By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday was asked to declare as “patently illegal and grossly unconstitutional” the government’s all-out drive against illegal drugs being implemented by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
In a petition, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the PNP’s Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16-2016 on “Oplan Double Barrel.”
The petition was filed in behalf of the victims of extrajudicial killings Dave Almora and Rex Aparri and survivor Jefferson Soriano.
Named respondents were Ronald dela Rosa and Eduardo Año.
The SC was told that CMC 16-2016 was not formally placed in a proper written executive order.
The petition stated that “the PNP’s ‘War on Drugs’ as operationalized under 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.”
Assisted by FLAG chairperson and De La Salle University law school Dean Jose Manuel Diokno, the petitioners said that the drive against illegal drugs that has resulted in the deaths of over 7,000 individuals who were killed in both police operations and 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.”
The petitioners said that the 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 terms and is not supported by any executive order, administrative order, memorandum circular, memorandum order or proclamation issued by President Duterte,” they pointed out.
At the same time, the petitioners assailed the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2017-112, or the “Masa Masid” project, which allows citizens to report any person who may be involved in narcotics to drop boxes put up in some barangays.
The petition sought the issuance by the SC of a Writ of Amparo for the relatives of Almora, Aparri and Soriano.
Diokno said that the government’s all-out drive against illegal drugs needs judicial intervention as it “will only result in the killing of more and more people, especially the poor; and 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 pointed out that the “solution to eradicate crime and corruption is to strengthen our justice system, not short-cut it.”