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Subtle pushback by biz groups

/ 04:01 AM September 01, 2020

What was so important about the recent decision of the Supreme Court on warrantless police search and seizures that 11 major business organizations, including several foreign chambers of commerce in the Philippines, publicly lauded it?

The court said searches and seizures of illegal drugs in vehicles based on unverified anonymous tips violate people’s rights and are therefore unconstitutional.

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The business groups thanked the court “for delivering a message that no citizen should be deprived of his personal liberty based on unlawfully obtained evidence, such as in an illegal search or a warrantless arrest.”

That decision puts a tight leash on one of the means that some law enforcement authori­ties use to pursue the government’s war on drugs.

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In effect, the court pointed out that searches and seizures should be done by the book or in accordance with established rules on due process.

There’s more to this than meets the eye in the business groups’ open and collective endorsement of that ruling. It runs against the grain of the traditional norm of conduct of business executives on controversial public issues.

When significant econo­mic or financial policies or actions of the government are involved, the country’s major business groups have been quick to give their comments and make recommendations through press releases or media briefings.

Their speaking up or getting involved on those matters is understandable because their businesses may be affected, one way or the other, by such policies or actions and that includes the men and women who depend on them for their livelihood.

To the credit of the government’s economic managers (at least some of them), their comments on past issues had been taken into consideration and favorably acted upon.

Obviously, the ruling on search and seizures has no direct economic or financial consequences to the business community.

At best, attention or inte­rest in the ruling and its implications would be expected from human rights advocates, lawyers, police authorities and judges.

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Business executives do not seem to fit in the picture. What gives?

In a way, the business groups’ endorsement of the ruling may be looked at as their expression of serious concern about the erosion of the rule of law in the country on the conduct of searches and seizures on private persons in the name of the war on drugs.

They did not want to simply sit on the sidelines or be mere bystanders when the right to the inviolability of persons and properties is threatened or violated by people who swore to uphold and protect it.

Who knows if the business executives may find themselves in a similar fix sometime in the future?

In earlier times, business organizations were hardly heard from or, if they did, treaded softly, on policies and actions that were considered “sacred” to the administration.

The mantra “you can’t fight city hall” appears to guide most business people in their interaction with the government. Displeasing the powers-that-be could be hazardous to the health of the business.

It looks like the country’s political-cum-business atmosphere is quietly going through some changes in terms of social and political involvement.

By publicly and collectively applauding a court decision that chips off a big chunk of the administration’s cornerstone anti-illegal drugs policy, the organizations that represent the who’s who in Philippines business seemed to have made a subtle pushback on that policy.

Whether or not there will be unpleasant consequences for such action remains to be seen.

Is this a sign of things to come in the business sector as the administration goes through its remaining one year and 10 months? Will we now see business groups getting more active or involved in significant social or political issues?

We are headed for interesting times as 2022 nears. In the meantime, we have a pandemic to worry about. Oh, brother. INQ

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