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Petitioners ask Supreme Court to halt war on drugs

The Free Legal Assistance Group filed petitions against the government's war on drugs. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — Three victims of the government’s war on drugs on Wednesday filed a petition challenging the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.

The petitioners, through legal counsel Free Legal Assistance Group, filed the petitions for Writs of Amparo, Injunction, and Prohibition, Temporary Protection Order, and Temporary Restraining Order before the Supreme Court.

The plea intends to stop extrajudicial killings caused by the nationwide war on drugs.

The petitioners include Aileen Almora, whose brother Ryan Dave Almora was killed in a police anti-drug operation; Rowena Appari, whose son was killed in a home invasion; and Jefferson Soriano, who survived after being shot several times in a police anti-drug operation.

In their 47-page petition, FLAG said Philippine National Police’s Command Memorandum Circular 16-2016 “which sets forth the general guidelines, procedures and tasks pf police illegal drugs campaign plan- Project Double Barrel,” support the “neutralization” of illegal drug personalities nationwide.

The respondents of the petition are Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in his capacity as PNP, all officers, agents or other persons acting under his authority and supervision as well as Eduardo Año is his capacity as Department of Interior and Local Government, and all under his authority and supervision. Año was recently appointed as the senior aide of the DILG.

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Due to this, FLAG said the government’s war on drugs operationalized by CMC 16-2016 is unconstitutional.

FLAG chair Jose Manuel Diokno said the grounds of unconstitutionality are the following:

  • It authorizes the police to kill suspected drug users, pushers or personalities in the guise of neutralizing and negating them;
  • It replaces the police function of evidence-gathering and case build-up with that of compiling lists of suspected drug personalities for the purpose of neutralizing and negating them;
  • House-to-house visits authorized under Project Tokhang are based on furtive fingers of unknown informants and are not meant to persuade drug offenders to stop their illegal activities but rather to kill or negate those who refuse to be persuaded as well as those who deny involvement in criminal activity
  • It is based on mere verbal campaign promise by then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte to get rid of illegal drugs within the first six months of his term.

Diokno stressed that as the president of the Philippines, Duterte has ordinance powers. However, he never issued “any written instruction to implement the war on drugs.”

While it assails Duterte’s verbal order, Diokno clarified that their petition is not politcal and are all based on legal grounds.

“‘This is not a direct case against the president,” Diokno said in Filipino.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Palace released a memorandum signed by President Duterte designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency the sole agency in charge of the drug war.

DILG's Masa Masid

FLAG said the drug war was operationalized by PNP’s command memorandum circular but it is now being institutionalized by the DILG’s Memorandum Circular 2017-112 implementing Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga (Masa Masid) in all barangays nationwide.

The scheme employs dropboxes where people can anonymously submit names of supposed drug personalities and criminals.

The legal assistance group criticized how the dropbox system only establishes a system of anonymous reporting. It said anyone can report another person for any reason, which violates the right to due process of law and to be presumed innocent.

“While there’s nothing wrong with citizens reporting crimes, MC 2017-112 is not about reporting crimes — it’s ahout compiling names of suspected criminals. There’s a big difference between reporting crimes and submitting names of suspected criminals,” FLAG said at a press conference.

Diokno said FLAG believes thousands of alleged "nanlaban" cases deserved judicial intervention as the petition called on the PNP to justify more than 3,800 deaths that have been explained away as “nanlaban” or “resisting arrest.” He said that there have been no genuine investigations into these cases.

The petitioners also hold the PNP directly responsible for the disclosure of material facts known to the government and to their offices regarding the alleged extrajudicial killing of Ryan, Rex, and the shooting of Soriano. They also want the police force to show investigation results acceptable to the court within 60 days from notice.

The petitioners also ask the court to order the respondents in the case to submit the firearms allegedly used by Ryan and Rex to the National Bureau of Investigation for forensic examination and safekeeping as well as the firearms discharged by the police involved in the two drug operatiobs.

FLAG said aside from the investigations and forensic examination, the petitioners are also asking the court to direct the NBI to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the deaths and case of Soriano.

The petitioners also sought the issuance of temporary protection orders to protect petitioners and their immediate families from being harassed, arrested, threatened, harmed or killed by the respondents and/or any all officers, agents, or other persons acting under their authority.

Last January, a writ of amparo was filed by the officials of the Center for International Law against some members of the PNP involved in Oplan Tokhang. The petition however covered tokhang operation in Payatas, Quezon City and not nationwide.

Diokno said the petition filed by FLAG involves nationwide drug operations and is not limited to certain geographic area. It calls for protection of all families.

RELATED: Writ of  Amparo filed vs Tokhang 

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