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SC to government: Release 'drug war' records to petitioners

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
SC to government: Release 'drug war' records to petitioners
A Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agent secures part of a street holding residents temporarily during a drug raid in Maharlika Village, Taguig, south of Manila on Feb. 28, 2018. The drug raid was conducted to arrest five drug dealers, but only two were captured. President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead and seen human rights groups claim he was responsible for a crime against humanity. The anti-drugs campaign enjoys popular support while the fiery-tongued Duterte has rejected any criticism of his human rights record.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:03 p.m.) — The Supreme Court has directed the government to release documents on its investigations into deaths linked to the crackdown on illegal narcotics to petitioners questioning the legality of the "war on drugs."

The SC en banc on its first summer session in Baguio City ordered the solicitor general to provide copies of 'drug war' records to the two sets of petitioners in the case.

"The Court ordered the solicitor general to submit to the Supreme Court the police reports, copy furnishing the petitioners," SC Public Information Office chief Brian Keith Hosaska said.

In 2017, two groups of petitioners asked the SC to halt the implementation of Duterte’s war on drugs. Their pleas are centered on killings in the San Andres Bukid district of Manila and in Baguio.

During oral arguments, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio ordered Calida to submit all documents pertaining to investigations into police anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2017.

Calida had initially agreed to Carpio's order, but later asked the SC to reconsider its order. The court stood firm on its directive and junked Calida's appeal.

SC hits SolGen for 'continued refusal' to submit docs

In a strongly worded resolution issued Feb. 3, 2018, but made public on April 11, 2018, the SC said: "The OSG's continued refusal to submit to this Court’s requirement will lead this Court to presume that these information and documents, because they are wilfully suppressed, will be adverse to the OSG's case."

Calida later complied with the tribunal's order but insisted that the petitioners have no business with the documents on the government's "war on drugs."

Lawyers from the Center for International Law, counsels for the second group of petitioners, asked the SC earlier last month to be allowed access to drug war records as the documents "involve public concern and interest."

Calida, however, argued that the petitioners are counsels only to specific cases that are allegedly carried out under the drug war, but not killings that cover the entire country.

"They are not entitled to it," he added.

READ: Calida: Petitioners not entitled to drug war documents

CenterLaw: Documents are first step to justice

CenterLaw welcomed the SC's order, saying it "shed a positive light on the ongoing terror brought about by the ‘war on drugs.’"

The law group said that the documents are the first step towards the "war on drugs" victims’ long road to justice.

"This is significant decision to shed light on the unprecedented number of deaths numbering more than 4,000 in police operations and countless more in vigilante killings which are under police investigation," CenterLaw added in a statement.

The International Criminal Court is also looking into several communications alleging crimes against humanity committed by the Duterte administration over the thousands of deaths under its brutal crackdown on drugs.

The Philippine government’s withdrawal of the ratification of the Rome Statute, that ratified that ICC, became effective last month, but the international tribunal said that the review of communications filed against Duterte and his men is unaffected by the government’s pullout from the treaty.

DRUG WAR SUPREME COURT
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