SC sets oral arguments on petitions vs 'Tokhang'

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:39 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has set oral arguments on consolidated petitions against government’s war on drugs and police “tokhang” operations to give both petitioners and government an opportunity to defend the legal bases for their respective positions.

In an en banc session on Tuesday, the high court scheduled the conduct of the oral arguments on November 21, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It also ordered the consolidation of the petitions separately filed by Aileen Almora, Rowena Aparri, and Jefferson Soriano; and Ma. Juanita Daño, et al.

The Almora petition, where petitioners are represented by lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), urged the high court to strike down as unconstitutional Philippine National Police (PNP) Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16 – 2016 for Oplan Double Barrel, the police’s anti-drug campaign, and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2017-112, which put up a system of anonymous reporting for offenses involving illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption.

Petitioners said the PNP circular expressly authorizes the police to kill suspected drug personalities, while the DILG circular violated citizens' right to due process. 

They argued that President Duterte’s war on drugs has no legal basis because it is based on a mere verbal campaign promise by Duterte to rid the country of illegal drugs within the first six months of his term, and is not supported by any executive order or proclamation issued by the president.

In assailing the DILG issuance, petitioners said submitting names of alleged criminals can be done by anyone who suspects, rightly or wrongly, that another person is a criminal.

On the same day the Almora petition was filed, Malacanang announced that Mr. Duterte had issued a memorandum, dated October 10, 2017 directing the PDEA to be the “sole agency” in “all campaigns and operations against all those who, directly or indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with illegal drugs.”

The Daño petition, backed by lawyers from the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) - Philippines, was filed after the issuance of the abovementioned memorandum. 

The petition sought relief from the high court against “tokhang” anti-drug operations of the Manila Police District (MPD).

The 47 petitioners in the Daño petition, led by Sister Ma. Juanita Daño of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, and Francisco Blanco, Jr., brother of an alleged “tokhang” victim, urged the high court to bar the MPD Station 6 “from conducting any anti-illegal drugs or anti-criminal operations in San Andres Bukid without the required coordination and presence of representatives from the barangay, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the media, and such other persons required to be notified or having the authority to be present at and observe such operations.”

Daño, et al. pointed out 35 “drug-related deaths in the area” spanning 13 months.

Both petitions sought the issuance of an amparo writ, a remedy available to any citizen whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by any unlawful act or omission of a public officer, or of a private individual or entity.

The high court gave respondent Philippine National Police (PNP), et al. ten days to file their comment on the petitions and the plea for other reliefs.