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Editorial

‘Rubbish’ documents

/ 05:08 AM September 29, 2019

A day after a survey showed that Filipinos gave President Duterte’s war on drugs an “excellent” rating, a group of lawyers questioning its constitutionality before the Supreme Court revealed that most of the drug-war documents the administration has furnished it so far, per the Court’s orders, are “rubbish.”

The Center for International Law (Centerlaw), representing a group including relatives of alleged victims of the drug war, filed a new motion before the high court last Monday to cite the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Philippine National Police in contempt of court for submitting documents that were not drug-related. The case files turned over included, among others, incidents of stabbing, mauling, shooting, hacking and — wait for it — even a misunderstanding over a videoke song.

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The OSG and PNP had given the Supreme Court 289 compact discs that contained documents supposedly on 20,322 drug-related deaths. But of 1,792 death files examined by Centerlaw, only 801 cases were solved, and of these, a whopping 90.01 percent were not drug-related.

On the other hand, of the 991 unsolved cases, 55.80 percent were not drug-related. “In other words, only 9.99 percent of the solved cases are ‘possibly drug-related,’ and only 44.20 percent of the unsolved cases are ‘possibly drug-related’ deaths,” Centerlaw said in its motion.

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It further noted that the OSG and PNP had defied the Supreme Court thrice — from the time the motion was first heard in December 2017 when Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida to provide copies of investigation reports on the 3,806 deaths in the anti-drug operations.

Carpio wanted the names, addresses and all the reports related to these deaths, emphasizing that records should be available, since the government claimed it had investigated every single death in the drug war and the police operations were legitimate.

Calida told the Court then that his office would comply but, two weeks later, filed a motion for reconsideration, refusing to turn over the documents on grounds of national security.

“The production of documents… could spell the success or failure of follow-up operations of police and other law enforcement bodies, aside from endangering the lives of those on the list as well as those already in custody,” Calida claimed.

Four months later, in April 2018, the Court en banc voted unanimously to reject Calida’s motion for reconsideration and ordered the OSG to submit the documents.

This time, the Court wanted the government to submit documents related to 20,322 killings committed by both policemen and vigilantes from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 27, 2017.

“The government’s inclusion of these deaths among its other accomplishments may lead to the inference that these are state-sponsored killings,” the Court noted ominously.

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In March this year, Calida said he had submitted the documents, but on the condition that they would remain between the government and the Court, despite the latter’s order in August 2018 that the OSG should also furnish copies of the documents to petitioners.

Sure, Calida was willing to provide petitioners copies of documents—but only those related to the extrajudicial killings specified in their petitions: 35 for Centerlaw and three for the Free Legal Assistance Group.

However, a month later, the Court once again voted unanimously to compel the government to release all documents of the 20,322 killings.

This testy back-and-forth between the Supreme Court and the Duterte administration has spanned two years, wasting precious time to accomplish substantial developments in the cases involved.

Centerlaw said the OSG and PNP have been running circles “around the emphatic and repeated orders of the high court for them to submit documents on drug war-related deaths.” There is worry, and even more so, a sense of urgency, since Carpio, the person in charge, is set to retire next month.

“What the OSG and PNP virtually want is for the Supreme Court and the Petitioners to utterly waste valuable time and resources examining case files which are totally irrelevant and, in fact, absolutely rubbish insofar as the instant cases are concerned,” Centerlaw said.

If the drug war does enjoy broad public support, as Malacañang loves to crow, and that deaths related to it are aboveboard and, indeed, have been or are being investigated thoroughly, what’s with all this inexcusable runaround and duck-and-cover routine? What is the Duterte administration so desperate to hide about its pet project?

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TAGS: Antonio Carpio, CenterLaw, drug war documents, Inquirer editorial, Jose Calida, OSG, PNP, Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court
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