EDITORIAL - The high ground

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - The high ground

The last thing opponents of former president Rodrigo Duterte should want is to have accusations hurled back at them about gross human rights violations. This, however, is happening now as the administration comes down hard on Apollo Quiboloy, pastor of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The Department of Justice has declared Quiboloy a “fugitive” as he evades arrest for various offenses including the non-bailable qualified human trafficking. In compelling anyone to face the law, however, authorities should not look like lawbreakers themselves. This is what Quiboloy’s camp is saying after police swooped down last week on four Quiboloy properties in Davao to serve arrest warrants for the pastor, a staunch supporter of Duterte. Video footage showed police breaking down the fence of the KOJC’s “Glory Mountain.”

Quiboloy’s lawyer stressed that an arrest warrant does not allow a search of the premises, except if there is reasonable ground to suspect that the fugitive is in the address specified on the warrant, in which case an “incidental search” may be allowed. The lawyer said there could have been no “reasonable” certainty of Quiboloy’s presence in the property that was broken into because the police tried to serve the warrant almost simultaneously at four different sites.

The raid is on top of the House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly last March to revoke the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International, which is operated by Quiboloy’s Swara Sug Media Corp.

Duterte, who has agreed to serve as administrator of KOJC assets, lambasted the raids. “Will this overkill be the trademark of this administration when dealing with individuals who are merely accused of committing a crime and have not been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Will they exhibit the same lack of self-restraint they have shown toward critics of this administration when dealing with their supporters?”

Those who suffered from Duterte’s brutal crackdown on illegal drugs will scoff at his comments. Still, the actions of the current administration and its allies against Quiboloy are raising genuine concern about the state of free speech and the constitutionally guaranteed right to be secure in one’s domicile.

It is also unfortunate that after deploying elite police Special Action Force commandos and several other police teams to serve an arrest warrant, the police still came up empty-handed. Government critics are not the only ones who see a failure of intelligence in that operation.

At least the Philippine National Police leadership reacted quickly and sacked the police regional director for the Davao Region plus the PNP operations chief and more than a dozen other officers over the botched operation. The raid must serve to inculcate within PNP ranks the idea that in law enforcement, it is best to maintain the moral and legal high ground.

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