National ID system, PNP subpoena powers: ‘witch-hunt tools’ vs the people

Mar. 13, 2018

Activists in a press conference on March 13, 2018 in Quezon City, hold up placards bearing calls to end the terror tags against leaders and members of progressive groups. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Yamzon)

MANILA, Philippines – Progressive groups on Monday warned that the national identification system and the recently-signed law granting subpoena powers to the Philippine National Police (PNP) are additional tools for witch-hunt, abuse, and all-out repression.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) lambasted President Rodrigo Duterte for signing Republic Act 10973 that granted powers to the leadership of the PNP and the Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) to issue subpoena orders. The law signed last March 1 gives the PNP chief and both the CIDG director and deputy director to compel persons or to produce documents the PNP and CIDG deem relevant to their investigation.

The said law, the KMP said, was among the “piecemeal legislations imposed by the Duterte government to complete a de facto dictatorship.”

“Duterte is building his ‘dictatorship jigsaw puzzle’ piece by piece through proclamations, laws, orders, issuances, and threats,” KMP Secretary-General Antonio Flores said in a statement.

“The government is using coercive state apparatuses to virtually place the entire country under Martial Law even without a formal declaration,” the KMP said.

The law’s approval comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition seeking to tag more than 600 individuals, mostly progressives, as terrorists.

KMP said granting subpoena powers to the PNP-CIDG is “tantamount to further authorizing these agencies to arbitrarily arrest and detain persons of interest, particularly those who are in the DOJ’s proscription list and other individuals critical to the Duterte administration.”

Human rights group Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay condemned the law, as well as the impending creation of a national ID system.

“Duterte and his minions have busied themselves with legislation, petitions, and measures to legitimize the witch-hunt and repression of groups and individuals, cementing their role as the architects of a looming dictatorship,” Palabay said.

Palabay’s statement comes on the heels of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s March 7 announcement that the national ID system will proceed even without the passage of the national ID system bill.

The implementation is estimated to cost around P20 billion.

The House of Representatives already approved its version of the measure September last year while it is still being deliberated at the Senate

The national ID system is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Karapatan’s Palabay.

“Disguised as an ‘economic and social tool,’ it becomes a mechanism for control and repression in the hands of the military. Aligned with the government’s counterinsurgency campaign, this bill will be used to monitor and harass citizens,” she added.

Palabay said that there are reports from the regions that residents are not being issued barangay clearances “upon orders of the military” to justify their accusations that such persons are members of the New People’s Army.

Karapatan emphasized that the police have long been involved in various repressive schemes including illegal arrests, illegal search and seizures, planting of evidence, and corrupt practices.

“The CIDG is a known celestial entity that draws up narratives from an unknown universe and passes it off as the truth… Their favorite element in their stories is providing justification for the planting of evidence by the police,” said Palabay, citing the cases of peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, Ferdinand Castillo, among others, which exemplify the role of the CIDG in whipping up trumped-up charges against activists.

“With the national ID system and the law giving PNP and the CIDG subpoena powers, the Duterte regime is practically enacting a witch-hunt tool and effectively legislating, legitimizing repression,” she added. (

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