MANILA (UPDATE) - Several individuals represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group on Wednesday filed petitions for prohibition and writ of amparo (protection) before the Supreme Court questioning the administration's war on drugs.
The petition wants the court to stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from implementing its Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) that spells out guidelines, procedure, and tasks of police offices in the conduct of its anti-narcotics campaign Project: Double Barrel.
FLAG lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno said the war on drugs operationalized by the CMC is unconstitutional "because it expressly authorizes the police to kill suspected drug pushers, users, or drug personalities in the guise of 'neutralizing' or 'negating' them."
The program "replaces the police function of evidence gathering and case build up" by "compiling lists of suspected drug personalities for the purpose of neutralizing and negating them," he added.
House-to-house visits conducted under Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead) are based on "furtive figures of unknown informants" and not meant to persuade drug offenders to stop from their illegal activities.
Instead, they are meant to kill or negate those who refuse to be persuaded or deny criminal involvement, he said.
Diokno said the CMC is also based "on a mere verbal campaign promise" by then-candidate and now President Rodrigo Duterte to get rid of drugs within the first 6 months of his term.
He said "thousands of alleged 'nanlaban' (resisted arrest) cases deserve judicial intervention."
"The present war on drugs being waged by the government is not going to stop illegal drugs, crime and corruption," Diokno said in a news conference.
"(It) will only result in the killing of more and more people especially the poor."
PNP data shows 3,800 people have been killed in operations in which police say armed suspects violently resisted arrest. Duterte's opponents and activists dispute that and say executions and cover-ups are commonplace, which police deny.
The administration has repeatedly defended the drug war, saying government does not sanction summary killings.
The petition by FLAG, comprised by around 200 pro-bono human rights lawyers, was filed on behalf of three people whose relatives were killed by police.
Diokno also said police should be required to submit all firearms involved in the killings to the National Bureau for Investigation (NBI) for forensic examination.
The NBI should also be designated as evidence custodian of all firearms allegedly used by the deceased in all "nanlaban" cases, and that the PNP-Internal Affairs Service and National Police Commission should be required to submit a monthly report to the Court on the status of all these cases, names of police officers involved, and serial numbers and descriptions of firearms allegedly used by the deceased and police in fatal operations.
President Rodrigo Duterte has just ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take the lead in the anti-narcotics campaign just as the PNP faced criticism over alleged abuses in its operations.
Also questioned was the Department of Interior and Local Government's Memorandum Circular 2017-112 as the system of anonymous reporting of suspected criminals supposedly violates the right to due process.
The memo lays down enforcement of the Masa Masid program, under which members of the community may file anonymous reports on drug suspects using drop boxes.
Diokno said the system "supplants" the duty of the police to gather evidence by compiling names of suspected criminals "without any safeguards for protecting innocent persons."
The petition comes as public scrutiny intensifies on Duterte's signature campaign, which he insists will not stop, regardless of the bloodshed. He says he is prepared to go to jail to protect Filipinos from crimes fuelled by addiction.
Duterte rejects criticism that his notoriously bellicose public remarks have been interpreted by some police as veiled instructions to kill drug users, with impunity.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Dionardo Carlos said police "welcome the filing of the petition before the Supreme Court". He did not elaborate. -- with a report from Reuters