What to do when you receive an NBI subpoena

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 3) — The National Bureau of Investigation has summoned at least 17 private citizens in the past few days for allegedly violating a law that prohibits posting false information online. Seasoned lawyer Chel Diokno said authorities did not disclose the exact posts in question.

Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, gave some tips on how to deal with such a subpoena. He added that one of the recipients of the summons is now his client, but admitted that they are having a hard time to prepare for the probe as they have no idea what the complaint is based on.

A copy of the one-page subpoena sent by the NBI's Office of the Cybercrime Division demanded an explanation for an online statement made by his client which supposedly alleged the misuse of public funds, and is said to run counter to Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code.

In a tweet, the legal expert gave a step-by-step guide in responding to the NBI.

The first step is to hire a lawyer, preferably someone reputable or trusted by the person.

Diokno also clarified that a person being investigated should never appear before the NBI alone, adding that this is a task better left to the lawyer.

Should an NBI agent pay the accused a visit either at home, at work, or in any public place, Diokno said it's best to first ask the investigator to disclose his name and present his ID. Jot these details down. Should the agent ask questions, Diokno said a person can always refuse to answer these unless his/her lawyer is present.

"Dapat agad humingi ang abogado mo ng kopya ng complaint at supporting documents galing sa NBI [Your lawyer should immediately ask NBI for a copy of the complaint as well as supporting documents]," added Diokno.

This has been Diokno's concern for his new client, who has no idea which of his posts may have gotten him in trouble.

"We feel it's so unfair that we now have to guess which of those posts are supposedly violating the law. I hope they provide us with basis for the issuance the subpoena... It’s just basic fairness that should happen," Diokno told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Requesting additional details regarding the complaint would help the accused as well as their lawyers to "respond intelligently" to the charges, he added.

Other lawyers have also offered to help recipients of a similar NBI subpoena online.