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Justices ask: Did Oplan Tokhang, Masa Masid violate any law?

The constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs was tackled through oral arguments by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Police recorded over 6,000 deaths under investigation since June 2016 under the drug war, while human rights group put the death toll at 13,000. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — Two justices zeroed in on the government circulars allowing Oplan Double Barrel and Masa Masid and whether the two orders violated any laws.

President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war was brought to the high court by two groups of kin of drug war victims. On Tuesday afternoon, a 13-member high court grilled the petitioners on their argument seeking the declaration of its unconstitutionality.

Chel Diokno, national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group and Joel Butuyan of the Center for International Law were the first to face the high court on Tuesday.

Violation of privacy law

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio grilled Diokno on whether the Philippine National Police's Oplan Tokhang, under the Oplan Double Barrel, violated any of the citizens' Bill of Rights.

Tokhang is a mix of two Bisaya words: "toktok" (to knock) and "hangyo" (to plead).

Carpio asked Diokno to illustrate how the Oplan Tokhang was conducted: "When is the police justified in making a case build up? When they go to the house in Operation Tokhang and household people refused to allow them to enter? Is that ground to say the household is suspect?"

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Diokno replied: "I don't believe so. It is the right of every citizen to refuse entry when there is no search warrant."

READ: Diokno urges SC to invalidate PNP, DILG orders on drug war

Carpio quizzed the veteran lawyer on the laws violated by such action of authorities.

Diokno replied: "Unreasonable search and seizure, right to privacy, and [the right to be] presumed innocent."

Violation of anti-torture law

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, meanwhile, gave a scenario when the household refused to open the door to authorities. "Something will happen to you?" he asked.

Diokno answered in the affirmative.

READ: SC petitioners see 'systemic violence' in San Andres killings

Leonen then asked: "At that stage, the person is already under custodial investigation, correct? Therefore, can you consider it as violation of Republic Act 7945 (Anti-torture Law)?"

Diokno replied: "I believe so, your honor."

The justice then explained: "RA 7945 is the Anti-torture Law that when somebody is under a coercive process, to make the person actually do something as in this case open the door to the police, let them in, make them do whatever then, therefore under a pain coercion, then that in fact is torture, according to the law, is that not correct?"

The petitioner agreed with Leonen.

The SC will resume tackling the petitions on November 28, 2:00 p.m. The government, represented by Solicitor General Jose Calida, will face the high court to defend Duterte's bloody drug war. Key officials in the bloody campaign against illegal drugs are expected to attend the hearing next week.

READ: SolGen Calida: Petitions of families 'emasculate' drug war

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