Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lack of Probable Cause

What sufficient belief can you derive to determine a crime has been committed or will be committed with three persons riding an SUV? What is the probable cause?

My friends and I were flagged down while traveling on N. Domingo on our way to San Juan for some beer at around 9 pm on January 24. We had just finished Underworld 3 in Gateway and had decided to our favorite place for chicken liver and heart, and beer of course.

In hindsight I had neglected to open my window but my two friends up front had not. Seeing the drivers face is often good enough for the soldiers of the PSG in Malacañang especially if you were just passing through; meetings with the President will undoubtedly warrant more.

If it was only a flashlight in the face and then go about your business kind of incident I would have just forgotten the whole thing, but, the two cops searched our pockets while in the car and asked my friend for documentation; license and so forth. Maybe I should be thankful that we were not made to go down but the search was really intrusive.

The fact that the two cops have been courteous (if you can still call it that) does not negate the intrusiveness of the search; furthermore I fail to see what the probable cause is.

Checkpoints are a common sight on election season but this isn’t one. I’ve had the experience of passing through a few of those but all I got prior to this was flashlights and looks. Those election checkpoints have road blocks and signs; these two cops just parked on a lonely road and went about their search. Never before have I had my pocket searched while riding in a great looking car while still on the way to get myself a drink.

It would have been more OK had they explained that there had been prior incidences involving cars of that nature or that their bosses are trying something new within the precinct. Maybe the cops should have said there was an alert of some sort; just an explanation why should me and my friends be violated.

I heard motorcycles are always searched but then news reports always say hitmen and snatchers always have those as transportation. For a time the news also reported explosion in malls and recently suspects in the Rizal Day Bombing got life sentences, so at least that answers why your bags get somewhat searched when enter a mall or ride the LRT.

Just give a reason why and everyone will often forget, me included, the need for probable cause. But something tells me in progressive countries probable cause is everything regardless of the war on terror and citizens are aware of it.

In the end this incident was only a mild annoyance. I had good company and the place we went to had good cold beer and great pulutan; overall not a bad Saturday night. It did leave me wondering of the legal aspects of it all.

So those who read this watch out. If you are more legally more aware than I am then good for you. As I have said I was not told of any new police policy or any need of the search. But if it was only in the precinct level, a local incident, then mind the stretch of N. Domingo between Ortigas Extension and Cubao.

Safe travel to you all.