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SC to SolGen: Submit reports on drug kills

Jose Calida prepares for oral arguments on the government’s war on drugs at the Supreme
Court. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday ordered the Philippine National Police and Solicitor General Jose Calida to submit to the tribunal the police investigation reports on the killing of 3,806 suspects in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

That will not be easy to do for Calida and the PNP.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) tried to get copies of the investigation reports in September, but the CHR was told by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the PNP that release of the reports needed clearance from President Duterte.

The CHR was investigating the drug killings but Mr. Duterte, speaking at a news conference, said, “You address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me.”

Now, with the Supreme Court order coming down on Tuesday at the close of oral arguments on two challenges to Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, Calida and PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa have to convince Mr. Duterte to release the reports.

Names and all

Carpio said the documents should contain the names, addresses, police operational plans and other important information of the entire “Oplan Tokhang” operations from July 1, 2016, to Nov. 30.

Carpio said he also wanted the names of the police officers who took part in the operations and the members of the PNP crime scene investigators who processed the bodies and gathered the evidence at the crime scenes.

“The records must be there because these are supposedly legitimate drug operations. I want the names, addresses and all these reports. You must know them because you are investigating them,” Carpio told Calida.

Some suspects ‘silenced’

“On the deaths under investigation, since they are under investigation, you must have the names, addresses, ages and gender of those who were killed. Even the date, time and place of the killing,” he added.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno granted Calida’s request to give the government 60 days to comply with the tribunal’s order.

Earlier in the proceedings, Associate Justice Samuel Martires observed that some of the drug suspects slain in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs appeared to have been “silenced” by the police.

Martires and other justices on the tribunal cast doubts on the questionable circumstances surrounding the deaths of some drug suspects.

He took note of the inconsistencies in the official police report on the supposed “buy-bust” operation that led to the killing of Ryan Dave Almora, an alleged drug pusher in Baguio City.

The death of Almora was cited in the petition brought by the Free Legal Assistance Group urging the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) 16-2016 of the PNP that gave birth to Oplan Tokhang, under which police raided slum communities to arrest drug users and pushers, and killed those who put up resistance.

“We have always been asking you about the use of the word ‘neutralize.’ But the way I look at it, some of these [drug suspects] were silenced by police officers,” Martires told Calida.

“‘Silencing’ and ‘neutralizing’ are two different things. To ‘neutralize’ is not to ‘silence.’ To ‘silence’ [means] that the police officers are involved in the drug operations and they want to silence the alleged suspect,” he said.

No kill policy

Calida said the PNP Internal Affairs Office had been investigating the alleged involvement of some policemen in summary killings of drug suspects, as he assured the justices that the Duterte administration had not sanctioned a “kill policy” in carrying out the war on drugs.

“All fingers point to the Office of the President as the one involved in the extrajudicial killings that’s why we are asking these questions,” said Martires, Mr. Duterte’s first appointee to the Supreme Court.

Citing the official police report, Martires questioned why the PNP sent eight different units in conducting a sting operation on July 28, 2016, against Almora.

Calida claimed that Almora was not the only target of the operation. He said the Baguio police mounted the operation to get the members of the “Lakay Group.”

Martires, a Baguio resident who had served on the Regional Trial Court in Agoo, La Union, pointed out that the police report and the local media reports did not mention the name of the supposed criminal gang.

“There were two police chief inspectors involved, eight units from the PNP in a buy-bust operation. Was this not an overkill?” Martires asked Calida.

“Eight police units, not eight personnel. Eight units, meaning to say, eight different units from the Philippine National Police,” he stressed. “And they were all in combat uniform. How could one act as poseur buyer if you are in police uniform?”

Apparently stunned by Martires’ questions, Calida replied: “Maybe [Almora] has a sixth sense that [he realized] those are police officers out to buy-bust him.”

But Martires was not amused by the Solicitor General’s answer, as he directed him to submit all documents pertinent to Almora’s killing.

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