Surigao Sur police chief denies issuing memo profiling lawyer

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 10 April) — The provincial police director of Surigao del Sur has denied he issued a memorandum ordering the police station in Lianga town to profile a public lawyer rendering legal assistance to alleged communist rebels.

In a telephone interview, Col. Dennis A. Siruno of the Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office vehemently denied the memo came from him. He said this was fake as he claimed his signature was forged.

“Nastress na ako dahil concerned na pamilya ko. Sinabihan ko ang aking mga anak hindi gawa ng papa ninyo yan (I was stressed because my family is concerned. I told my children that their father would not do that),” Siruno said, adding that aside from his family in Ilocos, his high school classmates were messaging him about the veracity of the report.

Surigao del Sur. Map courtesy of Google

Siruno assured that he will personally conduct an investigation starting Sunday, April 9, to track down those who were involved in the fake memo as he vowed to file administrative and criminal charges against them.

The memo allegedly issued by Siruno on March 29, ordered the police chief of Lianga to profile Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)  lawyer Carol Anne A. General who was said to be assisting New People’s Army rebels in their criminal cases.

The memo noted that during the meeting between the Regional Intelligence Division and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in March, “it has been observed that some legal personalities handling the cases of CTGs were repeatedly providing them assistance with regards [sic] to their criminal cases.”

The military and police refer to the New People’s Army as CTG or “communist terrorist group.”

The memorandum was marked “confidential”.

In her social media post, PAO chief Persida Ruedas-Acosta told Siruno to spare General from red-tagging/profiling as she is just doing her job pursuant to Republic Act  No. 9406 (PAO law) and section 3o of R.A. No. 11479 (anti-terrorism act). “Please read the laws,” she said.

A collective statement issued on April 6, signed  by 16 lawyers from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Mindanao, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, including five deans of colleges of Law in Mindanao assailed the purported memorandum is “a gross display of ignorance and blatant disrespect of the law” and “an undue interference and grave assault on the independence and role of lawyers in our justice system.”

The statement noted that “similar lawyer profiling incidents have also occurred in the past that sent clear chilling effects on the members of the bar.”

“PNP members, as law enforcers, are duty-bound and expected to assist in the administration of justice, not to make a mockery of our laws and transgress them with impunity,” it added.

The statement called on Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos, Jr. and the Philippine National Police leadership “to thoroughly and swiftly investigate this incident and impose the appropriate sanctions on the responsible official concerned.”

It also asked the Supreme Court “to take a more aggressive stance in protecting the members of the Bench and Bar,” saying such actions erode public trust and confidence in the justice system. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)