By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has been asked to compel government agencies to investigate all killings linked to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and to make public all reports and status of the investigations.
“What is at stake here is the right to life, the most fundamental of all human rights, whose protection should not be rendered naught by ‘administrative inaction or indifference,’” the group led by lawyer Evelyn Ursua said in a petition for a writ of continuing mandamus.
“In the context of the ongoing government campaign against illegal drugs, the state’s positive obligation to protect the right to life requires… adequate and effective measures to ensure that no arbitrary deprivation of life happens in the course of any police or law enforcement operation,” the group stressed.
Other signatories to the petition were Anna May Baquirin, Mary Jane Real, Maria Lulu Reyes and Joan Dympna Saniel. They cited reports that deaths as a result of police operations and vigilante killings have reached almost 14,000.
Named respondents were Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon.
The petitioners said that “respondents have failed to adequately perform their duty to prevent violations of the right to life and to investigate and prosecute the violations that have occurred.”
“The lack of genuine investigation severely erodes public confidence in the integrity of the government agencies respondents represent. With the public’s lack of trust in those government agencies, impunity ensues and the rule of law is eroded,” they said.
In its petition, the group invoked the High Court’s landmark ruling in the Manila Bay cleanup in 2007 written by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.
In the Manila Bay cleanup ruling, the SC ordered the government agencies to coordinate for the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of the water quality of the Manila Bay. It required various government agencies to each submit to the SC a quarterly progressive report of the activities undertaken in line with the principle of “continuing mandamus.”
The SC created a committee chaired by Justice Velasco to oversee the government’s compliance with its decision.
On the illegal drugs-related killings, the petitioners said the SC should intervene and compel concerned government agencies to adopt and implement proactive and institutional measures to prevent extra-judicial killings.
“Extra-judicial killings must be investigated regardless of whether or not there is a formal complaint…. The intention must be to prevent impunity and the commission of similar acts,” they said.
They stressed that the writ of continuing mandamus would “ensure that respondents perform their ministerial duties” as mandated by the 1987 Constitution and spelled out in various international treaties on human rights.
“Time is of the essence in the present case,” they said as they urge the SC to act swiftly on their petition.