not authorized to issue that subpoena and it can be questioned before any court," he told ANC's Headstart.
The courts could issue a temporary restraining order against the subpoena and render it ineffective, he said.
Once the individual appears, he may not be detained and he may also invoke his right against self-incrimination, said Lacson.
Human rights advocates aired concerns about Republic Act 10973, which granted subpoena powers to the director general of the Philippine National Police and the director and deputy director for administration of its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
They said the new law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last week, could lead to abuses by the police force, whose credibility was marred by their participation in the administration's war on drugs.
The chief of the CIDG had assured the public that the power "will not be abused."
"Subpoena can be checked, the person can consult lawyers and other learned individuals. It will not supplant rights of the people. In fact, this can lessen conduct of search warrants," said Director Roel Obusan.