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Tokhang revival under closer watch

/ 04:31 AM March 11, 2017

The resumption of Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel will come under closer scrutiny, as a group of lawyers and a network of churches have joined forces to help those who will be targeted next by the controversial antidrug campaigns of the Duterte administration.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and Rise Up for Life and for Rights (Rise Up) signed an agreement on Friday to provide legal assistance to victims of drug-related attacks.

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Under the partnership, a pool of trial lawyers will help the victims press charges against police officers who would violate human rights in the name of President Duterte’s war on drugs. Families who lost members to extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war will also be provided with attorneys.

NUPL secretary general Rey Cortez said they had already identified at least seven cases stemming from incidents that occurred before Tokhang was suspended by the President in January. One case should be ready for filing in the Office of the Ombudsman next week, he added.

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“The problem is documentation (which) is really hard. We receive no help from any investigative government agencies,” Cortez said in a media briefing in Quezon City.

The cases being prepared involved at least 20 victims, NUPL lawyer Kristina Conti added.

Withholding details to protect the witnesses, Cortez said the case being filed next week involved a man and his son who were killed in a “buy-bust” operation.

He said several witnesses had come forward to belie the police report on the deaths, saying uniformed officers just barged into the victims’ home past midnight and shot them dead.

“We are looking at a full range of cases, from criminal to administrative,” Conti said. “Holding these killers accountable is standing up against impunity.”

She noted that several cases had been referred to the NUPL by Rise Up, which had been documenting and helping in the rehabilitation of drug users who fear they would be killed next.

“Oplan Double Barrel, the Philippine National Police’s official operation against illegal drugs, is riddled with irregularities,” Conti noted.

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She cited the “forced surrender” of those in the so-called drug watch list drawn up by local officials, incompetent crime scene investigation, illegal arrests, and the immunity apparently enjoyed by policemen in antidrug operations.

“In reality, President Duterte is coddling erring policemen,” she said.

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TAGS: National Union of People's Lawyers, NUPL, Oplan Double Barrel, Oplan Tokhang, Rey Cortez, Rise Up, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs
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