OSG seeks dismissal of petitions vs. anti-drug ops

MANILA — The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Friday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the consolidated petitions seeking to halt the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

In a 63-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the petitions filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and Center for International Law (CenterLaw) should be dropped for lack of merit.

The Supreme Court consolidated 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.

Calida said Oplan Double Barrel does not direct the commission of any illegal act.

“The PNP’s (Philippine National Police) function to serve and to protect necessarily encompasses not only responding to crimes already committed but also preventing their commission,” said Calida.

According to the Solicitor General, the power “to direct and control tactical as well as strategic movements, deployment, placement, utilization of the PNP or any of its units and personnel, including its equipment, facilities and other resources” is unquestionably vested upon the PNP Chief.

Citing Section 26 of Republic Act No. 6975, Calida said the police chief’s issuance of the subject memorandum is not an encroachment into the President’s power.

Procedural matters raised by the OSG in its comment include the impropriety of a class suit, the misjoinder of causes of action, and the lack of proper verification and certification against forum shopping.

The SC said that the oral arguments are scheduled at 2 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the SC En Banc Session Hall.

The respondents will be represented by the Office of the Solicitor General.

Led by Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno, FLAG filed a 41-page petition for prohibition and writ of amparo asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional the PNP’s CMC 16-2016, or Oplan Double Barrel, which it said expressly allows the police to neutralize suspected drug pushers.

Diokno said the war on drugs operationalized by this CMC is unconstitutional as 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”.

FLAG also filed the petition for the SC to issue protection orders for the relatives of three persons who ended up as victims of “extralegal killings” in the drug campaign.

Diokno said that the killings of Ryan Dave Almora and Rex Aparri, and the shooting of Jefferson Soriano, are part of “extralegal killings”, thus covered by the rule on the writ of amparo.

According to Diokno, 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.

Named as respondents in their petition were former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Eduardo Año; and PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

Meanwhile, the Center for International Law has filed another petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo seeking 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”.

The petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo seeks to protect the families of ‘tokhang’ victims whose rights to life, liberty and security are violated or threatened from alleged harassment and intimidation by the police.

The 57-page petition was filed by CenterLaw representing the petitioners led by Sr. Ma. Juanita Daño, a nun of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, and 47 others who individually and collectively filed the petition as a class suit on behalf of all the residents of 26 barangays in San Andres.

The petition sought the issuance of a temporary protection order (TPO) prohibiting police from getting near the residences and workplaces of the families of 35 residents of San Andres Bukid who have been killed during the anti-illegal drug operations in the area for the past 13 months.

They also sought to enjoin the respondent from entering within a radius of 1 km. from the residence, work addresses of the families of the victims of Oplan Tokhang.

It also sought to prohibit the respondents from harassing, contacting or communicating with the affected parties, directly or indirectly.

The petition recounts the systematic violence allegedly perpetrated by members of the MPD Station 6 over the urban poor community of San Andres Bukid and its adjacent areas.

“Specifically, it tells of the police cordoning off the perimeters of slum communities and disabling closed-circuit cameras; of armed men entering these areas in the dead of night, barging into houses no better than oversized boxes, shooting their victims and leaving; of police standing guard, training their flashlights on houses and windows and shouting harsh warnings at the neighbors not to look while armed men break down doors and gun down the victims inside their own homes; of police appearing in the scene shortly after, carting off the bodies of the victims and directing that the bodies be brought to the police’s authorized funeral parlors,” the petition read.

For the residents of the 26 barangays in San Andres Bukid community, CenterLaw is asking the Court to prohibit police authorities from allegedly coercing barangay officials from coming up with or submitting a list of any alleged drug users, pushers or trouble-makers within the community until the respondents have shown full compliance with the constitutional requirements of due process, the requirements of the Data Privacy Act, and regulatory assurance against arbitrariness and criminal machination.

The petition noted that many of the victims were also previous surrenderers to the barangay under Oplan Tokhang.

Named as respondents in the petition were the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), PNP chief de la Rosa, Manila Police District Director Senior Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, Manila Police Station 6 Commander Police Supt. Olivia Ancheta Sagaysay, Police Supt. Jerry Corpuz, and Police Supt. Robert Domingo.

Also named as respondents were police officers assigned to MPD Station 6 identified as PO2 Rhafael Rodriguez, PO2 Princeton Felia, PO1 Harry Allan Cruz, PO1 Kennith Gaa, PO1 Efren Guitering, PO2 Jocelyn Samson, PO3 Allan Escramosa, PO2 Francisco Mendoza, PO2 Roestrell Ocampo, PO3 Rodolfo Ocampo, Jr. Police Sr. Insp. Concorcio Pangilinan, and three others identified only through their aliases, such as alias “Harry,” alias “Jr.” and alias “Ivan”.

This was the second petition for the issuance of the writ of amparo to be filed by CenterLaw in connection with the government’s drug campaign. (PNA)