SC asked to use clout to stop drug killings
A group has petitioned the Supreme Court to flex its judicial muscle in plugging the soaring drug killings in the country by compelling state agencies to thoroughly investigate “each and every” killing linked with President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war.
Invoking the high court’s landmark ruling on the Manila Bay cleanup in 2008, the petitioners, led by lawyer Evalyn Ursua, sought the 15-member tribunal’s intervention in demanding the government to impose proactive and institutional measures to prevent extrajudicial killings.
They also wanted the Duterte administration to observe utmost transparency in its investigation by regularly making public the results and status of its actions on the deaths resulting from police operations and vigilante killings, which had reportedly reached nearly 14,000.
“(W)hat is at stake here is the right to life, the most fundamental of all human rights, whose protection should not be rendered naught by ‘administrative inaction or indifference,’” the group said in a petition for a writ of continuing mandamus.
“In the context of the ongoing government campaign against illegal drugs, the state’s positive obligation to protect the right to life requires… adequate and effective measures to ensure that no arbitrary deprivation of life happens in the course of any police or law enforcement operation,” it said.
By granting a writ of continuing mandamus, the petitioners said the court would be able to “ensure that respondents perform their ministerial duties” as spelled out in the Constitution and various international treaties on human rights which the Philippine government had ratified.
Ursua was joined by copetitioners Anna May Baquirin, Mary Jane Real, Maria Lulu Reyes and Joan Dympna Saniel.
Named respondents in the Sept. 22 petition were Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon.
As in its decision mandating the government to rehabilitate Manila Bay, the petitioners told the high court that “time is of the essence in the present case” as they urged the magistrates to set a deadline for Dela Rosa, Aguirre and Gascon to act on the killings.
“Respondents have failed to adequately perform their duty to prevent violations of the right to life and to investigate and prosecute the violations that have occurred,” the group maintained.
“The lack of genuine investigation severely erodes public confidence in the integrity of the government agencies respondents represent. With the public’s lack of trust in those government agencies, impunity ensues and the rule of law is eroded,” it said.
In its petition, Ursua et al. lamented that despite the unabated drug killings since Mr. Duterte launched his antinarcotics crackdown more than a year ago, not a single perpetrator had been haled to the court for their complicity in such murders.