MY LETTER TO NBI CHIEF ON VIOLATION
OF LAWYER'S RIGHT TO VISIT CLIENT
For refusing to act on my request to be allowed to visit my clients, I wrote NBI Director Virgilio L. Mendez to inform him of what happened to me in the nighttime of 17 October 2015 and the letter to him is posted hereunder.
Causing Sabarre Castro Pelagio
Unit 1, 2368 JB Roxas St. corner Leon Guinto St., Malate, Manila
19 October 2015
ATTY. VIRGILIO L. MENDEZ
National Bureau of Investigation
Taft Avenue, Manila
The undersigned attorney is writing your Good Office to formally report that he was prevented from visiting his client at the NBI Detention Center and this happened about 10:15 p.m. of 17 October 2015.
The justification given by the duty agent from the CRID was that he cannot give the go signal because their chief was not around or was absent.
So we had here a situation where CRID was assigned as the Duty Office in charge of regulating the entry of lawyers or other persons into the NBI Detention Center at night time but the chief of the same office was absent and its duty agent refused to act on the request for a visit made by the undersigned at that time because his chief was not around.
The undersigned leaves it to the Office of the Director to determine if there was any violation on this incident, either administratively or criminally.
The undersigned wanted to visit his client for the purpose of a conference on the scheduled filing of a pleading or a petition and he had no more time for the conference because he had other works to be done with other equally-important clients.
It is a criminal violation under Section 4(b) of Republic Act 7438, to wit:
Section 4. Penalty Clause. – (a) Any arresting public officer or employee, or any investigating officer, who fails to inform any person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice, shall suffer a fine of Six thousand pesos (P6,000.00) or a penalty of imprisonment of not less than eight (8) years but not more than ten (10) years, or both. The penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification shall also be imposed upon the investigating officer who has been previously convicted of a similar offense.
The same penalties shall be imposed upon a public officer or employee, or anyone acting upon orders of such investigating officer or in his place, who fails to provide a competent and independent counsel to a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation for the commission of an offense if the latter cannot afford the services of his own counsel.
(b) Any person who obstructs, prevents or prohibits any lawyer, any member of the immediate family of a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation, or any medical doctor or priest or religious minister chosen by him or by any member of his immediate family or by his counsel, from visiting and conferring privately with him, or from examining and treating him, or from ministering to his spiritual needs, at any hour of the day or, in urgent cases, of the night shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than four (4) years nor more than six (6) years, and a fine of four thousand pesos (P4,000.00).
The provisions of the above Section notwithstanding, any security officer with custodial responsibility over any detainee or prisoner may undertake such reasonable measures as may be necessary to secure his safety and prevent his escape.
It is very clear that the only valid basis to prohibit a lawyer from conferring with a detainee-client for an urgent matter like preparation of pleadings and that the lawyer had no other time to do the same visit is when the prohibition is for the purpose of securing the safety of the detainee and preventing that detainee from escaping.
There was no allegation that the refusal to act on the request was for the purpose of securing the safety of the detainee and preventing that detainee from escaping. That is, even if it can be argued that the rule of reasonable prohibition does not apply in the case at bar because the instant matter is about “refusal to act on the request” and it is one thing and it is another thing to “refuse the request.”
The undersigned leave it to the Office of the Director to exercise its discretion because the undersigned is not interested to file any case except only to hope the incident be not repeated and that the NBI ensure that all its agents, lawyers or otherwise, are knowledgeable and courteous and kind to fellow lawyers to visit their clients even at nighttime.
ATTY. BERTENI CATALUÑA CAUSING, CE