Supreme Court orders police to stay away from Payatas 'tokhang' victims' kin

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2017 06:12 PM | Updated as of Jan 31 2017 07:21 PM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a temporary protection order preventing police from approaching the homes and workplaces of the families of 4 garbage collectors killed last year in an anti-illegal drug operation in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City, as well as another person who survived the ordeal.

Sitting in an en banc session on Tuesday, the high court issued the order as well as a writ of amparo for Efren Morillo, the lone survivor in the anti-illegal drug operation conducted in August 2016, along with relatives of fatalities Marcello Daa, Jessie Cule, Raffy Gabo, and Anthony Comendo.

The high court's directives cover the Philippine National Police, represented by police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa; Senior Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar; Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Superintendent Lito Patay; QCPD Station 6 commander Senior Inspector Emil Garcia; PO3 Allan Formilleza; PO1 James Aggarao; and PO1 Melchor Navisaga.

The order prevents the respondents and their agents from coming within a 1-kilometer radius of the garbage collectors’ workplace and home addresses.

In their 30-page petition, the petitioners asked for the ban to cover a radius of 5 kilometers.

The Supreme Court referred the case to the Court of Appeals for an immediate hearing on the merits of the petition, such as the plea for the courts to order a stop to "tokhang" in all areas covered by QCPD station 6. 

The high court directed the appeals court to resolve the case within 10 days after its submission for resolution.

The case involves an operation conducted by police on August 21, 2016 in Daa’s house in Payatas, Quezon City.

A group of 5 armed men and 2 women in street clothes rushed to accuse the garbage collectors of being involved in illegal drugs. The operatives turned the property upside down, and allegedly planted items pinning the victims to the illegal narcotics trade, took their personal belongings, and executed Daa, Cule, Gabo, Comendo and Morillo.

Morillo, who was shot in the chest, played dead and crawled his way down a ravine for safety.

A petition for a writ of amparo is "a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity."

The PNP has announced a temporary halt to "tokhang" operations as the police force launches a housecleaning campaign to rid its ranks of of corrupt officers.

According to data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, there were 2,987 drug-related deaths from May 10, 2016 to January 24, 2017.

Although some of those deaths were the results of legitimate police operations, the government said a majority of the killings were carried out by illegal drug syndicates themselves.