PNP Chief vows police won't abuse subpoena power

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa promised the police won't abuse the subpoena power bestowed on them under a new law.

"Swear 'yan. I will never, never abuse this power," he said on Monday as he raised his right hand.

Republic Act (RA) 10973 - which amends RA 6975 or the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990 - grants the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, along with the Director and the Deputy Director for Administration of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the PNP's investigation arm, the authority to issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum for documents. 

Duterte signed RA 10973 on March 1. It will allow the three top police officials to issue an order to request for the production of documents, or a request to appear in court or other legal proceeding.

Dela Rosa assured it won't be used against administration critics.

He also said the power given to him as PNP Chief will not be used as long as the CIDG officials are there to implement it. He added that administratively, the CIDG must inform the PNP Chief if they will issue a subpoena, as part of the chain-of-command.

"Prangkahin kita. Hindi ko gagamitin. Hanggang nandiyan ang CIDG, hindi ko gagamitin yan. Baka sabihin niyo na gamitin ko yan against the political enemies of the Duterte administration? Your question leads to that? Sabihin mo sa kanila, rest assured never ko gagamitin hanggang functioning ang CIDG," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: To tell you frankly, I will not use it as long as the CIDG is there. If you're saying I'll use it against the political enemies of the Duterte administration, I assure you I will not use the power as long as CIDG is functioning.]

The PNP Chief said it will only be used to help revive cold cases that require sufficient evidence to proceed.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the subpoena power will be only be used in "extreme circumstances."

"Because of the fact that there are limited signatories to the subpoenas, that it will be reserved for the extreme circumstance where individuals have absolutely refused to cooperate in an ongoing police investigation," he said in a media briefing.

He also stressed the subpoena power aims to bolster the PNP's investigating authority and does not grant the police any direct power to detain an individual.

"It will only be a cause of action for indirect contempt. They have to go to court, file a petition for indirect contempt before they can apprehend anyone for failure to comply with the subpoena. So under these circumstance, I think the possibility of abuse will be minimized if not remote," he said.

CIDG Director Roel Obusan said subpoenas will be issued against high-profile criminals and not those guilty of petty crimes.

The National Union of People's Lawyers will question the new law for supposedly violating the Bill of Rights.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles, Ina Andolong contributed to this report.