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Manila residents seek SC protection from police anti-drug ops

Several members of a religious order and residents of San Andres Bukid district in Manila on Wednesday turned to the Supreme Court (SC) amid concerns regarding the deaths they attributed to the police's campaign against illegal drugs.

Forty-seven petitioners, led by Sister Ma. Juanita Daño of the Religious of the Good Shepherd and relatives of alleged victims of the drug war, asked the SC to issue a writ of amparo and temporary protection order in their favor.

A writ of amparo is a remedy available to a person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Named respondents to the petition were Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, MPD director Chief SuperintendentJoel Coronel , MPD Station 6 commander Superintendent Olivia Sagaysay, Superintendent Jerry Corpuz, Superintendent Robert Domingo, members of the MPD Station 6 based in Sta. Ana, Manila, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The petitioners also urged the high court to direct members of the Manila Police District Station 6 not to conduct any anti-illegal drugs or anti-criminality operations in San Andres Bukid without the required coordination and presence of representatives from the barangay, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the media and other persons required to be notified or having the authority to be present at and observe such operations.

They called for the relief or transfer of the entire MPD Station 6 officials and personnel to a place outside of Metro Manila and for the SC to prohibit respondents from entering within a radius of one kilometer from the residence and work addresses of the petitioners and from "harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the affected parties, directly or indirectly."

Prepared by the Center for International Law (Centerlaw), the petition asked the SC to order respondents to submit to the concerned Office of the City Prosecutor or Office of the Ombudsman, all the necessary documents, reports, and evidence in connection with the 35 drug-related deaths in San Andres Bukid, which covers 26 barangays, spanning 13 months beginning July 2016.

The petitioners also want the high court to direct the respondents to stop them from maintaining a drug list in all the 28 barangays in San Andres Bukid without proof of full compliance with constitutional and statutory requirements of due process, the requirements of the Data Privacy Act, and "regulatory assurance against arbitrariness, bias, and criminal machination."

"Despite the killings having occurred in the past, petitioners and their families continue to feel threatened by the presence of armed men, most in civilian clothes, who routinely conduct foot patrols in their communities. These patrols happen most during the night where these armed men would train their lights on the windows of the houses and warn people not to go out of their houses," the petition stated.

"Petitioners could not even request for copies of police reports or blotters for fear that such efforts will lead to further harassment and incarceration on their part, or worse. As a matter of fact, everyone of the petitioners and their families are afraid to even make requests for copies of relevant documents, much more question the legality of the killings and arrests," it added.

Even with PDEA's designation as the sole agency to conduct anti-narcotics operations, the petition said President Rodrigo Duterte's memorandum circular still directed the PNP to maintain police visibility as a deterrent to illegal drug activities.

"And it does not guarantee that the PDEA, as assisted by the police, will not continue to perpetuate the practices adopted by the police and which are complained of in this petition," the petition read.

This is the second petition for the issuance of writ of amparo filed by Centerlaw in connection with the government’s drug campaign.

The first was filed on January 26, 2017 on behalf of the families of the tokhang victims who worked as garbage collectors and scavengers (Marcelo Daa Jr., Raffy Gabo, Anthony Comendo, and Jessie Cule) and fruit/vegetable vendor (the lone survivor, Efren Morillo) in Payatas, Quezon City.

The SC granted the issuance of temporary protection five days after the petition was filed and the Court of Appeals issued a decision giving permanent protection to the complainants on February 10. —KG, GMA News