MANILA - The term "neutralize" does not only mean "kill," Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Tuesday.
During oral arguments on petitions against the administration's war on drugs at the Supreme Court, Carpio told Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, a counsel for the petitioners, that the word "neutralize" is a general term that has been used by the police even in previous administrations.
"It does not only mean kill. It’s a general term and it has been used even in the previous administration. Also the word "negation" has been used in the PNP (Philippine National Police) manual of 2014," Carpio said.
Carpio cited a 2016 newspaper report where PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa was quoted to have defined "neutralize" as "surrender, arrested, or killed."
Diokno earlier said that "neutralization" and "negation" are not legal terms and that Dela Rosa himself has used "neutralize" to mean "kill."
"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," Diokno said.
He, later on, explained that petitioners are seeking clarification on how police understand "neutralize" since the way authorities use the term can easily be "misconstrued."
"In some contexts, it means to kill. In another context, it means to repel, but our argument in this particular case is how do the police understand the term?" Diokno said.
The High Court is tackling consolidated petitions seeking the declaration of government's anti-drug programs as unconstitutional.
Petitioners had assailed the Philippine National Police (PNP) Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16 – 2016 for Oplan Double Barrel, the PNP'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 authorized the police to kill suspected drug personalities, while the DILG circular violated citizens' right to due process.
President Rodrigo Duterte has dialed down his anti-drug campaign, ordering the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take charge of operations. The PNP has since terminated its controversial Oplan "Tokhang," its house-to-house knock and plead operations.