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REQUESTED PAPERS ‘DO NOT INVOLVE STATE SECRETS’

SC castigates SolGen for selective submission of drug war docs

/ 05:34 AM April 18, 2019

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The Supreme Court has castigated Solicitor General Jose Calida for choosing which police reports on the killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs to release “without the knowledge of [or] consent” of the tribunal.

“The undeniable fact that thousands of ordinary citizens have been killed, and continue to be killed, during police drug operations certainly is a matter of grave public concern,” the high court said in a resolution dated April 2 and obtained by  the Inquirer on Wednesday.

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In that resolution, the court, meeting here for its summer session, said it would not tolerate the Office of the Solicitor General’s arrogation to itself “of the power to determine which documents” to release to the families of victims of police killings in the drug war and their lawyers.

Release all documents

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It again directed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to release all case documents it had promised to share with the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which challenged the constitutionality of the President’s controversial war on drugs.

Also entitled to these documents are lawyers from the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), who petitioned the tribunal in 2017 for a writ of amparo (protection) to shield 26 villages in Manila’s San Andres Bukid district against police drug sweeps.

The Supreme Court said it issued a similar directive to the OSG in 2018, and reiterated that “sound factual and legal bases mandate the OSG to comply” with the tribunal’s resolution.

In December 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the OSG to hand over the police reports on more than 4,000 killings in the war on drugs.

The OSG complied, but Calida opposed making the reports public on grounds of national security.

The court rejected his argument and ordered him to release the reports to the petitioners.

Uniform description

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FLAG and CenterLaw received an initial batch of 29 reports, which they found to have a uniform description of the killings: the suspects resisted arrest and were gunned down by officers who had to protect themselves.

The justices’ April 2 resolution said Calida sequestered from the Supreme Court and the petitioners what he described as “Category I” documents (covering July 1, 2016, to Nov. 30, 2017) that had serious impact on national security.

But the justices, reiterating their April 3, 2018, resolution, said the court had a mandate to protect and enforce the people’s right to information.

They said “the requested information and documents do not obviously involve state secrets affecting national security.”

The sequestered documents, the court said, “do not involve rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers, or any military, diplomatic or state secret involving national security.”

“It is simply ridiculous to claim that these information and documents on police operations against drug pushers and users involve national security matters,” it said.

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TAGS: CenterLaw, Flag, Free Legal Aid Assistance Group, Jose Calida, OSG, Supreme Court, war on drugs
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