Know your rights: What every Pinoy should know


Posted at Jul 19 2016 12:39 PM

MANILA – A lawyers' group is reminding the public to be knowledgeable of their rights amid the spate of extrajudicial killings and allegedly questionable police operations that resulted in deaths of drug suspects.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said Filipinos should keep in mind the following basic rights:

The right to life;
The right not to be tortured nor subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
The right not to be subjected to forced labor;
The right not to be imprisoned for non-payment of debt;
The right not to be punished for an act which was not yet a crime at the time of its commission;
The right to be recognized and treated as a person; and
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

''These rights are absolute. Under no condition can their fulfillment or enjoyment be suspended. This is true even when martial law or any other state of emergency has been declared. These are non-derogable rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Philippines is a signatory,'' FLAG said.

FLAG also listed down inalienable and inviolable rights:

The right not to have your house searched without a search warrant issued by a judge, and not to have anything seized which is not specified in the search warrant. However, if you are legally arrested, your person and immediate surroundings may be searched for dangerous weapons, and any evidence found on your person or immediate vicinity (only on your person and immediate vicinity) which may have been used to commit the crime for which you are being arrested may be seized.

The right to liberty and security of person. You can be deprived of liberty only on grounds and procedures established by the Constitution and existing law.

The right not to be arrested except on evidence that a crime has been committed and that you probably committed it. You may be arrested only on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by a judge, except:

- When you have committed, are actually committing, or are attempting to commit an offense in the presence of the arresting officer;
- When an offense has been committed and the arresting office has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of the facts and circumstance, that you committed the offense;
-When you have escaped from prison or detention or while being transferred from one confinement to another.

FLAG also reminded the public that the legality of one's arrest must be determined in an inquest proceeding conducted by a civilian prosecutor.

The prosecutor, in a summary proceeding, can order, affirm the legality of one's arrest and prepare the corresponding complaint or information with the trial court.

''Often the inquest prosecutor will ask the person arrested if s/he desires a preliminary investigation, in which case s/he will be asked to sign a waiver,'' FLAG said.

''Do not sign the waiver without being fully informed of the nature and consequences of signing it. Signing the waiver may — and often does — mean that you are going to remain in detention, pending preliminary investigation. It may also mean that you are waiving your right to file cases against those who arrested you."

FLAG said an arrested individual must take note of the following rights:

To be informed of your right to remain silent and other constitutional rights);
To have competent and independent counsel preferably of your own choice; and)
To be provided with counsel if you cannot afford one.

In all criminal prosecutions, FLAG said a defendant has the following rights:

Not to be compelled to testify against yourself;
To remain silent and to counsel;
To be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against you;
To have a speedy, public, and impartial trial;
To appeal any conviction;
To be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved;
To be present and heard by yourself and counsel;
To avail yourself of court processes to secure the compulsory attendance of witnesses and the presentation of evidence in your defense;
To meet the witnesses face-to-face and to cross-examine them;
The right to a preliminary investigation;
The right against double jeopardy;
Before conviction, the right to bail except for capital offenses when evidence of guilt is strong);
The right to be treated with humanity and with respect for your personal dignity;
The right to liberty of abode and the right to travel.

FLAG chairman Jose Manuel Diokno earlier called out the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte for the rising number of suspected drug criminals being killed either in police operations or by alleged vigilantes.