‘Confiscating unlit cigarettes is theft’

ILOILO City – Policemen have been warned against confiscating people’s unlighted cigarettes.

It would be tantamount to theft, said Councilor Romel Duron.

The Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) announced it would be strictly enforcing the antismoking ordinance during the Dinagyang Festival, the highlight of which is the crowd-drawing ati tribes competition on Sunday, Jan. 26. It plans to confiscate even unlighted cigarettes.

According to Duron, a lawyer, mere possession of cigarettes is not a violation of the city’s antismoking ordinance that prohibits smoking in public places and conveyances.

“Ang ginabawal smoking. Once masindihan kag mag-emit na sang smoke, that is a violation. Kon wala masindihan, there is no violation yet,” said Duron.

Cigarettes are not even considered contrabands, he added.

A policeman can be sued for theft if he seizes a person’s unlighted cigarettes, said Duron.

“The taking of another person’s personal property without the consent of the owner is plain and simple theft,” said Duron.

As law enforcers, policemen should not be ignorant of laws, he stressed.

As to the request of the ICPO that the city council pass an ordinance allowing policemen to open the trunks of private vehicles at checkpoints, Duron said such has legal implications.

“The law recognizes only the ‘plain view doctrine’. Opening of trunks should be voluntary on the part of the car owner. If he agrees, ti buksan mo. Pero kon indi, you will be violating ila rights regarding searches,” Duron explained.

“Or the police must first secure a search warrant from the court. Kon wala court order, indi mo gid mabuksan ang compartment,” he added./PN


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