The Philippine National Police on Monday said there is no law prohibiting a search warrant from being used in a government facility such as a sub-provincial jail, even though it is usually used for private properties.
"Wala sa batas that the search warrant may not be implemented in a government facility. Nangyari na po yan," Deputy Director General Francisco Uyami Jr. said, citing a time when a police official secured a search warrant for his own office after there were reports of drug proliferation.
Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and fellow inmate Raul Yap were shot dead early Saturday in an alleged shootout with Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives serving search warrants at the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail.
Tarcelo Sabarre, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 of Basey, Samar, issued separate search warrants for alleged violations of Republic Act 10591, or the firearms law, against Espinosa, and alleged violations of Republic Act 9165, or the Anti-Drug Law, against Yap.
Uyami said it was up to the discretion of the operating team whether to seek a formal warrant for the search or simply coordinate with the jail officials.
In applying for the search warrant, he added, there is a procedure to be done by the judge where he has to personally examine the complainant and his witnesses.
"The way I see it, I believe the judge has personally examined the applicants who are CIDG operatives and he was convinced, kaya nag-issue ng search warrant against the facility, yung sub-provincial jail sa Leyte," he said.
Uyami also maintained that the police operational procedure requires coordination with the territorial units that an operation will be conducted before they can affect a warrant.
"At that time, siguro wala yung head ng provincial jail. Ang mga andun ay mga duty, so sila ang nag-coordinate yung raiding team," he said.
(At that time, perhaps, the head of the provincial jail was not present. Those who were there were only those on-duty, so they coordinated with the raiding team)
He reported they are awaiting verification whether or not there was coordination because there are varying reports at the moment.
"Base sa statement ni Chief Supt (Elmer) Beltejar, inamin po niya sa interview na hindi raw nag-coordinate yung CIDG team, but that’s why we are trying to investigate this kasi there are also reports, as claimed by the raiding team na nagbigay sila ng coordination notice sa operation center ng Region 8," he said.
(Based on the statement of Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, he admitted that the CIDG did not coordinate, but that's what we are trying to investigate because there are also reports, as claimed by the raiding team, that they handed a coordination notice to the Operation Center of Region 8.)
"That is still being validated, kaya nga may ginaganap na investigation by RIAS (Regional Internal Affairs Service) and by Police Regional Office - 8," he said.
Uyami also confirmed that the CIDG operation was reported to the headquarters in Camp Crame, but information is scarce.
"It was text to [the CIDG Director] that they were going to conduct operation, but as to the details, as to the concept, hindi niya alam yung gagawin, but he was aware that a search warrant will be served against the target," he said.
He argued it will be "impractical" anyway for the operatives to call up the headquarters every time they are going to serve a search warrant.
Reading the agency's statement, Uyami said per standard procedure, they have started investigating the incident to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, which involved personnel of the CIDG, led by Police Chief Inspector Leo Laraga.
Eastern Visayas Regional Police Director Chief Supt Elmer Beltejar, he said, had constituted a panel to look into, while the Regional Internal Affairs Service shall also conduct its own investigation.
"The PNP assures the public that necessary sanctions will be charged on any personnel who will be found violating the standard operating procedure during the serving of search warrants," he said.
Uyami revealed that there were 13 personnel of CIDG and 8 from the Regional Maritime Unit being investigated. He said they are awaiting response from the operating team why the maritime unit was tapped for the investigation.
"Perhaps yung pangangailangan ng supporting teams immediate na nandoon yung available operatives ng maritime group kaya sila ang kinuha. But we would like to get an answer on that," he said.
(Perhaps there was an immediate need for the supporting team that the available operatives of the maritime group be present that's why they were there. But we would like to get an answer on that.)
Uyami said the PNP is "ready to cooperate in any investigation that will be conducted—either by Senate, by Congress, or whatever body."