Duterte's war on drugs to face SC for first time

By Kristine Joy Patag

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Solicitor General Jose Calida representing PNP Chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa and lawyers representing kin of Oplan Tokhang victims will face the 15-member Supreme Court on November 21 to argue on the government's bloody drug war. AP/Aaron Favila, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, for the first time, will defend its bloody war on drugs before the Supreme Court through oral arguments on November 21. 

SC Spokesperson Theodore Te, in a press briefing on Tuesday, said that the SC sitting en banc has ordered the petitioners and respondent Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa and other government officials to present their arguments before the full court on November 21, 2:00 p.m.

Solicitor General Jose Calida will represent the government for its defense.

This is the first time the government will defend its anti-narcotics campaign before the 15-member court, led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Sereno, who has been in loggerheads with President Rodrigo Duterte since last year, is facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. Gadon is a vocal supporter of the president and failed senatorial candidate of Marcos-era Kilusang Bagong Lipunan in 2016.

Duterte won the presidency with the promise to ruthlessly rid the country of drugs and criminality. Police records over 6,000 deaths under investigation, while human rights group put the death toll under the administration's drug war at 13,000.

Two weeks from now, the SC will hear the petitions filed by two groups of kin of Oplan Tokhang victims and the defenses of the government.

The two parties are also ordered to file their respective comment on the petition "within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days upon receipt of order."

Two petitions vs war on drugs

On October 11, Aileen Almora and Rowena Appari were assisted by the members of the of Free Legal Assistance Group, led by De La Salle University Dean Chel Diokno, when they filed a petition seeking a writ of amparo (or protection), injunction and prohibition, temporary protection order, and TRO before the Suprem Court.

The plea intends to stop extrajudicial killings caused by the nationwide war on drugs.

Almora's brother Ryan Dave was killed in a police anti-drug operation, while Appari's son, was killed in a home invasion. Petitioner Jefferson Soriano, meanwhile, survived the police's anti-drug operation despite being shot several times.

The respondents of the petition are Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in his capacity as PNP, all officers, agents or other persons acting under his authority and supervision as well as Eduardo Año is his capacity as Department of Interior and Local Government, and all under his authority and supervision. Año was recently appointed as the senior aide of the DILG.

Another petition was filed by Sr. Ma. Juanito R. Daño and 38 other petitioners whose families were killed in police anti-drug operations seeking for a writ of amparo.

Daño was assisted by the Center of International Law in filing its petition of October 19. 

In its 51-page petition, CenterLaw claimed there is "systematic violence perpetrated by or wrought in conspiracy with the respondents through the members of the Manila Police District Station 6" in the San Andres Bukid district of Manila.

The two petitions were filed asking the SC to issue a halt order on the government's bloody war on drugs.

Last January, CenterLaw also filed a petition for the writ of amparo against some members of the PNP involved in Oplan Tokhang. The petition however covered tokhang operation in Payatas, Quezon City and not nationwide.

On October 12, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a memorandum that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to be the sole government body to carry out the government's war on drugs.

Following this, the PNP said that Oplan Tokhang and Double Barrel are halted.

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