Human rights lawyers mull hotline for illegal searches, arrests

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2017 05:36 PM

MANILA - A group of human rights lawyers is planning to put up a hotline where Filipinos can report illegal searches, arrests and other police violations.

"Many people are not aware of their rights against illegal searches. Aside from that, they also don't know who to turn to," National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) chair Neri Colmenares told ABS-CBN News Saturday.

The proposal was made after posts about policemen randomly approaching and checking bags of students in several establishments along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City went viral.

Colmenares, a former Bayan Muna Party-List Representative, said establishing the hotline is timely and necessary after the House of Representatives slashed the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) budget to P1,000 from the original proposal of P623.38 million.

"Though the CHR's budget will still be discussed in the Senate, this is something beyond CHR now," Colmenares said on the sidelines of a human rights forum in Quezon City Saturday.

Several senators have vowed to restore the CHR funding. 

"The number of extrajudicial killings is so overwhelming and there's no way that only one group can cater to (it)," he said.

But Colmenares said the NUPL would have to discuss the proposal with other organizations as they do not have the money to fund a 24/7 operations center.

"We need to discuss it with other groups. We can marshal all our resources to have one big hotline to take care of these overwhelming messages," Colmenares said.

Aside from a hotline, citizens should also be continuously reminded about their rights against illegal searches and arrests, University of the Philippines College of Law professor Jay Batongbacal said.

"The best protection would be education and information. They should be educated that they do have these rights and they can refuse these unreasonable searches and seizures," said Batongbacal, among guests at the forum.

"The citizens should be educated of their rights and be encouraged to hold on to them and assert them whenever those rights are being infringed," Batongbacal said.

Illegal searches and seizures in parts of Quezon City are among recent allegations hounding the police force.

Earlier this week, the entire Caloocan City police force was removed after officers were tagged in the murder of at least 3 teenagers. A CCTV footage also showed that several policemen looted a house in Caloocan City last September 7.