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Pinalakas! Duterte signs law allowing Bato to issue subpoena

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By: Xave Gregorio

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on March 1 the bill returning the power to issue subpoenas to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Republic Act No. 10973, amends the Department if the Interior and Local Government Act, giving the PNP chief and the CIDG director and deputy director the authority to issue subpoenas and subpoena duces tecum.

The current PNP chief is Ronald dela Rosa, whose term Duterte extended twice, while the CIDG director is Roel Barcena Obusan.

A subpoena would compel persons of interest to appear before the PNP CIDG, while a subpoena duces tecum would force the presentation of documents.

Refusal to do so would allow the PNP CIDG to file a case for indirect contempt before a Regional Trial Court.

This strengthens the powers of the CIDG, which, until the enactment of the law, can only invite persons of interest, who can refuse their invitation without facing any legal repercussions.

The law, sponsored by Senate public order committee chair and former PNP chief Ping Lacson, passed first in the Senate in January 2017 in a 20-1 vote.

The House passed its version, sponsored by former cop Antipolo City 2nd District Rep. Romeo Acop and Surigao del Norte 1st District Rep. Francisco Jose Matugas, in November 2017 in a 193-7 vote.

Lacson said in his sponsorship speech last year that it is “absurd” for the CIDG to be stripped of its subpoena powers, which is tasked to monitor, investigate and prosecute crimes involving economic sabotage and investigate major cases violating the Revised Penal Code, among other things.

Lawmakers part of the militant Makabayan bloc voted against the measure, with Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate fearing that it may lead to abuse, citing the current human rights situation of the country.

Duterte has been repeatedly slammed by human rights groups globally for his bloody war on drugs which has taken the lives of thousands allegedly involved in illegal drugs.