SC asked to stop Duterte’s war on drugs

FLAG's Jose Manuel Diokno

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) was asked Wednesday to stop the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

In a 41-page petition filed by human rights group Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the high court was asked to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the implementation of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016 or “Oplan Double Barrel.”

The petitioners also urged the SC to enjoin the PNP from further carrying out earlier instructions and pronouncements of President Duterte on the drug war, which were not formally put in a proper written executive order.

“The PNP’s war on drugs as operationalized CMC 16-2016 violates the right to life, to due process of law, to be presumed innocent and to a fair trial by expressly authorizing the summary killing of suspected drug offenders in the guise of ‘neutralizing’ or ‘negating’ them,” read the petition filed by FLAG chair and De La Salle University law dean Jose Manuel Diokno.

The group further alleged that the war on drugs, where over 7,000 individuals had been killed in both police operations and supposed vigilante killings, “violates the right to due process of law, to be presumed innocent and to a fair trial by doing away with the basic police duty of evidence-gathering and case build-up.”

They stressed that house-to-house visits being conducted by PNP are unconstitutional because “they are not limited to drug suspects and based on furtive fingers of unknown informants.”

“The PNP’s war on drugs has no legal basis because it is based on a mere verbal campaign promise by then candidate Rodrigo Duterte ‘to get rid of illegal drugs’ within the first six months of his term and is not supported by any executive order, administrative order, memorandum circular, memorandum order or proclamation issued by President Duterte,” the petition pointed out.

FLAG also assailed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s Memorandum Circular 2017-112, or the “Masa Masid” project, which allows citizens to report any person who may be involved in narcotics through drop boxes put up in some barangays.

Diokno likened this practice to the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines and the secret police of Nazi Germany during World War II.

“You can report any person, even if they are completely innocent. It does not require evidence, only names. This is just like during the Japanese occupation or the rule of Nazi Germany,” he explained in a press conference.

FLAG filed the petition for two victims of extrajudicial killings identified as Ryan Dave Almora and Rex Aparri and a survivor identified as Jefferson Soriano in police anti-narcotics operations.

In the same petition, FLAG sought issuance of a writ of amparo and temporary protection order prohibiting police authorities from getting near the residence or work places of the families of petitioners.

Almora and Aparri were shot dead during a home invasion in relation to the campaign against drugs, while Soriano survived an alleged summary execution attempt.

They are also asking for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), instead of the police, to conduct a thorough and impartial probe into the killings of Almora and Aparri and the shooting of Soriano.

The petitioners also sought to require the police to submit the firearms allegedly used by Almora and Aparri and the firearms discharged by the police to the NBI for forensic examination.

Lastly, petitioners asked the high court to set the case for oral arguments.

While Diokno stressed that they are opposed to drugs, crime and corruption, they insisted that the Duterte administration, backed by a “weak justice system,” is only making things worse.

The law dean said that the drug war needs judicial intervention as it “will only result in the killing of more and more people, especially the poor. The war on drugs will ultimately result in the killing of our legal system.”

“The reason why illegal drugs, crime and corruption are so rampant is because we have a weak justice system,” he said.
He suggested that the solution to eradicate crime and corruption is to strengthen the justice system, not short-cut it.

Earlier, similar petitions against the war on drugs were filed before the high court.

A writ of amparo petition was filed earlier this year for a survivor and families of four men allegedly killed by members of the Quezon City Police District in Payatas during an Oplan Tokhang operation last year. 

Last month, a petition was also filed asking the SC to order government agencies to resolve cases of extrajudicial killings under the war on illegal drugs.

The group led by lawyer Evalyn Ursua urged the high court to issue a writ of mandamus directing specific government agencies to perform their constitutional duties to prevent violations of the right to life and to investigate and resolve drug-related killings.