Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Archie Gamboa is not backing down from threats of a lawsuit after several Taguig City cops barged into a posh Taguig City condo and allegedly threatened to arrest its expat residents despite not showing a warrant.
Gamboa said in an interview today with radio station DZMM that what the cops did at Pacific Plaza Towers on Sunday was perfectly legitimate.
“What happened was that there is a request. There’s a request coming from a condominium resident who said, ‘You should come here because they are not following social distancing,'” Gamboa said in English and Filipino.
“Now when can you enter [a residence] without a warrant of arrest? When do we apply for a search warrant? There are certain qualifications. When someone requested for assistance and then we see you there [that you’re violating the law], when the police have personal knowledge that there is an ongoing violation, right there and then they can do a warrantless arrest,” Gamboa said.
The PNP chief alleged that the police saw the residents violating social distancing rules, which the government forbids to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“They saw them. The police have the personal knowledge that there was a violation [committed by the residents]. Right then and there they could have done a warrantless arrest,” he said.
“But of course there were a lot of arguments [between the police and the residents]. They are telling that they will charge my policemen. Go ahead. We will defend ourselves. But we, the police, we didn’t enter and arrested or searched for anything. It’s an ordinary police response,” the country’s top cop added.
A group of armed cops, led by a certain Major Joseph Austria, barged into Pacific Plaza Towers over the weekend and allegedly threatened to arrest residents lounging in the condominium’s garden because they were not following social distancing rules. A resident denied this and said his neighbors were at least six meters apart from each other. The condominium’s president Erwin Elechicon has threatened to sue Austria and his men because they entered the property “without some form or warrant or authorization.”
Retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio told Rappler that what Austria and his team had done was illegal.
“There is no basis because no crime was being committed by the residents….Every unit owner has a right to use a common area subject to reasonable rules by the condominium management,” Carpio said.
It was late last week when President Rodrigo Duterte threatened a martial law-like implementation of the Luzon lockdown after reports emerged that Metro Manila residents have been ignoring social distancing rules, with some even participating in cockfights and underground boxing matches.
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