Karapatan condemns arbitrary arrest of UP professor

Human rights alliance Karapatan condemned the arbitrary arrest on Monday, February 6, 2023, of University of the Philippines Diliman professor Dr. Melania Flores. The group urged that the appropriate charges be filed against members and officials of the Quezon City Police District and the QC Office of the City Prosecutor on their questionable arrest procedures and inquest proceedings that violate Flores’ right to due process.

“Members of the police seem to have made it part of their ‘procedure’ to pretend that they are not police officers, claiming they won’t be able to perform their duties otherwise. This seems to be part of their whole scheme of deception, which violates the rights of persons during arrest,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

It is a basic requirement in a police operation like an arrest for police operatives to be in a marked police vehicle, and for the PNP personnel to be in prescribed police uniform or attire, according to Rule 6 of the PNP handbook.

According to reports, two men and two women in plainclothes went to Flores’ home inside the UP campus, and first introduced themselves as DSWD employees who had supposedly come to provide aid. Flores only learned they were police officers when they suddenly presented her a warrant, after she had allowed them into her house.

Rule 13 of the PNP handbook regarding arrest states that “in serving the warrant, the police officer should introduce himself and show proper identification,” and “make a manifestation of authority against the person to be arrested.”

“This deceptive practice of the police should stop. We demand a probe into these schemes of the PNP, and urge the filing of charges against those responsible. Huwag natin payagang mamihasa ang mga pulis na ito sa gawi nilang panloloko at panlilinlang sa mga tao (We should not allow these police officers to get used to fooling and deceiving people),” said Palabay.

Palabay recalled how she herself was served a warrant by a police officer who posed as a delivery courier. The said arrest warrant, which had already been recalled by the time it was served, was for the perjury cases filed against human rights defenders by former national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon. The case was dismissed by a Quezon City court last January.

Karapatan also said that the 1989 UP-DND agreement, and the 1992 UP-DILG agreement which has the same contents as the previous agreement, should be respected and upheld, saying this continues to be in effect.
The agreement states that “the service of search or arrest warrants on any UP student, faculty, employee, or invited participants in any official activity shall, as far as practicable, be done after prior notification is given the UP President, or Chancellor of the constituent university, or Dean of the regional unit concerned, or their respective officers-in-charge in the event of their absence.” The UP administration said that no coordination was done on the arrest of Flores.

“Aside from violations to Flores’ right as a person being arrested, and her right to due process, the PNP is gravely violating an agreement which guarantees the exercise of academic freedom and democratic rights in the University of the Philippines. These rights should be respected and upheld not just in UP, but in campuses and universities where state security forces have been reported to threaten and harass students, faculty, employees and members of the academe due to their critical stands on different issues and their exercise of their right to form organizations.”

While Flores has been released on bail for alleged violations of provisions relating to the remittance of employees’ contributions under the Social Security Acts of 1997 and 2018, Palabay said there should also be an investigation on whether this case is merely a form of harassment against Flores, who is a former president of the All-UP Academic Employees Union, UP’s union of faculty, researchers, and other academic personnel.
”The arrest of Flores is not the only thing that is deceptive and disturbing, but how state security forces are using government agencies supposedly mandated to render social services, to arrest persons. At the same time, like trumped-up criminal charges, it seems that state security forces are using other issues that may be seen as non-political, to pin down known activists and critics,” said Palabay.
The arrest warrant against Flores was issued last September 6, 2022 by QC Regional Trial Court Branch 230 Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan, for violation of the Social Security Law on the remittance of the employers’ share in SSS contributions. Flores, however, never received any notification, complaint, or subpoena from the Quezon City prosecutors prior to her apprehension, despite her identity and whereabouts being publicly known as a UP professor and a former union official.

“We call for utmost vigilance during these times, when state security forces are brazenly attacking the rights of government critics, disregarding all procedures and agreements that are supposed to guarantee or safeguard people’s rights,” Palabay said. #