SC compels gov’t to submit papers on illegal drugs war

By Rey Panaligan

BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (April 2) ordered the government to submit all documents pertaining to the all-out drive against illegal drugs, particularly on the number of persons killed and dates, places, and reports on police operations from July 1, 2016.

In a resolution issued during its full court session here, the SC said the documents that would be submitted to it by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) should be furnished the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Center for International Law (Centerlaw).

FLAG and Centerlaw represented several persons who challenged the constitutionality of the illegal drugs operations being implemented by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in two petitions filed in 2017.

Centerlaw had earlier prodded the SC to compel the OSG to furnish it copies of the documents on the PNP’s illegal drugs operations.

In its motion, Centerlaw said that there is no exemption to the rule that parties — even adverse ones — must be provided copies of any documentary submissions to the court.

It stressed that the documents submitted to the SC by the government will be rendered useless if they are not given a copy as this would violate the rights of their clients to due process.

“The Court just ordered the Solicitor General to submit the police reports (on illegal drugs operations) to the Supreme Court furnishing copies to petitioners,” Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka, chief of the SC’s public information office (PIO), said in a press briefing here.

Last year, the SC denied the plea of the PNP to do away with the submission of documents on its illegal drugs operations. The submission of the documents was ordered by the SC after conducting oral arguments on the petitions filed by FLAG and Centerlaw.

After the oral arguments, the SC directed Solicitor General Jose C. Calida – who represented the respondents in the two petitions – to submit the names, addresses, and gender of those killed in the illegal drugs operations; the places, dates, and time of the operations; names of PNP personnel who participated in the operations and pre-operation plans; post operation reports; search or warrants of arrest; and names of media, non-government organizations, and barangay representatives present during the operations.

For those deaths under investigation, the SC required the submission of the names, addresses, gender, ages of those killed; the dates, time, and places where they were killed; members of the scene of the crime operations (SOCO) who investigated the killings; investigation reports; and charges filed if there are any.

In the first petition, FLAG asked the SC to declare as “patently illegal and grossly unconstitutional” the government’s all-out drive against illegal drugs.

The FLAG petition, filed in behalf of the victims of the so-called extrajudicial killings Dave Almora and Rex Aparri, wanted 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 second petition was filed by 35 alleged victims of police operations against illegal drugs since 2016 and residents of 28 barangays in San Andres Bukid in Manila.

In their plea for a Writ of Amparo, the so-called victims and the residents specifically asked the SC to issue a TRO in their favor. They were represented by Centerlaw.

The petitioners were led by Sr. Ma. Juanita R. Dano, head of a Catholic-based Religious of Good Shepherd in San Andres Bukid. Her group helps the families of the so-called victims of illegal drugs operations in her area.

In his motion to reconsider the submission order, Calida told the SC that the documents sought by the SC would have sensitive information that have national security implications.

“The documents required …involve information and other sensitive matters that in the long run will have an undeniable effect on national security: it could spell the success or failure of follow-up operations of police and other law enforcement bodies, aside from endangering the lives of those on the list as well as those already in custody,” Calida said.

Thus, he said, the submission of the required documents on illegal drugs operations by the PNP “is patently irrelevant.”

On the alleged unconstitutionality of the drive against illegal drugs, Calida said a law or an ordinance cannot be declared unconstitutional based on the abuses committed by its implementor.

“The criterion by which the validity of the statute or ordinance is to be measured is the essential basis for the exercise of power, and not a mere incidental result arising from its exertion. This is logical,” Calida said.

“Just imagine the absurdity of situations when laws may be declared unconstitutional just because the officers implementing them have acted arbitrarily,” he stressed.

He pointed out that if the basis would be the abuses committed by the police officers, then the Revised Penal Code should have been declared unconstitutional. (Manila Bulletin)