SC begins oral arguments on petitions vs anti-drug ops

By , on November 21, 2017

FILE: Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)
FILE: Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday started the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions seeking to halt the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The two petitions seeking for a writ of amparo, both wanting to prohibit the implementation of PNP CMC No. 2016-16, otherwise known as “Oplan Double Barrel”, and its implementing rules in DILG MC No. ‎2017-112, for alleged infirmities.

During the start of the oral arguments, lawyer Joel Butuyan, representing Center for International Law, said this move is actually an “ongoing war against the Bill of Rights in our Constitution” as it “endangered the rights to life, liberty and security of all citizens of the country.”

Butuyan sought the issuance of a writ of amparo to protect the residents of 26 barangays in San Andres Bukid, Manila City against the government’s anti-illegal drug war dubbed as “Oplan Tokhang”

Butuyan said the implementation of the Philippine National Police Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16 – 2016 or Oplan Double Barrel “endangered the rights to life, liberty and security of all citizens of the country.”

For his part, lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said the PNP memorandum circular expressly authorizes the police to kill suspected drug pushers and replaces the police function of evidence gathering and case build-up with that of compiling lists of suspected drug personalities for the purpose of “neutralizing” them.

Diokno is the counsel for Aileen Almora, Rowena Aparri, and Jefferson Soriano, alleged victims in the anti-illegal drugs campaign.

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2017-112, which establishes a system of anonymous reporting of suspected criminals, was unconstitutional for allegedly violating the right to due process of law and to be presumed innocent.

“The only true and lasting solution to rampant crimes is to strengthen the justice system, not to supplant it with justice that emanates from the barrels of guns,” Diokno said.

During the interpelation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen listed several rights that could be violated by policemen in implementing PNP Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016 or “Oplan Double Barrel” and DILG Memorandum Circular 2017-112 or the “Masa Masid” project.

Carpio tackled the possible violation of right to privacy in the conduct of “Oplan Tokhang” where policemen inspect houses to search for drug suspects.

The assailed the PNP policy allows policemen to go house to house and ask drug suspects to surrender and also to conduct case build-ip against those who refuse to allow them entry into households for inspection.

“When the police conduct case build-up just because you refuse entry, that violates the right to privacy because you may refuse entry, correct?” Carpio asked Diokno.

The counsel answered in the affirmative, adding that apart from right to privacy, such policy also violates the constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure and right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Diokno added that every “citizen has a right to refuse entry if there is no search warrant” presented by police.

Leonen, for his part, cited violations of the right against self-incrimination, right to custodial interrogation and right to domicile in the set-up of Oplan Tokhang.

The magistrate stressed that while a court-issued search warrant is not needed for police to knock on doors, it is the “right of the occupant not to open the door.”

“They cannot barge in because that is precisely the right to domicile,” he added.

Meanwhile, the SC required the respondents led by Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief Aaron Aquino, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Officer-In-Charge Jose Marlowe Pedregosa, National Police Commission (Napolcom) Chief Atty. Rogelio Casurao and PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) Inspector General Alfegard Triambulo who are represented by the Office of the Solicitor General to appear before the SC in the next oral arguments set for November 28. (PNA)