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FLAG chair: Order for PDEA to lead drug war confusing

Free Legal Assistance Group chair Jose Manuel Diokno faces the members of the press at a briefing discussing the petition against the government's drug war. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — Free Legal Assistance Group chair Jose Manuel Diokno on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte's order designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the “sole agency” in charge of the drug war is confusing and has a loophole.

Diokno, a lawyer and dean of De La Salle University College of Law, explained that Republic Act 9165 — the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act — suggests that PDEA can only be the lead agency under certain conditions but not the lone agency in charge.

Duterte’s order indicated that PDEA shall be the sole agency in charge of all anti-drug operations.

READ: Duterte: PDEA now 'sole agency' in charge of drug war

“Under [R.A.] 9165, PDEA can be the lead agency if the PNP or NBI violates the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, so there’s a condition there,” Diokno said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Section 86 of Article IX of that law holds that "when the investigation being conducted by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found to be a violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the PDEA shall be the lead agency."

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 Diokno said: “We are wondering what the conditions are.” 

Diokno reiterated that PDEA, attached to the Office of the President, can be the lead agency in coordination with the PNP and NBI.

FLAG petition vs drug war

FLAG, led by Diokno, earlier filed a case on behalf of drug war victims, challenging the government’s war on drugs. He explained that the petitions filed seek to declare PNP’s memoranda as unconstitutional.

Diokno particularly cited Command Memorandum Circular 16-2016 “which sets forth the general guidelines, procedures and tasks pf police illegal drugs campaign plan- Project Double Barrel,” that he alleged support the “neutralization” of illegal drug personalities nationwide.

He also cited Department of Interior and Local Government’s Memorandum Circular 2017-112 implementing Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga (Masa Masid) in all barangays nationwide. This circular orders police departments and local governments to distribute dropboxes where people can anonymously submit names of supposed drug personalities and criminals.

Diokno said the dropbox system violates the right to due process of law and to be presumed innocent.

The FLAG lawyer clarified that Duterte’s order on PDEA will not affect their petition against the war on drugs as it only questions its constitutionality.

“If the president says they will no longer implement the circular, then it's done,” Diokno said.

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