Philippine High Court Orders Government to Submit Details of ‘Drug Kill’ List

Karl Romano
Dagupan City, Philippines
180403-PH-poster-1000.jpg A photo of a victim of pro-government vigilantes hangs from a fence at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in the northern Philippine city of Dagupan, September 2017.
Karl Roman/BenarNews

Updated at 3:26 p.m. ET on 2018-04-03

The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to submit within two weeks details of the 3,806 deaths linked to legitimate police operations from July 2016 to November 2017 as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The court made the ruling as it denied a motion for reconsideration filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida asking it to overturn a December 2017 order requiring the government to release all records pertaining to the deaths.

The court said it has “directed respondents to comply with the said order by submitting the required reports within a period of 15 days from notice.”

The ruling was in response to petitions filed by the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), a nonprofit legal group representing families in 26 mostly poor Manila villages where most of the killings occurred, and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a human rights organization.

The Tuesday ruling is a step forward in the fight for accountability, CenterLaw said as it hailed the decision.

“On behalf of the petitioners and all family and kin of extrajudicial killing victims, CenterLaw thanks the Supreme Court for this important step in search for accountability for the killings in the Tokhang operations,” the group said in a statement.

“We are fortified with this triumph of the rule of law,” it said.

Tokhang is a combination of two Filipino words meaning “knock and plead” launched by police shortly after Duterte won the presidency in 2016.

Under this set up, small-time drug addicts and pushers in mostly slum areas are made to peacefully surrender and then undergo rehabilitation. But the program has been controversial as many suspects end up dead.

The court ordered Calida’s office to submit all the names, addresses and the genders of those killed, as well the place, date and time of the police operation. It also ordered police to submit the names of all officers who participated in the operation, and whether proper court warrants had been secured.

It also ordered police to submit names of local government officials, members of nongovernment organizations as well as the media present during the operations. In addition, police must submit official reports on the crime scene and investigation reports in cases that fall under the police category as “deaths under investigation.”

CenterLaw said it hoped the information would help families of victims of extrajudicial killings “file the necessary cases against those responsible.”

It noted the information the high court order is what police are required to produce under their own Philippine National Police manual of operations.

“These are no national security documents,” CenterLaw said. “These are documents meant to ensure that the PNP’s officers and men faithfully comply with the rules of due process and the human rights of the subjects of their future operations.”

ICC probe

The Supreme Court’s order comes shortly after Duterte’s government withdrew from The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), after the court said it would carry out a preliminary examination into allegations of extrajudicial killings under his war on drugs.

Duterte initially welcomed the ICC probe, but backtracked and accused it of prejudging him. His cabinet officials had blamed a disinformation of the Duterte government’s political enemies, including what it claimed were unnamed drug syndicates who had weaponized human rights to undermine the government.

While the ICC said it regretted Manila’s decision, it noted a withdrawal would only take effect a year after the United Nations was notified, meaning it would continue with the probe.

Figures as of February showed 4,043 people have been killed in Duterte’s drug war. Rights groups however say that the figure could be much higher when killings by pro-government vigilantes are figured in, running to about 12,000.

Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.


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