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SolGen to SC: Granting petitions vs. drug war may set dangerous precedent

Granting the petitions challenging the war on drugs will create a "dangerous precedent" in which drug personalities may use the legal remedy of the writ of amparo to "fish for evidence" in the name of human rights, Solicitor General Jose Calida has said.

In a memorandum dated February 2, Calida continued his call on the Supreme Court to junk the petitions seeking the striking down of the war on drugs as unconstitutional and the issuance of legal remedies to protect its alleged victims, raising "repercussions" if they earn the high tribunal's nod.

"By granting the present petition, a dangerous precedent is created where amparo proceedings will be used as a tool by drug personalities in order to 'fish' for evidence, in the guise of protecting their human rights, which they may later use against police officers conducting legitimate operations," the memorandum said.

"The resulting indiscriminate filing of unsubstantiated amparo petitions will render the true essence of the remedy worthless," it added.

In a fierce criticism of the war on drugs, international watchdog group Human Rights Watch said in January that President Rodrigo Duterte had "plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos."

One of the petitions Calida is arguing against was filed by alleged victims of the drug war represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group. It seeks the declaration of its governing documents as unconstitutional, as well as the issuance of a writ of amparo and of a temporary protection order.

The second petition, on the other hand, was filed by Manila residents through the Center for International Law, which seeks the issuance of 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.

Calida's memorandum claimed that law enforcement operations and peace and order would be negatively impacted if the petitions are granted.

"Granting the present petitions is fraught with repercussions to law enforcement operations, and to peace and order in the community and to the administration of justice," it said.

Siding with the petitioners would allow anyone to hurl "groundless" accusations against cops carrying out the administration's anti-narcotics campaign, it added.

"This would open the floodgate to any persons hurling groundless accusations against our police officers which would in turn, result in widespread disillusionment and demoralization, preventing them from performing their functions with zeal and dedication."

The memorandum claimed that there was a "considerable level of success" in the government's drug program, citing the supposed confiscation of drugs and laboratory equipment worth over P30 billion, the arrest of 119,361 drug personalities, and the clearing of 5,072 barangays of illegal drugs.

It can be recalled, however, that the government's anti-narcotics police operations had been widely criticized for thousands of killings in the country.

As of January 17, 3,987 alleged drug suspects have been killed, according to police figures, and even top cop Ronald dela Rosa has said a bloodless drug war is "impossible."

Additionally, the memorandum argued that impeding the police from performing its "official functions" would allow the proliferation of shabu in communities. It said instituting "police free zones" will lead to "virtual anarchy culminating in widespread criminality."

The memorandum also said that granting the petition will also allow the filing of "procedurally defective amparo petitions" where the petitioners and their counsel allegedly ignore requirements and "later on invoke 'interest of substantial justice' as an excuse for their shameless indifference to the rules." —NB, GMA News