Senators urge PNP: Submit drug war files
Saying no one is above the law, Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday urged the Philippine National Police to comply with a Supreme Court order to hand over records of the killing of more than 4,000 people in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs to avoid a citation for contempt or, worse, a deadlock that could lead to a constitutional crisis.
The Senate investigated alleged extrajudicial killings in the drug war, but the PNP, Lacson said in a statement, failed to comply with the senators’ demand that it submit the records of the thousands of deadly encounters in the campaign against narcotics.
This time, however, it is the Supreme Court that is ordering the PNP to submit the records so “they will have to comply or they may be courting a contempt citation,” said Lacson, a former PNP chief.
“Worse,” he added, “a deadlock could result in a constitutional crisis.”
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the PNP to submit the records, thwarting a government bid to keep operational details of the bloody crackdown on drugs secret.
Opening their summer full-court session in Baguio City, the justices gave Solicitor General Jose Calida 15 days to comply with a Dec. 5, 2017, order that he had challenged on the grounds of national security.
Calida has not commented on the order.
Malacañang said on Wednesday that it expected the PNP to comply with the court’s order.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the PNP had nothing to hide, and submitting the records to the Supreme Court would not be detrimental to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“We do not see any potential effect because law enforcement agencies have nothing to hide in these documents, except for the security of the possible witnesses and so forth and so on,” Guevarra told reporters.
Obeying the Supreme Court order cannot be avoided, though the PNP could probably take steps to protect sensitive details that could affect ongoing operations, he said.
“If that’s the final order of the Supreme Court, all agencies of the government bound by that order are supposed to comply and follow,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the PNP should submit the records to the Supreme Court and that should the Senate ask, the police should hand over the reports.
Rule of law
In a statement, Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Supreme Court’s review of the war on drugs “reinforces the rule of law in the country.”
Villanueva said he hoped the families of those who had been killed would find justice.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which has also asked the PNP for the records of the killings, on Wednesday described the Supreme Court order as a “leap in the pursuit of justice.”
Jacqueline de Guia, spokesperson for the CHR, also expressed hope that the high court’s order would help the rights agency in its investigation of extrajudicial killings in the drug war.
PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa last year said President Duterte had given instructions not to release the records without clearance from him.
On Wednesday, the PNP said it respected the Supreme Court order, but would wait for Calida’s advice.
“The Philippine National Police respects the resolution of the Supreme Court but we will take the legal advice of the Solicitor General and our legal team helping us on this matter,” Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, spokesperson for the PNP, told reporters.
“We assure the public that the campaign of the government against illegal drugs [is] constitutional, legal and is implemented for public safety,” Bulalacao added.
Bulalacao, however, said the PNP planned to ask Calida to seek an extension of the 15-day deadline set by the Supreme Court.
“It is one of the problems we are facing now considering the sheer number of documents to be produced not only by the national headquarters but also by the regional offices,” he said.
The PNP says 4,021 suspects have been killed in police drug operations as of February, and thousands more have been killed by unknown assailants in what the authorities call “deaths under investigation.” —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Jaymee T. Gamil and Jhesset O. Enano
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.