Police: Bar searches part of anti-contraband campaign

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Photo of "Oplan Bakal" operation in Katipunan Avenue late Sept. 13.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — Netizens expressed concern and shock when police in Quezon City were spotted searching the bags of bar patrons along a popular strip frequented by university students.




But the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday said these searches in bars along Katipunan Avenue are part of its "anti-contraband" campaign called "Oplan Bakal."

"Isa po siya sa police intervention na isinasagawa natin [This is one of the police intervention programs that we are doing]," Quezon City Police Department Director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar told CNN Philippines' "Balitaan."


"Ito po yung pagpunta natin sa mga establishments, lalo na po yung mga clubs and bars na merong inuman, na nagbebenta ng mga liquor, para magsagawa po ng on-the-spot inspection," Eleazar added.

He confirmed that Quezon City police conducted "Oplan Bakal" at 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday at three establishments along Esteban Abada, a street of Katipunan Avenue near Ateneo de Manila University.

"Kung meron silang dalang bags, (tatanungin) po namin na sila ang magbukas nu'n para may inspection, sinisilip kung meron doong ilegal na contraband," he added.

[Translation: We go to establishments, especially club and bars where people are drinking and where liquor is sold, to conduct on-the-spot inspections. If they have bags, we asked them to open these for inspection, where we could check if they have illegal contraband.]

Eleazar also said the operation has been going on for decades and was originally meant to crack down on illegal firearms.

"During my younger years, 2nd Lieutenant sa Philippine Constabulary, ay na-experience ko po na magsagawa din ng "Oplan Bakal" doon po sa mga probinsya," he said, referring to the old name of the police force that preceded the formation of the present-day Philippine National Police.

[Translation: During my younger years, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary, I also experienced conducting "Oplan Bakal" operations in the province.]

"Noong una, it is intended for baril talaga. Pero any contraband that could be seen at plain view ay 'yun po ay ating bibigyan ng attention."

[Translation: At first, it is really intended for guns. But any contraband that could be seen at plain view is something that we will pay attention to.]

The bar searches came two weeks after after a Quezon City police car without a license plate alarmed protesters in front of Ateneo.

Read: Police car with no plate sparks alarm in Ateneo protest

However, Eleazar said after this August 25 encounter that there was an "unfortunate" misunderstanding.

Like mall inspections

Eleazar said Thursday that the searches under "Oplan Bakal" are conducted with the cooperation of the bars' owners.

He added that like shopping malls, places like bars are considered public establishments, thus allowing police to search peoples' possessions.

"Kung titingnan po natin sa mga malls, bago ka pumasok diyan, may security guard na nagche-check," Eleazar said. "The management have the right para i-check kung ano yung gamit na ipapasok dun, so we are anchored on that. Otherwise, eh di 'wag na silang pumasok sa isang (lugar) na pampubliko."

[Translation: When we look at malls, before you enter, a security guard checks your things. The management have the right to check what you bring in, so we are anchored on that. Otherwise, they shouldn't enter a public place.]

He added that if the individual refuses to be searched by police, the establishment's management will go take over the search.

"Hindi pulis ang magbubukas, but we will request the owner or the management," Eleazar said. "Isang reason po 'yun para magduda tayo dun."

[Translation: The police will not open, but we will request the owner or the management to open the bag. Refusing is one reason to be suspicious.]

No less than the 1987 Constitution protects peoples' rights to unreasonable searches without a court-issued warrant under Article III.

One netizen, lawyer Dino De Leon, offered tips in case police ask to search you or your belongings.


The PNP is in hot water for the questionable circumstances surrounding the deaths of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz in August 2017.