Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ted Failon case (1): what is obstruction of justice?

Since last week, our country has been gripped by the tragic story of the death of broadcaster Ted Failon’s wife. Currently, Failon and several others have been charged by the Quezon City police with “obstruction of justice.”

Please take note:

1. I strongly disagree with the QC police’s contention that a warrant of arrest is not necessary for violations of PD 1829. If the obstruction is being committed in the presence of the police, then a warrantless arrest can be made. But if the obstruction has already taken place several hours or days earlier, then a warrant of arrest is necessary.

2. The police must file the complaint for obstruction of justice with the fiscal’s office. After the fiscal has determined in a preliminary investigation that a probable cause exists, then he will file the information with the court. It is only the judge who can issue a warrant of arrest.

Posted below is the text of this Marcos-era law which took effect on January 16, 1981.

Presidential Decree No. 1829 “Penalizing Obstruction Of Apprehension And Prosecution Of Criminal Offenders”

WHEREAS, crime and violence continue to proliferate despite the sustained vigorous efforts of the government to effectively contain them;

WHEREAS, to discourage public indifference or apathy towards the apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders, it is necessary to penalize acts which obstruct or frustrate or tend to obstruct or frustrate the successful apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND, E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law do hereby decree and order the following:

Sec. 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by committing any of the following acts:

(a) preventing witnesses from testifying in any criminal proceeding or from reporting the commission of any offense or the identity of any offender/s by means of bribery, misrepresentation, deceit, intimidation, force or threats;

(b) altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object, with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any investigation of or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(c) harboring or concealing, or facilitating the escape of, any person he knows, or has reasonable ground to believe or suspect, has committed any offense under existing penal laws in order to prevent his arrest, prosecution and conviction;

(d) publicly using a fictitious name for the purpose of concealing a crime, evading prosecution or the execution of a judgment, or concealing his true name and other personal circumstances for the same purpose or purposes;

(e) delaying the prosecution of criminal cases by obstructing the service of process or court orders or disturbing proceedings in the fiscal's offices, in Tanodbayan, or in the courts;

(f) making, presenting or using any record, document, paper or object with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(g) soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept any benefit in consideration of abstaining from, discounting, or impeding the prosecution of a criminal offender;

(h) threatening directly or indirectly another with the infliction of any wrong upon his person, honor or property or that of any immediate member or members of his family in order to prevent such person from appearing in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or imposing a condition, whether lawful or unlawful, in order to prevent a person from appearing in the investigation of or in official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(i) giving of false or fabricated information to mislead or prevent the law enforcement agencies from apprehending the offender or from protecting the life or property of the victim; or fabricating information from the data gathered in confidence by investigating authorities for purposes of background information and not for publication and publishing or disseminating the same to mislead the investigator or the court.

If any of the acts mentioned herein is penalized by any other law with a higher penalty, the higher penalty shall be imposed.

Sec. 2. If any of the foregoing acts is committed by a public official or employee, he shall in addition to the penalties provided thereunder, suffer perpetual disqualification from holding public office.