Public can test right to information after SC orders release of 'Tokhang' documents - lawyer


Posted at Apr 08 2019 10:49 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2019 11:19 AM

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MANILA - The public and even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) can now seek copies of documents pertaining to the police force's anti-narcotics operations after the Supreme Court ordered these released a lawyer said Monday.

The high tribunal last week directed the Office of the Solicitor General to submit thousands of police reports related to the government’s war on drugs, copy furnishing the petitioners that questioned the campaign's constitutionality.

"Filipinos can now argue, do we have that constitutional right to actually see these documents. They can test that…They can apply before the police, and even the CHR can do that now, applying before the police for copies of those reports," said Gilbert Andres, deputy executive director of the Center for International Law Philippines (CenterLaw)

"Any Filipino should have access to those reports because these are public reports, public documents," he told ANC's Early Edition.

CenterLaw represents the 38 petitioners from the San Andres Bukid in Manila, who sought a court order to bar local police officers from doing any anti-illegal drugs or anti-criminal operations in their community "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."

The police documents, which the SC ordered released, would help in establishing a "pattern" and prove whether or not the victims resisted arrest as alleged by the officers, said Andres.

"The documents will be very important to paint that overall picture that the San Andres community is not just an isolated community in terms of the war on drugs; it’s actually related to a national context vis-à-vis the war on drugs," he said in the interview.

The petition pointed out 35 “drug-related deaths in the area” spanning 13 months.

Most of these petitioners had relatives killed during the war on drugs and sought for the privilege of the writ of amparo for their "protection" because they are staying in the community, said Andres.

The petitioners are seeking the writ of amparo on behalf of 26 barangays in the San Andres community, he said.

Thousands have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a crackdown on criminality and drugs, about 5,000 of which happened during police operations.

The Office of the Solicitor General will "faithfully abide" by the Supreme Court's directive to furnish copies of the police documents to the petitioners.