FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

There is such a thing as execution risk. The best laid plans could flounder when the execution is messy.

Twice this past week, we saw this sort of risk play out for our law enforcers.

In Davao, the PNP massed over a hundred law enforcers to serve a warrant on controversial pastor Apollo Quiboloy. After shoving through the pastor’s wall of followers to get inside Quiboloy’s compound, the police ended the day empty-handed. The pastor was nowhere to be found.

The police raid on a POGO compound in Porac, Pampanga turned out to be a bigger fiasco.

On June 4, the combined forces of the Philippine National Police, the Special Action Force and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) raided the facilities of a company called Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Corporation. The raid on the sprawling complex did yield some interesting things, such a torture devices and Chinese People’s Liberation Army uniforms.

It turns out, however, that whatever was found there might not be useful as evidence in any court case stemming from this.

The search warrant for this raid was issued by Judge Maria Belinda Rama of the Malolos Regional Trial Court. The same warrant was later withdrawn by the same court and the same judge for being infected with irregularities, such as failure to state the specifics of the search. That makes the raid illegal.

The judge was within her rights to withdraw the warrant she signed. But the problem here is that the raid, covered by the first warrant, was well underway. The facility was sealed by the raiders. No one has been allowed ingress or egress since June 4. Foreign nationals arrested during the raid were already in police custody.

The law is clear on this. Any item seized in the course of an illegal search is inadmissible as evidence for any court proceeding or whatever other purpose. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to personal liberty and security of homes against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Realizing a fiasco unfolding, the PAOCC sought another search warrant to cover the raid. A new search warrant was issued by a court in San Fernando, Pampanga on June 7. But by this time, the raided facility has been under the control of the raiders for three full days.

This raises a prickly legal question: will a search warrant issued subsequent to a raid cure the effects of what has become an illegal raid?

This will have to be sorted out by the lawyers. The possibility is that anything seized from the commencement of the raid could be useless as evidence.


It is ironic that while the BBM administration has put digitalization of government services as its priority, a centerpiece project remains unimplemented way past the original schedule.

Five public hearings have been held at the House of Representatives on the multi-billion contract awarded a joint venture led by German firm Dermalog. The project involves the activation of the LTO’s Land Transportation Management System (LTMS). Even as the deadline for completion of this project looms, the LTO still has no control of system because the contractors refuse to surrender the source code to the agency as provided for in the contract.

Some of the lawmakers conducting the hearing have called for the outright cancellation of the contract for the utter failure of the contractors to deliver on their commitments. In the most recent hearing held last month, Rep. Paul Daza expressed exasperation that the protracted hearings were consuming too much congressional time.

From the start, the consortium to which this huge contract was awarded did seem odd. It is led by Dermalog, a German biometrics company. The other joint venture partners include: Microgenesis, an IT provider; Holy Family Printing Corporation which specializes in security printing and Verzontal Builders, a local construction firm. At first blush, this does not seem to be a consortium capable of delivering the complex information system that the LTMS is.

Realizing the deficiency of their consortium, Dermalog later on took in Paynamics as the sole online payment provider for the LTMS. Paynamics charges higher than other competing payments systems. LTO, however, seems helpless in opening the payments system to competition, given that Dermalog refuses to yield control of the source code. The monopoly by one payments provider produces huge profits for the consortium – at the expense of the public.

Lawmakers had to stumble through a thicket of misleading statements made by representatives of Dermalog. Some lawmakers in fact accused the Dermalog legal counsel of “lying” and threatened to detain him. That could still be done.

The Dermalog legal counsel claimed that a certain Volataire Encarnado was an employee of the German firm. This was to conceal the interlocking interests between Dermalog and Paynamics, the firm that enjoys monopoly over the LTMS payments system. Based on documents submitted to Congress by Dermalog itself, Encarnado was indeed the company’s managing officer with the authority to sign legal documents.

Encarnado, unless he somehow gets himself hospitalized, will star in the forthcoming hearing. He will have to explain why Dermalog continues to hold the source code and the Application Programming Interface (API) hostage – effectively preventing the LTO from exercising full control over the LTMS and opening online payments options to more players.

The case for cancelling this contract just continues to build.

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