Petitioners vs 'tokhang' slam police memorandum before high court

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2017 04:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 21 2017 05:20 PM

Solicitor General Jose Calida talks to Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) as the Supreme Court starts the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions to declare Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war unconstitutional, in Manila, Philippines November 21, 2017. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA- Petitioners seeking to halt the government’s campaign against illegal drugs on Tuesday slammed a police command memorandum circular for "Oplan Double Barrel."

As the Supreme Court opened oral arguments on the cases, lawyers Jose Manuel Diokno and Joel Butuyan told magistrates that Philippine National Police Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16-2016 has allowed the proliferation of killings of suspected drug users in the country by state agents.

"CMC 16 clearly and repeatedly orders the police to neutralize and negate suspected criminals," Diokno, who represents the Almora petition, said.

"Unlike arrests, search and seizures your honor, 'neutralization' and 'negation' are not legal terms, they have no counterpart in law but in police parlance, as used no less by than the PNP chief himself, to 'neutralize' means to 'kill'," he added.

The PNP last year launched its anti-drug campaign, Oplan Double Barrel, on strength of CMC No. 16-2016, signed by its chief, Director General Ronald 'Bato' de la Rosa. 

The said memorandum circular promotes a two-track strategy: the arrest, surrender, and "neutralization" of alleged drug users and pushers for "demand-reduction," as well as "high-value targets" for "supply-reduction."

Butuyan, who represents the Daño petition, said the police memorandum circular violates the Bill of Rights provided in the Constitution.

"Never in our history, as a people has it happened that state agents, our police admitted to being responsible for thousands of civilian killings and never in our history as a country has thousands of killings been justified on the basis of a government circular," he said

Diokno also argued that "Oplan Tokhang" operations, where police knock at doors of suspected drug users and ask them to surrender, pose a "grave threat" to the lives of the suspects and violate their rights.

"By commanding the police to persuade suspected illegal drug personalities to stop their illegal drug activities, 'tokhang' concludes that suspected criminals are already guilty, for why else would they be persuaded to stop their illegal activities if they are not guilty?" Diokno said.

The Almora petition, where petitioners are represented by lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) led by Diokno, is seeking to have PNP-CMC 16-2016 declared unconstitutional, saying it expressly authorizes the police to kill suspected drug personalities.

The Daño petition, backed by lawyers from the Center for International Law (Centerlaw) - Philippines meanwhile wants the High Court to bar police 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, and the media among others.

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.-- Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News